I listened to the audiobook of this after watching the first movie. I'd read the first book but not really loved it. Listening to the audio version su...moreI listened to the audiobook of this after watching the first movie. I'd read the first book but not really loved it. Listening to the audio version suited me better. I was finally enthralled. Katniss does irritate me though. She spends too long thinking.(less)
Beautiful Americans is a contemporary young adult novel exploring the lives of four teenagers who spend a year studying in Paris.
Alex, Olivia, PJ and...moreBeautiful Americans is a contemporary young adult novel exploring the lives of four teenagers who spend a year studying in Paris.
Alex, Olivia, PJ and Zack leave their families behind in the US and arrive in Paris to study the Programme Americain at the exclusive Lycée de Monceau. Each of them has a different reason for leaving their homes behind. Alex expects to find a wonderful romance in Paris. Olivia wants to audition for the Opera ballet school to help her achieve a scholarship. PJ wants to escape her past and find her sister. Zach wants to be himself and find a boyfriend away from the watchful eye of his small town community. As the weeks at the Lycée go by, each of the students tries to find their way through this new world. They experience the highs and lows of friendship, the agony of love and the wonders of learning in a new culture.
Although I found this book easy to read, I didn’t find it particularly engaging. None of the characters are especially likeable. Alex is a selfish, self-obsessed, whiner. PJ doesn’t let anyone get close to her – even the reader is kept at arm’s length. Zach doesn’t seem to have any unique character traits. Olivia is the most likeable but even her love of dance doesn’t make her stand out.
I think there are two main problems with this novel. The first is that the character voices don’t sound different from each other. What they say and think is different, but the way they say it is the same. There were none of the idiosyncrasies of dialogue that you experience with the different way people speak. As each chapter alternates between the four perspectives, they needed to sound clearly different from each other.
The second problem is that this is a character driven novel where not all that much happens. There is the wonder of Paris but there isn’t a sweeping romance or a thrilling plot. So when the characters don’t leap off the page, you’re not left with enough to feel connected to as the reader. This is just my opinion. I know other people have loved this book. Personally, I much preferred Party by Tom Leveen which succeeds in telling a story from multiple viewpoints.
Overall, Beautiful Americans was a disappointing read for me. A contemporary novel set in Paris. The setting was wonderful but the story fell flat. Perhaps a worthy beach read but not something you can really sink your teeth into. (less)
When It Happens is a contemporary teen love story told in alternating perspectives.
Sara is seventeen and her goal for her Senior year is to reinvent h...moreWhen It Happens is a contemporary teen love story told in alternating perspectives.
Sara is seventeen and her goal for her Senior year is to reinvent herself and find the perfect boyfriend. Her two best friends also set themselves goals. Laila wants to be Valedictorian. Maggie wants to be smarter.
The hero of this story is Tobey. He is a self-proclaimed slacker – an intelligent boy, musically gifted, but he has no respect for the system. He thinks his future lies in the band he plays guitar for with his pals. Mike is the guy with a plan, Mr Organisation and Josh is the loose cannon and the all out crazy dude. Since forever Tobey has believed that college is pointless and that you don’t have to further your education to be successful. Everyone is talking about college and Tobey has stuck his head in the sand.
Tobey has fallen for Sara but she has no idea. The whole summer long she has been dreaming up the idea of Dave the new guy at the school. He asked for her number at the end of the last school year but he never called over the summer. Sara lets the idea of him blossom into the perfect guy for her. This is in part is a story about how our fantasies never live up to reality. There is no such thing as the perfect boyfriend. But there is such a thing as the perfect guy for you.
This is your classic romantic comedy. It’s a: Will they? Won’t they? But that is its charm. When it Happens is funny, the romance is gentle and the message is life-affirming. A novel about friendship and being open to new possibilities. I really enjoyed it and I read it in a single sitting. If you’re looking for a sweet, heart-warming read, When It Happens is for you.
Recommended for fans of:
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson The Statisical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith (less)
I feel a little sad to have finished Prep; it seemed to me while I was reading it that it was so full of truth and mistakes of judgment. I felt at tim...moreI feel a little sad to have finished Prep; it seemed to me while I was reading it that it was so full of truth and mistakes of judgment. I felt at times as if I was the main character of the story. Lee Fiora is thirteen when she has the idea that she could go to boarding school. She orders the prospectuses and is mesmerised by the glamourous, idealised images of adolescence that stare back at her. At fourteen years old, she has secured herself a place at Ault which is a prestigious private school just outside of Boston. Her parents are not well off but Lee is awarded a scholarship and she convinces them to let her go.
Prep is the story of her four years at Ault, from her early days as a Freshman to her final days as a Senior. It is an adult novel in style but it explores the experiences of a teen. I found it very relatable and I’m sure there are older teens that would enjoy this novel.
Lee is an interesting study in character. In her days at her state school, she was “special”. She stood out as academic and an achiever. At Ault, her position is not in any way extraordinary. If anything, Lee is below average at Ault and struggling to keep her grade up in Maths. She goes there thinking she will enjoy a rich and broadening education. What she actually experiences is something rather different. This is not to say that Prep gives a negative portrayal of private school education. Rather it explores Lee as a girl who is a dreamer, a thinker, a wisher but not a person of action. She is very much a voyeur. She watches the other students and almost creates a mental map of everything they do, say, wear. She is so afraid of saying the wrong thing that she rarely says anything in case she causes a social faux pas. The consequence is that much of Lee’s time is spent being incredibly lonely and living through an imaginary existence. In her first year she develops a crush on Cross Sugarman. He is a very popular guy in her year and is not lacking in self-esteem or charm. She spends so much of her time at Ault longing to be near him.
It would be easy to say that Lee is lacking in self-esteem. She is certainly not a character who is a great role model to young women but I think it isn’t fair to define her in such simple a way. It is almost as if Lee chooses to be self-conscious in the hope that it will make her more noticeable. She almost wants to be affronted, to experience some sort of monumental shake up to the social hierarchy. The frustrating thing is that as the reader you can recognise that she could easily be a part of the Ault social groupings if only she tried because she is a naturally funny and likable person.
When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it. I wanted certain things to happen; I (like Lee) willed them to happen. Prep had a very attractive style. It isn’t necessarily abundant with figurative language but there is an honesty in Lee’s narrative and her bizarre ideas about how people are and how she chooses to be are really fascinating to read. Even though adult novels are outside of my comfort zone, I couldn’t have enjoyed this book more. I am definitely going to be reading more novels by Curtis Sittenfeld. It would be fair to say that for me Prep was an education. This is one book that I would love to see transformed into a film. It had so much that I could visualise between its pages. I loved it. (less)