The Line Of Beauty

The Line of Beauty

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Author: Allan Hollinghurst

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (2005)

Setting: The story is set in the 1980s in Britain, during the period when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, which was also the time when the AIDS epidemic began.

Main Characters: Nick, Leo, Wani, Toby, Catherine, Gerald

Summary: The story revolves around Nick, a homosexual Oxford graduate who lives with his college mate’s (Toby) family in Kensington Park and Toby’s father is Gerald Fedden, a Member of Parliament. Nick has a crush on Toby but never expressed it because Toby is heterosexual. Toby’s sister, Catherine, is the only person in the household who knows of Nick’s sexual preferences and they are each other’s confidants. She is also neurotic and has a tendency to inflict harm upon herself but Nick is often able to manage her emotions better than anyone in her family.

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Author: Khaled Hosseini

Publisher: Penguin Group (May 22, 2007)

Setting: The story is set in Afghanistan from the early 1960s to early 2000s.

Main Characters: Mariam, Laila, Tariq and Rasheed

Summary: The story revolves around two women, Mariam and Laila, who hail from entirely different backgrounds, but whose lives intertwine when Laila, the younger woman, marries Rasheed as his second wife. Mariam is an illegitimate child of a successful businessman, Jalil, who grows up with her mother in the suburbs, and is married off to Rasheed at the age of 15, after her mother commits suicide as a result of her running away from home. She carries this guilt with her throughout her life and her marriage. After she suffers from her first miscarriage, Rasheed turns violent and abuses her. Despite several attempts, Mariam is unable to conceive and at this point, Laila is introduced into the picture. Laila is Mariam and Rasheed’s neighbour who grows up in a decent household and whose father is a firm believer in education for his daughter. Her character is also introduced alongside Tariq’s character, her childhood friend and love. Along the way, Laila’s brothers are killed in the war and her mother goes into recluse, causing her parents’ marriage to hit the rocks. At this point, Laila learns that Tariq’s family decides to leave Kabul for Pakistan to escape the war between Afghanistan and the Soviet. To preserve their memory for each other, Tariq and Laila make love for the first time, a forbidden act for an unmarried couple in Afghanistan.

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The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

Boy In The Striped Pajamas

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Author: John Boyne

Publisher: Oxford University Press (January 5, 2006)

Setting: The story is set in WWII – Auschwitz Concentration Camp, also known as “Out-With” in the text.

Main Characters: Bruno, Shmuel, Gretel and Father

Summary: Bruno is a nine-year-old German boy who happens to be the son of a high-ranking officer and the right-hand man of Adolf Hitler. Having displayed exemplary work for Hitler, Bruno’s father is promoted to Commandant of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp and the entire family leaves Berlin. Bruno is upset about the move as he no longer has the opportunity to hang out with his friends. At Auschwitz, he is home-schooled with his sister, Gretel, and basically has no playmate. However, he notices that there is a compound near his house with “boys, fathers and grandfathers” all dressed in the same “pair of grey striped pyjamas and grey striped cap” – he often wonders who those people are but no one would tell him.

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Level Up

Level Up

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Author: Gene Luen Yang

Illustrator: Thien Pham

Publisher: First Second (June 7, 2011)

Setting: The story is set mostly in the United States of America, in Ouyang’s home and school.

Main Characters: Dennis Ouyang, Father, Four Angels

Summary: Dennis Ouyang is an American born Chinese whose parents moved from China to the US when they were newly weds. As a kid, Dennis was always attracted to video games and he pestered his parents to buy him a set but they never obliged because they wanted him to concentrate on his studies. His father died of liver cancer after his high school graduation and feeling depressed, he got himself a game set and became addicted to gaming. His addiction resulted in him getting expelled from college but four angels appeared on that fateful day to tell him that his destiny was to become a gastroenterologist. They got him re-enrolled into college and made him study day and night to qualify for medical school, which he did.

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Once Upon A River

Once Upon A River

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Author: Bonnie Jo Campbell

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc (July 5, 2011)

Setting: The story is set mostly along the Stark River in rural Michigan.

Main Characters: Margo, Grandpa Murray, Luanne (Margo’s mother), Crane (Margo’s father), Cal (Margo’s uncle), Brian, Michael, an Indian man (no name given), Smoky and Fishbone

Summary: At sixteen, Margo has suffered the unthinkable. Her grandfather, whom she adored dearly, died, her mother left, and her father died from a gunshot by her cousin. Also raped by her Uncle Cal at a tender age, she decides to leave home to search for love and carve her own destiny but along the way, she encounters many obstacles and gets involved with several men, one of whom raped her when she was alone and helpless. On the day her dad died, she took revenge on Uncle Cal by shooting him in the crotch from a higher vantage point in the tree. Unfortunately, at that moment, her dad appeared and so did Billy, Cal’s son. Thinking that Crane shot his father, Billy fired at Crane. Even though Cal knew what Margo had done, he didn’t report her; just as how she kept silent after he had raped her.

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Author: Donna Cooner

Publisher: Point, an imprint of Scholastic Inc (October 1, 2012)

Setting: The story is set mostly in the main character ‘s (Ever) school and home.

Main Characters: Ever/Skinny, Rat, Jackson, Briella

Summary: The story revolves around 15-year-old Ever, who weighs over 300 pounds and struggles to come to terms with her body image because of the devil’s voice in her head (Skinny) who constantly whispers negative words to her. The pressure of every other girl looking lean and fit in school further crushes her self-esteem and she eventually opts for a gastric bypass surgery to help her lose weight. After the surgery, she learns to adapt to her “new” body and follows a strict diet and exercise regime as part of the surgery’s follow-up plan. Yet, even after the surgery, Skinny never went away. She would still whisper ear-piercing thoughts into Ever’s ears. However, as time passed, Ever gained more confidence of her body image and eventually got rid off Skinny.

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Ten Things I Hate About Me

Ten Things I Hate About Me

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Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah

Publisher: Marion Llyod Books (October 1, 2006)

Setting: The story is set in a town in Sydney, where the main character, Jamilah, lives and attends a public school.

Main Characters: Jamilah, Hakim (Jamilah’s father), Bilal (Jamilah’s brother), Shereen (Jamilah’s sister), Timothy/John, Amy and Peter

Summary: The story revolves around a teenage girl, Jamilah, who leads two different lives. At school, she is known as Jamie from an Anglo-Aussie background, but at home, she’s Jamilah, a Lebanese-Muslim. She dyes her hair blonde and wears blue contacts to school to blend in with the Australian community as she’s afraid to embrace her true identity in school, where racism is prevalent. She keeps a low profile to avoid being exposed, but she truly admires her friend’s (Timothy) courage to be different from everyone else. Timothy is often ridiculed by Peter, the coolest kid in school, but doesn’t give two hoots about Peter. Jamilah has always wanted to have a real friendship with someone at school, but because she’s afraid of being exposed, she doesn’t let her guard down even with Amy, the closest friend she has. The only place that Jamilah seeks solace in and is able to truly embrace her ethnicity and religion, which she is proud of, is at madrasa, an Arabic school. There, she’s not afraid to be herself, and she’s also part of a band that is later invited to perform in the school she attends.

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