Life is Funny by E.R. Frank

Life is FunnyReading level: 6.1
Lexile: 830
Genre: Realistic fiction
ELL-Friendly: Not particularly
Library recommendation: High school

Goodreads summary:

From the outside, they’re simply a group of urban teenagers. But from the inside, they’re some of the most complex people you’ll ever meet. There’s Eric, fiercely protective of his brother Mickey-but he has a secret that holds together his past and future. Sonia, struggling to live the life of a good Muslim girl in a foreign America. Gingerbread and Keisha, who fall in love despite themselves. Life Is Funny strips away the defenses of one group of teenagers living today, right now-and shows their unbearably real lives.

Life is Funny gives a glimpse into the lives of 11 urban teens living in New York. Each of them face serious, realistic obstacles, making it a heart-wrenching and engaging book because real teens face these problems every day. It was a bit of a depressing read, but each story contains hope.

There is a lot to love about Life is Funny. All the characters have likeable, even loveable, qualities, and you can’t help but root for them. While the organization of the book was a bit confusing (time passing, new characters introduced all the time), the characters weave in and out of each other’s lives. And just when you’re getting attached to a character and have high hopes for their future, their chapter ends. The characters in this story are a reminder that people are facing all sorts of struggles and that the least we can do is not judge one another.

Here’s the problem for me as an educator, though. Think of all the topics in teen literature that people freak out about. ALL of those topics show up in these stories. It’s definitely a book for high schoolers (Scholastic says the interest level is 9th grade), and, because I’m paranoid, I wouldn’t put it in a high school library, either. I even contemplated donating the book because I won’t use it in class or read it again, but then I read some more reviews and remembered it’s won some awards. This book can reach kiddos who face hardships like the characters in the book do. When I was in high school, my band director held onto a clarinet for years, just waiting for the right student to come along to whom he could give it. I’ll hang onto Life is Funny in case I find the right reader.

Some of the characters’ voices use colloquialisms, slang, and Ebonics, making it a tricky read for ELLs. While these varied narrations help define our 11 characters, Monique and Eric in particular have distinct dialects that are tricky for me to read fluently and quickly.

Life is Funny is my twelfth book of the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Bookish.

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