I liked most of the book--nuanced parental/family relationships, non-shallow portrayals of complicated girl friendships, and believable Hamptons lifesI liked most of the book--nuanced parental/family relationships, non-shallow portrayals of complicated girl friendships, and believable Hamptons lifestyle setting. Too often you read this stuff and you can tell the author's never set foot in anything fancier than a nice Hyatt, but that didn't feel like the case here.
But I was pretty so-so on the love interest, so that kind of made the story stall for me. And man, did I NOT love that ending. It felt a little out of left field, even though I could tell it was going to happen shortly beforehand. Bleh. I'd read another book by this author in the future, though. ...more
3.5 stars, which would have been 4 stars full of praise were it not for one crucial point.
I almost never read books involving Hollywood/star types, be3.5 stars, which would have been 4 stars full of praise were it not for one crucial point.
I almost never read books involving Hollywood/star types, because I worked in entertainment for a long time and most stories include cringe-worthy misconceptions or shallow portrayals of both the industry and the people involved. So how awesome it is to find a book that avoids the usual cliches and forges characters and relationships that feel like real ones--and it also takes the unusual position of the BFF to the famous person rather than the POV of the shiny star herself. Reagan and Dee's friendship feels incredibly close and mutually loving and supportive, and I loved how both of them were at their best with each other.
Beyond that, this book also humanizes celebrities in a way that's very rare--to the point that, combined with the many spot-on details about day to day life and career/image decisions, it made me wonder if the author had actually had some first hand knowledge of this type of relationship. Turns out, she's just done her homework, and is just very observant. The touring music star thing is really well done, and there's enough detail there that it feels grounded/real in a way that most books involving stars do not.
I'm surprised, however, that a story that is so clear-eyed about that the difficulties of a friend/celeb dynamic gave us a heroine with such an unfortunate lack of empathy for every single other teenage girl who is not her BFF. I'm not someone who's always especially sensitive to slut-shaming in the instances where it's called out in other books, but with this one I was pretty turned off by the behavior. It happened so often---really, it happened without fail whenever any other girl showed up--and was not balanced by positive peer to peer interaction (other than with Dee), so it became extremely difficult to look past it. And really, we shouldn't. We shouldn't be "othering" other girls to this extent, certainly not based on first glance and no other evidence. Sure, we've all had knee-jerk unkind thoughts, especially if we're feeling insecure or our backgrounds contribute to that. But if this ugliness colors every single interaction and a person/character never grows out of blaming/denigrating other girls, it's not excusable.
(And while I understand the portrayals of Dee's publicist, grooming, and management team for the most part, particularly filtered through a rebellious BFF's eyes, I do wish we'd also seen more positive interactions on that front.)
Obviously the Dee team is not the focus of the book, however, and Matt Finch also makes up for some of that--he's pretty darned cute, and I was on board with his romance with Reagan. I was even okay with the drama that pops up later, although you could see it coming from a mile away. I also loved the Dee/Jimmy back story and how that ended up. This is such a strong contemporary in so many exceptional ways, and had it not been for the character's inexplicable and disproportionate attitude towards other girls, I would have rated this higher without any other reservations. (I had zero problems with any other aspects of Reagan's character, including her history or other behaviors that might generally be considered "unlikeable." I get her.)
Still, this is an author to watch and Open Road Summer is a very strong debut. The writing is evocative and sets the right mood for each scene, and I found myself eager to return to it whenever I had to set it down. I just want to see more stories that empower girls without feeling the need to constantly disparage others....more
1.5 stars I liked the other Colasanti book I read, but this one feels too short and sketched in. A whole year would pass by in a matter of a couple do1.5 stars I liked the other Colasanti book I read, but this one feels too short and sketched in. A whole year would pass by in a matter of a couple dozen pages, and everything felt too neat and unrealistically wrapped up at the end. None of the themes of separation, long distance relationships, first/real love, etc. are really explored in much depth. A disappointment in so many ways.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review....more
Ever since I succumbed to peer pressure and read The Truth About Forever, I've been a fan of Sarah Dessen's. I know there are readers who dismiss herEver since I succumbed to peer pressure and read The Truth About Forever, I've been a fan of Sarah Dessen's. I know there are readers who dismiss her books as being too boring or too girly, and it's true that it's hard to pinpoint anything hugely dramatic that happens in her books plot-wise. But that's exactly what I like about her novels--they're about nothing and yet absolutely everything at the same time.
In the summer before college, Emaline is working at her family's vacation rental in the beach town of Colby when she starts to question her "perfect" relationship with her boyfriend Luke, as well as her complicated relationship with her absentee father. When a stranger named Theo comes to town, life starts to unravel...or is she finally starting to see the kind of life she really wants?
Here are the things I love about this book, and about all of Dessen's stories: the absolutely real and mundane details that make up life. Family ties that shape who are you are. The spark of romantic interest. Great friendships. The pleasure of doing ordinary things, like playing silly putt putt games with your brother, or experiencing the satisfaction of doing a great job at something you're good at. The Moon and More also features earnest dates that tank, worries about college, the sadness of changing relationships, and the out-of-body feeling that comes when you realize your parents are actually flawed but good people. I leave every Dessen town feeling as if I've visited a real place full of real people who quietly go about their business and quietly dream about things that might never come true.
Admittedly, the author maintains her tendency to reference the title too many times, which is a pet peeve of mine. I enjoyed reading about Emaline's problems, but I think she could have used some more joy in this book, too. And I have to say, I wasn't a huge fan of Theo's, so there wasn't as much swoon in this book as I'm used to in other novels by this author, although there's a hint at towards the end that something great could develop down the road.
But as always, Sarah Dessen delivers a terrific summer book. I like kickass heroines who can take down their enemies with a single blow who know the exact right one-liner to toss off at the right moment, but I love the more introverted heroines like the ones found in these contemporary novels, too. While a lot of fantasy authors indulge us by writing about the kind of girl we wish we'd been at the age of seventeen, Sarah Dessen writes about the kind of uncertain, quietly determined girl we actually were. And there's plenty of beauty and wisdom and resonance in that, too.
If you were to lay out a visual storyboard for The Miseducation of Cameron Post, it would be filled with lomographic photography--retro lighting, wideIf you were to lay out a visual storyboard for The Miseducation of Cameron Post, it would be filled with lomographic photography--retro lighting, wide-open vistas, saturated colors, and quirky, sometimes blurry exposures that provide quick snapshots of the many small pleasures of childhood. This coming of age novel, which is written more like adult literary fiction than typical YA, beautifully captures the sun-drenched mood of summer as we meet Cameron, a young girl living in a small town in eastern Montana in 1989.
It was the kind of heat where a breeze feels like someone's venting a dryer over the town, whipping dust and making the cottonseeds from the big cottonwoods float across a wide blue sky and collect in soft tufts on neighborhood lawns. Irene and I called it summer snow, and sometimes we'd squint into the dry glare and try to catch cotton on our tongues.
It's a pleasure to be lulled into the slow rhythm of the author's words and to enjoy the moments of stillness and spontaneity throughout the entire story. As the novel begins, Cameron's parents have gone off on their annual camping trip, and she's spending the summer with her best friend Irene, eating too-big scoops of ice cream and strawberry pretzel salad, freezing wet shirts to keep cool, telling stories, and watching the twilight creep over the town. There's a new awareness between the two girls, however, which floods Cameron with pleasure and confusion when things suddenly take an unexpected turn.
There's nothing to know about a kiss like that before you do it. It was all action and reaction, the way her lips were salty and she tasted like root beer. The way I felt sort of dizzy the whole time. If it had been that one kiss, then it would have been just the dare, and that would have been no different than anything we'd done before. But after that kiss, as we leaned against the crates, a yellow jacket swooping and arcing over some spilled pop, Irene kissed me again.
Later, the girls talk about how they'd get in trouble if anyone found out.
Even though no one had ever told me, specifically, not to kiss a girl before, nobody had to. It was guys and girls who kissed--in our grade, on TV, in the movies, in the world; and that's how it worked, guys and girls. Anything else was something weird.
Shortly afterwards, Cameron's parents die in a car crash and she's sent to live with her conservative Aunt Ruth in the small town of Miles City, Montana, where she does her best to fit in and forget what happened before. So when beautiful Coley Taylor arrives on the scene, it spells trouble in a big way--and things spiral out of control in Cameron's world when she is sent off to God's Promise, a Christian de-gaying camp. (The author addresses this very frankly in most of the interviews I've seen, so I'm assuming it's not a spoiler to include that info here.) Here, she is to learn "appropriate gender roles" and refrain from "negative bonding over sinful/unhealthy desires."
I wasn't sure what to expect with this novel, so it was a relief to find it doesn't feel at all heavy-handed. I've realized recently that the problem I have with so many Message Books is that you can so clearly tell the author set out with an agenda and just filled in additional details to make a story. However, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a fully realized novel in every way, and if Cameron weren't gay, it would still be a well-crafted, well-written story with an immensely appealing protagonist...even if she's not always completely likable. But I sort of like that about her, you know? Because most of us were pretty unbearable as teenagers, and I found her prickliness and defiance to be sympathetic and very real.
Fair warning that Cameron is just as likely to tell you to eff off as she is to bum a smoke off you, though. For even though there are beautiful moments of stillness and jumbled, joyous images of childhood (Cameron puts a piece of flourite in her mouth at one point so she can taste its hardness and grit, which is something I totally did as a kid), there are also frank sexual situations, marijuana use, shoplifting, and all kinds of other things that might normally drive me up the wall when they're casually included in your typical YA book.
But this isn't a fluffy young adult novel at all, and it's easy to understand why Cameron acts out as she tries to figure out who she is under extremely difficult circumstances. Not to mention that her feelings are not at all unusual; Cameron's confusion and longing during the prom scene when Coley dances with someone else is that stuff of universal loneliness and despair. As a reader, it also hurt unbearably to read about Mark Turner, son of a preacher from a mega church in Nebraska, who is the "poster boy for a Christian upbringing, but yet here he was, at Promise, just like the rest of us." Mark's struggles with his faith and his natural impulses are devastating to witness, and it's a brutal reminder that there are sometimes terrible consequences when we ignore what's right in the name of what's righteous.
I appreciated how honestly teenage sex and experimentation were portrayed, in a way that didn't feel tacky or sensationalized. And I appreciated the restraint with which this enormously touchy subject was handled. I found myself getting very angry as I read the book--it's hard not to when you see a child being told unequivocally that he's going to hell for what he feels--but the story is remarkably even-handed. While Cameron is defiant and angry over her containment, as most of the kids are, the few harsh words about the program include "I'm just saying that sometimes you can end up really messing somebody up because the way you're trying to supposedly help them is really messed up." Instead of using this platform to rant or rage, the author simply allows us to get to know Cameron and provides the framework for the question: after reading this girl's story, which is the story of so many girls and boys just like her, can anyone deny the validity of her feelings?
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a fierce book that boldly explores identity, sexuality, and human responsibility in a relatable way, even as it demands attention from your social conscience and reaches out for your empathy. Even with such a hot-button topic, however, it somehow manages to refrain from outright condemnation of those who oppose its views. It's a shame that twenty years after the events of this book, this type of tolerance is still not entirely a two-way street.
Recommended for mature teens and adults only.
About the Book
The author was partially inspired by the true story of a 16-year-old boy who said he was being sent to a de-gaying camp in Tennessee. Read more about this in the author's Slate interview with author Curtis Sittenfeld.
Emily Danforth also has a deleted scene from the book on her website.
This has been amazing year for young adult literature for mature audiences. From The Miseducation of Cameron Post to the upcoming Monstrous Beauty, itThis has been amazing year for young adult literature for mature audiences. From The Miseducation of Cameron Post to the upcoming Monstrous Beauty, it's been incredibly exciting to find books that aren't afraid to push boundaries, ask questions, and immerse their readers in unusual literary styles. Is this in recognition that more and more adults are reading YA? Perhaps. I just hope the trend continues.
One of my favorite books this year is definitely Kat Rosenfeld's Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone. It's the story of Amelia Anne Richardson, a girl found brutally murdered on the side of a dirt road--but it's also the story of Becca, who is spending a last summer at home in her small town. It's a mystery without easy answers, it's a snapshot of a girl's coming into her own, and it's a sad, painful testament to the trauma that envelopes the end of a love affair.
Our first meeting was romantic. High school legend-like, it made me yearn to stay with him just for the chance to tell our kids someday about how their father had swept me off my feet at the tender age of sixteen. About the bonfire at Hunter's Point and the coltish-skinny, cigarette-smoking boy with shaggy hair, sitting apart from his friends, who looked across the flames at me with such intensity that he himself seemed to be on fire.
The writing is entrancing, with a slow, rhythmic cadence that captures the moody summer violence that both girls experience. It isn't an easy book or typical page-turning mystery by any means, and it's likely to be very polarizing in its style and its content. I'm not certain we ever get to know either girl as well as I would have liked, either, and I think I would have been more moved by their plight if their stories didn't parallel quite so much. But I still found myself fascinated by the language and the mystery of what happens to Amelia Anne and Becca, whose true fates seem elusive even at the conclusion of the book. Readers who appreciated the writing in Cameron Post or the dreamy smoke and mirrors of Imaginary Girls will likely fall in love with Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, too.
This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher. Recommended for mature YA readers only.
There's something about rhythm of summer that slows down time and makes every moment especially delicious. Summer's fleeting season means that its momThere's something about rhythm of summer that slows down time and makes every moment especially delicious. Summer's fleeting season means that its moments are also bittersweet, however, and no one knows this better than beach-town girl Anna Patrick. She's falling head over heels in love with Will...but knows that he'll soon have to go back to New York where he belongs.
I'm not much of a contemporary YA romance person, but found myself thoroughly charmed by this book, which is the perfect lighthearted beach read but is also filled with unexpected layers. After reading so many paranormal or dystopian novels with complicated set-ups or books that put you through the emotional wringer, it's so nice to relax with a book that doesn't have a typical love triangle, bad boy posturing, or some sort of looming imminent danger. It's also a pleasure to read about teens who are actually nice to each other and do normal things like going on cute dates and talking on the phone, and who have good relationships with the adults in their lives.
Anna and Will's summer is filled with ice cream and curly fries and bike rides and barbecues and long walks in the moonlight...and kissing. Lots of kissing. Anna is a relatable, likable girl who has normal insecurities but doesn't let them spin out of control--and she takes the time to be a good friend even as she's learning what it's like to be a girlfriend for the first time. It's easy to see why Will falls for Anna and for this comfortable and amazing town, which is almost like a character of its very own, because I'd sure like to visit! You can practically feel the sand between your toes and the warmth of the sun on your arms and the coldness of Anna's Pineapple Ginger Ale ice cream melting in your mouth. There are also lovely moments with luxurious swims, encounters with crabs on the beach at night, a bittersweet baby sea turtle rescue, and a beautiful early morning moment that Anna shares with Will that I won't spoil with details, but will be familiar to anyone who's ever lived near a beach.
I'm mostly glad, however, that although this is a romance book and it's all about Anna's relationship with Will, she lives a rich and bustling life outside of him. He enriches her interactions with her friends and her family and her job and her pursuits, but he doesn't define them. Even as summer draws to a close, Anna agonizes over the upcoming heartache of their separation, since she knows that losing her first love will hurt badly. But she's smart enough enough to know that no matter what happens, she is strong enough to handle it--which is a great message for women everywhere, no matter what her age.
I loved being so consumed by Will. Adored it. But I kind of hated it too, because I felt like a huge part of myself had been wrested from my control. I mean, sometimes you just want to make a peanut butter sandwich without being overcome by your own passion, you know?
I don't normally gush over books like this, but I found this book to be full of sweet, sweet moments, believable conflicts, smart, funny characters, and a surprisingly nuanced narrative underneath its romantic YA surface. It's a perfect summer read that will take you back to those heady days of falling in love for the first time...with the added bonus of leaving you with a big goofy smile on your face.
My favorite L'Engle book ever, about the formative summer when Vicky Austin's grandfather is dying and she meets a young marine biology student who teaches her to swim with dolphins. I'm not sure any other YA author has ever come close to L'Engle's complex and intelligent story-telling with the Austin family, which is secure in its wisdom that everyday life is dramatic enough without having to invent other-worldly plot devices. Well, except for (view spoiler)[the dolphin telepathy (hide spoiler)]. :D
To this day, whenever I see dolphins, I think of how L'Engle describes their skin as "resilient pewter." Amazing. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more