Margin Notes



People Kill People.jpgReading Ellen Hopkins’ latest novel, People Kill People, was like watching a car crash in slow motion.

Born out of the social dichotomy of Trump-era nationalism, People Kill People weaves the lives of six Tucson, Arizona teens together, after one purchases a gun (the seventh character?), to a devastating conclusion. Stitching this tapestry together is Hopkins’ choice of narrator, giving voice to the basest aspects of humanity: our fear and self-doubt. Hopkins uses this ‘devil on your shoulder’ voice brilliantly not only to tap into our own fears and insecurities, but to actually humanize the extreme views and perspectives of her characters. In making the reader see the dark side in themselves, Hopkins forces the audience to empathize with even the most unlikeable of characters by illuminating how circumstances, uncertainty and emotion sometimes simply seem to make our decisions for us, leaving the characters and the reader feeling pulled along an unavoidable collision course with tragedy.

Apart from wonderfully writing her character vignettes, the novel belongs to this demonic presence that uses such subtle but menacing language and tone to slip under your skin. People Kill People pulls no punches and uses mature language and content to grapple with the complexities of the characters’ lives: mental health, suicide, teen parentage, family dynamics, racism, drug use, and friendship. Stylistically, Hopkins employs two other useful techniques; each character has their own font, and the demon-puppet-master-narrator inserts itself via italics within the vignettes, providing colour and context through short poetic intermissions as the mood and plot of the novel intensifies.

For such an emotionally difficult read, it is highly engaging and hard to pull away from. Many students will see something of themselves or someone they know in the novel, but the mature language and themes, as well as some more complex vocabulary, particularly in the poetic structure, may make it a challenging read for some.

Will Milner is an English & Outdoor Pursuits teacher at Fredericton High School, where he also coaches soccer and track & field. When not teaching, or coaching, he can be found with his wife Jen outside with their dogs and playing with their daughter Olivia.



Ghost boys coverThrough her book, Ghost Boys, Jewell Parker Rhodes once again distills challenging world topics such as racism, police brutality, and gun violence and provides us with a beautiful piece of work for young readers.

Ghost Boys is the story of 12-year-old, Jerome Rogers. He likes school and learning but is bullied for it. He has an adoring little sister, and hardworking parents who rely on his grandmother to help raise the kids. But one day, he’s out playing with a toy gun in a park near his house and is shot and killed by a white police officer that deems him as a threat.

The story alternates between Jerome being alive and dead, as he struggles to understand how this could have happened and navigating the world between life and death. Following his death, Jerome meets another ghost of a young black boy killed many years before him, Emmett Till, who begins to help him process the events that ultimately led to his murder. Through this lens he sees the effects that his death has on his family, his classmates, and the family of the officer who killed him.

This book offers a heartbreaking simplicity that challenges the reader to look at and begin to understand the effects of systematic racism and what it would take for meaningful change. The author takes on this massive subject that has plagued our society for many years and delivers it with a balanced thoughtfulness that is appropriate, and I would argue essential, for a middle-school audience. It provides many opportunities for discussion among readers and offers them a pathway to start to unpack many large societal issues and begin to empathize with people who may have these experiences.

Lauren Sieben is a UNB pre-service teacher currently interning with Sara BeLong teaching Grade 6 English at George Street Middle School. She has always had a passion for reading, specifically YA titles.



Lighter Than My ShadowKatie Green’s graphic novel, Lighter than My Shadow, is an emotional dive into the world of eating disorders, abuse, and recovery. Throughout Green’s book, readers can feel her guilt, shame, and awkwardness through her series of intimately drawn pictures showing how her body, mind, and spirit changed throughout her life and through her path to self-discovery. Green’s work is a documentary told through the art of illustration and we not only meet Katie herself, but her friends, family members, and abusers.

We also meet a few others along the way. While their names are not shared, they certainly show the importance of character-building and how to show an emotion, rather than describe it. Katie’s fears are symbolized through two means. First, we see a simple scribble – her emotions bottled up and created through a dark, menacing, and faceless creature that follows her throughout her life.

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Secondly, we see a monster within Katie’s actual body – her eating disorder that has come alive within her.

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So often as English teachers, we focus on the written word, but how often have you stepped back to take a look at the bigger picture? This is what Green’s work will force you to do – step back. Look at your own hurdles. See the bigger picture.

By reading Lighter than My Shadow, I have thought more about the difficult choices my students are faced with every day. We truly do not know the battle that is happening in anyone’s lives but our own. Green teaches us that compassion and empathy are truly the roots that maintain the strong foundation for not only our relationships with others, but our relationship with ourselves. I would recommend this graphic novel to both English and Personal Development teachers, as there can never be enough literature on the acceptance of one’s own body and the understanding of someone’s struggle.

Laura Noble is a high school English teacher at Leo Hayes High in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Laura is currently completing her Master’s in Education and is an avid reader of young adult fiction, true-crime, and feminist literature.

Our Favourite Books Released in 2019


It is almost time to say farewell to 2019, and with Christmas just a few weeks away, we thought we would share some of our favourite titles released this year (and maybe provide you with ideas for your holiday gift-giving!).









On the Come Up CoverOn The Come Up by Angie Thomas is a book I am excited to have on my bookshelf, and I strongly encourage L.A. teachers to read it. In addition to a compelling story, this novel makes a strong case for rap music and its place in the L.A. classroom. Through her main character, Angie Thomas demonstrates that in order to write good rap, you need command of the English language. She makes it clear that rap is a process that requires skill and practice. She proves it is a genre not to be dismissed.

Written from 16-year old Brianna’s perspective, this is the story of a talented young rapper’s quest to make it big. She is the daughter of a revered rapper and community hero “Lawless” who was tragically killed when Bri was a young girl. Her family struggles to make ends meet and there isn’t a lot of extra cash when the bills are paid. So, Bri runs a side hustle at school where she sells candy bars to make some spending money. Everything changes when she gets thrown to the ground and searched by school security who suspect her of dealing drugs. Bri lives to rap but she also loves Star Wars and Tweety Bird and playing Mario Cart with her two best friends. She doesn’t do or deal drugs. But none of that matters because the incident at school starts a spiral of Bri being profiled and labeled because of the color of her skin and the neighborhood she lives in. Her situation escalates when she vents her frustrations in a rap that gets a lot of airtime. Now she’s worshiped by some and reviled as a dangerous thug by others.

Due to the myriad of themes covered in it’s 447 pages, I found On The Come Up to be a lovely hybrid  between a window and a mirror book. Through her characters, Angie Thomas manages to deftly tackle issues surrounding racial profiling, family, poverty, addictions, gang violence, LGBTQ+, and the confusing/wonderful world of teen romance. And overarching within all of these is the theme of identity. Of people thinking or believing you’re something you are not. This is a story of Brianna navigating the murky and messy waters of discovering who she is versus who the world tells her to be.

I cannot wait to pitch it to students,  especially those who fell in love with Angie Thomas’ writing after reading The Hate U Give.

Megan Young Jones is a guest blogger for Margin Notes. She teaches Grade 7 Language Arts at George Street Middle School in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Her favorite genres to read are historical fiction and true crime.





Kristin Lattimer seems to have it all together: She is a successful high school athlete with a college scholarship lined up; she has a popular track-star boyfriend who she is ready to take the next step in their relationship with; and she was recently elected homecoming queen by her classmates.

All of this suddenly changes when a routine trip to the doctor reveals that Kristin is intersex. Although she outwardly appears to be female and has always identified herself as female, she discovers she has male chromosomes and certain male ‘parts.’

While Kristin is struggling to come to terms with her diagnosis on her own, her diagnosis gets leaked to the entire school and her peers are anything but supportive. Kristin’s once seemingly ideal life has crumbled before her eyes and she must rely on herself, her family, a support group, and an unlikely friend to re-discover herself and whether she fits into the category of male, female, or none of the above.

I.W. Gregorio, a practicing surgeon, was inspired by an intersex patient of hers to write None of the Above. Gregorio tackles many difficult issues in this book including gender identity, gender discrimination, and bullying. The novel also brings to light the plethora of resources and supports that are available to people diagnosed with intersex conditions and works to end the stigma surrounding intersex. I learned a lot about my own perceptions of what it means to be intersex and the effects in can have on a person’s life. I think this book could be extremely valuable to any student who is either going through a similar situation of being dejected by their peers or a student who simply wants to learn more about the LGBTQIA2S+ community.

After reading The 57 Bus, I became more aware of my reading gap with LGBTQIA2S+ texts. I decided to seek out a fiction book that could fit into this category. I specifically chose None of the Above because I had never encountered a text that addresses what it means to be intersex, let alone a text that uses the term intersex rather than the outdated ‘hermaphrodite’ (a struggle that comes to light in this novel).

Caitlin Foote is a pre-service teacher completing her B.Ed degree at UNB with a classroom placement at Oromocto High School. She is enjoying expanding her love of YA novels in order to relate to and recommend books to her Grade 9 ELA students.



Congratulations to Amy Bourgaize and Lori Jones-Clark for winning #ASDWReads for the month of November! Your prizes will arrive soon! You can enter our December draw by posting your reading on Twitter or Instagram with the #asdwreads!



the hate u give coverPublished in 2017, Angie Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give is written from the perspective of a young black teenage girl who makes the brave decision to speak out against violence by police officers against black individuals and the aftermath and chaos this creates. The book’s main character Starr struggles with staying in line with her life at a posh private school and doing the right thing, not only by her friend, but her community. This book takes a look at racially aimed violence by police officers and the outcry it sparks within society and how speaking out, while it is the right thing to do, will not always get you the justice you deserve.

Thomas’ fearless ability to take this controversial topic and bring it into a YA fiction novel truly amazed me because as I read this, I felt as if I was living through this with Starr and the pain she was feeling as she watched a police officer kill one of her best friends. Though fictional, she provided an in-depth look at the aftermath of such a horrific event – an event we often read about within the media but do not personally experience. This book, as white female, opens a window to a situation in which I cannot imagine experiencing. She writes this book in such a way that you do not feel separated from the main character or her experiences. I think this may be why it continues to be  the New York Times top selling YA book, because Thomas created a story based upon an extremely controversial subject and writes courageously about it. I think Starr, despite the tragedy of watching her best friend die due to racial profiling, is relatable to many young people today. She knows what is wrong with society and wants to help be a part of that change, and I think that is something people want to read about. They want a story about bravery, and not in the typical way.

Katie Morgan is a current student at UNB completing her B.Ed. as a pre-service teacher in high school English. As a guest blogger she is reviewing a YA novel for her teaching secondary English class.