I thought this was a YA book, but it turns out it's being marketed to adults (making it a good candidate for a YALSA Alex Award). Told in the voice ofI thought this was a YA book, but it turns out it's being marketed to adults (making it a good candidate for a YALSA Alex Award). Told in the voice of 14-year-old Ginny, this has the markings of YA -- particularly the portrayal of very flawed, irritating adults treating kids unfairly. I listened to the audiobook, which made Ginny sound very young. I imagined her as much younger than 14 -- more like 11 or 12. Because of her autism and her traumatic upbringing, Ginny is naïve and literal in some ways, but also streetwise and canny in others. She is a unique and compelling character, for sure.
I was completely drawn into the story and almost ridiculously, viscerally angry at Mara, Ginny's adoptive "forever mom" who suddenly turns into a bitch after she gives birth to Ginny's new "forever sister." I hated Mara for how she treated Ginny, but I was grudgingly sympathetic, too. When you have a new baby, you get very little sleep. And no sleep can make a person terrible. On top of that, I experienced a version of what Mara went through myself. When my daughter was born, all my love for my dog Stanley seemed to evaporate and I irrationally saw him as a threat to my baby's safety and an irritating drain on my energy (which, due to lack of sleep, was already super low). He growled at my daughter a few times and I told my husband we had to find a new family for him, like now. Of course, I was overreacting because I was exhausted and paranoid. So basically I was Mara, but with a dog. Which is different.
I think this would be an excellent pick for book clubs because it raises so many questions about parenthood, adoption, abuse, caretaking, and it doesn't give any easy answers. While things seem to work out for Ginny in the end, it is not entirely comfortable and heartwarming. (view spoiler)[While I don't think she would harm anyone in her family on purpose, let's not forget Ginny was on the verge of setting the house on fire. The last lines of the book lead us to believe that Ginny will settle into her life. "I don't have to be Negative Ginny if this forever family wants me around..." But there is something a little ominous about the "if" to me. It's like Ginny will always have this potential to make dangerous decisions if she doesn't feel wanted. But isn't that true of all human beings? Don't we all carry a "negative" version of ourselves around? Don't we all have the capacity to hurt each other? And should be we be just as worried that Mara and Brian will hurt Ginny if she can't be what they want her to be? Let's not forget, even though they adopted her and called themselves her "forever parents" it felt like they were trying to get rid of her by giving her to her biological father or to an institution. (hide spoiler)]...more
I think Melanie Crowder is a great writer. This sort of fanciful portrayal of foster care and adoption just couldn't hold a candle to Forever, or a LoI think Melanie Crowder is a great writer. This sort of fanciful portrayal of foster care and adoption just couldn't hold a candle to Forever, or a Long, Long Time, which explored the toll of foster care with much more emotional depth. Crowder's book is shorter, less complex, and features an anthropomorphized owl, which may make it more appealing for some young readers. ...more
Victoria Jamieson has done it again! I thought Roller Girl was a brilliantly realistic portrayal of early adolescence, friendship, and sports. ALL'S FVictoria Jamieson has done it again! I thought Roller Girl was a brilliantly realistic portrayal of early adolescence, friendship, and sports. ALL'S FAIRE is just as good, if not better.
This time the story is about a homeschooler transitioning to a public middle school. When I was a kid, saying someone was homeschooled meant they were weird. It was an insult, or maybe a way to let someone know they had broken an unspoken rule ("Dude, what are you doing? Were you, like, homeschooled or something?"). This has stuck with me so much that when I considered homeschooling my own kid, part of my brain was like, "No, don't. She'll turn out too weird." But, obviously, that's the part of my brain I need to shush. Really, it is a great gift to weird. To be yourself. To "do you" as the kids say (God, I'm old).
When I was in college there was a group of pretty hardcore Ren Faire kids. "Ren Faire" also became shorthand for weird, though it wasn't really meant as an insult. More like the extreme of unusual behavior ("Dude, what am I doing? Does this mean I have to, like, join Ren Faire now or something?"). Those Ren Faire kids seemed to live in their own little bubble and it was every bit as exclusive and clubby as a fraternity or sorority (not that I would really know -- I was a theatre nerd).
So this book combines these two "weird" things and gives the reader a completely endearing, relatable character in Impy. She has a good heart. She makes understandable mistakes. She tries to hide herself away to fit in with the popular group, but eventually can't stand the nastiness of the queen bee Mika. This sounds like a fairly generic plot, but there's magic in the details. As with ROLLER GIRL, there's a wonderful feeling of authenticity as you read the book. The characters come across as genuine and whole. The plot is satisfying. All around just fantastic. ...more
Darkly funny introduction to the short life of a praying mantis. Told in a kind of diary format, P. Mantis quips, "Praying? Yeah, I'm praying. PrayingDarkly funny introduction to the short life of a praying mantis. Told in a kind of diary format, P. Mantis quips, "Praying? Yeah, I'm praying. Praying something tasty comes along that thinks I'm a stick."...more