Friday, February 15, 2013

Under the Bridge

Title: Under the Bridge
Author: Michael Harmon
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November, 2012
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
Goodreads Summary: Tate's younger brother Indy is probably the best skateboarder in Spokane. He's also really smart though he couldn't care less about school. But when Indy clashes with his father one too many times and drops out of school, it's up to Tate to win his brother back from the seedier elements of Spokane. Can Tate convince Indy to come home, finish his high school degree, and return to skating Under the bridge with their crew?
     Michael Harmon's fast-paced and highly charged novel captures the enduring bond between brothers and their struggle for survival on the gritty streets of Spokane.
What I Think: Each of us deals with our teen years differently, but I am sure that we all either know (or were) the teen that made some bad choices. This is a book about a teen much like these kids. It is narrated by his older brother and one of the story lines is about our protagonist, Tate, trying to find his own path, but the main story line in Under the Bridge is about his brother, Indy. 
     As a teacher, this one tore at my heart strings because it is definitely a story of a good boy gone bad. Many times throughout the book, I saw how an adult could help this boy, but nothing ever changed. Because of this, too, I immediately think of many readers who would bond automatically with Indy because of this. Michael Harmon's characters are very realistic and I think connections would be made quickly and even if the reader did not see themselves in Indy, they may in Tate or they probably know someone like the two of them. As soon as I finished, I knew exactly what reader needed to read this book and I asked his mother if it was okay if he did- she graciously agreed, thanking me for finding a book that hopefully her son will connect to and learn from. It is books like this one that shows me how important it is to have some gritty novels out there. 
     What I did learn from this book- "There are different ways to do the right thing." And I'll never forget it. 
Read Together: Grades 10 to 12
Read Alone: Grades 9 and up
Read With: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Slam by Nick Hornby, Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli
Snatch of Text: "At three-thirty in the morning, I'd been reading for over 7 hours, rapt with attention as I scrolled through my brother's words and stories until I was brain-dead with fatigue. I hadn't even gotten to his novels. The last short story I'd read, his most recent, went deep, and I knew it was about him. 
     He'd made it fictional, but I could see right through his words and straight to how he felt about the world and school and us and himself. It wasn't sad or depressing or funny or disturbing, but all of them put together. Forty-one pages of my brothers feelings about life." (p. 93) 

"Night skating is one of the coolest things to do in the world. With everything still and quiet but for your wheels rolling on the pavement, it's like skating in a dream. The glow cast from streetlights and the emptiness of the city either freak you out or make you feel like the pavement and rails and sets were made just for you." (p. 191) 
Mentor Text for: Voice, Characterization, Suspense
Writing Prompts: When was there a time that you made a wrong choice and someone else had to help you realize the mistake you made. What was the mistake and who helped you?; At what point do you think that Indy chose to go down the path he did? What do you think he could have done differently? 
Topics Covered: Skateboarding, Death, Drugs, Suicide, Choices, Anger, Story Writing (Narrative), School Counselors, Values, Parents, Goals

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