I was very skeptical about this book before I read it. This year I have read 3 books that included some sort of performance art to mark the climax of...moreI was very skeptical about this book before I read it. This year I have read 3 books that included some sort of performance art to mark the climax of the story; and while they all served their purpose, the chosen event seems exhausted. I felt a little uneasy knowing that the original musical, Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad was the main event of this book. But, it turned out not to be, but actually so so much more.
I was only going to give A Love Story 4 stars because sometimes the dialogue felt clunky and too mature for 17 year olds; man, they are complicated! I was also unsure about the alternating "Now" and "Then" chapters. Cass, the narrator, is preparing for the early school year performance of Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad during the "Now'; and recounting a doomed bicycle journey to honor her best friend, Julia, during the "Then". But, it is clear they are complementary parts creating a bittersweet whole. So, 5 stars it is.
As for the actual story: Cass may or may not have been in love with Julia since their friendship began in grade school. Julia died in a car accident right before their senior year of high school, but she left behind the script for the original muiscal, Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad and her friends decide that they must put it on. Ollie, Julia's boyfriend, resents Cass and whatever feelings she may have had for Julia. Heather was Cass's mortal enemy in middle school and shows up after transferring to Catholic school and back right before senior year because she was cast as Ninja Princess Himiko/needed to get away from the nuns and her ex. Put these characters together in a high school and prepare for something volatile. And, sprinkle a thoughtfully crafted romance to soothe the tempest within (or not!).
Aside from designing artillery for the play, Cass is a bicycle enthusiast, a math geek, Quaker and a lesbian with pretty supportive parents who are big on "hippie Jesus" - turn the other cheek, love your enemies. But, this is by far NOT the Gaytopia of David Levithan's books. There is plenty of homophobia to make it feel authentic (without being didactic) and remind us that yes, people are still judgmental and kids are still scared to come out even with plenty of gay role models, community support, films, etc. That's what makes this book so important. But, bravery and courage prevail, always.
I look forward to more novels by Emily Horner. This is a remarkable debut from a totally sweet YA librarian!
*P.S. for all those fans of Looking for Alaska, this book may be for you. (less)
I'm not certain anyone under the age of 25 would find this book appealing, but I enjoyed it nonetheless as a reader; less as a librarian. It would've...moreI'm not certain anyone under the age of 25 would find this book appealing, but I enjoyed it nonetheless as a reader; less as a librarian. It would've made an enjoyable short story, I think. Butterfly is a coming of age story, revolving around an Australian family and their neighbors in the 1980s. Plum is the main character, though the third person narrative shifts focus quite a bit to several other, interesting characters. Though it was character-driven, I found myself drawn to this book and I needed to finish it. The writing is surely alive, though sometimes I felt the figurative language did less to enhance the story than to give the narrative something to lean on. Or, I'm just not used to this kind of writing. I do prefer minimalism. I am a Swede after all. (less)
"An Off Year" is the year in the life of Cecily (whose last name escapes me), an eighteen year old who decides to forgo her first year of college the...more"An Off Year" is the year in the life of Cecily (whose last name escapes me), an eighteen year old who decides to forgo her first year of college the minute she gets to her dorm. Supposedly this is not typical behavior for Cecily, she is not a drama queen. She spends the following twelve months justifying and demystifying her decision. The story is realistic, but a good portion of American teenagers might have a hard time relating to a privileged kid from the suburban sanctuary just outside of Chicago. What might reach readers is the greater metaphor Claire Zulkey has created: What happens when you're just not ready to make a major change or decision in your life? How will your family and friends react? How will you spend your time? None of the answers have to be profound, but what happens in between can be surprising, or not! While this is not an action-packed story, it is an interesting character study and funny in a real, unforced way. Someone is quoted on the back describing Cecily as "a delicious love child of Dorothy Parker"...a lot of people say a lot of nice things on the back of books, but I think the comment is not too far off the mark, except that "Cess", as her brother calls her(ewww), is subdued compared to DP.
Ok, advocate moment: page 105, "My school supplied four counselors to serve hundreds of kids in my graduating class. Mine was named Robin, and I never even found out for myself if Robin was a man or a woman. But it could have been worse..."(Zulkey, 105). Ummm...why is it a bad thing to be gender-neutral or ambiguous. What could have been better? Will his or her gender affect which school you get into? I just thought it was a trite and insensitive way to get a laugh. There is also a moment when Cecily's brother emerges from his bedroom after a shower and a shave looking like himself but "gayer". Eh, really? Just doin my job ;)(less)
Essie Rosenfeld lives on the Lower East Side of New York City during the early 1900s with her mother, her brother, Saulie and her little sister, Zelda...moreEssie Rosenfeld lives on the Lower East Side of New York City during the early 1900s with her mother, her brother, Saulie and her little sister, Zelda. She works at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company and befriends a mysterious young woman there named Harriet Abbott. Essie can immediately tell that Harriet does not fit in with the other girls working in the ill-fated factory, and despite their differences the two girls become very close. There are plenty of subplots weaving throughout the story, as well as interspersed flashbacks set against darker pages that look like old, peeling walls. The narrative paints a vivid picture of what life was like for a single-parent Jewish family at a time when there were few labor laws protecting children from horrible working conditions, crowded dangerous streets and tenements, and constant sorrow and darkness for the working poor immigrant. Essie perseveres like so many other young women of the time. She is optimistic, shrewd and creative. The bustling streets and shops of the Lower East Side inspire her to design hats, and a young law student who lives in the same building inspires her to love. Lost is a brutal story, but an important one to know.
*There is a thorough author's note at the back of the book explaining the story's historical significance and context. This one made it to the high school's summer reading list!! (in the town where I work)(less)
I went into this book with a houseful of cynicism and came out with...well, a little less. Scarlett's sister, Juliet, moves back home temporarily beca...moreI went into this book with a houseful of cynicism and came out with...well, a little less. Scarlett's sister, Juliet, moves back home temporarily because she is pregnant and does not want to stay in Portland, OR. Even more of a surprise is Hayden, Juliet's husband, whom Scarlett falls in love with. He is always wearing a soft green t-shirt and has a dog named Zeus. Juliet is demanding and still kind of hung up on an old high school flame...(Will finish this review later). (less)
Amber Appleton is a hope spreader. True? True. Amber is into Jesus, her dog Bobby Big Boy and helping other people, namely the Korean Divas for Christ...moreAmber Appleton is a hope spreader. True? True. Amber is into Jesus, her dog Bobby Big Boy and helping other people, namely the Korean Divas for Christ, a Vietnam veteran, and some older folk at a Methodist Retirement Home. She is also the ringleader of the posse, Franks Freak Force Federation. Yes, there is a lot of going on and there are a lot of characters needed to keep this action going (there are also a lot of acronyms to keep track of). But, there is something totally genuine and authentic about Amber. She reminds me of several friends I had in high school all rolled up into one awesome chick. But, that's besides the point. Matthew Quick took this story places I didn't think it could go, and the pacing is excellent - especially for teenage readers. About a third of the way through the book, the plot takes a jarring turn. Everything is disrupted and while it comes neatly together at the end, it is totally satisfying and believable. Amber's voice and personality might be too quirky for some, but the reader will deal with that immediately and decide whether or not to move forward with the novel. The language, while dealing with bodily functions, heavy heavy emotions and dog copulation, was fresh and creative. There was a scarcity of words like f@^k and a$$h%^*. This dude's a writer. I not only like what he had to say with Sorta Like a Rock Star, but the way he said it. Funny, heartbreaking and optimistic all in one book. True? TRUE!!
*This book is also the third one I've read this year that includes a musical and/or variety show performance as a climactic event or resolution. It was the most fun and the only one that moved me to tears.
**I kinda wish adults and young people had relationships like they do in this book, friendly and respectful. (less)
For anyone (me) who was disappointed by "Going Bovine" or the first few pages of "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist", this is a more compassionate AN...moreFor anyone (me) who was disappointed by "Going Bovine" or the first few pages of "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist", this is a more compassionate AND interesting quest of the soul. Road trips, romance and music done right. (less)
Unless you really really want to read about incest, I would not recommend this book to anyone. I went in with an open mind and if the story had been m...moreUnless you really really want to read about incest, I would not recommend this book to anyone. I went in with an open mind and if the story had been more compelling perhaps I would have enjoyed this book more. Thankfully it was only 135 pages - the last 20 of which read like a essay for graduate school, listing accomplishments and stuff (just when things were getting interesting, too!) summing up like 20 years of time passed. The characters wound up being really lame cliches and the allusions to Twelfth Night were also disappointing. This is best suited for older teens, I think, as the sex scenes were clearly written by an adult for adults. I haven't read much in the way of graphic romance, so not really sure what is "suitable" and what is not. All subjective...I guess?(less)
I can deal with totally unimaginative, explicit language and drug use does not make me squeamish; but it makes me feel bad for kids who will fall for...moreI can deal with totally unimaginative, explicit language and drug use does not make me squeamish; but it makes me feel bad for kids who will fall for the hype surrounding this book. I've never read anything by Libba Bray before, and I probably never will. Clever for clever's sake is not doing teenagers justice. This book wasn't even a good place to escape to, the characters were lame and uninspired. The only redeeming moment is Cameron's and Gonzo's friendship. I can see teens warming up to that, and Balder. Otherwise it is a lot of muck to wade through just for a few pages of bonding and hijinks with a garden gnome. I wish the book had just been about Balder, that would have been better. Grade A BORING!(less)
There was just something disingenuous about this book. I felt disconnected from Dash and Lily, which probably had something to do with the two authors...moreThere was just something disingenuous about this book. I felt disconnected from Dash and Lily, which probably had something to do with the two authors alternating chapters/characters. The story was unrealistic and their romance forgettable. All too precious to be useful to teenagers. (oh, no! they are making a movie based on this book. why else does D.L. write books?)(less)
Finally, a David Levithan book I enjoyed...thoroughly (though, I haven't read Boy Meets Boy yet). Perhaps it is because the story revolves around some...moreFinally, a David Levithan book I enjoyed...thoroughly (though, I haven't read Boy Meets Boy yet). Perhaps it is because the story revolves around something that even this guy can't get clever or cute about. Or, maybe all of the other books by DL just kind of...aren't that good. I liked all three characters very much - they complemented each other well and I was rooting for the romance. These kids bring the best out in each other, and that's a very rare thing to see and a wonderful thing to strive for. As the ten year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, this book offers the reader a chance to reflect on the human aspect of what may remain unexplainable, unfathomable. Thanks SANDY! (less)