Two stars for structure and writing style (subtitle could've been "Hilarious yet Touching Malapropisms from Hardened Gang Members in order to Demonstr...moreTwo stars for structure and writing style (subtitle could've been "Hilarious yet Touching Malapropisms from Hardened Gang Members in order to Demonstrate Their Humanity," which got old), four stars for worldview and challenge to compassion. I like Father Boyle a lot.(less)
Acclaimed young adult author Myers (Monster, Shooter)describes his childhood and teenage years in Harlem, couching his narrative in family history and...moreAcclaimed young adult author Myers (Monster, Shooter)describes his childhood and teenage years in Harlem, couching his narrative in family history and sensitive reflections about sports, books, school, racism, and getting into and out of trouble on a regular basis.
I love Myers' crisp, straightforward style, and his reflections about his growing-up years are poignant, especially his battle with a speech impediment and his growing awareness of racism as a system embedded in institutions. I appreciate that Myers does not rely on overly dramatic action sequences to move the plot forward, instead spinning leisurely yarns, almost as though he is repeating events as they came to mind.
Overall, though, I did not enjoy Bad Boy as much as Myers' fiction. At times the pacing is tedious and the stream of consciousness disjointed. Certain facts or observations are repeated over and over, which I found distracting. Still, Myers' autobiography and his way of relating it are clearly important, and I would recommend this book to readers looking for a slow ride down a lazy river – with a few surprising twists and bends along the way. (less)
On a library listserv I read, a children's librarian recently lamented that the dozens of hard-bound Nancy Drew books in her collection don't circulat...moreOn a library listserv I read, a children's librarian recently lamented that the dozens of hard-bound Nancy Drew books in her collection don't circulate. She asked for suggestions to promote the series, which likely seems outdated and decrepit to today's Gossip Girls audience.
Lucky for the befuddled librarian, girl sleuths are enjoying a pop culture renaissance. In addition to the release of a Nancy Drew movie this summer and the popularity of latter-day titian-haired teen P.I. Veronica Mars, a number of non-fiction books about the original girl detective have been published.
I read my mom's vintage Nancy Drew hardcovers as a kid, and given my recent obsession with Ms. Mars, I picked up Chelsea Cain's satirical romp with the expectation of campy amusement. I was not disappointed by Confessions of a Teen Sleuth in that department. The book is purportedly Nancy's first-person autobiography, related via a decade-hopping trail of vignettes - her attempt to set right the errors of Carolyn Keene. It pokes fun at the series' conventions, like Nancy's goody-goody reputation. Turns out she and Frank Hardy were pretty hot and heavy back in the day, and Nurse Cherry Ames was the detective's arch-nemesis. We all knew that deep down, Nancy was kind of a bitch, and this autobiography proves it to humorous effect.
These story elements are fun if you're familiar with the numerous heroic do-gooder series of the latter 20th century. (Encyclopedia Brown even makes a cameo as an overweight, pizza-faced, middle-aged version of himself who still lives with his parents.) However, at barely 150 pages - a number of which were captioned illustrations - the book felt over-long and I quickly got bored with the novelty of the premise. Confessions would've been great as a short story or magazine piece, but the gimmick doesn't hold up over the course of a full-length novel.
I only recommend this book if you're a die-hard fan of campy teen detectives. Which, embarrassingly enough, I am.(less)
Sedaris gets you giggling uncontrollably and then socks you in the gut with pathos. It's the perfect literary combination and also immensely quotable,...moreSedaris gets you giggling uncontrollably and then socks you in the gut with pathos. It's the perfect literary combination and also immensely quotable, especially once you've heard him read his own work.(less)