I remember this being one of my less-liked Robin Klein books when I read them all as a kid, most likely because I read them in mid to late prim...moreRe-read
I remember this being one of my less-liked Robin Klein books when I read them all as a kid, most likely because I read them in mid to late primary and I think this one would have felt a bit irrelevant to my own life. Actually I probably read this one in grade five, as that was when it was first released. Regardless, drugs weren't really a thing I'd encountered much in fiction and at all IRL.
I think it's important to consider the fact that this book was published in the 1980s when thinking about how it deals with drug use. While it's done quite subtly, I can imagine that it was a HUGE deal to be openly writing about drugs for the MG/YA market at the time. It's done nicely, too - with Klein's usual ability to combine her talent for writing for a young audience with genuine good writing. She's such a loss to the MG market now that she's unable to write (and hasn't been able to since 2005).
Absolutely Normal Chaos is a lightly-styled novel, with a deeper message about family and belonging. Its protagonist, Mary Lou, has a strong voice, wh...moreAbsolutely Normal Chaos is a lightly-styled novel, with a deeper message about family and belonging. Its protagonist, Mary Lou, has a strong voice, which is emphasised by the narrative being presented in the form of a journal. Her perspective is pleasantly flawed, and the reader views the other characters through her eyes. This is most obvious in the case of Carl Ray, who is represented in an ever-changing manner throughout the book.
Sharon Creech has a capable writing style and Absolutely Normal Chaos was an easy enough book to read and keep reading, but I'm afraid I came away from it with no real feelings about her universe or the events the characters were involved in. I didn't care enough about any of the characters to feel any emotion for their disappointments and successes, which meant that I read the novel on a very surface level. I enjoyed the budding romance between Mary Lou and Alex in the opening stages of the novel, but quickly grew disinterested, and found a few aspects of the plot a little melodramatic.
There's nothing really wrong with Absolutely Normal Chaos, but there also wasn't anything in it that really grabbed me, either. A light summertime read for middle grade readers who like diary-style fiction and who don't mind an over-abundance of double-barrel Christian names!
I am a Sweet Valley girl rather than a Baby-sitters Club girl but, back in primary school, when the Baby-sitters Club books were first being released...moreI am a Sweet Valley girl rather than a Baby-sitters Club girl but, back in primary school, when the Baby-sitters Club books were first being released in Australia, I was still a very big fan. You used to be able to get the new one every few months in the Scholastic school book clubs, and I built up a small collection of the first dozen or so books due to this. That was around the time I got into Sweet Valley High, though, and I outgrew the Baby-sitters Club not long after I started reading them. Still, for that short period in time, there was that wonderful series of books that told primary school children that they could babysit tiny children and earn money – even though they were only tiny children themselves! Okay, so perhaps it wasn't very realistic...
It's a long time since I last made any concerted effort to read the Baby-sitters Club titles. I picked up Kristy's Great Idea at a library book sale a couple of years back, and was quite disappointed upon re-reading it. And then I discovered this, the final ever book at another library book sale, and decided it would be good to see how everything concluded.
Unfortunately, as a conclusion, Graduation Day is rather underwhelming. In one sense, it's nice that the characters are still true to their beginnings. In another, however, it feels like very little has changed since the first couple of dozen books, if not since the very beginning. It really seemed like the characters were still dealing with the same-old same-old problems and emotions and, although I could see that the time machine and multiple perspectives were intended as a tribute, to me it felt a little forced and bitty. All of the old club members were there, but ones like Dawn were barely present at all.
The thing that most irritated me about Graduation Day, however, were the fonts used to mimic handwriting. These were okay when they were legible, but a lot of the time, they weren't! I didn't read Jessi's chapter at all, because the writing was just plain ridiculous, and had to skip a few others as well. Handwriting fonts are cute when they're easy to read (like Dawn's, for instance), but when they're not, they're frustrating and a waste of a reader's time.
It's sad that the Baby-sitters Club didn't go out with greater fanfare than Graduation Day allowed. But everything has to come to an end eventually, and at least Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey were given a proper good-bye.
As you can see from the blurb, Boys Beware is not a particularly realistic novel. Generally, parents do not leave two twelve-year-olds and a thirteen-...moreAs you can see from the blurb, Boys Beware is not a particularly realistic novel. Generally, parents do not leave two twelve-year-olds and a thirteen-year-old in their own flat to fend for themselves for eight weeks. Even if their aunt is downstairs, it isn't exactly an advert for good parenting. Or good sense, for that matter!
Of course, such pragmatic observations are of no interest at all to this book's young audience, for which it serves as a wonderful wish-fulfilment fantasy. For the age group Boys Beware is aimed at, nothing could seem more exciting than getting to live on your own for a couple of months. No doing what you're told. Eating whatever you want. Holding unsupervised parties. Fantastic!
As the title indicates, however, Boys Beware isn't just about three sisters living by themselves. Largely, it recounts the endless quest of Emily and Tash to meet boys and capture them make them their boyfriends. There's also a lot of time spent discussing their sister, Ali, who they feel is a hopeless case when it comes to making the most of herself and finding her own boy toy.
The best thing about Boys Beware is easily the wonderful first-person voice of Emily. It really makes the novel stand out from other books with a similar focus. Chatty, slangy and completely believable, the narrative is just spot on. Tash and Ali are also great characters. I really enjoyed Emily and Tash's relationship – with the occasional short-lived tension quickly smothered by their genuine supportive friendship – and the clever characterisation of Ali. The book is very much told from a flawed perspective, and this is why Ali works so well. The reader can see her assets, but her sister, the narrator, struggles a little!
Boys Beware is a fun novel that should be enjoyed by middle grade readers - and by older readers looking for a quick and entertaining read.
For a novel aimed at a middle grade audience, Passion Flower is surprisingly dark. Absent (emotionally or physically) and negligent parents seem to be...moreFor a novel aimed at a middle grade audience, Passion Flower is surprisingly dark. Absent (emotionally or physically) and negligent parents seem to be a staple of modern Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction, but Jean Ure takes it to extremes here. At first, Stephanie and the Afterthought (sister Sam) just have to put up with their parents' separation and their father moving south to Brighton. But then their mother decides she needs some time away from them and heads abroad to Spain, sending then to stay with their irresponsible father. While initially this involves him feeding them junk food and leaving them to fend for themselves, it quickly evolves into something a lot more scary and dangerous. It becomes a bleak account of just how irresponsible and selfish a parent can be.
I think I would be fine with this if Passion Flower were an 'issues' novel, or even if there were something reassuring for readers at the end. Instead, however, it's packaged as contemporary fluff, with a cartoon cover and a light-hearted blurb, and even reads as such for a good portion of the book. Due to this, I wasn't really sure what to make of it.
On the upside, Ure's character voice is great and the first-person protagonist, Stephanie, is a likeable and believable character. The Afterthought is also very enjoyable and the two sisters have a realistic relationship. I also liked the background presence of Stephanie's best friend, Vix, who provided a link to normality.
Passion Flower is a quick read with a strong voice – but it packs a punch that younger readers may not be expecting.