Get Real: What Kind of World are YOU Buying? by Mara Rockliff
Running Press Kids, June 2010
Plot Summary: Rockliff's young adult nonfiction book was written to educate youth on the unfairness, dangers, and steps to be taken in regards to world consumerism. She writes quick chapters dedicated to one subject matter, makes her argument, and gives the readers resources to do something about it. One of the chapters explains that the plastic in cell phones contains chemicals that are dangerous to our health and the environment. When they aren't recycled properly, this plastic gets broken in landfills and releases these harmful chemicals into our drinking water and the air we breathe. Another chapter describes the horrors of sweatshop labor while another explains the unfairness of chocolate and coffee production.
Critical Analysis: Rockliff was in danger of sounding very preachy throughout this book, but managed to keep a reasonable and informative tone. She never outright tells the reader to take action, rather she presents the evidence and provides the information needed to do something about it if you so choose. Rockliff recommends interesting documentaries and even related YA fiction books at the end of the chapters, which I thought was a nice touch.
The language and examples Rockliff uses can be age-appropriate. She explains the most hazardous gas to the ozone, methane, as cow farts and burps. Rockliff never assumes her audience to be uneducated, but doesn't put things in terms that are difficult to understand, either. There's always a "How low can they go?" section in which she outlines some of the biggest corporate offenders of a particular problem that helps provide perspective.
There's little bad to say about the book itself. I fear that it does not have shelf appeal. I can't imagine many teens wanting to pick up a book on consumerism even though the cover is attractive and the book itself is well-designed (and printed with environmentally friendly soy-based inks). But perhaps a young entrepreneur could pick up this book and start making a difference. It certainly made me rethink using plastic bottles and recycling cell phones and I'm a cynical twenty something. It could work for teens.
Reader's Annotation: Do you want to make a difference in the environment? Recycle that cell phone, get a reusable water bottle, and find out other quick tips from this book!
Author Information: Rockliff truly practices what she preaches, whether its drinking a cup of fair trade tea or making her own ice cream. She's never had a cell phone and she does not watch television. She also writes under a few pen names and authors the Milo and Jazz Mysteries.
Genre: young adult nonfiction, environment
Curriculum Ties: There are a few chapters on the food industry, so this could be a great companion piece to the popular Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.
Reading Level: Ages 12-16
Challenge Issues: N/A
Challenge Defense Ideas: No challenge issues come to mind when reading this book. The best defense is having a strong knowledge of the book, so becoming familiar with it by reading reviews, finding other opinions, and reading it one's self is a good start. One could also refer to the library's collection development policy here.
Why I included this title: I found this one on the new arrivals book shelf and thought it might be an interesting read. Though I'm not an environmentalist myself, I do occasionally try and be "green" by walking or using special light bulbs. It was a very informative read and I hope to recommend it to a few teens at my library.