Monday, November 25, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013
From the cover this looks like a breezy summer romance book, which it is in a way, but I didn’t find it quite as satisfying as I thought I might. The main character, named Cricket, spends much of her time with her best friend, Jules, and her family, partially to avoid her own divorced parents. When Jules’ mother dies unexpectedly, Cricket finds herself rejected by her best friend, uninvited to stay at their Nantucket home for the summer, and on her own to find a summer job on the island. It’s not the romantic summer she was expecting, but it has its surprises and an unlikely romance (and Cricket’s first sexual encounter). I was moderately interested in this story but I found that I didn’t really like Cricket or Jules, and there was too much going on for me to get very attached to their story (a dead senator, an adopted stepbrother from Russia, a long-lost tell-all diary of Cricket’s mom). This one was just so-so. For a truly breezy romance I recommend This is What Happy Looks Like byJennifer E. Smith.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Darra and Wren were eight years old when Darra’s father stole a car and kidnapped Wren in the process. The two girls never met at the time but their stories intertwined and they have unresolved questions about each other. When they meet six years later at summer camp they instantly know each other but it takes some time before they are able to slowly connect and talk openly about their shared past. This is a really unique book, both in its plot and its form. The free verse style makes it a quick read and deceptively simple. The characters are intriguing, the summer camp setting is perfect for their cycle of emotional growth, and in the end readers discover some hidden messages in Darra’s passages. While the poetic form makes the book unique, at the same time it meant that the book did not go into great detail. I enjoyed the story but felt like I would have connected with the characters more had there been more meat to the writing. I also thought the additional hidden story line in Darra’s narrative (see the author's note for an explanation), didn't deliver any surprising additions to the plot. Overall I did enjoy this book and I will recommend it to middle schoolers, especially reluctant readers.
Kids today probably don’t know Go Ask Alice, the young adult novel from 30 years ago that was supposedly the true diary of a girl sinking deeper and deeper into drug addiction. Letting Ana Go is obviously a modern twist on this style—a cautionary tale told in the first person about a young person who slowly goes from being a good girl with everything going for her to a psychological disaster. The narrator has no real reason to diet except that she runs cross country and needs to track her calories to be sure she is eating enough. However, her best friend, Jill, is a ballet dancer who begins losing dangerous amounts of weight in order to further her dance ambitions. The narrator counts calories in solidarity with Jill at first, but then finds that she gets positive attention from her new boyfriend (Jill's brother) and that it helps her deal with her parents' breakup. She soon becomes unable to stop her dangerous behavior. I am no expert on anorexia. I cannot say whether this book accurately represents the progression of this disease, but I can say that it did not ring true to me. The narrator's descent into the disease happens rather quickly and her health also fails too rapidly for me to believe. I found it hard to suspend my disbelief enough to think that this girl really would have let this disease get the best of her. I think there is a subset of teen and pre-teen girls who will like this book because of the subject matter and the appeal of “problem novels” but I cannot say that I recommend it to readers in general. If you really want a chilling look at eating disorders try Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Monday, September 30, 2013
Friday, September 27, 2013
Code Name Verity. This follow-up book, which isn't a sequel but shares one character, was also a great read. Rose is a young American pilot working in Britain during World War II. She longs to fly to Europe instead of ferrying airplanes around the UK. On her first chance things go wrong and she is captured and sent to Ravensbrück, a women's concentration camp that I knew nothing about before reading this book. While there she is taken in by a group of women called the "rabbits" because they were the subjects of horrific medical experiments done by Nazi doctors. The whole concentration camp experience is awful, as you can imagine, but this book is so full of humor and humanity and daring that it is inspiring rather than depressing. I appreciated that the book did not end in the camps, rather it went on to show the aftermath for those who survived. This is a book about friendship and the power it can have to overcome the worst circumstances in the world. The best part of the book for me? Rose is also a poet who loves the poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Millay's poems are interwoven throughout the text as are poems that Rose writes. Elizabeth Wein, a pilot herself, is an outstanding writer and this is a must-read for historical fiction lovers. My review isn't going this book justice, so please see this review of Rose Under Fire as well.