I love this.

I love this.

The Spectacular Now: Book vs. Movie

Last year I read Tim Thorpe’s “The Spectacular Now” and I was very impressed. Sutter’s voice was unlike that of any narrator I’d read before. The story touched upon so many of the awkward and often painful experiences we all have in our adolescent years, and I thought that having a true anti-hero as a narrator made the whole thing really compelling. Neither Sutter nor Aimee was particularly likable: while Sutter was flippant and thoughtless, Aimee was hopelessly romantic and sheltered. But I found myself really rooting for the both of them.

For the first time, um, EVER, I think I liked the movie adaptation of The Spectacular Now better than the book. Firstly, Shailene Woodly and Miles Teller are excellent in it. Secondly, I think that Aimee’s character wasn’t nearly as excruciating to watch in the movie as it was to read in the book. This is not only due to Woodly’s generally chilled-out affect (in the book Aimee was far from chilled out), but also because a few of the more frustrating moments and aspects of her character were edited out from the script. Lastly, the tweaked ending was so much nicer than the novel’s grim closing scene. I’m not one to spoiler-alert, but I love a happy ending, gosh darn it.


I have been on vacation for about 24 hours now. I have no idea what to do with myself. So far I have cleaned my room, food shopped, and watched movies.



if you don’t know what this whole Trenta, grande, tall shit is, congrats, that’s pretty awesome

This is too true… I got large iced coffees ALL week this week…


if you don’t know what this whole Trenta, grande, tall shit is, congrats, that’s pretty awesome

This is too true… I got large iced coffees ALL week this week…

Young Adult Novel Reviews (by a teacher of young adults) Winter 2014


I’ve read a number of AMAZING books for young readers in the past few weeks, thanks to the incredibly cold temperatures this winter. Here’s my thoughts on a few of them. 

  1. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor- This urban fantasy trilogy combines biblical and classical mythology with a kick-ass, globe-trekking heroine. I’m not usually into such high-fantasy tales, but this was quite the page turner. The main character, Karou, is a Prague-based art student with an unexpectedly fascinating second-life running errands for a group of mysterious monsters who collect teeth. When Karou meets, and falls for, a literally otherworldly guy, all hell breaks loose.
    This is a great book for young adults who are into the dark fairy tale/manga scene. I’ve recommended the novel to a few of my more bookish female students, and feel totally okay with this story being in the hands of a 13-year-old. 
  2. Matched by Ally Condie- I’m a huge, huge fan of the dystopian genre. I mean, I’ve taught entire units on it in my classroom. The author of Matched, Ally Condie, is a former English teacher herself, and so the theme of knowledge as power was woven through the novel in a particularly appealing way for me. There’s a romance element, yes, but the world the author builds in this novel is truly inspired. our protagonist, Cassia Reys, is a seventeen year old girl living in a highly controlled, but highly successful place known as “The Society.” On her seventeenth birthday, Cassia is ‘matched’ with her future spouse. Cassia is lucky enough to be matched with her good friend, Xander, but then something happens that leads her not only to doubt the matching system, but her society as a whole. Cassia’s family and friends are all developed characters; nobody is just there for the sake of being there. Each and every one of them helps reveal to Cassia a glitch in the perfect system that is “The Society.” As Cassia becomes more and more rebellious, I became  more and more fascinated with the story. I’m actually planning on reading the rest of this series, so stay tuned!
    This book is great for anyone who likes science-fictiony and/or dystopian stories, and doesn’t mind a 17-year-old narrator and a romance mixed in. I’m fully comfortable letting my 6th and 7th grade students read it, as well; it’s very clean-cut, but still meaningful. 
  3. Allegiant by Veronica Roth- I’ve been a fan of the Divergent series since the beginning, when my ex-roommate’s baby sister told me I just HAD to read the first book. 1500 pages later, I was left simultaneously depressed and satisfied with the ending of the series. I loved seeing Tris’ growth throughout this book, and the revelations regarding the world she lives in were fully mind-blowing. As always, the writing was solid, and there were several sensitive issues (ahem…intercourse.) dealt with gracefully and tastefully in this novel. If you read the first two, and have been avoiding reading the third book since the reviews have been so bizarre, please just buck up and read it. It’s good. Difficult, but good. 
  4. Being Henry David by Cal Armistead- This is a book I read for a book club, and I have no complaints. I think that it’s a solid little novel about forgiveness, fitting in, and finding one’s self. I like that there’s so much Thoreau mixed in. The novel’s protagonist wakes up one morning on the floor of Penn Station in New York City with no idea who hie is, where he’s going, or why he has no memory of his past. He’s got an old copy of Walden in his pocket, though, and so he dons the name “Hank” and sets off to solve the mystery of his identity.
    This is a great book for teenage guys, and I have no qualms handing it out to some of my stronger seventh-grade readers as a teacher.   
  5. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales-
    Words cannot describe how much I loved this book.
    This book literally reached into my memories and reminded me of a version of myself I’d left behind a long time ago. You see, middle-school Kerri was a lonely, bookwormy outcast with no close friends and no idea how to get them. At 13, I climbed onto my schoolbus each afternoon with one hope and one hope only: to be ignored by the obnoxious crowd of “populars” who crammed themselves three to a seat at the back of the bus and made a project out of messing with me every couple of days. I’d sit on my own somewhere in the middle of the bus, dissolve into my music and writing in my diary or diving into whatever YA novel I was re-reading at the time, and hope to God that I was as invisible as I felt. 
    The main character and voicey narrator in this novel is Elise, an eccentric outcast who wants desperately to end her loner ways and become part of a crowd. After failing repeatedly to make friends, Elise falls into a bit of a slump begins wandering the streets of her hometown at night. It is during one of these late night walks that she accidentally attends a warehouse party, where later she accidentally discovers a passion, and a talent, for DJing. Elise suddenly goes from a rule-following loner to sneaking around to maintain a second life as a beat-mixing, boy-kissing, party-loving DJ at the hottest club in town. All the while trying to walk the tightrope that is keeping divorced parents happy, as well as dealing with terrible bullying each day at school. 
    All in all, this book is pretty fantastic and I think most females ages 14-25 would enjoy it. I’m not fully comfortable having my 7th graders read it, but I think 8th/9th grade ladies would eat this book up. 


Dystopian Free-Dress
Student: Ms. B, the kids are making fun of me because I accidentally wore all black today for dress-down Friday. I don't know WHAT I was thinking!
Me: You look awesome! Just tell everyone you joined Dauntless.
Student: Like...Divergent Dauntless?
Me: Yes.
Student: Okay.
You shouldn't donate your hair to locks of love, they are a scam, and throw away or sell the majority of the hair they receive. Locks of love is a corrupt "charity" which operates just like a normal wig company, charging extortionate prices to kids with cancer, while reducing their costs by convincing people to donate hair to them. You should look into Pantene Beautiful Lengths, Children With Hair Loss, or Wigs for Kids, not Locks of Love!

I kept hearing this, so I did a little research and actually did decide to send my ponytail to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. Thanks for the tip, Anon!!

Standardized Testing or Standardized Soul-Crushing??

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; you don’t know misery until you’ve looked a panicked 11 year old with a learning disability in the eye and told them that there’s no way out of standardized testing besides going through it… I am beyond thankful that tomorrow ends my last full week of preparing my darling middle school students for the New York State Test. It’s been 6 weeks of soul-crushing lessons on test taking skills and strategies, which have left my students and I feeling thoroughly beat up. I just want the test to be over so that I can teach and my students can learn.

If you’re going to be a teacher, you just HAVE to start in New York. Then, like, go out to wisconsin or something.
My 7th grade student
On Being a Healthy Sickly Person

Last weekend I ran my 2nd Half Marathon and it was SO MUCH FUN!  

I know that to the non-runner the idea of running for 13 miles straight without stopping, as your feet blister and your legs spaz out, is absolute insanity. Heck, 2 years ago, when I first started pushing myself to run further than a mile or two, I didn’t think I’d get this far. 

But there’s something so special about the long hours I spend pounding the pavement both in training and in races, proving to myself over and over again that I am strong enough, I am able enough, and I am healthy enough to continue on. This perseverance and this strength is extra special for me because I have had some pretty big health challenges in my life. 

I have a half dozen vials of blood drawn and tested for thyroid hormone functions and tumor markers and a number of other things every 3-6 months. This past week, while still limping around in recovery from the NYC Half, I was informed by my doctor that a number of things were “off” in my most recent lab test. Nothing life threatening, of course, and nothing I could have prevented. Basically, I had a few more items added to my “daily requirements if you want to stay healthy” list. A few more worries, a few more obstacles. 

When I left my doctor’s office, I called my parents, and both of them asked me if I would rather not have known about these most recent findings. Wouldn’t my life be easier if I just had mysterious ailments with no names, and I just went about my day? The way I see it, there’s an upside and a downside to this idea. On the upside, you could live your whole life not making a big deal out of a certain ache or discomfort because hey, it’s not a REAL THING. Real things have long, medical-y names you can’t pronounce and make you into something less than strong.  On the downside, you live your whole life with this secret issue that you’ve decided isn’t real, but that actually impacts your life. 

The I realized that I’m a weirdo who is able to feel strong and able even with a long list of hard to pronounce, medical-y terms peppered across her medical history. Seriously, though. Forget you, Carcinoma. I don’t care, Hypothyroidism. I’m done with you; I have miles on miles to jog and no time to feel hobbled by your symptoms and prognosis and whatever. 

So, basically, I am a super healthy, super strong, super awesome and somewhat sickly person. And I’m willing to choose perseverance over some theoretical prognosis. I mean, I’ll follow medical advice, of course. But I won’t let it slow me down. 

Because I’ve got some cool things to do. 

The story of my life…

Finished my second half marathon yesterday! I had a blast and can’t wait until my next race!!

Finished my second half marathon yesterday! I had a blast and can’t wait until my next race!!

My AMAZING, HARD WORKING East Harlem 7th graders have been offered an opportunity to attend Space Camp in Turkey this summer! They’re responsible for covering part of the costs, and so my co-workers and I have started a “Go Fund Me” page to help them. I work in an inner-city area, where nearly all of my students receive free or reduced priced breakfasts and lunches due to their family’s financial statements. Any and all contributions are helpful!!

Today I cut 10 inches of my hair off to donate to Locks of Love! This is the third time I’ve donated, and it’s always a great feeling. I kind of miss my long hair, but the way my hair grows it’s not too big of a deal!

A Cat and a Car: My Version of Settling Down

I haven’t written in a while because, well, I’ve been doing some soul searching. Also, sleeping, and Zumba classes. 

For those of you who aren’t lucky enough to be braving the beautiful winter bestowed upon the northeastern United States, 2013-2014 will go down in history as one of the worst and most wretched winters on record. There’s been a lot of snow, a lot of frigid temperatures, and a lot of mornings where I don’t want to get out of bed. 

Today I called my parents to lament the difficulties of being a New York City Teacher dreading the “long March,” as we call it.

At work we’re pushing our middle schoolers to perfect their testing abilities, urging them to take their preparation for the high-stakes test seriously. If you’ve never had the opportunity to repeatedly remind an eleven year old with a learning disability that her entire year’s progress hinges on the outcome of a three-day standardized exam, than you’ve never truly known misery. 

Then there’s the daily drudgery of living in New York. Everything is salty, there’s piles of what was once snow but is now a poo-encrusted ice-blob sitting on every corner, and literally everyone is vitamin d-deficient and thus super grumpy. We all push through as best we can, wrapped up tightly in our dark-colored puffer coats and uncoordinated hat/scarf/glove sets.

In order to combat the gloom, I’ve upped my weekly Zumba class quota and I watch my weather app like a hawk, strategically planning mid-day runs on whichever weekend day promises the most sun. I bought a new cookbook and have been attempting to make food that does not come out of its package pre-mixed. I’m trying to be social, rather than sleepy. It’s okay. 

But, as I approach the middle of my 25th year, I think I’m starting to think about more real things. Things that a new cookbook and a new Zumba routine can’t exactly wipe from my brain. Savings accounts. Home ownership. Grown-up haircuts. Dental insurance. 

"Dad, I’m at a point in life when I want a car. And a cat," I told my dad over the phone today, as I stomped down Lexington avenue, abandoned by the 4/5/6 line, which was experiencing delays.  

I’m not sure how many of my readers are city dwellers, but there’s something about the constant energy that makes me constantly feel like I’m running a marathon. I this just me, is it just New York, or is it just a quarter-life-crisis? 

I have no idea. But change is on the horizon, folks. And I don’t just mean the 10+ inches I’m planning to hack off my hair this weekend.