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|That's life, Samara Brooks|
Author: Ehrenhaft, Daniel
When 13-year-old Samara devises a genetics experiment to hide her part in a school gambling scheme, she and two classmates make a discovery that causes them to question their spiritual beliefs.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG+
Reading Level: 4.60
Points: 6.0 Quiz: 135690
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 4.20
Points: 10.0 Quiz: 49776
Common Core Standards
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Craft & Structure
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → 4.RL Integration & Knowledge of Ideas
Grade 4 → Reading → RL Literature → Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Rang
Grade 5 → Reading → RL Literature → 5.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 5 → Reading → RL Literature → 5.RL Integration & Knowledge of Ideas
Grade 5 → Reading → RL Literature → Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Rang
Grade 6 → Reading → RL Literature → 6.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Grade 6 → Reading → CCR College & Career Readiness Anchor Standards fo
Grade 7 → Reading → RL Literature → 7.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 7 → Reading → RL Literature → 7.RL Range of Reading & LEvel of Text Complexity
Grade 7 → Reading → RL Literature → 7.RL Craft & Structure
Grade 8 → Reading → RL Literature → 8.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 8 → Reading → RL Literature → 8.RL Craft & Structure
Grade 5 → Reading → RL Literature → 5.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Kirkus Reviews (-) (01/01/10)
School Library Journal (05/01/10)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (A) (03/10)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 01/01/2010 Under pressure from her adoptive parents to “fit in” better during the new school year, Samara is soon busted for running a gambling table in the cafeteria. She convinces the principal not to contact her parents but instead to let her conduct a science experiment showing that she doesn’t deserve more punishment than the gamblers. Samara allies herself with two of her former lunchtime customers: class president Lily, who is influenced by a televangelist minister, and Nathan, who is obsessed with secret codes and believes that “God is an alien.” Events spiral out of control after someone breaks into the science lab and a police investigation begins. Narrated by Samara, Lily, and Nathan in rotation, the fast-paced story is engaging, though some plot twists and minor characters are unconvincing, and the ending is disappointing in several respects. Ehrenhaft may have taken on too much in a short novel, juggling adoption issues, teen gambling addiction, genetics, historical codes, and religion. Still, with its intelligence and understated emotions, Samara’s wry narrative, in particular, has its appeal. - Copyright 2010 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 03/01/2010 Samara’s parents have a habit of dropping bombs at family dinners; last year it was the fact that she was adopted, and this year, they want her to try to fit in better at school, to make some friends rather than spending all of her spare time at Blackjack.com. Samara fancies herself a con artist rather than someone who blends into the crowd, so her device to gain friends is to set up a blackjack table in the school cafeteria at lunch. Among her victims (the house always wins, after all) are class president Lily and a geeky boy named Nathan, who spends his time trying to prove the existence of aliens. The principal wants to blame Samara for corrupting Lily, but Samara comes up with yet another con-to use the school’s electron microscope to prove, through DNA analysis, that she and Lily are the same. Though the book musters plausible explanations for why the school has an electron microscope in the first place and why a girl like Lily is attracted to gambling, the plot here depends entirely too much on fortuitous coincidences and implausible scenarios, such as a principal’s allowing DNA testing of students to take the place of suspension for gambling. The flirtation with spirituality through coincidence, probability, medieval codes and the pursuit of alien life forms is handled with a glib insouciance that belies any strong thematic point other than the ability of disparate people to transcend differences and form lasting friendships through the pursuit of quirkiness. However, the lunchroom card sharp is a novel premise, and lonely kids with mathish tendencies will enjoy speculating along with Samara about how cosmic mysteries apply to middle-school politics. KC - Copyright 2010 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 05/01/2010 Gr 5–8— To Samara, 13, who isn't in it for the money, setting up a blackjack table at lunch seems like a good way to make friends. Then, when she gets called to the principal, she proposes to use the school's electron microscope to show that she and the other kids are just the same, at the genetic level, so they should be punished in the same way. When Samara's DNA ends up looking like symbols in the ancient Phaistos Disk and the Voynich Manuscript, everyone has questions about her identity. These questions remain largely ignored when the results are stolen, with Samara and her pals Lily and Nathan the main suspects. Told in three alternating points of view, the story touches on issues of science versus religion (with both looking ridiculous). It is a funny, fast-paced read, with some lingering questions about belief, science, and the supernatural for readers to mull over.—Jennifer Rothschild, Prince George's County Memorial Library System, Oxon Hill, MD - Copyright 2010 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.