Monthly Archives: May 2011

Review of Therese Fowler’s Book, Exposure

Exposure: A Novel

 
 

 

Love was a pleasure but a danger at the same time, a force of nature that humans naively imagined could be controlled. (Exposure, Fowler)

I looked up the various dictionary definitions of the word exposure and this one best exemplifies the very essence of the story in Exposure by Therese Fowler:  the revelation of a scandal or of somebody’s secrets or private information.  Yes, this is the perfect description for Fowler’s book, Exposure.

From Goodreads:

In Exposure, Therese Fowler has written her most gripping novel to date—a ripped-from-the-headlines story of ardent young love and a nightmarish legal maelstrom that threatens to destroy two families.

Amelia Wilkes’s strict father does not allow her to date, but that doesn’t stop the talented, winsome high school senior from carrying on a secret romance with her classmate Anthony Winter. Desperately in love, the two envision a life together and plan to tell Amelia’s parents only after she turns eighteen and is legally an adult. Anthony’s mother, Kim, who teaches at their school, knows—and keeps—their secret. But the couple’s passion is exposed sooner than planned: Amelia’s father, Harlan, is shocked and infuriated to find naked pictures of Anthony on his daughter’s computer. Just hours later, Anthony is arrested.

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As Daddy’s little girls grow and become young women they could possibly take their father’s hearts and break them in two. This was truly the case for Amelia Wilkes and her father, Harlan Wilkes. Harlan Wilkes protected his daughter, felt the need to keep her “his little girl,” and had set very high standards for Amelia.  He was also controlling and disapproving of any relationships Amelia might have with a boy who was not worthy of his daughter.  Unfortunately for Anthony Winter, he fell into just that category. Anthony came from a single parent home.  His mother Kim Winter was a teacher at Anthony and Amelia’s private high school, Ravenswood. She had done her best as a single mother. She had instilled values in him and was proud of his accomplishments thus far in his young life.  One day Harlan Wilkes discovers what would be any parent’s worse nightmare. Unbeknownst to Amelia, he accesses her laptop containing her most private secrets. The world the Wilkes and the Winters knew begins to unravel when he discovers nude photos of Anthony. He didn’t have to dial 9-1-1 and contact the police but he did. The lives of all involved spin out of control and the impending train wreck can’t be stopped.  As I began to see how their lives became unglued it truly was nerve wracking and scary to read as a parent.   I could see the train wreck coming and continually kept thinking as I read, “no, no, no!”  The results and the aftermath that follow are devastating for both families.

Amelia, like so many teens, feeling the angst of approaching adulthood, wanted to live on her own and to truly follow her own goals she had set for herself. Those goals and dreams included her boyfriend, Anthony. Amelia and Anthony had their future all set. They envisioned themselves moving to New York, attending New York University, and eventually pursuing careers on Broadway.  However, in the words of poet Robert Burns, “the best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry…”      In regards to what Amelia and Anthony had planned and dreamed for themselves, well….FATE paid them a visit.  Throughout the story, the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, are mentioned. Immediately a red flag alerted me to the possible foreshadowing – what was to become of Anthony and Amelia?! In Exposure, Fowler mentions a character flaw in one of Shakespeare’s plays.  The flaw was recklessness. Their reckless actions led to catastrophic events in their lives.

For teens, the elements of young love, drama, an overbearing father and of course the hot topic of sexting will easily draw young adults to this story. For people as they read Exposure, this particular thought will be at the forefront:  if only what they did could be undone!  What Amelia and Anthony don’t realize is what they envisioned to be true love in their eyes is misconstrued by their parents, the media, their teachers, the police and the district attorney who wants to make an example of them both.  Exposure sends such a profound message to parents and teens. One must sit up and take notice of the important message Fowler conveys. Teens must realize what can happen and the repercussions of their actions from sexting, using cell phones, and computers in the wrong way. It’s a cautionary tale to both parents and teens. What prompted Fowler to write such a poignant story about this topic?  In real life, Fowler’s 19 year old son had a similar experienceFrom her family’s own personal calamity she was compelled to write the story of Exposure.  Fowler shares a bit of her real life experience here.

I liked how Fowler used the different viewpoints from the main characters to give the reader a sense of what was going through their minds and their different perspectives. This was one of those books I consider to be a “page turner!” I’m quite confident once you pick this and begin reading this gripping poignant story about Amelia and Anthony, their story will linger in your mind for quite some time to come.  Since reading Exposure, I’ve recommended the book to literally so many people.  I’m happy to say many of them have already purchased the book!! Order your copy today at AmazonParents and teens should read it together to discuss this sensitive and timely topic.  Exposure, in my opinion, would make an excellent book club selection because of the theme and subject matter. I will be selecting it as my choice of book for my book club, The Best Book Club Ever.

Thank you to Ballantine Books and Pump up Your Book for sending me a copy of Therese Fowler’s Exposure to participate in this tour.  It has been an honor to share this book with my readers!

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Part 2: Hurricane Katrina & the Emergence of a High School Hero

Last Bus Out 

Last Bus Out, by Beck McDowell

On Tuesday, May 17th, 2011, teacher Tiffany Wheeler and her students were fortunate enough to Skype with Beck McDowell the author of Last Bus Out:  The True Story of Courtney Miles’ Rescue of over 300 People in Hurricane Katrina’s Aftermath.  It was a momentous opportunity for the students to finally meet “face to face” to discuss with Ms. McDowell’s book with her.  Skyping with the author was truly a new experience for the students once they had completed the story.  This was a special culminating event for them!

The small group of students each prepared five questions throughout the course of reading Last Bus Out about Courtney Miles’ true life adventure.  They then asked Beck McDowell these questions throughout the 40 minute Skype session.  The students described their enjoyment from reading about the different relationships in the story.  Ms. McDowell added that the relationships escalated the suspense of the story. An important question asked by the students was if she had interviewed some of the main characters in the book.  In particular they wondered if she had interviewed Courtney’s mother and grandmother. Ms. McDowell stated she did several interviews with people who had been on the bus, but she was unable to meet with Courtney’s grandmother, Geraldine, or his mother.  The students also wanted to know if there were any fictional characters in her story.  Ms. McDowell debated over including any fictional characters such as changing the name of Courtney’s girlfriend, Jamie Carter, but decided in the end to use actual names.  She wanted the story to stay as truthful as possible.  What was amazing to hear from Ms. McDowell during her discussion of Last Bus Out was as Courtney loaded the people onto the bus he had no idea where he was going.  He just knew he had to get them to safety.

What does the future hold for Beck McDowell and Last Bus Out?  The students were most curious to know if Last Bus Out would be made into a movie. Now that is a wonderful idea!  Ms. McDowell stated she has started work on a script in case the opportunity should arise.

Finally here are two student reviews of Last Bus Out by Beck McDowell:

Seneca Middle School 8th grader, Ashley: “This book was amazing! I would recommend this book to people because you can learn about the world from it.  That’s what I think about Last Bus Out.”

Seneca Middle School 8th grader, Joe: “The book had great detail about the disaster in New Orleans.  The life of Courtney Miles was amazing with everyone around him dying, dropping out of school, or doing drugs.  His mother who was good and bad to Courtney was in jail most of the time.  The story is great for history people and anyone who wants to read.”

Thank you Beck McDowell for sharing your personal story with Mrs. Wheeler’s group of students!  A special thank you to Mrs. Wheeler for always striving to be the best teacher she can be for her students!

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A Family’s Vision for a Summer Camp

At summer camp, children find the joy in learning, discovery and curiosity – a joy that we hope they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.” (Eden Lake, Roper)

Eden Lake by Jane Roper

Eden Lake

What fond memories are conjured up when I hear the words “summer camp?”  For me and I’m sure for many of you the experience of attending a summer camp in our youth was pleasurable and exciting.  Staying in a cabin for the first time, being away from parents, bonding with kids your own age, and finding a counselor who you revered were appealing aspects summer camp had to offer.  The activities offered were endless!  Horseback riding, canoeing, swimming, fishing, hiking, arts & crafts, and sitting around the campfire at the end of an exhaustive day were some of the main stays of camp life. The campfire in the evening lent a special time for this camper! I remember the ‘60’s songs that were sung and various camp counselors strumming away on their guitars. As I began reading Eden Lake by debut author, Jane Roper, these long ago remembrances came immediately to my mind.  Eden Lake is an appealing story that takes place at a summer camp in Talbotts Corner, Maine.  As you read it you will find yourself reminiscing about your summer camp days of old.  But it’s just the backdrop for a poignant family story, as you’ll soon discover.

Clay Perry and Carol Weiss established Eden Lake, as newlyweds in 1968. This children’s summer camp was innovative and somewhat of a visionary type of children’s camp for its time.  Fast-forward thirty years later where we find Clay now married to Gail. The camp has grown to be an expensive one for those who are prosperous and can easily afford to send their children. Unexpectedly, the Weiss children are faced with a heartbreaking and disastrous calamity. They now are faced with and need to resolve the task at hand. Eden Lake is their responsibility but will they be ready for such an undertaking? What does this mean for each of them and their very own existence?

Abe, Jude, Eric, and step-sister Aura – are the adult siblings left to manage the camp due to the untimely death of Clay the founder of Camp Eden Lake.  All four know for certain that even though they are in the thralls of sadness they must rally together to make the summer’s camp session a success. As their stories unfold, they deal with surprising intimate discoveries, come to terms with earlier tribulations, and start afresh by building new bonds with each other and their mother.  

Roper successfully shares the dynamics of this family and their connections with one another. Abe, being the eldest, is in a quandary as he determines if he should pursue the life like his father did as the camp director of Eden Lake. Then there is Jude, with all of the true characteristics of the middle child, who disowned her father after her parent’s marriage dissolved. I felt sorry for her as she grapples with her own romance predicaments. Eric is the youngest, living his entire life at Eden Lake and has worked there as well. To Eric, Eden Lake is his world. Subsequently there is the stepsister, Aura, who was somewhat shunned by Abe, Jude, and Eric. Ironically though now it’s Aura who is pivotal in saving Eden Lake.

What’s to become of the family and this pleasurable  picturesque camp? You’ll want to discover this enjoyable and exquisite family story that was well written and very detailed.  I liked how Roper wove in the events of the early 1990’s.  There is even a Camp Eden Website!

Eden Lake gives the reader a glimpse at how a family reacts to one another in a variety of ways. It’s like the old saying goes, “friends may come and go, but the love of family lasts forever.”

A complimentary copy of Eden Lake was provided by the publisher.

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Hurricane Katrina & the Emergence of a High School Hero

Last Bus Out: The True Story of Courtney Miles’ Rescue of Over 300 People in Hurricane Katrina’s Aftermath by Beck McDowell

Last Bus Out

Today I’d like to offer a very special thank you today to my guest blogger, Tiffany Wheeler, our middle school RTI (Response Through Intervention) Reading teacher. Also I must graciously thank Beck McDowell for writing such an incredibly emotional book, Last Bus Out, and sharing it with our students!  After discovering the book, Last Bus Out, by Beck McDowell, I immediately approached Tiffany with the idea of using McDowell’s e-book with a group of her students.  Last Bus Out is the true account of Courtney Miles’ courageous and heroic efforts during the aftermath devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  What made this particular e-book so enticing was the story itself plus the fact there were photos AND 25 links for further research for the readers.  McDowell not only recounts Miles’ fascinating story but also brings the story to life for the reader by  including links such as The Times Picayune-Interactive Graphics: Flash Flood: Hurricane Katrina’s Inundation of New Orleans, August 29, 2005and an ABC News video of the Katrina Survivors Searching for Food

Here is Tiffany Wheeler’s account of how she implemented the use of Beck McDowell’s book, Last Bus Out, with her classroom students.

This is a wonderful, eye awakening nonfiction story about an underprivileged, talented high school hero.  During the time of the national crisis of Hurricane Katrina, this young man finds inner strength and courage to lead a rescue mission even though he fears it will sacrifice his future goal of being a college bound successful basketball player.  The author does an excellent job integrating the life of Courtney Miles, the reaction of the victims of New Orleans, and the role of the government.  The most intriguing part of the book is the fact of how the author has inserted websites supporting events in the text.  This made the book the most interactive text I have had the pleasure to share with students.

As an RTI Reading teacher, finding a piece of literature that has a truly personal affect on students is an amazing accomplishment and Beck McDowell has helped me to achieve this.  Since my students are more comfortable at a computer screen to view the websites instead of using the Kindle screen, the mixing of the two technologies had a great impact on their motivation to read.  I observed both students actually feeling the stress the victims felt and the awe of Courtney’s heroism.  The students constantly questioned Courtney’s desire to keep going as they learned more information about his background.  The book teaches the lesson to students to never give up on dreams and how achievements are not just handed out, but earned.  My students are from a small rural town and are therefore quite limited to the exposure of inner city conflicts.  The author made my students realize how racism and different lifestyles have a large impact on whom you are and who you become.  Since I was only working with two students, we were able to have great discussions about a large variety of issues which the book raises.

If I were to do the lesson with a larger group of students, which I plan to implement for the next school year, I would take advantage of the author’s lesson plans found at the end of the book.  There are questions and journal topics for each chapter.  My students made a bulletin board display of the different resources found online that were mentioned in the book. There were also a few websites they found for themselves which were pertinent to the topic of the story. 

As a final activity after reading the book we will have the opportunity to Skype with the author, Beck McDowell.  To prepare for the interview I had the students brainstorm a list of possible questions to ask the author as we were reading Last Bus Out.

Here are a few of the questions:

  • Why did you choose to write about Hurricane Katrina?
  •  How did you select Courtney Miles as the main character?
  • Why was his story so important to share?
  • Are there any fictional characters in the book?
  • How did you get Courtney to trust you with such personal information, i.e. his girlfriend and childhood experiences?

 Sometimes the questions were later answered within the text, but it was a way to keep the students actively thinking beyond the text.  A few times they would come back after a weekend and announce they had thought of another question to ask.  We are the first group of students at Seneca Grade School to interview an author via Skype and we really appreciate the opportunity. 

Thank you, Beck McDowell!

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