This was a random $1 find at the Japanese bookstore. I had a fuzzy idea that I liked McCorkle's short fiction, and on reading the back my husband did...moreThis was a random $1 find at the Japanese bookstore. I had a fuzzy idea that I liked McCorkle's short fiction, and on reading the back my husband did say it seemed like my "kind of thing." Sadly, not so much. It begins with an interesting enough set-up (though the format gets tiresome pretty quickly), then it just fizzles. The first act is just guns, guns, guns, and we eventually wind up with, well, barely even one of those flags from old Warner Bros. cartoons that says "BANG!". It was unclear why the main character did anything, and even less clear why the reader should be invested in this. (less)
I only bought this because it was $1 at Half-Price Books, and then I only read it so promptly because I brought it to Honduras with me, and wanted to...moreI only bought this because it was $1 at Half-Price Books, and then I only read it so promptly because I brought it to Honduras with me, and wanted to bring books I would be okay with trading/giving away (which I did -- I traded it in at Funkytown in Utila). I was pleasantly surprised though -- it was pretty good. I had always recalled liking The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, but somehow had forgotten that it was a bunch of related short stories focused on one central character. This one, I also failed to notice, is the same format.
I found myself actually wishing it weren't -- for once in my reading, I actually wanted the blanks between the stories filled in, and found myself curious about what else happened in the main character's life. (This despite the fact that her having just graduated from college, and then somehow moving in with the younger brother -- whom the first story has clearly established is 4 years younger than her -- just as he is somehow now also soon to graduate college, drove me completely nuts.) There were a lot of vague spaces -- I never even knew what she looked like! It was weird too, because the cover copy talks about how she is always "trying" really hard to work toward a better life. Uhh no, pretty much the whole book is just her apathetically falling in and out of different things.
Luckily though, the different people she meets are all interesting and well-realized -- in many ways, the main character is just an excuse to get to them. Maybe one day Bank will get around to writing a book about one of them.(less)
This book has one star only because you aren't allowed to give zero stars -- zero stars here simply means "not rated." But trust, if I could give this...moreThis book has one star only because you aren't allowed to give zero stars -- zero stars here simply means "not rated." But trust, if I could give this zero stars, I would. By the time I finished this book, I felt genuinely embarrassed for UChicago Press that they had published it. What made it so horrible? Let us count the ways.
1) Excessively normative writing I don't think I have ever read a piece of work by an academic sociologist that contained such strong normative language. Clydesdale rests much of his argument on regular reference to "mainstream American culture" and "mainstream American teens," and while he does attempt to define the former (though intriguingly, never the latter), he never makes clear where it is that he gets his definitions from. That said, his own preoccupations pop up with astonishing regularity. He is clearly chagrined that the teens he interviews seem unaffected by the events of 9/11, and he advocates strongly that religious teens, and particularly Evangelical Christians attending Christian colleges, show the greatest moral development and expand their learning the most in college. Hmm, where did Clydesdale go to college? Oh right, Wheaton. Oh no, not the Wheaton College in Massachusetts that's a clearinghouse for preppies who didn't get into Trinity or Tufts. I mean the Wheaton in Illinois. Yes, that's right, the Christian one.
1b) Excessively normative evaluations It's clear throughout his writing that Clydesdale believes he knows what is best for his subjects, and has insights into their lives that they lack -- treacherous territory for a sociologist (and particularly for one who didn't even do all his interviews himself). But Clydesdale attempts to lead his reader to share his judgments, often in embarrassingly overt ways. Case in point: He lauds the findings of the Independent Women's Forum's report Hanging out, hooking up, and hoping for Mr. Right. Does he mention that they're a conservative group? Does he mention that one of the authors of this report isn't even an academic? Does he pause to consider that the report is very much based on a deeply biological, binary understanding of gender difference, and that its findings imply that women would be better off with the gender norms of the 1950s? Noooo.
But then later, when he discusses the findings of UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, and particularly sociologist Alexander Astin, who has been their most prominent researcher for many years, he spends a few pages attempting to discredit them. He goes through all the reasons why HERI -- a non-partisan research center -- would have a personal or I guess institutional stake in promoting certain kinds of findings but not others, and why we should probably not trust their research. This in spite of the fact that compared to as blatantly agenda-driven a group as the Independent Women's Forum, HERI is, quite frankly, unimpeachable (and also has several decades' worth of longitudinal research that has been utilized by a wide range of scholars, as opposed to this one IWF report that has been mainly used by folks who'd like women to shut up and get back in the kitchen).
Why does he do this? Because he agrees with what IWF are trying to argue, while HERI's findings are disagreeable to the claims he's making (which is a whole other deal, given that he attempts to make claims in this book that are well beyond what he can reasonably infer from the data he has). Okay, fine, so he's blatant in promoting his own agenda. My question is, again, why would UChicago Press let him do this?
2) Excessive ambitions it doesn't even begin to reach You can think, in your deepest, most secret place, that your book will be on par with, and comparable to, Middletown, The Lonely Crowd, or Habits of the Heart. I'd say it's maybe acceptable to say it to someone else if you're really drunk, and they're so drunk that they a) probably won't understand what you're saying and b) even if they do, won't remember you said it later. But to actually come right out and say that in the first chapter of your book? Oh honey. This is no Street Corner Society. You're not even close. This is more of a "I can't believe it wasn't self-published," not a "people will still be talking about this book decades from now."
3) Excessive use of metaphors You know when the New Yorker can't quite fill a column, and so they'll pop in a funny little example of a newspaper's gaffe? Sometimes they're "Constabulary notes from all over," but often they're "Block that metaphor!", examples of sentences that are laden with multiple metaphors often working at cross-purposes with one another.
If I could, I would do a "block that metaphor" on this entire book. I started to make a list of them, but I got too tired by the second chapter. At that point, here's what he'd already busted out: Identity lockboxes, life tent, campground life, dark cloud, floods and mud, eating your vegetables, wobbly table, two pedestals ("new economic realities of global America" and "popular moral culture of mainstream America"), board game (which he spends pages upon pages describing -- sort of like a crap version of Monopoly. He goes through different spaces you can land on, cards you can draw, games pieces, rules of play, the whole deal), buffets, a beach party, surfing... I mean it just goes and goes. If this is what this book looked like after an editor was done with it, I can not even begin to fathom what this book looked like before.
In all, I can't say enough bad things about this book. I almost feel like I should go back through all my other reviews and raise those one-star books up to at least two, because this one has set a new low, and in retrospect I'm sure all those other books are better than this one. Words cannot begin to describe how much I hated this book. Clydesdale takes such an unapologetically polemical stance, yet pretends the entire time that he is a disinterested social scientist. His personal prejudices seep through every page. It was, for me, genuinely an uncomfortable book to read.(less)
I was genuinely shocked when I looked back and saw I gave Those Girls two stars, because ... well ... I don't exactly recall fondly the time I spent r...moreI was genuinely shocked when I looked back and saw I gave Those Girls two stars, because ... well ... I don't exactly recall fondly the time I spent reading it. This follow-up starts off a little better, as we don't have the interminable chapters from the grotesquely caricatured teacher's point of view, and the girls do seem to have developed just an inkling of morality. (To be clear, if you regularly read my reviews, you know I am not looking for YA series to be moral in the "family values," sense of the term -- in this case, as I made clear in my review of Those Girls, I just found it genuinely bizarre how much delight the characters appeared to take in the physical torture of others. Also giving lesbian characters the last names "Ho" and "Mo" is quite offensive.)
Anyway, while it has its moments of seeming like it might be okay, Crushworthy rapidly devolves into a grab-bag of meaningless plots and inept pacing (chapters are either five pages long or thirty-plus) that one nearly needs a flow-chart of some kind to sort out. Some plots are brought up and then either nearly or completely forgotten (e.g., what Liv and Charlie are up to, the sensation caused by the new gym teacher, Jinx's titular crush), while others are, as per the first book, dragged on and on only to be resolved in a most unsatisfactory fashion in the last dozen or so pages. This formula of nonsense and slapstick plus a everything's-fine-and-dandy coda would work for a Disney channel original series if they felt inclined to erase out all the f-bombs and vodka-based cocktails.
I generally am not inclined to just bash books, as you know, it's not like I'm out there writing them myself. But in this case you know what? Screw it. I could outwrite this. Admittedly, it's my fault for picking these up -- don't follow the recommendation of an author blurb that comes from an author who isn't real! ("Those Girls are on my A-List" -- Zoey Dean) Obviously someone out there agrees with me, as they axed this series at two books, no matter what the author's blurb claims.(less)
So this is what happens when vampire books -- even repackaged Christopher Pike vampire books from 1992 -- start taking up all the shelf space at the r...moreSo this is what happens when vampire books -- even repackaged Christopher Pike vampire books from 1992 -- start taking up all the shelf space at the regular bookstore. You wind up with a suddenly huge YA section at the remainder book store, which is usually best for bizarre inaccuracies (e.g. a book predicting that the 2008 presidential race would be between Hillary Clinton and Condoleeza Rice) and weird hey-I-remember-that moments (e.g. cast guide to The Real World circa 2001, self-help books from the Queer Eye guys). According to the signs, everything marked as $4 or more was now $4 (literally signs like "do you have $4? then that book is yours" are plastered everywhere), but the guy gave me all the books I wanted for $3 each, which is how I wound up with this. (I also might mention that this place used to house that "Bodies" exhibit and still has the fake walls and stuff that say "Bodies" in it, and it's also partially a year-round Halloween store. Yup, Crown Books UTC rules.)
As far as I can tell, this book (and possibly the second one, since this one ends rather abruptly) is a repackaging of a British single-title book, High Jinx. Some bright bulb was like wait a sec, if frenemies + boarding school = The It Girl, then maybe (frenemies + boarding school) x England = The Brit Girl. Did they pull it off? Ehm, not quite, given that in spite of the second book's claim that the author is "working on" the third book it never got published, and also that the remainder stickers on these babies were old enough to have discolored the covers. I have a fuzzy memory of having possibly seen these books before somewhere else, but the publisher isn't super familiar to me either, so not sure.
Anyway, I've only read this first one so far, though I have the second one (cause come on, $3) too. It was okay -- has its ups and downs, moments of extreme predictability and moments of extreme WTF (one of the subplots is driven by all of the characters' inability to tell two Asian girls apart), but overall I'd say it reads like a reasonably competent draft someone else could have come along and cleaned up. With all of the chapters from the (gratuitously grotesque and caricatured) teachers' points of view, this actually reminded me most of the movie Private School -- stuff kind of just happens for little reason, there's slapstick to the point of the teen characters appearing nihilistic (they absolutely crack up over any kind of bodily injury to an adult, no matter how horrific), and overall the focus is on everyone just having a fun, sexy time.
It's also very, very British, which makes me question whether this was ever intended for the US market -- loads of Britspeak, and unlike those Georgia Nicolson books, you're on your own with nary a glossary. Also compared to a US YA book, there is much more cursing, drinking (there's not a character here who doesn't seem to be a full-on alcoholic), smoking (same), and heavy drug use (there's some pot, but mostly it's the girls' frankly incredible appetites for ecstasy that gave me pause). I feel like that might have been toned down for a US release. Same goes for their love of Dido, Neighbors, Paul Oakenfold, MTV Dance, and house music in general.
None the less, it was enjoyable enough to get through in a couple days. Did it fill the void left by the lack of Gossip Girl in my life? No. Did it help me push off reading the last A-List: Hollywood Royalty book a little longer and thus extend that series' life for me? Yes. At the same time though, did I learn a lesson about the quality you can expect when you buy a $3 remainder book that has a cover blurb from an author who does not actually exist? Well yes, yes I did.(less)
I had a bad feeling about this one even before reading French Kiss. I know everyone says "don't judge a book by its cover," but I did. The cover photo...moreI had a bad feeling about this one even before reading French Kiss. I know everyone says "don't judge a book by its cover," but I did. The cover photo here of the girls is a stock photo that's been used to death in ads, as well as on at least one other book cover -- The Dashwood Sisters' Secrets of Love -- though at least they took the time here to manipulate it into describing more or less precisely a scene in the book. Still though, what are the girls standing on? A chrome diving board? The digitally-created background they've popped in looks too weird. They did a nice job choosing images for the first two books, so I'm not sure what happened here. But in getting too specific, I think they did the book a disservice. And I don't just mean making Alexa's shoes look incredibly cheap.
I will say, I liked this one much better than French Kiss, but it was still no South Beach. It was less contrived, and it did manage to surprise me at least once, but the premise felt too forced, and few of the details rang true -- especially, again, the clothes, though I knew as a transplanted Southern Californian, I was going to be harsh on the details of life in Los Angeles. I said it with the A-List books, and I'll say it again now: LA does not smell like orange groves. It hasn't since the 1940s probably. It certainly does not now. Likewise, if you are not physically at the beach, you will not smell the beach, nor will you feel sea breezes. LA's a city, and especially when it's hot out, it smells like a city. I would say it smells like car exhaust and hot paving more than anything else.
Anyway. Enough complaining about the details. The overall plot of the book is reasonably enjoyable, and the romantic plots are much more believable and compelling than in either of the other two books. Holly in particular really shines in this book, though the urge to slap Alexa across her pretentious face presents itself approximately every other page. The relative level of accord between the girls gives them more time to grow as characters, rather than having to deal with a bunch of are-they-or-aren't-they friends, as in French Kiss. Admittedly, I feel Holly's the one who's really grown, and that Alexa is maybe just really convinced by her delusions of grandeur. She's the more inspiring and fully realized of the two, and would shine in her own book (hint, hint).(less)
**spoiler alert** I picked up this book on the basis of having read South Beach and been pleasantly surprised by it. Unfortunately, having read South...more**spoiler alert** I picked up this book on the basis of having read South Beach and been pleasantly surprised by it. Unfortunately, having read South Beach, too much of this book wasn't a surprise. The beginning pages feel almost bizarrely forceful in whittling away any and all extraneous characters in order to force Alexa and Holly back into each other's orbits -- which in and of itself was, if not a little strange, then at least disappointing. Anyone reading South Beach likely would have hoped that the book's unwritten coda would be the two becoming friends again, rather than having it be a "(Don't You) Forget About Me" moment a la The Breakfast Club. Will Alexa walk on by? Or will she call Holly's name? Well, until increasingly bizarre circumstances force her hand, apparently she'll walk on by. Once the girls are reunited, things get much more interesting.
While I actually did find it an enjoyable read, all in all there were a few too many elements that rang false for me. This was really disappointing, as I never once got this feeling from South Beach, and thus it's the main reason my rating is so low. Diego suddenly going all tacky tourist felt completely wrong, though the scene -- while grating -- allowed Alexa to act hilariously oblivious and self-centered. Worse though was Holly's sudden turnaround toward Tyler, which made no sense at all given everything that had happened up until that point. Yes, her romance with Pierre felt wayyy too wish-fulfillment-y, but that was more or less okay for me. However, when she suddenly scraps 200+ pages of "boring old Tyler" and instantaneously transforms him into "comforting and infinitely wondrous Tyler," I just couldn't suspend disbelief. But I have to say worst of all was the assertion that a stylish French woman would have been wearing camouflage capri pants. Zut alors!
Now don't get me wrong -- it's not like I was looking for gritty verite here. I think it's more just that I really dislike it when something in a book nags enough to be distracting. Fashion quibbles aside, if I just can't bring myself to believe in something that a character does -- like throwing herself back into the arms of a boyfriend back home who she's just spent more than 2/3 of the book having absolutely zero warm feelings toward -- that just drags it all down for me. Yes, teenage love is fickle, but it's not schizophrenic. But what really happened with Holly and Tyler? I'll have to find out in Hollywood Hills, which I picked up when I bought this book.(less)
Hands down one of the worst books I've ever read, in YA or in any other category. The most interesting thing I learned in this book is that two of the...moreHands down one of the worst books I've ever read, in YA or in any other category. The most interesting thing I learned in this book is that two of the authors are male, which explains the astounding number of "wet mouths" and "berry"-like nipples described in the text. In general, these books are piles upon piles of horrible metaphors, as here:
"With dishwater hair too long for a crew cut and too short to comb down, it stands on his head like Pomeranian fur. He's got the pink and wrinkled appeal of a newborn hamster."
WTF IS THAT?! How these three authors manage to repulse me using two of my favorite things -- Poms and hams -- is beyond me. Also beyond my comprehension is the fact that this book must have had an editor. Someone out there likes us that we don't have to read the original manuscript. Which must have read like the results of a coke-fueled idiom-dictionary fest, since every paragraph contains approximately five of these gems.
This may be repetitive of my review of the first book in the series, but this book reads like these three authors read Less Than Zero or more likely, The Rules of Attraction (probably also Bright Lights, Big City hence all the present tense) and thought, "Bret Easton Ellis did that for Bennington, I can do that for Hotchkiss." Except they can't.
This series also accomplishes something no previous YA series has -- making boarding school seem unglamorous. Instead of a cornucopia of privilege and Pringle cashmere, it's a world of whip-its (which I've always seen spelled that way to distinguish them from the dog breed -- though maybe these kids were huffing little greyhound-looking dogs), disgusting and inadequate sexual experiences, and townies unlike any I ever met growing up and attending private school in Connecticut.
I'm disgusted with myself for reading this book, let alone owning it (hey, it was used, and I felt some bizarre compulsion to confirm the crappiness of the first in the series), but once begun I do have an even stronger compulsion to finish things, so I read it all. I normally don't let myself get this vitriolic, thinking to myself, "Well smarty (wait no, tiny) pants, do you have a book deal? Could you do better than this?" The answer to the former may be no, but the answer to the latter is a resounding yes.(less)
This book was a world of pain right from page one. If you haven't read the first book, there is no finding your way through it, as nothing is ever des...moreThis book was a world of pain right from page one. If you haven't read the first book, there is no finding your way through it, as nothing is ever described -- the setting, the characters, even that staple of YA fiction, the clothing -- unless these girls can make out with it. Hence, we do get descriptions of the "Summer Boys" of the title, but precious little else. It makes the Katherine Applegate series that was actually retitled "Making Out" (originally "Boyfriends/Girlfriends") seem deep by comparison, as at least those characters struggle with family issues and so on in between swapping spit. (less)
A book written all in IM? Yes, it is as bad as it sounds like it will be, and yes, it's exactly the kind of thing that leaves many a reader saying, "W...moreA book written all in IM? Yes, it is as bad as it sounds like it will be, and yes, it's exactly the kind of thing that leaves many a reader saying, "Why didn't I think of that first?" After all, each one of the three books in this series was a New York Times bestseller (the other two were "TTFN" and "L8r, G8r").
While the characters are reasonably sympathetic and the plot is quasi-realistic, the thing that gave me the most trouble in getting through this book (IM-speak and ridiculously obnoxious formatting aside) is the characters' constant gross-out discussions of their bodies and bodily functions. Never in my life have I ever encountered teenage girls so willing to frankly discuss even the basic stuff, let alone such revolting categories these girls concoct such as "period farts." Reading this book often feels like the equivalent of dealing with those people in gym locker rooms who feel the need to do as much of their business as possible while fully nude. I'm not saying we all need to be prudes, but there's a point after which it's just gratuitous.(less)