Member Reviews

Hilo books are written to interest teens, but using simpler language and shorter stories. They're becoming increasingly popular as parents and educators realise how they can be used to build confidence in children who may struggle with reading for any number of reasons.

Plot Summary
Appropriately, the heroine of this story has learning difficulties, mostly around focus and organizing her thoughts. This leads to issues with her self confidence, but when she notices similarities between the recent treatment of elderly people and historical genocides, she has to step forward and speak out

Alia is a teenager struggling to get through school with learning difficulties. Traditional methods don't seem to work for her, and her family and friends are so exaggeratedly complementary of any success that she feels worse. Alia’s grandmother, a pivotal character, brings wisdom and a sense of urgency to Alia's mission. Additionally, her friends offer varied perspectives and support, each adding to the story's depth; some agree with her, some don't, allowing the narrative to showcase various points of view. Alia is a great example of a teen who feels suffocated and as though no one understands her; she's unsure about stepping up but when it comes down to it she's brave.

Writing Style
As a hilo book the description is kept to a minimum and there's very little lyrical language; it's all straight and to the point. There's plenty of dialogue and the story moves along quickly, with twists and turns to keep the reader's interest.

Themes and Messages
The interesting thing about this book is that, to a point, both sides have good reasons for what they're doing. It's true that some older people need more help, and that many live far better in group homes than they did alone. It's also true that many are fit and well and perfectly able to look after themselves, or by themselves with a small amount of help. The book warns against going too far, too quickly, and against passing laws without fully understanding their impact - things we all need to be paying attention to at the moment.

Fast paced
Maps well to current events
Not preachy

Some readers will think it's too short
The length means there's less detail in the story

Personal Connection
I enjoyed reading this; Alia's a great hero precisely because she doesn't feel brave and she doesn't feel clever but she forges ahead and does it anyway, using her friends and family to help her. One scene that stood out to me was when Alia, despite her fears, spoke out at a community meeting, showing incredible courage. It's a great lesson for the reader about the importance of persistence and believing in oneself.

I think everyone should be reading this, not just teens with reading difficulties. It shows the importance of really looking at what's happening around us and standing up for what's important.

Author Information
Jennifer Phillips has written several other books for teens and children, mostly non-fiction. She's active on social media and loves connecting with readers.

Further Reading/Viewing
There are several publishers producing Hi-Lo books; the major one in the UK is Barrington Stoke.
For more serious books about young people getting swept into politically charged events, try I am not a Number or Internment; for a non fiction look at politics and how to get involved, try Politics for Beginners.

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