What a joy! Reminded me of books fomr my youth. Even though at one point a computer is mentioned so it's obviously set now, the Penderwicks seem to haWhat a joy! Reminded me of books fomr my youth. Even though at one point a computer is mentioned so it's obviously set now, the Penderwicks seem to have a timeless summer vacation. I particularly loved how it reminded me of a time when 3 weeks' of summer vacation seemed like an eternity and hundreds of life changing things could happen in such a short period of time. ...more
So far this book, of all the YA and MR books I've reread lately, is the most true-to-life for what being a teenager is like. And for me (when I firstSo far this book, of all the YA and MR books I've reread lately, is the most true-to-life for what being a teenager is like. And for me (when I first read it) it had the added bonus of giving a glimpse into the frightening inner workings of the teenage boy brain. I remember so admiring Marceline for her independence, and her ability to truly not care what other kids thought about her. It's also nice for once to have the main character kids be the middle of the pack: neither the most popular, nor the nerds of the class. All of Jason's worries and anxieties rang true, and I really appreciated also how through the character of Cal (a future doctor), Mr. Spinelli also managed to get some frank sex-ed into the book, in a way that felt organic and not preachy. The slang is perfectly right (I was in 8th grade when this book came out) and I too remember the obsession with hickeys (shudder) at the time. The gossip, the exaggerations, the assumptions about other kids were all dead-on. And Jason was also sweet, fairly conscientious, and caring, that he seemed like a boyfriend I would have liked. Iappreciate that the book was all about the relationship, not entirely a build-up to it as some books are (ending with the first kiss) as how relationships work is a lot of what kids this age are really curious about and need to understand. I never read the first book about Jason, Space Station Seventh Grade, and while I might have missed a reference or two in here, I never noticed. It stands alone just fine. ...more
Ah, another book that I remember always used to make me cry! Even though Liza isn't the oldest, as the oldest daughter she's still in some ways the moAh, another book that I remember always used to make me cry! Even though Liza isn't the oldest, as the oldest daughter she's still in some ways the most responsible, so I really identified with her. The way this book was structured was very nice. We get a good part of the book while Liza's father is still alive, his heart failing. We see the family interact with him and how he's such a great father. Then we get the immediate aftermath of his death, and the later consequences such as moving out of the family home, her mother going back to school, and the kids having to take on even more responsibility themselves. I thought the exploration of Liza's guilt was beautifully handled, and also I know that as a child it showed me that there were deeper emotions one would feel in this situation than just sadness. And of course, the primary reason kids read these kinds of sad books is in preparation for dealing with sad situations themselves (though hopefully not this one exactly.) The book is honest, sympathetic, and feels very real. I'm quite shocked to see it's out of print. ...more
This is one of those teen books where the sister dies. (Thanks to the title, I'm not giving anything away here.) I know a lot of adults think childrenThis is one of those teen books where the sister dies. (Thanks to the title, I'm not giving anything away here.) I know a lot of adults think children shouldn't read these kinds of depressing books but I adored them as a teen. It is very important for children to learn how to deal with different difficult situations and emotions,and one way they can start to learn coping methods is by being introduced to these types of situations in a safe way: through fiction. My copy of the book says that this is the story of two very remarkable sisters. But I think the beauty of the book is quite the oppostie. Meg and Molly aren't particularly remarkable young women. They're fairly ordinary. And in that lies their beauty. Molly is pretty and popular and has a boyfriend. Meg is a photographer, a loner, makes friends with older neighbors. They are very unalike, as is fairly normal for sisters, and it does cause clashes but at that age (13, 15) and in such close proximity (sharing a room for the first time), it's inevitable. Meg's older friends, especially Will, are very important to her in helping her deal with the loss of her sister. They say a few simple but profound things that resonate with her (and with this reader) such as Will's quote about mourning Margaret, and how we are always mourning ourselves. And also when he tells her it's normal to blame herself for Meg's sickness, because we want to blame someone, and f it was us who did it, then we feel like we have some control. I'd never thought about that before and it makes perfect sense. I had thought that being older now and sensible, and also (jokingly) a cold and bitter person that this book wuldn't affect me, but it did make me cry. It is so touching and honest and simple. A truly great novel....more
This book has traveled with me for 20 years after I originally read it, not because it was a favorite, but because it was by a favorite author. I thouThis book has traveled with me for 20 years after I originally read it, not because it was a favorite, but because it was by a favorite author. I thought this was one less likely to stand the test of time, but more likely to surprise me. And now I think it is pretty good, but not fantastic. Set in the early days of the Revolutionary War on Long Island (aka Brooklyn), the first 75% of the book mirror Island of the Blue Dolphins in a lot of surprising ways. Our heroine's mother is absent, father dies, her brother then runs off, she goes after him in a misguided attempt to save him which just gets her into deeper water. Then she has to live off the land with only her wits and a couple of animal friends. Of course unlike Karena, Sarah both has a price on her head, and isn't destined to remain exiled for 20+ years. The ending certainly is different, but in some ways it's unsatisfying. As this was also based on a real-life story, I wish there'd been an epilogue to explain how she ended up later in life. I felt a little distanced from the character, but I don't know if that's because it took me 3 days to read this instead of powering through it in one, or because it's YA and therefore a much shorter easier read (and a reread to boot). I always have a little trouble really identifying with characters when I only spend a couple of hours with them. But it's very well-written, the era details felt accurate, and I think kids this age can really never read enough books with strong independent female characters. Particularly resourceful, hardworking ones like Sarah....more
A few years ago I reread a handful of my old favorite Norma Klein books, but the ones I reread were the ones I adored, the ones I'd read dozens of timA few years ago I reread a handful of my old favorite Norma Klein books, but the ones I reread were the ones I adored, the ones I'd read dozens of times as a teenager. I have a whole shelf of Klein books though, and not all of them had equal impact, the ones on the younger end of Klein's protagonists, I didn't reread a ton. Probably because I aged out of them more quickly. But I thought I'd rectify it now.
It'a unusual to reread a book that wasn't beloved and much-read when I was younger. Those books are like old friends, and I sometimes find I have whole sentences and passages memorized. But in Now That I Know, instead I have a sense of vague familiarity, and I figured out the plot twist pretty much right away. Is that because as an adult it's so much easier to spot, or because the plot is stored somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain and I actually remember the story, if subconsciously? There's no way to know of course.
Nina is thirteen, a 9th grader in New York City whose parents have joint custody so she spends half the week with each. She's a bit worried about her shy, bitter mother being all alone. After all her father has his best friend Greg to hang out with. Greg, who does all the cooking, including breakfast, and always seems to be at their house. Hmmm. I wonder if, reading this book when I was fourteen, I clued in to the real relationship before it came out in the open, but now, it was very obvious to me from about p. 7. Not that that's bad - it's well set up so readers won't feel blindsided by it. I just wonder if perhaps, as a young teen, I was a bit obtuse and also more concerned with Nina becoming the editor of the school paper and there being maybe an interesting boy in her class.
One of Norma Klein's hallmarks is her very three-dimensional, flawed characters, and she doesn't disappoint in Now That I Know. Neither of her parents deal with their situations perfectly (oh, and they're younger than me - when did that happen!?), her best friend is frustrating, and Nina herself is quite flawed, hiding from situations she doesn't like and trying her best not to deal with them head-on. Teens can really identify with these well-rounded and very human characters. It's a tiny bit dated, but not overly (the book's jacket more than anything - denim with denim!) There's nothing remotely inappropriate, just a tiny bit of language and an acknowledgement that sex exists. I'm so glad I gave it another read!...more