I love Sarah Ockler so much, and this was not quite up there with all her other novels. So it wasn't AMAZING, but I enjoyed it. I liked the mystery el...moreI love Sarah Ockler so much, and this was not quite up there with all her other novels. So it wasn't AMAZING, but I enjoyed it. I liked the mystery element and all the Veronica Mars love.(less)
This book was alright. I probably won't read more in the series, but you never know. The mythology is pretty interesting, and the plot is fine, but th...moreThis book was alright. I probably won't read more in the series, but you never know. The mythology is pretty interesting, and the plot is fine, but the characters are all really one-dimensional so it makes it hard to care about, uh, anything. But it wasn't terrible to read. (view spoiler)[At the end, I was like, Cleo, why are you shoving your magic seeds down your dead sister's throat? They would be really useful to hold on to. Like, they totally could have saved your father's life in the next scene. Your main character trait seems to be being useless, though, so it fits. (hide spoiler)](less)
A quick, suspenseful read. I don't regret reading it.
The summer after high school, the senior class participates in an extended life-or-death game of...moreA quick, suspenseful read. I don't regret reading it.
The summer after high school, the senior class participates in an extended life-or-death game of chicken called Panic. The winner walks away with a pot of money forcibly collected from every student in the high school over a year. Heather and Dodge are our two desperate teens out to win the big bucks.
There's some continuity implausibility in this story. Mostly, I would find Panic more believable as a bored rich kids' game. Both Heather and Dodge are poor as are, it seems, most of the families in town, in which case shelling out $5 a week over four years of high school would pose at least a mentionable difficulty. And the origins of the game, the puppet masters, are never revealed, though someone has to select the judges, collect the money, threaten any hold-outs, sign on the bank account, etc.
So, Panic as a story survives just on the surface. The tenuous relationships between the characters, the happy circumstances (Heather loses her job at Wal-Mart and on the same day is hired as a farm hand by an old woman she meets randomly on the street, who ends up loving her like a daughter), and the ultimately anti-climatic ending don't hold up under any scrutiny. This book has been optioned for film, and with strong actors I think it would be a better movie than it is a book.(less)
Another book I read with my kid book club that has computers in it that are charmingly out of date. The sweet sounds of dial-up.
Though, honestly, for...moreAnother book I read with my kid book club that has computers in it that are charmingly out of date. The sweet sounds of dial-up.
Though, honestly, for a futuristic book it is not very far-sighted. Jen uses a terribly insecure password "free" for her secret chat room with other shadow children. "The Government will never find us here," she affirms to Luke several times. She also tells him how impossible it would be for the Government to spy on them through the computer or the television, and yet we live with that today.
For our book club activity we made propaganda posters. The girls paired up to make a ludicrous slogan promoting the consumption of moldy cheese (and then marched the street outside the library waving their posters and chanting their slogan), and the boys individually made anti-government posters while quietly plotting revolutionary tactics. I'm not sure who got the concept better. : )(less)
Fun book that is very of its time. I'm curious to see what my book club kids think of the computer stuff. Floppy disks. Black and white monitors. What...moreFun book that is very of its time. I'm curious to see what my book club kids think of the computer stuff. Floppy disks. Black and white monitors. What are those? Also, an amazingly wonderful dropped reference to River Phoenix, a photo of whom Emily has pinned up in her bedroom. (less)
Jennifer grew up believing that her small immediate family was all she had, until one day she discovers a photo of a woman who looks remarkably like h...moreJennifer grew up believing that her small immediate family was all she had, until one day she discovers a photo of a woman who looks remarkably like her. This is her aunt Sarah, her mother's sister. When her mother won't tell her why they are estranged, Jennifer calls Sarah and then insists on visiting her in Maine for the summer. Family secrets, lost heritage, all that good stuff.
I enjoyed the family secrets aspect of the story. Family secrets, in fact, are probably my number one appeal factor as a reader (which is why I love Melina Marchetta so SO much and the book The China Garden and Sarah Ockler and a million other things). The story even has some sweet parts, like the description of the coast and the nightly ritual of reading lines that reminded me of a Madeleine L'Engle story, which is a very high compliment. I also really enjoyed the theme of both leaving and returning to home.
However. On Little Wings has probably the most overt sexism I have read in a contemporary YA novel, like, ever. There is a big blow-out scene involving the romantic interest and his sixteen year old sister and her boyfriend that totally, 100%, no going back, turned me off to the romance in the book. Usually when we see such crazy possessive, objectifying of a girl(s) in a YA novel, it's the story of an abusive relationship. And man, if the novel hadn't ended I could totally see it going there. But to all the characters, it was normal. IN FACT, Jennifer's mother saw ONLY THIS PART of the romantic interest, Nathan, and said, "he seems nice." Uh, no mom, he doesn't. I didn't really buy in to Jennifer being that interested in him either though she says it a lot; I didn't feel it. I wonder if she pursued it all in an attempt to have just any kind of love story to tell, an idea that the novel supports quite a bit, actually.
I look forward to discussing this with book club.
P.S. I wondered, as Nathan's treatment of women emerged, if the author was LDS. I just looked it up, and she is. (less)
I am a creeping fan of Sarah Ockler's, which is an awkward term I just coined that is supposed to mean that my being a fan of hers crept up on me. Lik...moreI am a creeping fan of Sarah Ockler's, which is an awkward term I just coined that is supposed to mean that my being a fan of hers crept up on me. Like, I never noticed I was a fan until I suddenly realized I've read all her books and eagerly anticipate when the next comes out. At ALA Midwinter, I walked by the S&S booth gazing longingly at their single ARC of The Book of Broken Hearts a dozen times. I asked at least two reps if I could have it (they said no). I waited in line at the end of the conference to see if I could snag it (I couldn't). Finally, I waited until it was published and available through the library. I stayed up until 3:30 reading it and then woke up early and finished it before work the next day, where I immediately recommended it to my coworkers. So, I guess I like Sarah Ockler okay.
In The Book of Broken Hearts, Jude has just graduated from high school. Her father has early onset Alzheimer's, and this will be, in a very real sense (but perhaps not literal), her last summer with him. Jude is the youngest of four daughters, an "oops" baby, seven years junior to her closest sister. She has always lived in the shadow of them, all her memories and experiences leftover, hand-me-downs like the clothes she wears. Then Jude finds her papi's old Harley in the barn. His brain awakens with stories of his travels through South American before he emigrated from Argentina to the US, stories that Jude's sisters never knew, and suddenly this bike is their thing, Jude and her papi's. The problem is, the young, charming, dimpled mechanic they hire to fix it up is a Vargas, and Jude has sworn a blood oath never to get involved with a Vargas brother, since two of them broke her sisters' hearts. Yet while her friends have bailed, unable to deal with Jude's family problems, and her sisters are adults off living adult lives, Emilio Vargas is always there. Sweet. Understanding. Handy. Dimpled.
This is what The Book of Broken Hearts does really well: -representing multi-cultural families -making me want to eat a lot of empanadas -making me want to get a motorcycle -having a heart throb who is also like, a real guy and a nice guy, who I just really like a lot. phwoar. -describing how friendships can just fall apart (actually, I think Ockler is a master at this generally. Her friendships are so complex, that even when the friends aren't in the book very much they never feel like sidekicks. They are never tacked on or only there when convenient. They are a real, breathing, vital part of the MC's story. Even when it's hard. Even when it falls apart.) -having a heroine who isn't helpless. I loved how she teaches Emilio how to drive a stick. -describing the ridiculousness of hormones. I adored Jude's sense of humor about her attraction to Emilio in the first half of the book. While she eventually falls for him, she doesn't take her attraction too seriously in the beginning, and I don't think Emilio does either. I laughed so much at these scenes, especially the one when Jude tries to talk to Emilio's friend. Yeah right. -that father/daughter relationship. THERE'S your broken heart.
Eight months ago teenage pianist Lucy Beck-Moreau walked off the stage in Prague, and she hasn't touched the keys since. But when her younger brother...moreEight months ago teenage pianist Lucy Beck-Moreau walked off the stage in Prague, and she hasn't touched the keys since. But when her younger brother Gus's piano teacher dies suddenly and the family hires young, handsome Will to replace her, Lucy starts getting an itch to sit down at the piano bench again.
The Lucy Variations takes on the myriad ways in which a former child prodigy must now adapt to life as a semi-normal person. Lucy is relinquishing the spotlight to her brother, she is attending school and learning to be responsible to someone else's schedule, she is trying to support her friend's crisis instead of just her own, and, ultimately, she is trying to decide if she can be a pianist at all if she's not the kind of pianist her grandfather wanted her to be. And Lucy is pretty bad at all of these things.
Her friend Reyna describes her problems as her "needing an audience," and maybe that's part of it, but Lucy has also never spent much time with her peers; she has been living in an adult world, and her often inappropriate behavior reflects that. She allows - even craves - adults around her to use her talents to boost their confidence, because that's all she's ever done. Thus, we get her relationship with her English teacher, one of her few "friends" at high school, who lets her flirt with him and hang around after school because she makes him feel like a good teacher. Ditto with her brother's piano teacher Will, who takes her out to coffee, texts with her constantly, and raises eyebrows among those paying attention, namely Gus, Rayna, and Will's wife Aruna, because he wants to be the one that gets Lucy Beck-Moreau back in front of a piano.
I read this book in one sitting. All of the characters, even Grandpa Beck who is rough and hard to know, have depth, and I liked how Lucy comes to empathize with all the members of her family. I do wish that Lucy's fight with Rayna had been more resolved in the the end of the book; I think in the beginning of the book we're supposed to get the sense that there is this history of Lucy being supportive of Rayna through her parents' divorce, but overall I felt that Lucy mistreated her friend, and I would have liked her to have realized that more.
Lucy grew up in a competitive world where prizes are limited and everyone is compared to each other, and this plays out a lot in the book. So I like this note at the end, after the performance with Lucy and the old man who is still playing:
"I want to be like you," she replied. He laughed. "No. Keep being like you."(less)
There is a LOT of body shaming in this book. It struck me right away; the MC, Lexi, constantly puts down people for being too fat or too thin, for wha...moreThere is a LOT of body shaming in this book. It struck me right away; the MC, Lexi, constantly puts down people for being too fat or too thin, for what they eat or don't eat, and loads the reader down with all the stereotypes about body, weight, ugliness, beauty, food, and "health." But I pushed through, figuring, since it's so in your face, that it's probably part of the character's development. It's not. Lexi's "revenge" is discovering that she's actually a hot girl (rather than "average"), once she puts on a revealing dress and some mascara. Great personality? Maybe not so much. The inner beauty message that this book was going for is lathered on thick at the end, probably because the content of the book doesn't actually support it. Also, Lexi's parent's are both abusive and neglectful and nothing really comes of that.
I DO like that she doesn't have a boyfriend at the end of the book. So there's that.(less)
Harper's older sister June, the family's favorite, has killed herself just before her high school graduation. Harper's parents, wrapped up in their ow...moreHarper's older sister June, the family's favorite, has killed herself just before her high school graduation. Harper's parents, wrapped up in their own lives and grief, have decided to split June's ashes between them and have left their younger daughter to grieve alone. This is how Harper does it: She takes off across the country, from Michigan to California, with her BFF and her sister's stolen urn, in the black van of a handsome, young, music-loving stranger called Jake Tolan, who was her sister's secret friend.
To be honest, I found the first part of the book to be a bit annoying. The author does this thing that many authors do, which is try to be cool by making references to pop culture and political events (which actually make me confused as to when this book took place. It was published in 2011, but the references make me think it took place about the time that I was Harper's age, 2002ish. It's definitely after 9/11 and the invention of the ipod, while Bush is president, when people protested using the phrase 'no war for oil,' when it wasn't unusual for a teenager to use a discman, and when a teen could reference Full House and Lorena Bobbitt) and by lyric-dropping (i.e. "and then he sang a song about the day the music died"). Erg.
About halfway through, though, this method of story-telling was dropped for a more emotional narrative, and I liked the book a lot more. Lyric-dropping is replaced with more thoughtful use of music - with playlists at the back. The romance was pretty nice, actually, and the not-quite-a-resolution with June was satisfying and realistic. (less)