Archive for ‘Y(oung) A(dult)’

July 7, 2010

Book Review: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

“So Mom got the postcard today. It says Congratulations in big curly letters, and at the very top is the address of Studio TV-15 on West 58th Street. After three years of trying, she has actually made it. She’s going to be a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid, which is hosted by Dick Clark.”

I loved The $20,000 Pyramid when I was growing up, so I was instantly hooked. Taking place during 1978-1979 in New York City, When You Reach Me is a unique, well-paced coming-of-age story, centering around Miranda, her mother’s quest to be on the game show and even more than that, around a series of mysterious letters Miranda receives. At first she doesn’t know what to do with them or what they mean.

I read this book very quickly, as it is only 197 pages. It manages to be sweet, interesting and humorous in parts without being too gimmicky. There’s enough going on plot-wise to keep the reader’s interest without getting too bogged down in extraneous detail. It was exactly what I needed. The past few books I’ve read have been sad, dystopian affairs, which while awesome, can take an emotional toll.

I have one quibble: I think Miranda was aged too young. She’s 12 in the book but to me, the story felt more like it had a 14 or 15 year old narrator. Miranda makes leaps that I didn’t feel a 12-year-old would make.
Another part I might have been able to do without was a plot point where Miranda & 2 of her friends work at a lunch counter during their school lunch breaks. It just didn’t work for me – it felt implausible & contrived, especially considering their age, even for the 1970s. However, given that I was born shortly before the setting of this novel(and not in NYC), perhaps that is an unfair assessment. I certainly don’t know what it was like to grow up in that time period or environment.

Overall, I would definitely recommend When You Reach Me and look forward to having a chance to read it again. It would make an excellent rainy day re-read or a wonderful crisp fall day first read. Just a suggestion.

February 15, 2010

Book Review: The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

Released: March 16, 2010

Publisher: Simon Pulse

224 pages

From the book jacket: Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He’s easy to talk to, supersmart, and totally gets her. Lately it even seems like he’s paying extra attention to her. Everything would be perfect except for two tiny details: Ryan is Brianna’s boyfriend. And Brianna is Sarah’s best friend.

Sarah forces herself to avoid Ryan and tries to convince herself not to like him. She feel so guilty for wanting him, and the last thing she wants to do is hurt her best friend. But when she is thrown together with Ryan one night, something happens between them. It’s wonderful…and awful. Sarah is torn apart by guilt but what she feels is nothing short of addiction, and she can’t stop herself from wanting more…


Sarah, the protagonist of The Unwritten Rule,  is breaking the Unwritten Rule:  she’s in love with her best friend’s boyfriend. In her friendship with Brianna, Sarah has always known her role. She’s the plain, quirky best friend to the gorgeous, outgoing girl. The one who always gives in, does what Brianna wants to do.  In some ways, I think she surprises herself when she ends up in a tricky situation with Ryan, but I also think that she’s completely justified in her feelings and actions.

Something I wasn’t entirely fond of was how Sarah was seemed like a bit of a doormat. Maybe it struck something in me because I’ve had friends like Brianna before and felt like a doormat myself, and now, being grown-up enough to see that, it bothers me to see other people, even fictional people, experiencing the same thing. I want to shake them & say “This is who she is! She will not change!” Sarah is a generous but not very confident friend, always making excuses for Brianna’s behavior, unwilling to see that maybe her best friend isn’t the best friend for her.

The boys that Elizabeth Scott writes, oh the boys. Ryan’s an artistic, funny boy with whom Sarah shares genuine chemistry. The dialogue/writing never feels forced when these two are on the page. Ryan is a nice guy who really likes Sarah. The problem with these two is that neither one of them communicate their feelings very well, to be frank. There were a few “will they just get on with it!” moments for me – but primarily because I liked their chemistry together.

I liked the dynamic between Sarah and her parents. After having read a few books in a row now with dysfunctional families, Sarah’s parents were a nice change. Sure, her mom is focused on an unusual hobby(she enters cook-offs) & her dad is a bit older than her mother & suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, so Sarah & her mother worry about his health. But overall, Sarah’s parents provide something that not all the parents in Elizabeth Scott books do: stability, understanding and patience. They are a marked contrast from Brianna’s parents and that’s entirely the point of their existence and part of the reason Sarah has so much sympathy for Brianna.

One quote that really stayed with me:
“There are a million rules for being a girl. There are a million things you have to do to get through each day. High school has things that can trip you up, ruin you, people smile and say one thing and mean another, and you have to know all the rules, you have to know what you can and can’t do. And one of them is this: You don’t kiss your best friend’s boyfriend. You don’t do it once. You certainly don’t do it twice.”
Scott really gets it right here. There are so many ways that high school is hard for girls. Socially, it wasn’t the worst time of my life(that was middle school) but still, I remember feeling as though there were emotional landmines everywhere, daily.

Lastly, in case it wasn’t obvious: I love Elizabeth Scott’s books. She’s adept at all sorts of characters: the girl who’s just trying to figure things out, the BFF who tells it like it is, the geek-cute boy who cracks wise, the gorgeous boy who has a deeper side…they’re all present and accounted for in just about all of her novels, much to my delight. However,  the author is never afraid to tackle difficult topics and has also written books like Living Dead Girl and Love You, Hate You, Miss You. The characters in those books have with issues-with-a-capital-I, and are sensitively handled. Scott’s diversity of subject matter is just one reason to love her books. Definitely find out for yourself, if you haven’t already!

Source: Review copy from publisher

September 17, 2009

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

I should state upfront that I’ve got a pretty serious crush on Sherman Alexie. Even without this crush, I’d still say I loved this book.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is about Arnold “Junior” Spirit at a time when his entire life changed. He draws comics and loves basketball. One day, he finds his mother’s name in his school textbook, and this is the catalyst that drives him to enroll in the nearby all-white school, leaving his family & peers on the reservation confused and hurt(especially best friend, Rowdy).
Junior is on a journey and it’s a journey like most of us are on: sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes heartbreaking.

I’m not going to say it the perfect book because no book is absolutely perfect. There are some parts in it that may not be suitable for younger kids/teens(Junior masturbates) and there is a portrayal of white kids not being so nice to him at his new school. Having seen Sherman Alexie speak in person, I expected this. He seems to hold nothing back and says what he wants, no matter the venue. It’s one of the things I love about him. He has opinions and is not afraid to share them.

All in all, if you like Sherman Alexie, you will probably like this book – it shares many of the same themes found in Reservation Blues and Sherman’s sense of humor is riddled throughout. I think it is pretty standard YA fare and well worth your time.

July 28, 2009

Books I’m Excited About

I was at my public library today. It was busy, which is awesome because I love my library and want to see them busy, but bad for me because I usually have the teen section to myself because of the academic calendar. I managed to grab the following  titles by authors I have been meaning to read:

Keys to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson
Devilish by Maureen Johnson
Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender
Dramarama by E. Lockhart
and…a book by an author who I’d never heard of before:  All We Know of Love by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Can’t wait to get reading ! I’m a bit bogged down by class work right now but I’m definitely making time…and it is almost time for my two-week vacation, which will bring tons of reading time. And lots(lots!) of joy.

July 28, 2009

Book Review: Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott

When I started this one, I actually put it down for a couple weeks. The first few pages were engaging but my mind kept wandering. When I picked it back up, after reading Ms. Scott’s Love You, Hate You, Miss You,  I couldn’t put it down again, and then was sad when the book was done.

Hannah’s parents embarrass her(which seems to be a theme in the books I’m reading lately…).  Her father, Jackson James, is the star of a reality show about himself & his “special girls” and her mother, Candy Madison(who was one of Jackson’s girls) starred in a risque commercial and now hosts her own internet website, where she holds chats in her nightgowns.
Hannah basically wants to go unnoticed and is counting the days until college by working at a fast food place. She thinks Josh is the perfect boy for her…but there’s another boy, Finn,  she just thinks is annoying. Why can’t she stop thinking about him, then?

My initial impression was, as I said, a little lackluster. There are genuine, funny moments between Hannah and her one friend, Teagan, and between Hannah and the boys she works with/has crushes on.

The premise of the book is really good but Hannah just didn’t grab me at first the way Kate did in Perfect You or Dani did in Stealing Heaven. They are all similar in one respect: slightly sarcastic (definitely more than slightly in Dani’s case) girls who go unnoticed whether they want to or not.  Hannah felt like a re-tread in some respects and actually made me want to re-visit Kate and Dani.

However, somewhere toward the latter half of the book, I started to feel for Hannah and her situation. Her parents are both self-absorbed and don’t seem to understand that she needs them.  Plus, there’s Finn, who is one of Ms. Scott’s best creations. He’s cute, funny, off-beat and there for Hannah when she needs him most and how can you go wrong with that? What I took away from Something, Maybe is this: Hannah learned that she can be herself, independent of her parents and that if the world judges her based on them, that’s the world’s problem.

If you’ve liked/loved, as I did, Elizabeth Scott’s other books, Bloom, Perfect You, and Stealing Heaven, I think you’ll like this one.