Honestly Ben

Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

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BIBLIO: 2017, Arthur A. Levine Books an Imprint of Scholastic Inc., Ages 13 and up.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Young Adult
ISBN: 9780545858267

Honestly Ben is a very realistic and thought provoking read. The main character Ben Carver is a typical all-american overachiever. He attends Nattick Boarding school for boys and he loves history and baseball and is set up to accept the Peter Pappas award. The award basically being a stamp of approval in all aspects of life- sports, studies, extracurriculars, and being well liked by the student body.

It would seem that Ben is invincible, but there is one major snafu in his life, and that is his romantic entanglements.Ben is struggling with his sexual orientation and throughout the book he loves both the earnest,lovely Hannah and his lively,sensitive best friend Rafe. Ben must decide who matters more to him and all the consequences that go with his decisions.

Ben has more conflicting feelings than that in his life as he struggles to figure out who he is sexually, as a teammate, as a student, and as part of the Carver family. Many tough situations arise and Ben grows as a person by learning many life lessons about family, vulnerability, courage, and most of all honesty, because what is there to life if your reality isn’t the truth?

This book is relatable, the conversations and interactions feel they’ve happened in real life already. I would suggest this book for teens in high school. There are some allusions to sex and some bad language. With the complicated themes of the novel I wouldn’t advise giving it to anyone younger than thirteen.

I personally am pretty neutral on this book. It was very well written and it is one of very few fiction pieces that have changed my way of thinking. It hurt my brain to read this book, but in a good way because it was expanding my mind. It is also the first book I’ve encountered that has a bisexual character. I read this book independently, not realizing it was part of a series. If I had more backstory I think I would have liked it infinitely more. Definitely worth the read.

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The Hero Two Doors Down

The Hero Two Doors Down
Based on the True Story of Friendship
between a Boy and a Baseball Legend
by Sharon Robinson

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BIBLIO: 2016, New York: Scholastic Press; Scholastic Inc, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Middle Grade book
ISBN: 978-0-545-80451-6

Written in the first person narrative Steve reflects on his childhood baseball relics set aside for him by his recently deceased father and remembers when as an eight-year old, the famous Jackie Robinson moves into his neighborhood and his life. 1948 Brooklyn is an amazing time for Steve. Bonding over baseball with his father Archie, is what he lives for, listening endlessly to the radio-casted games and reading the paper for news about their beloved Dogers. Steve itches to see the opening game for the season and to meet Jackie Robinson. Amazingly his dad surprises him with both on the same day! The two families become close friends and begin to have dinners, attend games, give gifts, and share their differences happily. Jackie’s influence on Steven doesn’t stop there as the man encourages Steven to focus on school and behave better, and teaches Steven valuable lessons when he falls short. The baseball legend successfully sways most of Steven’s schoolmates into his favor and the fear and prejudice of the Jewish neighborhood melts quickly away after encountering Jackie’s charming and gentle personality. Sharon Robinson briefly addresses the readers in the afterword with the changes she makes to the true tale, pictures, and her accounts of the very real Stephen Satlow. A feel-good story perfect for sports fans and novices alike, this book has some great perspective on maturity, religion, race, and relationships, ideal for conversations amongst families and classmates.