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Courier Article by Maryann Mori
Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Group Will Help Teens Find Common Ground

What do a Hispanic male high school student, a seventh-grade inner city girl, and an underdog freshman wrestler have in common? More than you think. "Common Ground" is the name of a new teen book group that begins at Central Library's Teen Zone this spring, and "common ground" is exactly what we'll discover among the aforementioned teens as we focus on books that have a variety of misunderstood and misjudged characters. After reading these books, we'll discuss our own experiences and explore connections with the stories' characters. Where those experiences and views overlap is where we'll find common ground. The following books are some of the titles featured in this new book group. Charles Sutton, the library's teen services assistant and leader of Common Ground, helped review some of these titles.

Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper.

Romiette, an African-American girl meets Julio, a Mexican-American guy, on the Internet. When Julio's dad learns that his son is seeing a girl of a different race, he immediately disapproves. He's not the only one. Members of the school's gang, the Devildogs, don't approve of Romiette and Julio's interracial relationship either, and they're out to break up the relationship—maybe permanently. Romiette begins having dreams about drowning in a sea of cold and darkness. A voice repeatedly startles her awake and spares her from the continuing nightmare. She later realizes it's Julio's voice, but he may not be enough to save her when the Devildogs turn Romiette's nightmares into a reality.

The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake.

Maleeka Madison is a good student and a whiz in math. But that's not enough to make this seventh-grader popular. Maleeka is too dark, too tall, and too skinny. As if all that isn't bad enough, she wears homemade clothes. After suffering from constant teasing, humiliation, and intimidation, Maleeka decides, "enough is enough." Change doesn't come easily for Maleeka, though. Miss Saunders, a new teacher with a facial disfigurement, tries to help but actually makes Maleeka miserable. Finally, Maleeka must decide whom to trust. She must find the courage to accept the skin she's in.

The Bully by Paul Langan.

What's a guy supposed to do when he's continually threatened by someone bigger and stronger? That's the situation Darrell Mercer faces. Barely into his freshman year of high school, Darrell moves with his mother from Philadelphia to California, where he meets his nemesis Tyray, "the bully" of the story. Tyray harasses Darrell and even forces Darrell to pay him ten dollars every Friday. Darrell takes as much as he can from Tyray before turning to Mr. Mitchell, the school's wrestling coach, for help. Encouraged to join the wrestling team, Darrell starts to work out and eat more. He then makes some tough, uncertain decisions that make him stronger and more confident. Darrell decides to take a stand against Tyray, whatever the outcome, but is that enough to stop the bully? This book is the fifth title in the Bluford High series.

Maryann Mori is teen services librarian at Central Library. She can be reached at (812) 428-8229. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of the library.