First Second always seems to publish great work, and this book is no exception. I wasn't surprised to see the company's logo when I opened Friends wit...moreFirst Second always seems to publish great work, and this book is no exception. I wasn't surprised to see the company's logo when I opened Friends with Boys, because whoever runs that outfit seems to know good comics. This is a great middle grade book about a girl who is nervous about starting high school after being home schooled for her entire life. She has no other friends but her older brothers, who are all too busy to hang out with her. Maggie and the rest of her family are also struggling with the recent departure of their mother.
While she initially founders under the harsh new environment that is regular high school, Maggie soon finds her niche with an outsider brother and sister who lack friends themselves. Social dynamics come into play without getting too cartoonish, though at times the plot erred slightly on the side of a sitcom in terms of its tropes. However, this didn't derail the story, and I blew through it in about an hour. There's a quirky subplot involving a ghost that adds a nice little Halloween aspect to this story, so definitely book talk it in October. Curious about what else this author has done.(less)
Check out a full review of this book and others on my blog: Get Real.
Guessed what this might be all about (in one sense) early on and hoped I was wron...moreCheck out a full review of this book and others on my blog: Get Real.
Guessed what this might be all about (in one sense) early on and hoped I was wrong. It's unfortunate when you're right about something you don't want to be right about. This story was transparent, caricatured and underdeveloped. The narrative devices were distractingly stylized and attempted to mask the thin characterization. Bits and pieces of good writing sometimes emerged but were later obscured by melodrama. This story relied heavily on a trick, and it wasn't much of a trick anyway. Veers slightly into a kind of magic realism later and then abruptly ends. Disappointing, as E. Lockhart is a better writer than this by far. I felt a little bit like I had picked up the book equivalent of a Lifetime movie. Gets two stars instead of one because it was thoroughly engrossing in spite of itself. Just goes to show that even when you're off your game, you're still kind of on it anyway.(less)
Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
Here's a really great book about the difficulty of just trying to be a teenager when the adult w...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
Here's a really great book about the difficulty of just trying to be a teenager when the adult world gets in your way. An '80s riff on star-crossed love, this book adeptly showcases the self-doubt, emotion and drama associated with growing up. Eleanor and Park tell the story of their ill-fated relationship in alternating sections. While they sometimes bleed together, their narrative voices never feel inauthentic.
Despite the fact that the title of this book bears two names, I would say this is more Eleanor's story than Park's. Eleanor has more hangups; a bigger chip on her shoulder and a lot more baggage at home that inevitably drives a wedge between herself and Park. Both characters inhabited the domain of the outcast teenager effectively and admirably. I could easily identify with the stuff they went through at school without feeling like their personalities were merely caricatures from the Breakfast Club.
At times the story was a bit gushy for my taste, and there was an undercurrent of TV-show plotting involved throughout. However, the humor cut through these things at just the right times. Eleanor and Park, despite their problems, were pretty funny. What was far from funny was Eleanor's stepdad Richie, who was a real threat to Eleanor for the entire length of this book. The insidious way the depth of that threat is revealed was really brilliant on the part of the author in spite of some of the other minor flaws this book had.
While I think teenagers would thoroughly enjoy this story, the nature of the world the author created seems designed to resonate with adults. This isn't a flaw, and I would liken this book to Melina Marchetta's Saving Francesca in that regard: a story that seems to appeal to adults and teens alike, due to the element of nostalgia involved that only adults who grew up during that time could identify with. The fact that Park is a college rock fan before that music was really considered cool or widespread seems to reflect an insider status that has only now been granted to those people who at the time wallowed in social obscurity. Anyway, these are merely reflections on my part regarding aspects of the story I did enjoy; they're just something to think about.
This was good, resonant writing, and the book ends with an eye toward a more positive future, which is really all one could ask for when looking for realistic fiction.(less)
An excellent examination of what it means for a woman to live freely and independently in modern society. While the style was at times a little dramat...moreAn excellent examination of what it means for a woman to live freely and independently in modern society. While the style was at times a little dramatic and even awkward, Colette lyrically expressed the tension between the need for companionship and the desire for a life unencumbered by obligation, possession and compromise.
The vagabond of this book is essentially a projection of Colette at a time in her own life, in which she was embittered by a bad divorce but enjoying her freedom as a musical hall dancer, living narrowly yet comfortably on her own terms. Renee's life at the music hall is depicted with humor and vivid detail. You can easily hear the music, smell the sawdust on the floor and picture the men who gape at her. For several years she has rebuffed the advances of numerous admirers without regret. However, the persistance of a rich fan named Max wears her down to the point that she gives in to having an affair with him; though she firmly resolves not to let her relationship with this man go beyond that. Renee does not want a second husband, children, a comfortable home or a life in which she relinquishes her career.
A summer tour separates Renee from her lover for just enough time to give her pause about the inevitable progression of their arrangement. While she loves this man who blatantly adores her, Renee can't help but think of what she would be giving up if she married him. A frank work about the intricacies of feminism and gender relations. This book goes to show you that the questions remain the same throughout history. It's just the aesthetics that change.(less)
Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
What does death do to a family? How does grief take shape? When and how do the survivors heal? M...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
What does death do to a family? How does grief take shape? When and how do the survivors heal? My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece explores these questions and others with solemnity, sarcasm, realism and even a bit of humor.
Jamie is 10 years old, and even though he doesn't much remember his sister Rose before she died from a terrorist attack five years ago, he and the rest of his family continue to live with her spectre. At the start of the story, Jamie, his older sister Jas (who is Rose's twin) and their father have relocated from London to a small northern town after Jamie's mother left to live with another man from a counseling support group. Because Jamie remembers little of his sister, he resents how her memory has taken his family hostage. He can't remember life before grief, drinking, fighting, distance. Jas is 15 and forced into the role of caretaker because the adults are neglectful and consumed with remembering Rose.
I loved the kids. They had a great relationship, and it was portrayed realistically. Siblings can be surprising when circumstances call for emotional support. I liked how even though Jas expressed her resentment about Rose through changing her appearance, she remained a well-adjusted and normal person. It's too easy to turn a kid into a drinking, drugging mess when it's been done so many times. Jamie is hopeful, pissy, fragile and sarcastic about his family situation. Starting at a new school, he doesn't make friends easily, except for when he meets Sunya, a Muslim girl who sits next to him in class. More accurately, she makes friends with him. Undaunted by his reticence, she sense something in him and reaches out.
However, Jamie feels guilty, because his father says when acting out, "Muslims killed Rose." It's great to watch Jamie come to terms with what happened to his sister, how his father expresses his grief and whether people are more than the labels they receive or take up.
I liked how this book examined serious issues with care but also found the humor in things, too. It kept the story from getting too emotional, heavy-handed or in your face about driving home lessons. And, while you see hope for the future in this story, things don't drastically change for Jamie's family. They shouldn't. Grief is powerful, and sometimes people finally come to terms with it in strange and subtle ways. I also liked how the story's climax was anti-climatic. I would have rolled my eyes a little at some points if the author hadn't written this story the way she did.
There are some questions about where this book belongs in a library collection, though. This story is about a 10-year-old boy, who makes observations appropriate for his age. But, there is a fair amount of cursing and talk about drinking and other more adult issues. I think this book is for grades 5 and 6, despite the swearing. It's nothing very bad, but the book requires some guided reading from adults I think. I'm not sure kids would pick this up unless it's part of a curriculum, but that doesn't mean they won't find value in it. Personally, I think all the better that kids only experience it in school. Teachers can provide context for the observations, language and situations.
Definitely a top pick in a fairly dry year for children's literature. We need more kids like this out there in books.(less)
Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
I vacillated between giving this book two and three stars. I enjoyed it over all, but I felt lik...moreCheck this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.
I vacillated between giving this book two and three stars. I enjoyed it over all, but I felt like it could have been better even for what it is. It was a slightly sappier, less spontaneous, even more movie-plotted version of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Though there was less swearing, fewer screwball scenarios and far fewer sexual references or situations. This is probably a good book for like 7th or 8th grade and up. It's possible the author was going for an older audience, but the content doesn't require that. This is a light take on the convergence of time and situation and how kids deal with the crap their parents put them through.
Things all work out in the end, and everyone learns how to be a better person. I would have liked more interaction between Hadley and Oliver. Even though they spent all that time on a plane to London, you don't get as much dialogue between them as you would expect. Their meeting is very movie-like in that they meet in an airport after Hadley misses her initial flight to London to attend her father's wedding. Not only that (of course), these two crazy kids just happen to be seated in the same row on the plane Hadley does catch. They stay up all night talking (but not about very much) and kiss at the airport upon landing. However, they lose track of each other in customs. Will they see each other again? I'll give you one guess. Three chances will insult your intelligence.
There's a lot of nice background about the dynamic in Hadley's family following her parents' divorce. That was cool, and it was dealt with realistically in the beginning, but I just kind of went ehhhh at the resolution. The wrap-up was too neat and reminded me too much of about 20 movies about divorce I've seen before. Oliver's story also could have had more meat too, as his situation seemed complex. Oh well. I first came across this book several months ago, but didn't pick it up because I thought the premise was too easy. I finally grabbed it this summer because I needed a change after a particularly hard read. It served its purpose, but I'd just read Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. It's a little gritty, but I'm sure you can handle it. (less)
hipper-than-thou new york city teens go on a scavenger hunt around the city. somewhat unrealistic plot line, but the characters were cute and the paci...morehipper-than-thou new york city teens go on a scavenger hunt around the city. somewhat unrealistic plot line, but the characters were cute and the pacing was good. (less)