Book Recommendations (Vol. 02)

It’s summer, and I’m on UNI’s campus again for grad school classes which feels simultaneously very odd (I feel very old and it’s making me miss my UNI friends a TON) and exactly like home (every place is familiar, I got to chat with one of my favorite professors and the Honors program director).

It’s also 6 months into 2017, which means we’re due for my quarterly book recommendations post!

Read previous editions:

Vol. 01


I’ve now read 34 books this year, which means I’ve read 19 since my last post!

Here are my top 5 from this quarter:

the princess saves herself in this one – Amanda Lovelace

This is a book of poetry with four parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, and you.

This was so. Incredibly. Beautiful. and devastating. and empowering. I was hooked instantly by the dedication page, “for the boy who lived / thank you for inspiring me to be  / the girl who survived / you may have / a lightning bolt / to show for it / but my body is a / lightning storm.” (You all know Harry Potter gets me every dang time!) I want to frame prints of half the poems in this book. I want to type out about four of them right here. You NEED to read this. It is stunning.


Under Rose-Tainted Skies – Louise Gornall

Norah can’t leave her house because she is so afraid of everything. She kind of hates herself for it. Luke moves in next door and wants to meet the girl he saw in the window.

I loved this one a lot because it isn’t a story of boy-saves-girl from her mental illness with love or something that is actually nonsensical. Saying more than that would be a spoiler, but I think it’s an interesting portrayal of this type of mental illness, and it’s an own voices novel (which means an author writing a book about a marginalized population is actually part of said population). It’s lovely and funny and odd, and it’s realistic but still beautiful.


Something in Between – Melissa de la Cruz

Jasmine just won a super prestigious scholarship – full college tuition FROM THE WHITE HOUSE – but instead of being ecstatic, her parents get upset. They inform her that instead of being green card holders all these years, they’ve been undocumented immigrants. She can’t go to the scholarship banquet or accept the scholarship. She might not even actually be able to go to college like she’s been working so hard for.

I loved how incredibly real this was for so many students who are living undocumented lives that they can’t even control because it was their parents’ decision. Who have tried so hard to go through the right channels but our country won’t let them be here legally so they’re forced to make a really hard decision. It brings in politicians and how we value immigrants who achieve special accomplishments over other ones, and there’s also a love story because of course there is. It felt like reading this, I was hurt by everything that hurt Jasmine, and it made me really think about how we treat people who contribute to our country every day but that we don’t consider part of us.


Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives – Gary Younge

Younge chose a day (mostly) at random. November 23, 2013. He found every person under the age of 18 who died due to gun violence on that day. There were ten. These are their stories. (nonfiction)

This book was so intensely hard to read – I could only handle about 10-15 pages at a time before taking a break. It’s a blunt description of the reality we live in with the constant ready access to guns we experience as Americans. It acknowledges that this reality is not a simple thing to change, and speaks with groups who don’t want it to change (which literally made me want to throw up). Younge tells us about ten children who died before they ever reached 18 because someone got their hands on a gun, and something happened. Their stories aren’t all the same, but they aren’t all different either. But they’re all dead, and this is just one randomly chosen day. I think it’s an incredibly important book. I want you to read it.


If I Was Your Girl – Meredith Russo

Amanda is starting at a new school in Tennessee, so she can get a fresh start as Amanda. No one at her new school knows that she is transgender. She meets Grant, who seems to like her. She makes friends. But she’s terrified that once they find out, they’ll turn on her.

This is another own voices novel and I really think we need more own voices stories about transgender youth because we need to hear their voices. I was captured by Amanda’s character from the start and thought she was funny and brave and real and normal, but going through something so scary and different at the same time. I didn’t love the way this one was wrapped up (or wasn’t…), but I really enjoyed up to the very ending, so this one barely makes my top 5 because I think it’s an important voice that we’re missing in YA fiction.


Dear Students (2016-2017),


It feels like this school year was just suddenly over. I don’t know what happened. You’ve all left the halls and are off on your summer adventures, and I’m reading through my end of year checklist again before I turn in my keys. I miss you all already, even though a lot of you would probably find that hard to believe. This is a message to you as you embark upon your summer.

To the one who barely passed quarters 1-3 of algebra 1 and is earning a B this quarter: look what you had in you all along. Look what you can do. I’m so glad you learned to separate your dislike of math and your ability to do it well. I am so proud of you.

To those who still don’t feel like mathematicians: it’s in you, I promise. You’ve come a long way and you’ll go a long way still. Remember that ‘mathematician’ doesn’t mean ‘I get everything right the very first time I try’, but that it means ‘I keep trying and asking other people for help and starting over and finding my mistakes and learning new tools and strategies and I don’t give up until I figure it out’. You’re still somewhere in the middle of that process, and that’s okay, because the end of that sentence is ‘I figure it out’ and you will get there someday. Just don’t give up.

To those who do feel like mathematicians, now: Keep going. Keep solving problems. Ask ‘what’s next?’ or ‘what else could I find out about this?’ See what else you could know. Don’t set a limit for yourself.

To the class who calls each other sweet dolphins and can get into pedagogy discussions with me after you’ve completed your work: you have been one of my favorite classes of my teaching career so far. I have learned so, so much from you – more than you probably learned from me. Thank you for your perseverance and your jokes and your earnestness. Your attitudes made me confident enough to bring unboiled eggs into the classroom and ask you to break them.

To the ones who have said mine was your favorite class, or that you felt safe in my classroom, or that I was the best math teacher you ever had, or that my class was the reason you came to school: you should know that every time you said that I definitely told one of my friends about it, wrote it down somewhere, and probably cried a little. Those things make me more happy than anything.

To the ones who now automatically correct themselves when they slip up and use the ‘r’ word: I am proud of you for trying to change your habits.

To those who have been brave enough to share with me or the class your truth, your struggles, your selves: You are incredible people. You have taught me so much about what it means to “be yourself”, and about all of the struggles you go through. I am inspired by your fight, by your unwillingness to back down and conform to society’s expectations when they don’t fit you. I am so proud that you continue to be your whole and true selves every day. You know that most adults are too scared to do that, right? You’re incredibly brave and powerful for doing it.

To the ones who always tell me their favorite method of solving quadratics whenever we’re working with them: I don’t even care which one is your favorite, it makes me so happy that you have a favorite. I’m so glad you’ve invested enough of your thought into this to decide which method works best for you. (I’m double glad that some of you have chosen completing the square as a favorite)

To my sports stats students: I hope I’ve gotten you to at least slightly consider the data when you’re arguing with someone about sports. The most fun part has been combining your knowledge of the players and teams in the NBA, and being able to bring you some numbers to help defend the ideas you already have about who’s the best. You should really watch more college basketball, though.

To my graduating seniors: It’s my fourth year teaching, which means that all my tiny freshmen that I had my very first year are graduating. It feels like the last time I will feel quite this way about the graduating class, because all of those students I had my first year teaching hold such a special place in my heart for helping me through all my naivety and blunders and fear. So many congratulations to you, I cannot wait to see what’s next for each of you. I hope you come back to visit.

To the ones who remind me they care: I appreciate you so much. You don’t know how many times that picture of Baymax has been handed to me after a student just yelled at me the last class, or how many times you asked about my trip to visit a friend when I was in a bad mood. The treats from the foods room always make me feel special. Your birthday messages and treats made me happy on a day I couldn’t be with my best friends. Thank you for reminding me how much I matter to you guys. You are the light in my darkest days. Never a day goes by, even the absolute worst ones, where none of you make me laugh. Never a day goes by where none of you make me proud. At least one of you always makes it worth being here. You’re why I teach. You’re why I love my job more than most adults I know.

To all the Mavericks: Wow, this year has been a really tough year for our little school family. Honestly, I’m so proud and impressed of some of you for continuing to show up to school through all of it. It has been so tough at points to keep going. You are all the strongest, bravest, most unstoppable people I know. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make it. Don’t let anyone stop you from your dreams. The people who try to tell you that you’re no good, that you’re a failure, that you aren’t going anywhere…THEY ARE WRONG. Ignore them. Keep fighting. Keep coming back to school. Keep getting support for your academics and for everything you’re going through outside of school. Stick with your friends and family who are encouraging you to move forward in healthy ways. You know you can always find help, hugs, and a listening ear at Mid City.

Let’s keep the Maverick Movement going – I think it’s catching on 🙂



See you in August!


Miss Mastalio