Cracked Up To Be
Author: Courtney Summers
Publication Date: 12/23/08
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Blurb(GR): Perfect Parker Fadley isn’t so perfect anymore. She’s quit the cheerleading squad, she’s dumped her perfect boyfriend, and she’s failing school. Her parents are on a constant suicide watch and her counselors think she’s playing games…but what they don’t know, the real reason for this whole mess, isn’t something she can say out loud. It isn’t even something she can say to herself. A horrible thing has happened and it just might be her fault. If she can just remove herself from everybody--be totally alone--then everything will be okay...The problem is, nobody will let her.Review:
So, I guess I just read these in opposite order…3…2…1. It’s hard to pick a favorite but this one definitely hits the closest to home. I don’t know why, but I had it in my head that Cracked Up to Be
and Some Girls Are
were going to be similar novels – like twin manifestos on the psychology of mean girls. Parker and Regina may both sort into the mean girl category, but they arecompletely
different, as are these two novels. I think that Some Girls Are
is a book about moving forward and away, but this book is about moving inward; it’s about going back to where you lost control.
Parker was popular, captain of the cheerleading squad, at the top of her class, and in a long term relationship with Chris, her male counterpart. Now she’s failing, drinking in school, and sabotaging her friendships. She may not even graduate. It all seems to relate back to a party last spring, but what really happened?
I may not have loved every character in this book, but I felt like I knew them all. Parker will probably be hard to sympathize with, but she’s nauseatingly familiar to me. I think that a large part of my teenage self was
Parker Fadley. Parker may be a gorgeous, former queen bee/cheerleading captain, while I…uh…wasn’t, but that really doesn’t matter. Courtney Summers has portrayed Parker’s inner self: her anxiety, her guilt, and her self-imposed exile with such complete definition that it doesn’t matter what her outer circumstances are. For me, it’s impossible not to relate to Parker.
The supporting cast is also completely well-defined. There are two boys in the picture, but I would never call this a love triangle. Both characters have moments of mature sensitivity and kindness, but Courtney Summers never shies away from letting them be realistic teenage boys – sex-obsessed idiocy and all. The insecure and bitter rival Becky still managed to tug at my sympathy.
If you love uncompromising reality in your contemporary YA’s, then you definitely need to check out Courtney Summers. Toward the end I had a few worried moments, when I feared that Parker would become a soft, repentant,healed
person, or that everything would get wrapped up with a big happily ever after for Parker’s new relationship. But I really should have known better. Summers stays true to Parker’s bitchy, insulting, defensive voice. The relationship isn’t a magic balm that’s going to heal all of her issues; only she can do that. And it’s going to take a lot of work. The ending is hopeful, but still stays true to reality. Perfect Musical Pairing
Fiona Apple – Fast As You Can
Fiona Apple: creating anthems for angry bitches since 1996.
Parker brings me so uncomfortably close to my former self that I had to choose something that I listened to as a 16 year old (probably while shut up in my room, hating myself and brooding). This song is a warning - get away from me before I screw you over.
Some Girls Are
Author: Courtney Summers
Publication Date: 1/5/2010
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Blurb(GR): Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard--falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High... until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around. Now Regina's been "frozen out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend... if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.
Tensions grow and the abuse worsens as the final days of senior year march toward an explosive conclusion in this dark new tale from the author of Cracked Up To Be.Review:
Wow. Well, I can’t say that this was enjoyable. It made me feel uncomfortable, disgusted, and horrified. The ending, while maybe a bit
hopeful, was pretty bleak. But still I say, Wow. This is an extremely unflinching, harsh look at the twisted dynamics of teenage girl “friendship,” and a much more comprehensive picture of the mean-girl psyche than other one-note portrayals I’ve seen.
Regina Afton is the beta to Anna Morrison’s alpha in Hallowell High. She’s been the messenger, the lookout, the tormentor, the bully. She’s ruined the social lives of friends and enemies alike, all on the whim of Anna. But when she finds herself the subject of vicious rumors, Anna cuts her out, and she becomes the target.
It would have been easy to paint Regina as the unwitting accomplice, or the mean girl with a squishy soft heart of gold trapped inside, but the author never lets that happen. She challenges the reader with Regina’s rage, her spines, and her cowardice. Regina is a damaged girl, who really doesn’t know how to deal with her tormentors except through violence and revenge. It would also have been easy to write off Regina as a complete bitch, unworthy of sympathy, but that never happens either. This is a story about guilt and forgiveness, and about coming to terms with the ugly things that you have done.
It was extremely hard to watch Regina fall right into Anna’s hands, to be outwitted time and again. But it was her lack of flair that also gave me hope for her. I’m not sure that I believed, at the end, that Regina was going to be okay, or that the romance was even a healthy one. This book never takes the easy road; there’s no neat and pretty ending for these characters. I really respect Ms. Summers for writing it that way. It rings true, however difficult it is to read.Perfect Musical Pairing
Taylor Swift – Mean
I feel like this is exactly how mean girls are typically portrayed: oversimplified characters who exist to be torn down for everyone’s enjoyment (and what does that say about us?). So, this isn’t a pairing that fits right alongside its book; it’s more like a contrast pairing. Listening to this song just makes me realize how complex and thought-provoking Some Girls Are really is. This song, in all its simplicity, makes me like the book even more, and I say that that makes it about perfect.
The Treasure Map of Boys: Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon—and me, Ruby Oliver (Ruby Oliver #3)
Author: E. Lockhart
Publication Date: 7/28/09
Publisher: Delacorte Books For Young Readers
Ruby is back at Tate Prep, and it’s her thirty-seventh week in the state of Noboyfriend. Her panic attacks are bad, her love life is even worse, and what’s more:
Noel is writing her notes, Jackson is giving her frogs, Gideon is helping her cook, and Finn is making her brownies. Rumors are flying, and Ruby’s already-sucky reputation is heading downhill.
Not only that, she’s also: running a bake sale, learning the secrets of heavymetal therapy, encountering some seriously smelly feet, defending the rights of pygmy goats, and bodyguarding Noel from unwanted advances.
In this companion novel to The Boyfriend List
and The Boy Book,
Ruby struggles to secure some sort of mental health, to understand what constitutes a real friendship, and to find true love—if such a thing exists.Review:
The fourth book in this series is most definitely my favorite, but it’s this one that really cemented Ruby Oliver into my fictional-soul-sister-for-life hall of fame forever and ever. In book two, Ruby was struggling to be a better friend – to be more considerate and thoughtful – while at the same time stand up for herself and respect her own feelings. But how far should she go in the name of friendship? How much should she sacrifice? It’s easier to see that line with frenemies like Kim and bad-news-boys like Jackson, but what about friends she genuinely cares about and wants to keep? How much of herself should she repress in order to do so?“And why was it that I had to lie to my friend in order to do the right thing by her? In order to be a good person, I had to pretend I didn’t feel the way I felt. Was that what good people did? Denied their feelings and acted fake?”
I think that this is Ruby’s book about taking a stand. It’s about recognizing her real
friends and saying goodbye to bad ones. And for the friends who lie somewhere in between, it’s about vocalizing all of her thoughts and grievances and feelings, and giving them a chance to respond. Maybe it will destroy the friendship, or maybe it will forge even stronger bonds, but either way it’s better than repressing everything. And I absolutely love that Ruby doesn’t ever get everything “right.”
Two of my favorite aspects of this series as a whole are Ruby’s parents. Ruby’s mom is a serial health-craze follower, performance artist, poor listener, and a loud mouth. Ruby’s dad is a specialty gardener, kumbaya-lover, emotional analyzer, and is generally irresponsible. They both make a ton of mistakes, don’t really get Ruby, and argue with each other at almost every turn. AND YET. And yet, they are both caring parents who have a healthy marriage. I love this passage from Ruby:
“ In life, there’s no happily-ever-after-into-the-sunset. There’s a marriage, complete with arguments, bad hair, lost hair, mentally unstable children, weird diets, dogs that fur up the couch, not enough money. Like my parents. That’s their life I just described – but then, there they were, talking on the phone about my dad massaging my mom’s groin area after yoga; cuddling on the couch; holding hands and wearing stupid Great Dane paraphernalia.
That’s all we can really hope for. In fact, I think it’s as close to happily-ever-after as things get.”
The ability of E. Lockhart to write quirky, hilarious, three-dimensional characters who I inevitably fall in love with is amazing!
Perfect Musical Pairing
Cyndi Lauper – I Don’t Want To Be Your Friend
This song is such an anthem! I loved seeing Ruby finally stand up and tell Jackson exactly how she felt. And the showdown at the CHUBS bake sale was hilarious! No more Ms. Passive Nice Girl, Ruby!
Sorta Like a Rock Star
Author: Matthew Quick
Publication Date: 5/1/10
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Amber Appleton lives in a bus. Ever since her mom's boyfriend kicked them out, Amber, her mom, and her totally loyal dog, Bobby Big Boy (aka Thrice B) have been camped out in the back of Hello Yellow (the school bus her mom drives). Still, Amber, the self-proclaimed princess of hope and girl of unyielding optimism, refuses to sweat the bad stuff. But when a fatal tragedy threatens Amber's optimism--and her way of life, can Amber continue to be the rock star of hope? With an oddball cast of characters, and a heartwarming, inspiring story, this novel unveils a beautifully beaten-up world of laughs, loyalty, and hard-earned hope.Review:
Why isn't this book more popular? The only reason I know about it is because one day I was browsing my GR friends' shelves looking for a book written by an author whose name starts with "Q" for a reading challenge. How sad is that? Sorta Like a Rock Star
Amber Appleton is a peculiar sort of girl. If you have seen Happy-Go-Lucky
, Amber is pretty much a younger version of Poppy, an incorrigible optimist. She is the life of the party, she stands up for the weak, cheers up elderly, saves stray dogs, all with never-ending enthusiasm and positivity. Only, as you can expect, such approach to life is not necessarily healthy. It is too much of a burden to hold up so many people. One day, after a particularly devastating event, Amber can't take it any longer and succumbs to depression. Will she be able to pull through?
In an ocean of conventional YA books with recycled plots and characters, Sorta Like a Rock Star
stands out. Amber's story is heartbreaking and inspiring. As for the characters, I do not know which one of them I liked the most - Amber, upbeat, hopeful, improper and pushy; or her best doggy friend Thrice B who never fails to hump his canine lady friend even with fresh stitches in his belly; or maybe Private Jackson, a Vietnam vet who copes with his war memories by writing haikus and drinking green tea. I just can't decide...
Speaking of haikus. Can't say I knew much about this poetry form before reading this book, but haikus here had quite an effect on me, meaning, they made me bawl like a baby. 4/5 stars
The Piper's Son
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 3/8/11
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Award-winning author Melina Marchetta reopens the story of the group of friends from her acclaimed novel Saving Francesca - but five years have passed, and now it's Thomas Mackee who needs saving. After his favorite uncle was blown to bits on his way to work in a foreign city, Tom watched his family implode. He quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that mattered, including the girl he can't forget. Shooting for oblivion, he's hit rock bottom, forced to live with his single, pregnant aunt, work at the Union pub with his former friends, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom's in no shape to mend what's broken. But what if no one else is either? An unflinching look at family, forgiveness, and the fierce inner workings of love and friendship, The Piper's Son redefines what it means to go home again.Review:
I don't know how Melina Marchetta
does it - takes a story that seems so soap-operish and turns it into something so honest and real.
Let me tell you what The Piper's Son
is all about. Tom Mackee is a complete mess. His beloved uncle died 2 years ago, his father is lost somewhere, undoubtedly drunk, his mother and sister left his dad and moved to another state. Tom has been for years and still is lost and lonely. He takes drugs, he abandoned his friends, he betrayed the girl he loved, he dropped out of uni. All is bad until he hits the rock bottom and is forced to move in with his aunt Georgie who has a whole set of problems of her own - she is pregnant by the man who hurt her in the worst possible way, she is full of grief and despair. How will these people pull themselves together?
In someone else's hands such a plot can turn into cheap melodrama. But somehow Marchetta makes it a truly great story of pain, grief, betrayal, forgiveness and love. She just has this great way with words. You know how people often like to advise authors - "show not tell," well, Marchetta is a master of showing. It's not what her characters say, but what they do and how they do it that gives me goosebumps, or makes my heart ache or my eyes well up with tears.
I want to take a moment here to say how much I adore the cover of the Australian edition of the novel
It represents the mood of the story so well - Tom's loneliness and isolation are so palpable!
On the other hand, I despise American colorful cover which has nothing to do whatsoever with what is inside this book.The Piper's Son
is not my favorite Melina Marchetta
book, Saving Francesca
is. And Tom is not my favorite Marchetta boy, that title belongs to Jonah Griggs. But I loved this novel. I loved revisiting Francesca, Will and their relationship. I loved Justine and her violinist (will she ever call him BTW, or they need to get their own book to finally get together?). I loved watching Tom change and make up for his crappy behavior. But my favorite part was undoubtedly Georgie and Sam's story, it was heart-breakingly beautiful.The Piper's Son
was all I expected from the author. I can't wait to read it again and again...5/5 stars
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 9/28/04
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Francesca used to think her biggest problem was transferring to St. Sebastian's--a school only recently turned coed: "What a dream come true, right? Seven hundred and fifty boys and thirty girls? But the reality is that it's either like living in a fish bowl or like you don't exist."
But now there's this matter of her usually vibrant and annoyingly optimistic mother Mia refusing to get up in the morning. Her taciturn father doesn't have much to say on the subject, her beloved little brother Luca is anxiously looking to her for answers, and her so-called friends from her old neighborhood seem to have abandoned her. So, Francesca keeps it all inside--her frustration with school (there aren't enough girl's bathrooms and no girl's sports teams); her fear making new friends (with the few girls who do go to St. Sebastian's); and her overwhelming hatred of the smug Will Trombal, who despite being completely infuriating, is also incredibly cute. Keeping this to herself when all she wants to do is spill it to her mother is killing Francesca, but with Mia trying to make herself well again, Francesca will have to figure out how to save herself.Review:
Within just a few days (and books) Melina Marchetta
has become one of my favorite YA writers. Just like my other favorite author E. Lockhart
, she writes about teens and she knows what she is talking about, unlike some YA authors who should not be named.
Let's take Saving Francesca
. The story is set in St. Sebastian
- a not so long ago all-male school that just recently turned co-ed. You might expect this book to be quite a romp - this school at first appears to be a paradise for girls with male to female ratio of 25 to 1. But Marchetta knows better. St. Sebastian
is a deeply sexist place where girls are either completely ignored or viewed as sexual objects. Neither are the boys portrayed as suave sex gods (as seems to be the trend these days). They are quite obnoxious, sometimes infuriating, and stinky creatures with (maybe) some redeeming qualities.
Francesca Spinelli is one of the "lucky" 30 girls. She is having a tough time. She doesn't have any friends in her new school and acquiring new girl friends out of so few is not easy. Plus, her mother, the rock of her family, suddenly succumbs to an acute depression. Saving Francesca
is about Francesca's journey to find her strength and save herself from despair, to find friendships in the most unexpected places and maybe love.
The book covers all familiar topics from Marchetta's other novels. It is about mothers and daughters, friendships, finding strength in yourself. It is full of humor and honest emotion. It is funny and it is heartbreaking.
I enjoyed every sentence of it. 5/5 stars
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 8/26/08
Publisher: Harper Teen
"What do you want from me?" he asks. What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him. More.
Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn't a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs is back in town, moody stares and all.
In this absorbing story by Melina Marchetta, nothing is as it seems and every clue leads to more questions as Taylor tries to work out the connection between her mother dumping her, Hannah finding her then and her sudden departure now, a mysterious stranger who once whispered something in her ear, a boy in her dreams, five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago, and the maddening and magnetic Jonah Griggs, who knows her better than she thinks he does. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.Review:
I don't often give books 5-star ratings. Normally these are the books that either horrify me (Unwind
, The Handmaid's Tale
) or delight me with superb writing (The Queen of Attolia
, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
) or awe me with imaginative world building (The Left Hand of Darkness
) or make me cry (Before I Die
). Jellicoe Road
definitely falls into this last "made-me-weep" category.
Jellicoe Road is the location of a boarding school for kids that are often neglected or with criminal tendencies. Taylor Markham is residing in the school because her mother had abandoned her at the age of 11 at a nearby 7-Eleven. Now Taylor is 17 and unexpectedly selected to be the school's leader in the game of territory wars with the Townies (locals from a tiny neighboring town) and Cadets (who spend several weeks a year in the Australian wilderness). Taylor is not sure she can handle the responsibility. She is uneasy more than ever - her mentor and friend Hannah disappears and Taylor is sure it has something to do with her mother; Jonah Griggs, a Cadet who she has a shared past with, is back and seems to know her all too well; she is plagued by dreams of a young boy who attempts to tell her something. What follows is Taylor's journey through the past and present to uncover the reasons why and how she was abandoned by her mother.
As always, it is hard for me to explain what I like about a 5-star book, but I'll try. Melina Marchetta
draws characters that are deep, complex, and real. The relationships among them are touching - more than anything I think, this book is about the power of friendship and, boy, there are some magnificent examples of friendship in this book! The book is also about grief, guilt, forgiveness and, of course, love.
If I am forced to point out any flaws in this book, I'd say the writing some might find confusing in the beginning. It takes a few pages to figure out what is a dream and what is a page from a story Taylor is reading; what is from present and what is from the past. But soon enough all pieces of the puzzle fall together and you are faced with a deep, meaningful and heartbreaking story.
Another thing that might bother readers is that some characters go through a lot of tragic events, sometimes too many. However, the story never becomes overly melodramatic or emotionally manipulative IMO. Jellicoe Road
is a remarkable work of YA fiction and rightfully deserves the Printz award it was given in 2009. I have no doubt I will read Marchetta's books in future.5/5 stars
Author: Mark Shulman
Publication Date: 9/14/10
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Tod Munn is a bully. He's tough, but times are even tougher. The wimps have stopped coughing up their lunch money. The administration is cracking down. Then to make things worse, Tod and his friends get busted doing something bad. Something really
bad. Lucky Tod must spend his daily detention in a hot, empty room with Mrs. Woodrow, a no-nonsense guidance counselor. He doesn't know why he's there, but she does. Tod's punishment: to scrawl his story in a beat-up notebook. He can be painfully funny and he can be brutally honest. But can Mrs. Woodrow help Tod stop playing the bad guy before he actually turns into one . . . for real? Read Tod's notebook for yourself. Review:
Well, if you’re looking to get deep into the mind of a bully, this ain’t it. (Go check out Courtney Summers instead.) That’s because Tod Munn isn’t really
a bully. Or if he is, he’s a rather benevolent one. He’s also on the honor roll, has perfect attendance, and is a pretty talented seamstress (seamster?). He’s well-read, a fantastic speller, and doesn’t use drugs or drink or even swear.
And okay, yes, this book is written as a series of journal entries from Tod to his guidance counselor so maybe he's heavily editing/putting a good spin on his own behavior. But I just never got that impression. Even when Tod begins writing in his own private notebook, the journal entries don’t become any more explicit. I never felt like he was lying to me…and I love narrators that lie to me.
However, for what this is – essentially the story of a good kid, forced to deal with poverty, absent parents, and teachers who’ve labeled him the bad kid – it’s an enjoyable read. It’s very rewarding to see Tod discover writing as both a release and a way to examine his own life and try to make it better.
I grew up in similar circumstances as this main character. I can still remember clearly all the mortification that I felt at being poor, using free lunch tickets, having no clothes to wear, no food at home, no parents. I remember shame, selfish desperation, and learned resourcefulness. Unfortunately, this book did not make me recall any of those feelings. In one way I am thankful for that, because I don’t enjoy reliving those memories. But this book would have earned more of my respect if it had challenged me.
Everything here feels toned down and oversimplified. Tod’s home life seems hard, but then much of it is explained
away. His bullying, rather tame to begin with, is brushed aside with “mitigating” factors. In fact, Tod isn’t even the real bully…he’s the victim! Of course. The ending is just ridiculous. Tod takes almost no responsibility for anything that he’s done, but when the real
bully is finally revealed, no consideration is given to his/her mitigating circumstances. He/she is just plain mean. So yes…let’s all take a walk in Tod’s shoes and understand just where he’s coming from…but everyone else? Nah. Perfect Musical Pairing
Queen – Under Pressure
This song makes me feel all the emotion about poverty, hunger, and compassion that I think this book is lacking. Put it on after finishing this book if you feel the same way! Or, you could just play it right now…because Queen is one of the greatest bands of all time. You’re welcome.3/5 Stars
How to Save a Life
Author: Sara Zarr
Publication Date: 10/18/11
Publisher: Little Brown
Blurb (GR): Jill MacSweeny just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she's somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.
Mandy Kalinowski understands what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she's sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It's harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?
As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy--or as difficult--as it seems.
Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about the many roads that can lead us home.Review:
Reading Sara Zarr reminds me of that old Hemingway quote, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Boy does she know how to do that. Only, she translates every emotion with such stark, raw purity that it feels like I am the one bleeding. Maybe not everyone has been a pregnant teenager with a dreadful home life or a hostile, sarcastic girl who’s just lost her closest support, but I think that it would be hard for anyone not to find something to relate to in these girls.
Mandy and Jill are two girls who want more
. Mandy is eight months pregnant and takes a desperate chance on Robin, a middle aged widow who agrees to adopt her child with no contracts, lawyers, or social workers. Jill is Robin’s daughter, still reeling from the loss of her father only a year ago, and highly suspicious of Mandy and her motivations. These girls couldn’t possibly have less in common, but they are thrown together, and they may end up
impacting each other’s lives in unexpected ways.
Each Sara Zarr novel that I have read features a young woman dealing with conflict in her life and learning to cope, and yet none of these girls feel at all like the same person. Each novel feels original. And that’s true here as well: Mandy and Jill have very distinct personalities and voices. I could relate to Mandy’s insecurity as a potential mother, to her confusion about who she is, to her firm conviction about who she’s not. I could also relate to Jill; to her desperate fear of love and intimacy, after experiencing real loss for the first time.
I like the love interests, but I love that they don’t play a major role in this story. This is a story about Mandy and Jill finding peace and certainty within themselves, and learning to trust. The only part of this story that doesn’t feel quite real to me is the end. But, I think that most of you know by now that I have a hard time with happy endings. What seems incongruous to me, will probably only increase the popularity of this book. Who doesn’t love a happy
ending? SPOILERS AHEAD
Maybe it’s because I could relate so much to Mandy’s doubts that she would be a good mother. That’s not something that goes away as soon as your baby is born and placed into your arms. There’s no magical balm for that. I have had to earn what little confidence I have piece by piece, one bedtime, one meal, one scraped knee at a time. I guess I wanted to see some of that in Mandy – that everything wasn’t magically fixed. And I know that Christopher should be told about the baby, but it felt too much like Mandy seeking for some kind of outside completion, outside validation. She doesn’t need that. END SPOILERS
Perfect Musical Pairing
Mumford & Sons – Timshel
I love this album for these books. This song is such a healing balm, which is something that I think both Mandy and Jill need. It has two distinct phrases, which remind me so much of Mandy and Jill.
Jill:"Cold is the water
It freezes your already cold mind
Already cold, cold mind
And death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance"
and Mandy:"And you are the mother
The mother of your baby child
The one to whom you gave life
And you have your choices
And these are what make man great
His ladder to the stars
Under the Mesquite
Author: Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Publication Date: 10/31/11
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Blurb (GR): Lupita, a budding actor and poet in a close-knit Mexican American immigrant family, comes of age as she struggles with adult responsibilities during her mother's battle with cancer. A novel in verse.
I think this is my first novel in verse, and it’s a gorgeous introduction to the form. Guadalupe Garcia McCall writes very simple, almost sweet poetry, but she also manages to convey so much about the experiences of a young girl, at home in two countries, and forced to shoulder much more than the average sixteen year old.
The novel as a whole is very short, and is strung together with two to three page verses which highlight different small parts of Lupita’s life: her role as the oldest sister in a family of eight children, her complicated relationship with her parents, her dreams, her Mexican-American identity, and her burgeoning independence. And overshadowing it all, tying it all together, is the very moving story of Lupita dealing with her mother’s illness.
I love the juxtaposition of Lupita’s capable, resilient, perhaps overly responsible self at home with her complete
bewilderment and loss in the face of her mother’s illness. I highlighted both of these passages, and reading them together just breaks my heart:
“Mami, I’m good for more than
changing diapers and putting little ones
to sleep. I can bear up when things
go wrong. You’re the one
who raised me to be that way.”
“Suddenly I realize
how much I can’t control, how much
I am not promised.
The thought of it
hits me broadside. More tears
squeeze out. I wipe them away.”
How much I am not promised. Isn’t that beautiful?
There’s a ten to fifteen page glossary in the back, to define the Spanish words which are used frequently in her verse; however, I doubt you will even need it. She uses them so seamlessly…even in another language; it’s hard not to understand what she’s saying.
Perfect Musical Pairing
Lila Downs – Ceilo Rojo (Red Sky)
I think that this song is about a lost love, but when I was reading through the lyrics (in English…because I’m an ignorant American I only speak one language), I was so struck with all the feelings of loss that Guadalupe Garcia McCall so perfectly describes in this book.
While I'm sleeping
I feel that we walk
The two of us,
very close to each other,
Towards a blue sky
But when I wake up - the red sky
You are missing.