**Update--I read this again as a read aloud with my YA Lit class. I enjoyed reading it again, but I'm not sure if the class liked it as much as other...more**Update--I read this again as a read aloud with my YA Lit class. I enjoyed reading it again, but I'm not sure if the class liked it as much as other classes have.**
I teach mostly freshmen every year, so when Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters was pitched to me I knew it would be a good fit. I saw the book trailer before I read the book, and after watching it I knew I needed to read Meredith Zeitlin’s debut right away. Kelsey Finkelstein is melodramatic, and I loved it! I couldn’t get enough of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters; I started it and finished it in one day.
Kelsey Finkelstein is now one of my favorite snarky characters. Like I said, she’s incredibly melodramatic. Like many of the girls in my freshmen classes, and very much like I was at fourteen, Kelsey makes seemingly insignificant things into a big deal. One example of this is how upset she gets over the mysterious photographer that keeps including less than flattering pictures of her in the school newspaper. I enjoyed her reactions to these pictures because most of them aren’t even actually of Kelsey, but she’s usually in the background. Of course Kelsey’s mortified and her friends won’t let her live the pictures down. I know I’d feel the exact same way, especially about the picture where she looks like a cafeteria worker. I really liked everything about Kelsey. She doesn’t always make the best decisions, but she still faces consequences in one fashion or another. Even the way she describes things is enjoyable. Kelsey has a little sister named Travis who she finds incredibly annoying. Nine pages in we meet Travis and Cassidy, one of Kelsey’s best friends, is cooing over Travis’s pajamas. “‘You look so adorable! What a Twizzler?’ Oh, lord. My sister is like a spaniel–once you feed her, she’ll never leave.” I had already laughed a couple of times before this page, but this Kelsey quote made me snort. The snorting and laughing continued through the entire book.
Meredith Zeitlin did a really nice job including realistic issues that not only teens face, but freshmen face as well. In the beginning of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters, the girls are discussing how they’re going to start their freshman year and make it the best year ever. They’re really focused on having a good high school experience. I’ve been working with freshmen for five years, so I know many of them have the same thoughts and feelings as Kelsey and her friends. I see it in their faces on the first day of school. I hear it in the halls. (My classroom doesn’t have a number next to the door, so I’m always reeling lost and frantic freshmen into my room on the first day of school. Getting lost is one of the girls’ concerns.) I’ve touched on some of the insecurities in regards to Kelsey and the random photos. Kelsey and her friends worry about their appearance, losing their friends, boys, etc. There are fights and the threat of losing a best friend, feeling disgusting and smelly while wearing protective sports padding, and the worry associated with being a bad kisser.
I’m positive that I’ll be able to hand this to most of the freshmen in my class without complaint because Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters appeals to so many readers. My sports fans will enjoy reading about Kelsey’s soccer experiences. My drama fans will love how everything goes down in the school’s version of Fiddler on the Roof, including a beard that looks like a “skinned rodent” and all. My readers looking for romance will enjoy Kelsey’s highs and lows in the romance department. And if any of my students want to read something funny, I’ll instantly think of this debut. I’m actually really considering Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters as a read aloud at some point.
I couldn’t get enough of Meredith Zeitlin’s fabulous debut, and I look forward to reading more of her work. Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters is a must read.
Similar Reads: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Frankie is another favorite snarky character) / Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Sophie and Kelsey have similar personalities, even though Sophie’s a witch)(less)
Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick is the first book I’ve read by this author. A friend of mine told me that she read After Ever...moreCurveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick is the first book I’ve read by this author. A friend of mine told me that she read After Ever After to one of her classes, but other than that I haven’t heard much about Jordan Sonnenblick’s work. After reading Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, I feel let down that I didn’t know about his other books before. I adored this book. I loved the characters, the plot, the balance of sports and family and art, everything. I just looked up some of Jordan Sonnenblick’s other books and found them at my local Barnes & Noble, which means I have a trip to the book store scheduled for today. If his other books are great like Curveball, then I can’t go wrong!
Like I said, I love the characters. Usually when I can’t finish a book, it’s because I don’t connect with the characters. Peter is a likeable character. He’s entering his freshman year of high school, and he and his best friend A.J. have big plans. Peter and A.J. have always played baseball together, and they know they can dominate in high school. Sadly, Peter’s dreams of playing high school baseball are crushed because of an injury. This unfortunate injury really sets the pace for Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, because at the very beginning of a new chapter in Peter’s life, he is forced to change more than he planned. Peter has always identified himself as a baseball player, but now he doesn’t know what to do or who he’s going to be. Thankfully he has his grampa (an odd spelling, but that’s how it’s spelled in the book), who is a well known photographer. Peter’s grampa has been teaching him about photography for almost as long as Peter has been playing baseball, so it’s second nature to him. No more baseball and a depressed Peter leads him to taking a photography class (so he can find something else to focus on) where he meets the lovely Angelika. Jordan Sonnenblick has a great cast of characters here. A.J. is completely focused on him and Peter playing baseball together, but Peter can’t find the words to break the bad news to him. He’s not an overly heavy presence in the book, but when he’s in a scene with Peter, it’s great and usually funny–especially when A.J. wants to give Peter love advice. Angelika is Peter’s love interest, and while she makes him incredibly nervous, she’s very level-headed and really helps Peter.
While I love all the characters, I need to touch on Peter a little more. He’s obviously a very talented baseball player, but he’s also very talented in the field of photography. I love this balance because a majority of the YA I’ve read usually focuses on one ability, like art for example. Because Peter can’t play baseball anymore, he needs to find a new focus and consequently finds that he’s really good at photography after everything his grandfather has taught him. Teens who enjoy reading about sports will still enjoy Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip because even though Peter isn’t playing baseball anymore, it’s still a big part of who he is and also because he takes pictures at sporting events. Peter is simply an endearing character. He’s loyal to his family and friends and really cares about them. Readers will love him.
Sonnenblick tackles some big issues in this book, but he does a fantastic job of balancing these issues with humor. Not all of the humor is laugh out loud funny, but it’s enough to make a reader giggle. In one scene, for example, Peter’s talking to Angelika and getting ready to take some photos of her. “‘I think it makes sense to try for some, uh, full-body shots’–UGH, that sounded sleazy–’and then, if we don’t like what we’re getting, we can get a little closer in. With this telephoto lens, I mean. Not like I’d be, uh, getting closer to you. Uh.’ That’s great, I thought. End a freaking sentence with ‘Uh,’ why don’t you? Smooth.“ Peter’s insecurity around Angelika really brought out some fantastically funny lines and scenes. A.J.’s advice is an excellent source of humor. “‘Because, as your wingman and personal hormonal advisor, I have to analyze your moves, her countermoves, your counter-countermoves, her counter-counter-countermoves. . . . Wow, this is really complicated stuff. Maybe we should stop by Staples on the way home so I can buy a clipboard and some graph paper.” I read this part at the end of SSR, and one of my freshmen noticed my smiling and giggling to myself. He asked about it, so I read it to my class. Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip has been added to my future read alouds list because the characters in this book are funny and their voices are very well defined.
I don’t want to get into the heavier topics because it will spoil a big part of the book. If you want to read a novel full of humor and heart, then I can’t recommend Jordan Sonnenblick’s newest novel enough. I absolutely love Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip and can’t wait to read more of his books.(less)
I’ve read quite a few paranormal angel novels, and while I’ve enjoyed many of them, too many of...moreReview originally posted at Y.A. Love
4.5 out of 5 stars
I’ve read quite a few paranormal angel novels, and while I’ve enjoyed many of them, too many of them follow the same plot. When I was speaking with the women working at the Sourcebooks booth at NCTE, I was told how awesome Embrace by Jessica Shirvington is and that I should give myself time to start it and finish it in one sitting. Based on my past reading experiences, I’ll admit that I was hesitant to start reading Embrace, but I’m happy to report that I worried for no reason at all! Embrace puts a fresh spin on the paranormal angel plot with a different take on the lore and a strong female protagonist. And the women at Sourcebooks were right: I needed uninterrupted reading time because I didn’t want to put Jessica Shirvington’s debut down.
Violet is different from many of the other female protagonists in paranormal Y.A. because she’s independent and strong. Does she feel conflicted about her purpose and her love interests? Yes. But she’s still smart enough to make her own decisions and own her choices, even when she makes choices that she might end up regretting. Too many of the female protagonists in this genre fit the damsel in distress archetype. Violet breaking that mold is probably the most refreshing part of Embrace. She spends a large chunk of time in the novel conflicted over her feelings for Lincoln, but I never felt like she was being overly dramatic. Violet often weighs her feelings before taking action. She’s still a teenager, so some drama is expected, but overall I was really impressed with how she’s written. The one flaw I found is the number of times Violet swears. Normally that doesn’t bother me, but it didn’t feel necessary. I’m fine with a well-placed swear word, but there were times when it felt forced or out of character for Violet.
The mystery and action are perfectly paced. Not too much is revealed too soon or too slowly. Readers will appreciate this because from the very beginning I was drawn in and the mystery only kept me reading and turning the pages. There are plenty of life or death situations, mixed in with romance, intrigue, and self-realization. There wasn’t a moment in Embrace that I was bored or feeling the need for something more.
Overall, I definitely recommend reading Jessica Shirvington’s debut. It’s already been released in Australia, so the first three books are already finished. This means that the books will be released within six months of each other! (less)
I don't know exactly what to say about this book. I've read some really great reviews, so I went in with high expectations. The reviews mentioned it's...moreI don't know exactly what to say about this book. I've read some really great reviews, so I went in with high expectations. The reviews mentioned it's humor, and they were spot on. This book is very humorous and entertaining, but I don't really understand the point of it. It's not a horribly sad cancer-book, which is refreshing. I'd almost go so far as to say that Greg's writing this book to sort out his feelings about his friend's cancer, and how he often felt obligated to deal with it and keep her company. Many books that deal with cancer won't write about that aspect; they're focused almost on romanticizing it. Considering I've dealt with cancer in my family, there's nothing romantic about it. I need to think on this one a little more before I write my full review.(less)
Plain and simple, Boy21 is a GREAT book. I was on the search for a quality read aloud for my freshmen English classes, so I picked up Boy21 on a whim. I wanted to read it anyway, but I kept thinking about my 3rd hour freshmen class that’s primarily boys who don’t enjoy reading. Boy21 seemed like the perfect fit for them, so I went with my hunch and started reading it. As soon as I read the first couple chapters I knew I made the right decision.
Finley’s voice really stands out on the page, which is ironic considering he doesn’t like to talk much. He actually reminds me a little bit of Lucky Linderman from Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King. Both Lucky and Finley have a sort of innocence about them. They both have trouble speaking up for themselves, and they also want what’s best for those around them. Just like Lucky, Finley is an admirable character.
One of the reasons I like Finley is because he’s so loyal to his friends, coach, and family. When his coach approaches him about helping Boy21 (Russ), Finley doesn’t hesitate to offer his help. He trusts his coach, so even though he worries that Russ could take his starting position on the basketball team, he still tries to make friends with Russ. Russ has an obsession with space and refers to himself as Boy21, but he and Finley pair up well. They’re both amazing basketball players, even though Russ doesn’t show this right away, and they both deal with unfair treatment. They’re both treated poorly for different reasons, much of which is based on race and rivalry, but it still serves as a bond. After a startling and tragic turn of events, Finley really grows as a character. His loyalties are tested and he begins to doubt what’s truly important in his life. He begins to question his life, where it’s going–if anywhere–and what really happened years ago that caused him to be such a quiet, good kid. I love being able to witness this kind of characterization, which is one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed Matthew Quick’s novel so much.
Boy21 by Matthew Quick is a novel that appeals to a variety of readers. My basketball players and sports fiction fans will enjoy the basketball scenes and references in Boy21. My fans of great contemporary realistic fiction will recognize what a superb example this is of that genre. Readers will connect with Finley, Erin, and Russ. They’ll feel the tension and suspense, they’ll laugh out loud, and they might even cry (I did).(less)