Sunday, September 21, 2008
I recommend this book for: high school
Alice is an artsy sophomore in Seattle, and she and her male best friend Jewel do just about everything together. Jewel has always been enough for her, but lately Alice has felt invisible at school, and she wants to be seen - particularly by Simon from the football team. When Simon makes it clear that he does see her, and wants to see more of her, Alice is ecstatic to accept his invitation to the Halloween dance. Which happens on the same day that Jewel makes his move and she has to turn him down. Does dating a popular guy mean she has to lose her best friend completely?
This is a fast read, and it has really great momentum. The descriptions of Seattle are beautiful, and I could almost see the art that Alice and Jewel were creating. Most teen girls can probably relate (or want to!) to the too many boys at one time problem, and Gallagher handles the complex emotions of friendship and crushing very well. A fun high school romance with a happy ending, but it doesn't go on the "squeaky clean" list - highlight to find out why here: SPOILER ALERT! Alice's relationship with Simon moves very fast - almost to the point of having sex before she thinks better of it - she even buys pretty underwear for the occasion! Simon likes to party, and Alice gets drunk once before deciding to never do that again. So in the end, there's a lot of talk and some description of teen drinking and sexual activity, but Alice either learns from her mistakes or decides against making them in the first place. End of spoilers.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I'm the kind of person who really hates spoilers, and I hate thinking that a book might be ruined for someone by something I put out there. However, I also want to keep presenting "the small print" - details about content that parents and others who recommend books to children and teens may want to be aware of before putting it into someone's hands - which often does give away plot details. So now I'm going to experiment and continue to do the small print, but I'll be using white font instead of small print. That way, if you want the full disclosure, you can highlight the bottom of the post (I'll always label the beginning and end of it with visible text), but if you aren't as concerned about mature content or want to keep yourself in the dark about the plot, you don't have to try very hard to not read the bottom of the post. I'd love any comments readers might have about how this works out - I modified my review of Crushed (below), so you can let me know what you think!
Monday, September 15, 2008
I recommend this book for: grade 8 and up
Audrey and her two best friends are outsiders, recently arrived in public school after 4 years in what one might call an artsy fartsy environment. They also all happen to be loaded - or appear to be. Clyde is a quiet outcast who rides a scooter and works at a country club to help pay the medical bills for his mother, who is dying of cancer. The Yellow Paper is a publication that exposes the dirtiest secrets of the school, about both students and faculty. Wickham Hill is the new kid in school, with a Southern drawl and charm that has every girl swooning - but the one he asks out is Audrey.
If you've never read Pride and Prejudice (get to it, it's amazing! Plus, it gives context for this book!), allow me to enlighten you - guys named Wickham are not what they appear to be! In fact, hardly anyone in this novel is what they seem to be at first - friends betray one another, the guilty-looking turn out to be innocent, and even the villain has reasons you can almost understand. The dialogue is fun, and the ending, although not the one I personally was hoping for, was mostly happy.
You may want to know: Wickham is a drinker (there's a clue that he's not a good kid!), and although Audrey doesn't sleep with him, she does allow him to unbutton her shirt while making out. The dirty secrets revealed in the paper involve plastic surgery, cheating, suspected murder, and manslaughter while driving drunk, but none of these things are portrayed in a positive light. End of invisible text.
So I was talking to some church girls yesterday about our love for Jane Austen and need for a book club. The wheels were already turning in my head, so here's my idea: Let's have a book club! We could do it online - I'd be willing to set up a blog to host it - or, schedule permitting, in person, or maybe some combination of the two - maybe with a discussion of a new book every month, and a "real" meeting every other, or something like that. I'm putting out the call here because I know that some of the avid readers in the ward check in now and then. So, ladies, what do you think? We need not limit ourselves to Jane Austen - we could do other classics, or books that make teenage girls swoon, or books by women, or no theme at all. Please leave a comment if you're interested, with some details about what you'd like to do. (Also, if you have a family blog, would you be so kind as to spread the word? Your readership in the ward is probably much higher than mine!) I'm looking forward to some kind of adventure!
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I recommend this book for: grade 8 and up
Tally Youngblood is now a Pretty. The biggest problems she has are deciding what to wear to which party and trying to get into the Crims, the hot clique known for the semi-criminal behavior of its members. She's been reunited with Shay and Peris, and Zane, the leader of the Crims, is showing a lot of interest in her - but even through her now-damaged brain, the past is tugging at her. When a Smokey arrives with the letter she wrote to herself at the end of Uglies and two pills, she has to choose between staying Pretty and ignorant or getting a serious reality check.
It's been over 2 years since I read Uglies, but I wasn't lost for a second. Maybe just because the story was so memorable, the world so facinating, the characters so interesting - I don't feel like I forgot anything other than the names of minor characters, and they came back rather quickly. This one was exciting in a different way - Tally and Zane have to navigate the Pretty world while trying to keep their minds above it, which they call "staying bubbly." There is action, a romantic plot, more betrayal, and a stellar cliff-hanger at the end which sets up perfectly for Specials, volume 3. If you liked Uglies, read this one. If you haven't read Uglies - what are you waiting for?
Some readers may disapprove of the Pretty lifestyle - lots of drinking is involved, although it's very clear that alcohol is one of the things that keeps Pretties from realizing how controlled and senseless their world really is. You're supposed to disapprove! There is no explicit sex, although Tally does stay at her boyfriend's place a good bit of the time - no further details are mentioned.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I recommend this book for: middle and high school
This was my first Shannon Hale, and I loved it! In a fantasy world reminiscent of central Asia, Dashti becomes a maid to Lady Saren. On her first day on the job, Saren's father locks his daughter up in a tower for refusing to marry the powerful man he has chosen, and Dashti is locked in with her. At first it doesn't seem so bad to practical Dashti - there is enough food for seven years, and she has plenty of time to write in her journal - but then rats, extreme temperatures, and a visit from Saren's angry suitor combine to make conditions extremely uncomfortable. Even when the man Saren wants to marry, Khan Tegus, comes to visit, the noble girl is too frightened to speak to him and orders Dashti to take her place. You can probably guess where that goes!
The story comes from a little-known Grimm fairy tale, but it reminded me of a cross between Cinderella and Cyrano de Bergerac. This is a great one for fans of fairy tales, fantasy without dragons or wizards, or chaste romance.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
I recommend this book for: grade 8 and up
Beka Cooper was raised in the Lower City, the home of thieves and scoundrels of every description. Her crime-solving skills got her and her family out of the poor district and into the household of the Lord Provost when she was 8 years old. Now 16, she is following her dream of becoming one of the guards who patrol the city and keep order - they're called the Provost's Dogs. Although she has a good head on her shoulders and likes a good brawl, being a Puppy (guard in training) is more difficult than she had anticipated. Her partners are among the most respected Dogs, but they seem to resent being saddled with a trainee. She makes beginner's mistakes and is ridiculed for her inability to speak in public. Worst of all, Beka feels drawn to a murder case - that of her friend's little boy - but she could be getting in way over her head trying to solve it.
I suddenly remembered why I like Tamora Pierce's work so much as I read this one. Beka is one tough young lady, but her weak points and the feelings she grudgingly admits to in her journal make her very real. It's easy to relate to her, even though her world is one of magic and she can hear the voices of dead spirits. It has action, mystery, a touch of romance, and magic. I'm so upset that I have to wait until April for the sequel, Bloodhound.
Read some reviews and an excerpt here.
Not much fodder for the tiny print in this one. There are some non-explicit references to body parts (i.e. "my peaches"), and to characters sleeping together. Probably more disturbing is the criminal plot, which involves many dead bodies.