What can I say, I loved the lead character in this book, Roberta Romano, who's feisty, funny, and loyal in the way you hope all your friends from highWhat can I say, I loved the lead character in this book, Roberta Romano, who's feisty, funny, and loyal in the way you hope all your friends from high school could be. Sure, that brassy exterior conceals a lot of raw insecurities, but Roberta strikes me as a female, teenage version of Larry David, whose efforts to shape her world often leave her pushing against it just to keep it from rolling over her.
I'm more than twice the age of the target readership, but I gave this the highest rating because it was not only charming and cleverly paced, but it took some surprising risks and delved into edgy territory for a book aimed at middle-school to early high school readers. That's brave, but necessary. This book is mostly light and funny, full of the kind of shenanigans we all miss from our teenage years, but it also is darker than you might expect -- as are the lives of your average teenagers. Maccie's novel embraces both the sunny and the shadowy.
I'll be proud to keep "Lessons I Never Learned ..." on the shelf for my own daughter when she hits those late-tween, early-teen years. Life is full of hard lessons, and they don't stop when you get older. This book revels in the joy of breaking rules and living your life in the margins if other people's expectations. Yeah, there are consequences to coloring outside the lines, but who wants a book about a kid who sits quietly in class, goes straight home, does her homework and goes to bed early?
Here's to the troublemakers, like Roberta, who keep things interesting....more
The cover captures this book perfectly: Brandy Colbert has penned an emotional and gripping coming-of-age story about a girl searching for grace amidThe cover captures this book perfectly: Brandy Colbert has penned an emotional and gripping coming-of-age story about a girl searching for grace amid intimidating shadows. Theo is a ballerina who pushes herself to the limits, striving for perfection, but yearning for escape from the strictures she imposes on herself. This is an inspiring story of someone trying to get up on her own two feet, rising on their tips to stand higher than she thought possible ... if only she could stop tripping herself up.
Theo is drawn as much to chaos as control. While working tirelessly to prove herself worthy of a future in ballet, she struggles with an eating disorder and is tempted by the usual teenage exploration of drugs and sex, embarking on a covert relationship with Hosea, her rehearsal pianist and the boyfriend of a close friend. She knows it's ill-advised, but that somehow makes him all the more tempting.
Theo is no stranger to guilt, and seems determined to generate and endure more of it, punishing herself the way she tests her body against the physical pains and demands of dance. Roiling inside her is fear that she's partly responsible for the disappearance of another friend, Donovan, who went missing years before, either kidnapped or run away. She doesn't know, and truly doesn't want to know. When he returns unexpectedly, it raises truths she has worked hard to ignore -- but this is a girl who has prepared herself to face the harshness of life, and and when she finally does it is a thing of beauty.
Colbert's tale is a riveting study of the clash between creative and destructive impulses, with language that captures the gritty reality of life (and dance) with poise and elegance. "Pointe" moves fearlessly into the darker caverns of a young heart, the kind of places anyone could disappear into, if they're not surefooted....more
Simultaneously ethereal and gritty, this is a novel about the Howley family as seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Brigid, who is watching her familySimultaneously ethereal and gritty, this is a novel about the Howley family as seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Brigid, who is watching her family -- and her hometown -- be slowly consumed by the underground coal mine fire that is devouring their community. According to family legend, their perpetual misfortune is due to a curse, but people have always made up mythology to explain trues they can't (or won't) fathom. Harnett sprinkles her blue-collar yarn with moments of youthful daring, a murder mystery, and occasionally the supernatural rears its head amid the fume-seeping grounds of this story. Always, the true ghosts are the half-told histories that come into sharper focus as Brigid grows older, wiser, and starts to see the adults in her life for what they are -- damaged souls, teetering on the brink of that all-consuming fire....more
A vital sight-seeing tour through some of cinema's strangest neighborhoods. For those, like me, who were largely unfamiliar with the B-movie pantheonA vital sight-seeing tour through some of cinema's strangest neighborhoods. For those, like me, who were largely unfamiliar with the B-movie pantheon of producer Roger Corman, this will be an entertaining and eye-opening experience, certainly provoking unhealthy desires to seek out some of the best of the worst....more
If there is a wrong move to take, these people take it. Patrick Cusimano is a good guy who has been dealt a bad hand, and in many ways is only makingIf there is a wrong move to take, these people take it. Patrick Cusimano is a good guy who has been dealt a bad hand, and in many ways is only making it worse. A convenience store clerk who is reviled by his community because his father killed a child in a drunk driving accident, Patrick falls into a peculiar relationship with Layla, a goth high schooler who develops an obsession with the one person she sees who is more of an outcast than herself. There is a repressed religious family, a teenage quasi-cult leader, and the all-too-tempting girlfriend of Patrick's brother to complicate things. Kelly Braffet does an incredible job building rich, and deeply flawed men and women who seem determined to lean on the self-destruct button as hard as they can. Their collision course with each other is full of dread -- but no small measure of beauty. ...more
Every one is skin-crawling and freaky. Most disturbing was "The Cape," a macabre spin on the superhero origin story -- what happens when the power toEvery one is skin-crawling and freaky. Most disturbing was "The Cape," a macabre spin on the superhero origin story -- what happens when the power to fly unleashes a man's worst, most bitter instincts? "Best New Horror" was also a favorite -- the journey of a horror anthology editor to find the writer of a particularly unsettling short story, only to find himself in a nightmarish scenario of his own. ...more
To say that Ernest Cline's new novel is the literary-fiction equivalent of VH1's I Love the 80's series may not sound like a compliment, but I mean itTo say that Ernest Cline's new novel is the literary-fiction equivalent of VH1's I Love the 80's series may not sound like a compliment, but I mean it as one. Cline narrates this sci-fi adventure as much with nostalgia as with words, using pop culture shorthand to trigger memories and emotions embedded in the psyche of a generation. A noise is described as the transformation sound effect ''lifted from the old Super Friends cartoon.'' A group of workers ''looked like extras from THX 1138.'' If it's easy to get lost in such references, that's the point. This is about a future that disappears amid the glorification of the past.
Ready Player One is set in 2044, in an impoverished, dystopian America. The only escape is a vast virtual-reality simulation game deeply saturated with geek obsessions from the 1970s and '80s: Star Wars, Atari, Dungeons & Dragons, and John Hughes, to name a few. (The book names a lot more. Like, all of them.) The virtual world was created by James Halliday, one of the real world's richest men, who recently died. His fortune and digital kingdom will be awarded to whoever can complete a series of hidden quests assembled from a hodgepodge of his favorite childhood movies, games, TV shows, and songs.
And so our hero, a poor, lonely high school kid named Wade (a.k.a. Parzival, his online handle named after an Arthurian knight who sought the Holy Grail), studies these geek texts the way a monk studies scripture. Naturally, he's the first to crack one of the riddles, and begins a race not just to take over this high-tech Willy Wonka's dream factory but also to beat a merciless tech company, IOI. Upping the stakes, IOI aren't content to kill avatars — they'll also execute you in real life, if they can find you.
If the many pop references don't mean anything to you, then Ready Player One probably won't either. But give Cline credit for crafting a fresh and imaginative world from our old toy box, and finding significance in there among the collectibles. To use a reference Parzival might appreciate: Cline strikes the nerves of nerd culture as expertly as Andy played that skeleton organ in The Goonies.
Part memoir, part grim murder mystery, Jeff Jensen tells the story of his own father's hunt for the notorious Green River serial killer. It's not a stPart memoir, part grim murder mystery, Jeff Jensen tells the story of his own father's hunt for the notorious Green River serial killer. It's not a story of death-defying leaps or desperate cracks in the case -- it's about how one man gradually grinds down the suspect, and finds himself aligned almost as a partner with the man accused of committing these heinous slayings. He puts a monster away, but not without the monster's help. This story is striking for the way it shows a good man touching a void of pure, animal evil. What would make a person DO these sorts of things? There's no answer for the why -- just an accounting of the actions themselves. The opening sequence is haunting for its sheer randomness, which is the stuff of nightmare. We'd like to think these things could never happen to us, but Jensen's story -- and Jonathan Case's stark, black-and-white illustration -- show us just how close to touching evil we can be, without ever knowing it....more