Like most people might, I was interested in this book because of the title. But not because I can’t...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog:
Like most people might, I was interested in this book because of the title. But not because I can’t miss an episode of the Jersey Shore. (Trust me, it makes me feel ill to even know it exists.) Born and raised in New Jersey, I’m used to all the jokes. And that was before MTV ever “created” that god-forsaken show in the very town my parents and I would spend two weeks on vacation every single summer. So when the publisher note said this book explored “the real people behind the Jersey stereotypes” I was hopeful.
But Angel, the main character, and this cast of characters were unlike anyone I had ever encountered before. First, Angel’s mom owns three houses at the shore that they rent out every summer, which means most months of the year Angel (remember she is 18) lives in her own house. HER OWN HOUSE. She needed a smoking patch at the age of 13, and she can barely pass a crowd without being able to point out at least one guy she has hooked up with in some capacity.
I can tolerate a character who is “empowered by her sexuality” (as the publisher’s note always points out) but when it comes to Angel, I’m not totally convinced she is feeling that way. It seems like sex is a hobby. She doesn’t get much parenting from her mother (who has her own problems) and she doesn’t seem very focused on anything else – except her sudden pangs to hang out with her on again/off again boyfriend, Joey.
The thing about Angel is that she is likable. She is surprisingly maternal. She loves her best friend and her siblings. She does want something out of her life (even if her goals are somewhat mediocre). But the book spends more time getting into the dirty details of her sexual escapades then the innermost thoughts of this girl, and that was what I wanted. Even when she embarks on risky encounters with a certain someone, I was disappointed in the lack of consequence in the end. The book didn’t need a big blow up; it could have easily been an inner breakdown, a rationalization of how her actions could affect her life forever. What kind of person was she if she wasn’t loyal? If she didn’t have any morals? I’m not sure this character learned much of anything.
There were also supporting characters, namely Sherry, who were underutilized and I thought would have brought much to the book if they were involved in a bigger role. Add in a rushed ending and I’m left with a lot of questions. Truthfully, I think the plot of this book had potential but the structure and the lack of development when it came to plot and the characters made it fall short for me. For the record, I wouldn’t have minded all the hot steamy moments if there was more substance to the story to begin with.(less)
It wasn’t until Hurricane Sandy hit and I was sitting home watching the devasting pictures of the Je...moreReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
It wasn’t until Hurricane Sandy hit and I was sitting home watching the devasting pictures of the Jersey Shore I love so much that I remembered I had Rosie and Skate to read. I dug through my bookcase, pulled out my used copy, turned it over and spotted a familar sight: the Ferris Wheel at the center of so many aftermath photos all fine and dandy. It kind of threw me for a loop.
So I started Rosie and Skate in hopes of preserving some of my own memories of Seaside Heights and off-season moments spent at the beach with my family for so many years.
Not only did Bauman succeed with teleporting me back, but she also gave me the complex and flushed out story I was looking for but failed to find in Jersey Angel. Rosie and Skate couldn’t be more different. In fact, it’s hard to believe they are sisters sometimes. Only a year apart, they don’t live in the same house since their father went to jail: Skate lives at her boyfriend’s house with his mom while he is at college and Rosie lives in their home with a cousin who has traveled up from Florida to stay with them.
Rosie takes her dad’s actions to heart, while Skate doesn’t want much to do with him. The tension you would assume to feel between these two because of their beliefs doesn’t divide them; instead it’s the fact that though close in age, they are in two different places in their lives. Skate is dealing with a long distance relationship with her boyfriend, who doubles as her best friend. And Rosie is more of a loner, going to group meetings with other people affected by alcoholism and not really bringing home a ton of friends.
Both girls deal with such raw issues — on top of everything with their dad, there’s the disconnect Skate feels from her college boyfriend and how it feels her world stops spinning because he’s not close by, and Rosie wondering if a boy will ever like her at all. Bauman made these two ladies so real without once overcompensating with language; the cadence of this story is so well-paced and so well-timed.
Somehow the sisters have to meet in the middle to strengthen an unbalanced family unit, and it’s surprising how this happens and how their relationships with others grow and change throughout the process. Skate needs to find some kind of understanding with her father, while Rosie needs to step back and not take responsibility for her father’s failings. Together, without much fanfare and without suffocating each other, the two manage to move forward.
It’s funny. For a book about sisters, Rosie and Skate don’t spend a lot of time together. Their independence from one another was really refreshing. I liked seeing these two sisters interally debate the situation with their father but also have to wade separate issues on their own.
P.S. For you diehard holiday fanatics (me! me!), there’s plenty of merriment to go around as well. (less)
In a multitude of books I’ve read so far this year, the death of a parent is a major plot point....more[ Review originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog.]
In a multitude of books I’ve read so far this year, the death of a parent is a major plot point. A lot of the times the book is about the death of a mother (like The Survival Kit and You Have Seven Messages). It’s understandable. A daughter and her mother share an unparalleled connection — whether it’s good or bad. A mother is instrumental in the growth of her daughter, especially when she’s in her teenage years trying to figure out who she is and sort of rebelling against all she’s known. Mothers are supposed to be a constant and when they aren’t… there’s a tremendous amount of clashing emotions.
In Betsy’s case, her dad takes a backseat in the lives of his kids when his wife dies. They don’t talk about her, they feast on fast food; everyone is living in their own bubble, barely co-existing. Betsy is angry about that. She’s upset about it and yet she lacks the solution to this problem. How can she bridge this gap between her and her father? Her and her younger brother? Betsy also thinks she is “damaged goods”. Who could love her? Her boyfriend betrays her, so does her best friend (not in the way you think) and she has no mother. It’s the perfect summer to get a new job with new people and new responsibilities. She needs a fresh start in the worst way.
POH is meant to be taken very slowly. Altebrando’s writing is full of realistic, quotable quips and so much depth and emotion. I can’t pinpoint exactly why but the entire book had an old-school YA vibe while at the same time, felt rather adult. You could feel how Betsy was directionless, and I loved the inclusion of this colonial village she was working in. Every day she could escape to this simplier time, play someone who wasn’t herself (even though she wasn’t so good at it in the beginning), and discover things about herself without even realizing it.
Unlike a bunch of YA characters, Betsy wasn’t great at just one thing. In fact, her mother was always asking her about her passions. What was she passionate about? And Betsy just didn’t have a clue. But she wasn’t obsessively searching for it either. I liked Betsy’s cautiousness. I even liked when she messed up sometimes. She had flaws. She had secrets. She had judgements about people and learned to look past them. It was all about baby steps.
Don’t worry. There is a little romance. But what I love, absolutely love, is that it doesn’t appear because it has to, and it’s not an instant love or anything even close to it. Betsy’s affection for James is eased into, and has a bit of mystery to it. I can honestly say I didn’t know how to feel about him and I really liked that. It felt like I was experiencing the frustration and the sweetness along with her. (Plus this led to a Seaside Heights scene, setting of Jersey Shore — yuck — but where I spent many family vacations as a kid.)
Overall, I loved the characters in this novel. I loved the feel of the story, and the relationship dynamics (great sibling!). There are many layers to POH and it felt like each story received the attention it deserved. It always felt down-to-earth even when life turned into a bit of a drama fest for our main character. I so enjoyed her growth and getting to know her. I hope you do too.
P.S. I’m not normally a fan of Kristen Stewart but for some reason, I could not stop picturing Betsy as KS. (less)
Five pages into Roomies, I was thanking the book gods for placing it in my hands.
The summer before I left for college was pretty rough. I started dating a new guy (this would lead to a long distance relationship), my mom and I were fighting all the time (there is this one fight over paper towels that I can’t seem to forget), and I was working two jobs. It was a lot. Then there’s that extra layer of all your friends leaving for college one by one, and you are basically the only one left. (Our school started late.)
Your emotions are so jumbled up. On one hand, you are so excited to start a new thing and get out of the town you grew up in and on the other, you are totally terrified to leave the comforts of your friendships, your house, and your parents — scared to leave the past behind. (Ten years later, it’s funny to me that these are the same fears I have now. Scared to move forward, excited to jump ahead. I can never make up my mind.)
Elizabeth (EB) and Lauren are feeling such similar things: tension with their best friends, on the brink of new romances, and then the family stuff. For Elizabeth, she is so ready to get out of the nest and away from her mother, who is too busy dating the wrong men to spend time with her and for Lauren, she’s so used to being a big part in taking care of her big family. Her mom and dad really depend on her to take on a lot of work at home: baby-sitting, cleaning, you name it, she does it. So Lauren’s a little apprehensive: can her parents do this without her? How will her siblings deal with missing her?
Through each of their characters, Altebrando and Zarr hit on so many intriguing conclusions on friendships: the dependence you feel on old friends and the hope that new friendships can become just as meaningful. As these girls get deeper and deeper into the summer and find themselves leaning on one another, you are left to wonder how their relationship will hold up in real time, face to face. While this book is so much about moving forward and growing up, there’s also some interesting commentary on technology: how easy it is to confide in a stranger through email, and how easy it is to doubt the genuineness of the person on the other side. Trust totally comes into play.
Separately, Altebrando and Zarr write books that are memorable, touching, and so quote-worthy I might as well highlight the entire thing. But together? It’s almost out of control how much I felt immediately at home, ready to curl up with hot cocoa until I was done. Elizabeth’s landscape architecture dreams, Lauren’s lack of “real” phone, and then the boys — EB’s Mark and his sweet tasks for the summer and Lauren’s Keyon and how he always asks his dad for advice about her (Keyon’s dad soon becomes synonymous with adult wisdom for both girls). There is absolutely so much to enjoy in Roomies; I couldn’t possibly list it all.
This is definitely a book that is meant to be re-read time and time again and absolutely the best reading experience to end your year.(less)
In ways, this book reminded me of the first Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book or even a BSC book. Told from 4 POVs, it wasn't enough time to trul...moreIn ways, this book reminded me of the first Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book or even a BSC book. Told from 4 POVs, it wasn't enough time to truly dive into each character. This made for a quick read but some super serious things happened and they were a glossed over in some instances.
Really enjoyed hearing what each girl was wearing and how fashion brought them closer/created a bit of competition.
One other issue I had was how much their maturity flip flopped? They were 15, but when they talked about boys (not so often, surprisingly) it was very "eww" and some of their reactions seemed more fitting for a 12- to 13-year old and not kids in high school.
All in all, glad I gave this book a whirl. (But I wish the cover was different! These girls didn't actually spend that much time together and never shopped together once. It was very much separate stories with some overlap.)(less)