I'd love to know how much direction the authors were given for this series. Was the directive just study-abroad in China, or was it Chinese-American s...moreI'd love to know how much direction the authors were given for this series. Was the directive just study-abroad in China, or was it Chinese-American studies abroad in China and tries to reconnect with her biological parents?
I'm curious in part because -- and this is commentary on the series, not on this book specifically -- I find the whole thing rather whitewashed. Yes, it's probably true that white students make up the bulk of study-abroad participants from the U.S. But...it's disappointing to look at the series list and note that 1) 9 of the 14 books take place in Europe (plus one in Australia and one on a pretty white-bread semester at sea), 2) 12 of the 14 heroines appear to be white, and 3) the two Asian protagonists (and only the two Asian protagonists) are doing a semester abroad in part as a way to get in touch with their heritage.
It's possible -- even likely -- that the individual authors didn't have much forewarning about the other authors' books, but it seems like a lapse on the part of the publisher.
Anyway. Back to the book at hand: Cece is spending a semester in China, where she hopes to learn a lot about anthropology -- her passion -- maybe break out of her work-hard persona a bit...and of course see if she can find out who her biological parents are and why they gave her up for adoption.
A number of things work here: Cece's interest in anthropology, and the intensity of her programme, means that we get a lot of tidbits about Chinese history and culture. Unlike certain S.A.S.S. heroines I could mention, Cece spends a fair amount of time with people from China, not just other exchange students. She manages to figure out a lot about herself over the course of the book, as do some of the other characters.
The stereotyping was weird, though. It was a little like the book was throwing out a stereotype, shouting Aha! A stereotype!, chuckling indulgently at the reader, and...carrying on. I don't know what to make of it, really. And the resolution with Cece's search was way too good to be true.
But hey. Expect fluff, get fluff. These books don't claim to be anything else.(less)
Ski jumping! It's too bad this didn't come out closer to the 2014 Olympics, because it might have gotten some extra attention because of that -- given...moreSki jumping! It's too bad this didn't come out closer to the 2014 Olympics, because it might have gotten some extra attention because of that -- given that women's ski jumping was for the first time introduced to the Olympic stage. Here, Mo is a ski jumper with aspirations of greatness, but she knows her options are limited because it's not a high-profile sport, especially for women.
In Finland, though, she can hopefully push through to a new level, and get out from her parents' overprotectiveness while she's at it. Mo's an appealing character -- she makes mistakes, and does some dumb things, but she's also pretty self-aware and willing to admit when she's wrong. There's romance, but it's not her focus -- and, hurray, the author managed to impart some info about Finland over the course of Mo's stay without being textbook about it.
There are a number of loose ends here (parental problems in particular -- for multiple characters), but it's a cute, fun read...which is just as well, since (on top of the two others I've read) there are another eleven books in the series.(less)
As the book opens, sixteen-year-old Amy is in the midst of a legal fight for emancipation from her parents. She's not always certain what that will me...moreAs the book opens, sixteen-year-old Amy is in the midst of a legal fight for emancipation from her parents. She's not always certain what that will mean -- she doesn't have anywhere else to go or a way of supporting herself -- but she knows she wants out.
Amy's always had an interest in the sixties, so it seems like kismet when the local theme park opens up an attraction that allows visitors to look back into 1963 -- and talk with people who are living in 1963. There Amy meets a teenage boy, Clifford, who seems like everything she's looking for...but he's in 1963, and she's fifty years in his future.
Add to the mix a sort of alternate-universe science-fiction twist, with human-animal crossbreeding a fact of life in Amy's world -- oh, and don't forget that by communicating with Clifford in 1963, Amy has the potential to change the past, and thus the present -- and there's a lot going on here.
Now, like Amy, I am guilty of romanticising the 60s (and 70s) somewhat, although in my case I know exactly what to blame -- and also, I know I'm romanticising those decades, and I'm not sure Amy knows that she is. I want to vacation there, in the political activism and free love and crackling energy and peculiar fashion, but I want to come home to better women's rights and queer rights and technological advances. Amy just...wants her family to be a prototypical television family, I think. For a self-professed politically aware sixties lover, she doesn't have a great sense of the problems of the decade -- not even enough to be concerned when Clifford, in 1963, becomes eligible for the draft.
Clifford...I don't have a great sense of him, honestly. I guess it's hard to show a relationship building when that relationship is limited to what two people can say through the television every few days or every week. But it comes off as a bit flat (and the big reveal at the end more than a little creepy). Not really sure where Amy's interest comes from, either; she leaps straight from 'what a dweeb!' to 'I think I love him!'
I suspect that one of the reasons I really didn't connect with this book is that it feels quite young -- while I'm still (obviously) happy to get sucked into YA, this feels almost middle grade. It's more plot-driven than character-driven, I think; although Amy is sixteen, her dialogue often feels oddly formal, and I'd put her attitude/maturity level closer to fourteen. (Is it odd to think that Amy might actually get along with April?) Especially since, oh gosh, she really never learns her lesson, does she? Not really with her family, and definitely not in terms of concerns about influencing the past.
The emancipation plotline is one of the most potentially interesting parts of the book, so I was disappointed to find that it was fairly thin. Partly that's just a matter of length, I think (a lot to cover in not very many pages); I also wonder whether there was more leading up to this in books one and two, which I haven't read. As it is, for all that Amy talks about what an obvious case hers is, all I see is...well, a couple of passable, if not always engaged, parents (her parents don't feature much, and the one legitimately cruel thing her mother says is late in the book. It doesn't come out of nowhere, but it also seems very out of character) and an extremely bratty teenager whose primary complaint seems to be that her family's standard of living has improved. Again, this might make more sense if I'd read the preceding books, and it might not bother me as much if I hadn't been hoping for some character development. Perhaps a more enticing read for a younger reader than I am; it just wasn't my cup of tea.
I received a free copy of this book via a Goodreads giveaway.(less)
I ran across this series on Goodreads and am now determined to Read It All, but it's probably just as well that this...moreHow do you say doormat in French?
I ran across this series on Goodreads and am now determined to Read It All, but it's probably just as well that this was not the first one I picked up.
Nicole, poor thing, has been banished to Paris for a semester by her heartless, unloving parents. The horror! I mean, what teenager would possibly want to spend a semester in Paris? Nicole just can't bear the thought of rude Parisians and culture and gross foods like gelato and Nutella crêpes, whatever they are.
Nicole should really meet up with Becca. I think they'd get along.
The real problem, of course, is that Nicole's douchebro of a boyfriend is back in the States, and she just can't bear to be separated from him. After all, he's just so far above her socially that she can't ever let him go, and if she lets down her guard even a little bit, oh god, he might lose interest...and anyway, they're Meant to Be. They're seniors in high school, and their college plans aren't even a matter of them planning to apply to the same places -- their college plans are that Nate will decide where he wants to apply, and then Nicole will apply to all the same schools.
Anyway, Nicole's in Paris, so you'd think that once she stops whining about not knowing the language (although that's the one thing I have some sympathy about -- if she takes Spanish in school, why didn't her parents suggest, say, Spain?) and starts making friends, albeit very flimsily fleshed-out friends, we'd get a bit of a break from her constant Nate obsession. But no. Nicole does end up seeing things in Paris, and meeting people (very few of whom, oddly enough, are actually French)...but never before she moans about Nate, and how she'd rather be sitting at home thinking about Nate than touring Versailles(!), and Nate would say this if he were here...and Nate would hate that...and Nate...and Nate...
Now, because Nate is a douchebro, obviously the relationship does not survive the semester. (I will give the book props, by the way, for not giving Nicole a (view spoiler)[relationship with Luc beyond flirtation and a kiss or two (hide spoiler)].) But because it takes Nicole so long to figure out that she can do better than him, there's no space left in which for her to develop a discernible personality, or interests, of her own. We leave her on her way home, thinking excitedly that maybe she'll take a gap year to travel, but when she did that growth from I don't wannnnnna have cultural experiences!, I have no idea.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Cute enough. Marina's off to sea to study on a boat for a semester, and while she's sorry to leave her loverboy behind, she's also relieved to have a...moreCute enough. Marina's off to sea to study on a boat for a semester, and while she's sorry to leave her loverboy behind, she's also relieved to have a bit of space to think about their future. This one gets bonus points for 1) Marina and her boyfriend being able to make a reasonably mature decision about their future and their own needs and 2) putting emphasis on the things they study at sea -- no lack of dolphins and whale sharks and sea turtles here. Might have been nice to see more of the ports they stop in, but my (admittedly limited) understanding of that sort of semester is that most of students' time isn't spent exploring and so on.
Aaaand that's all I have. Total fluff; very convenient to have in my bag on a slow Friday afternoon at work.(less)