The Whole Thing Together could be the beach read of the summer. The author gained fame with the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series, and this stThe Whole Thing Together could be the beach read of the summer. The author gained fame with the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series, and this story feels like a Jane Austen family dramedy full of romance and rivalries. Set mostly in the Hamptons, she vividly describes the sprawling beach house of this complicated upper class family as well as the farmer’s market and grocery store where the kids work. For 75% of the novel, I was fully absorbed in the backstory of why Lila and Robert got divorced and no longer speak, how their three shared daughters mentor their half siblings Ray and Sasha, and why Sasha and Ray have never met. Of the three older sisters, Mattie’s subplot about figuring out who her real dad is captured my attention the most. Robert’s tragic past of being born in a Bangladeshi refugee camp honestly seemed thrown in to add some diversity to this rich family’s background, but it didn’t offend me in any way either. It makes for an interesting contrast between curvy, dark-haired Sasha and her tall, skinny older sisters. And of course it prompts Mattie to wonder why she’s the only blonde sister. So it moves the plot along.
I did find the whole family tree somewhat confusing, and I laughed when I read a review telling me to refer to the chart of characters provided in the beginning of the book. I missed it somehow and I really would have found it helpful along the way! Whoops. And I find it strange that no one else seems creeped out about Sasha and Ray falling for each other. I know it’s stated many times that they are not blood related, but they are still part of the same extended family and that’s just a little gross. Also, it felt to me that a very likeable character was sacrificed near the end of the book just to find some way to resolve Lila and Robert’s long-standing conflict. They couldn’t act like grownups and talk calmly without one of their children dying first? Well, that’s actually pretty true to life, but the last 25% of the book felt so dark that I’m not sure I can keep it in the feel good beach read category.
So I guess I 75% loved it? I need to ponder this a bit more. ...more
It’s been awhile since I read an Ellen Hopkins book, but she continues to impress me by incorporating so many relevant issues into one story that’s toIt’s been awhile since I read an Ellen Hopkins book, but she continues to impress me by incorporating so many relevant issues into one story that’s told the way teens actually speak. This one covers child abduction, child abuse, bisexuality, racism, PTSD, sociopathic behavior, 9/11, socioeconomic issues, basketball and horses. Ha! I’m sure I missed something along the way, but Ariel makes a compelling heroine. Her story is told in Hopkin’s signature contemporary free verse, and she’s desperately trying to figure out her identity. Her dad has moved her around the country so many times that she’s never been able to set down roots or make close friends. Her father kidnapped her when she was three, but he convinces Ariel that her mother abandoned them to run off with her lesbian lover. During her junior year in a small California town, Ariel finally makes some close friends, including Monica and Gabe. She finds herself attracted to both of them, leading to confusion about her sexuality. Dad’s got plenty of issues, including alcoholism, abusive behavior, desertion from the military and a string of short-lived relationships with women. The man’s a mess, in other words. Ariel sadly doesn’t realize how abusive and manipulative her dad is until other people start pointing it out to her. Gradually, she builds an independent adult life for herself by growing close to her friends, winning on the basketball court, getting her own car and finding a job training horses. It’s an inspiring coming of age story.
SPOILERS: Ariel eventually chooses Monica over Gabe, but I appreciated that Gabe remained a stand-up guy and good friend to Ariel to the end. He prevents her from being raped at a party and helps her deal with her confusion when her mother shows up out of nowhere. Monica also provides supportive friendship and well as romantic love. Really all of the characters are very noble, aside from Ariel’s dad. The second part of the narrative, the journal of a young girl named Maya who purposely gets pregnant by her boyfriend who’s serving in the military in order to escape her Scientologist mom’s house, turns out to be Ariel’s mom. I should have guessed that way sooner than I did, but it doesn’t become completely obvious until 9/11 reveals the timeline and Maya’s daughter gets kidnapped soon after the event. The whole plotline might sound far-fetched, but it’s based on Hopkins’ own experience of losing her daughter for three years when her ex-husband took her from daycare without permission. I admire her ability to turn such a painful experience into compelling fiction. Hopkins is one of the greatest teen authors of recent times and I don’t think she always gets credit for it. She’s fearless in tackling the toughest subjects imaginable. ...more
Clever Romeo and Juliet update sent in modern-day Israel. Ronit is the Israeli daugter of a pharmacist, and Jamil is the Palestinian son of a doctor.Clever Romeo and Juliet update sent in modern-day Israel. Ronit is the Israeli daugter of a pharmacist, and Jamil is the Palestinian son of a doctor. They meet and fall in love while helping their dads at work. Soon they're planning their escape from their war-torn surroundings and the wall that separates them. The author gifts the teens with the promise of a happy future in America instead of sticking to the Shakespeare script. Written in elegant verse that only occasionally turns purple, this quick read will appeal to reluctant readers, romantics and fans of Shakespeare retellings. ...more
Very sweet update on the Little Mermaid. Mira, a mermaid, lives in an aquarium run by "Neptune," a fisherman profits by promoting the mystery of "FishVery sweet update on the Little Mermaid. Mira, a mermaid, lives in an aquarium run by "Neptune," a fisherman profits by promoting the mystery of "Fish Girl." Things change when a 12-year-old girl named Livia befriends Mira and encourages her to explore the world outside the museum's walls. Lovely full-color illustrations, a charming octopus sidekick, and a strong coming-of-age theme. Sure to be a hit with tweens....more
I gave up on parenting books awhile back, since none of the advice seemed to work in practice. This one offers some practical tips that emphasize giviI gave up on parenting books awhile back, since none of the advice seemed to work in practice. This one offers some practical tips that emphasize giving your kids choices and information to help them make better decisions. The authors tell parents to avoid blame and insults and to first acknowledge the child's feelings, which more often than not gets them to calm down immediately. My kids are 2 and 4, and these techniques seem to be working with the 4-year-old. Toddlers are a bit too young for some of these techniques but my little dude does seems to appreciate it when I tell him I understand how he feels. The book covers all of the main issues in my house: sibling conflicts, eating issues, sleep issues, hitting, getting out the door in the morning and more. Will these ideas work all the time? Probably not, but I appreciate the emphasis on teaching kids problem-solving skills that will help them throughout the different stages of their lives. I agree that punishments and threat do not work in the long run. And I appreciate that the authors understand that parents have feelings too and that we need methods to keep our anger under control sometimes! We're only human!...more
Already caught between her poor black neighborhood and her posh prep school, Starr finds herself at the center of racial tension after she witnesses tAlready caught between her poor black neighborhood and her posh prep school, Starr finds herself at the center of racial tension after she witnesses the shooting of her childhood best friend by a white police officer. The timely social justice theme will resonate with fans of Jason Reynold and Brendan Kiely’s All American Boys and Kekla Magoon’s How it Went Down.
This seems like the first teen novel of 2017 that's popular with both critics and general readers. My librarian friends who have read it all commented not only on its timely themes, but how the voice and dialogue reflect how real urban teens actually speak. Other aspects that struck me include: the strong community ties in Garden Heights, Starr's supportive extended family, her struggles with having a white boyfriend, conflicts with "friends" at school who make racist comments, and the complexity of Khalil's character. The book personalizes the Black Lives Matter movement in a way that will resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds. This is the right book at the right time. ...more
Veronica Roth’s latest novel certainly doesn’t need any extra promotion. The off the charts popularity of the Divergent series has guaranteed Carve thVeronica Roth’s latest novel certainly doesn’t need any extra promotion. The off the charts popularity of the Divergent series has guaranteed Carve the Mark’s success, whether it’s a masterpiece or a piece of space garbage that the Shotet would scavenge. We already have a hold list of 80 at our library and I’m sure it will continue to climb.
So is it worth reading? If you want a sci fi soap opera page turner, yes. Star Wars fans, especially those who enjoyed the extremely dark tone of Rogue One, will enjoy this. Several plot points reminded me of The Empire Strikes Back, particularly the concept of the current, which is a lot like the Force, and the ruthless dictator Ryzek, who behaves a lot like Darth Vader. Does he have one kind bone in his body, or will he just keep torturing everyone in the second book in the duology? I really hope Roth fleshes out his character in Book Two, because villains who don’t have a vulnerable side bore me.
This first book focuses on Cyra, Ryzek’s little sister, who possesses the power to inflict pain on anyone she touches. When Ryzek kidnaps Akos, the son of an oracle who is fated to fall to Ryzek’s family, it turns out that Akos has the power to stop the pain that Cyra inflicts upon herself. Cyra and Akos develop a friendship and then a romance. I know, I know. How could they not fall in love? It’s a teen novel, folks. But the action packed plot picks up when Cyra rebels against her brother and refuses to torture people for him anymore. She trains Akos how to fight so that he can help his brother Eijeh escape from Ryzek. They team up with some renegades who plan to overthrow Ryzek. Along the way a lot of innocent people get murdered and a lot of characters turn out to be connected in unexpected ways. (My theory is that Akos and Cyra were swapped at birth somehow. We’ll see if I’m right.)
It’s totally a violent soap opera in space. Teens and adults who love teen fiction will love it. ...more