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
North of BeautifulAuthor: Justina Chen HeadleyPublication Date: 2/1/09Publisher: Little BrownBlurb (GR):
As he continued to stare, I wanted to point to my cheek and remind him, "But you were the one who wanted this, remember? You're the one who asked-and I repeat-'Why not fix your face? '"
It's hard not to notice Terra Cooper. She's tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakably "flawed" face. Terra secretly plans to leave her stifling small town in the Northwest and escape to an East Coast college, but gets pushed off-course by her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob's path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?Written in lively, artful prose, award-winning author Justina Chen Headley has woven together a powerful novel about a fractured family, falling in love, travel, and the meaning of true beauty. Review:
Once upon a time, I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning while sitting under the covers in a darkened air force base hotel, watching a PBS Nova special about the magnetic poles. (hold on while I push up my nerd glasses) The people I was with were all asleep but I was watching it, flabbergasted, and wanting to wake them up--because I never knew, until that moment, that what we know as magnetic north and south have changed several times in the history of Earth. Can you imagine? Obviously it blew my mind. And we're overdue for another change! (Here's the link if you are interested: Your Mind Blown
Anyway, the point of this story is that this book has a map and discovery theme that I found totally refreshing. Though the story is one of self discovery and relationship evaluation, I felt like the author did an amazing job of making the story original and the characters believable and multidimensional. After reading, I can say that this book evoked the same sort of reaction from me that I felt after reading Saving Francesca
--I really enjoyed it and moreso
because it dealt with heavier issues in a realistic way. In this novel, the protagonist is a girl who has a large portwine stain birthmark on her face which resulted in teasing from her peers and low self-esteem. While she does come into herself, and that is the largest focus of the book, the storyline I felt most involved in was that of the family dynamics.
The way Justina Chen Headley
writes family scenes is so real that I actually cried thinking about how heart-wrenching being in that situation would be. Each member of a family has a different impact on your life and Headley's writing made me think about where the pressures in my life are coming from--good and bad--and how the failure of someone in your family can devastate other people nearly as much as the person who failed at something. And, in the same vein, one person's negativity or rudeness can ruin an adventure/day/dinner for the entire family. (Boy, do I ever know what that is about...)
Headley wove so many interesting tidbits into this story that I really can't talk about them all, but here are a few more topics that I found of particular interest:
*Cartographers drew dragons and sea monsters in sections of the oceans on maps to keep people from going to those areas. (who knew?!)
*As adults, I feel we accept a lot more quirks in people. It saddens me to think how many people feel left out in high school.
*Headley mentions a mnemonic device to remember the streets in downtown Seattle! Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest (Jefferson, James, Cherry, Columbia, Marion, Madison, Spring, Seneca, University, Union, Pike, Pine)
*I want to go geocaching.
I definitely recommend it but beware
, the love interest is goth. At first, I didn't get it, but I really came to like him by the end. You will, too. 4/5 stars
Five Flavors of DumbAuthor: Antony JohnPublication Date: 11/11/10Publisher: DialBlurb (GR):
The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.
The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band's manager and get her share of the profits.
The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she's deaf?
Piper can't hear Dumb's music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.Review:
I’ve started a list of books set in Seattle and Western Washington. For obvious reasons, I like reading about people I could hypothetically pass on the street. (if they somehow managed to jump out of books…hey, I’ve readThe Eyre Affair
so I’m not ruling it out) I think about Sam and his friends playing potato hockey every time I go over to University Village. I think about Georgina Kincaid prowling the streets when it is eerily quiet outside at night, I think of Jade and Sebastian and Ruby Lockhart when I pass the houseboats on Lake Union. Shall I continue? I think of Bella et al. when I am on the Olympic peninsula, of Nora Roberts’ dog-training Fiona Bristow when I see dogs on the ferries, and when I went over the Cascades a few weekends ago, the cast of North of Beautiful
was in my thoughts. I love the experience of reading a book and recognizing a lot of the landmarks, street names, and even just localisms that are peppered in the writing. So I was excited to see that this book is set in Seattle even though it was surprisingly penned by a Brit. It definitely added a few more literary memory places to my purely-hypothetical- in-reality-though-catalogued-in-my-brain map. (please post in the comments any Seattle/WA books you can think of!) Five Flavors of Dumb
intrigued me when I first read about it because it features a deaf protagonist and a musical plot-- I was curious to see what the storyline would include. I’m trying to gather my thoughts so I don’t sound like a complete idiot here. I think what was missing for me was the actual feeling of deafness. I know, I can’t actually experience deafness (at this moment) as a hearing person but I wanted to connect with Piper on her level as much as I could and I felt like I was receiving mixed messages. I could, however, feel Piper’s frustration and I loved that aspect of John’s writing. Her anger with her parents over their decision to give her sister a cochlear implant was palpable. That entire subplot was/is fascinating to me since I watched a documentary (Sound and Fury
) about how the deaf community varies in its opinions on cochlear implants and the importance of deaf culture. The family dynamics were just so interesting in this book because each family member had a different relationship with Piper—I mean, that is always the case but John definitely put thought into the different reactions people could and do have to any particular situation. The perfect example presents itself in the relationship between Piper and her father, who never learned any ASL and basically communicates on a far lesser level with Piper because of it.
The supporting cast was just not as three-dimensional as I would’ve liked. They were almost caricatures of themselves. After reading works where the side characters each have a distinctive personality and voice, (Recent reads Raw Blue
and Finnikin of the Rock
are two that spring to mind) It disappoints me to say that about this book because I wanted to love it. There was one character other than Piper that truly came to life for me and that was Ed, the nerdy drummer in Dumb. (their band) As a former chess geek, I found Piper and Ed’s chess battles really adorable.
I absolutely recommend this book to most YA fans. Piper’s voice is unique in the genre and I appreciated what she had to say. 3.5/5 stars
How to Save a Life
Author: Sara Zarr
Publication Date: 10/18/11
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young AdultsBlurb (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:
Frankly, I was taken aback by the synopsis of Sara Zarr
's new novel when I first read it. Told from the perspectives of 2 teen girls - Mandy, who is pregnant and is considering to give up her baby for adoption, and Jill, the only daughter of a recently widowed woman who wants to take in Mandy's child - it felt just too cheaply 16 and Pregnant
to me. Plus there are some themes in YA that I absolutely have no interest in reading about - teen pregnancy is right there, at the top of that list. But I was proven once again that a good writer can crash my preconceived notions. In How to Save a Life Sara Zarr
offers something very special.
What Zarr is best as is character development. Both protagonists in this novel are fairly unlikable.
Jill is mourning her father. Essentially, she is a mean bitch. Yes, she has an excuse - her dad's death - but she is still a very unpleasant person - cynical, rude and off-putting.
And then there is Mandy. Mandy made me very uncomfortable at first. You know the type of people who throw themselves at you, needing attention, who will stick to you and will tell you everything about their lives and will consider you their best friend within a few minutes of knowing you? That is Mandy.
I don't know how Zarr does it, but once again she made me appreciate her characters that I first thought very difficult and unpleasant. Maybe not love them, but understand them and revel in their growth and transformation. These two girls' journey to accept and get the best out of each other was truly magical.
I believe How to Save a Life
is Sara Zarr
's best novel to date. It certainly made me cry harder than any other book of hers. One astute friend of mine pointed out the biggest flaw of this work to me - its utterly predictable outcome - and I absolutely agree with it, however the novel was so marvelously consuming that I didn't even realize that the ending was exactly the one I wished for. Is this a bad thing?5/5 stars
The Case of the Baker Street Irregular (Andrew Tillet, Sara Wiggins & Inspector Wyatt #1)
Author: Robert Newman
Publication Date: 1978
Publisher: AladdinBlurb (GR):
Andrew found London terrifying, especially after his guardian, sour old Mr. Dennison, was mysteriously abducted. Suddenly, Andrew was plunged into a series of bizarre, bombings, blackmail and murder. Then, when he met the incomparable detective Sherlock Holmes, Andrew's plight took a thoroughly remarkable turn...Review:
Sherlock Holmes is basically a literary superhero to me. Sure his weaknesses are a little more interesting
than most but he holds the same appeal to me as comic books do to fanboys. (or girls!) I am just one huge grin at all of the quick conversations, random factoids and asides, and during the eventual wrap-up when the billions of threads get sewn up tightly in a way that only Sherlock Holmes would ever be able to figure. A Goodreads friend sent me a copy of this book because she knows how much I love Sherlock and I’d never read any of the more juvenile stories. How well could the dynamic duo translate to a younger audience? The answer to that question, at least in terms of this book, is two-pronged. Robert Newman
was absolutely successful in creating believable dialogue and multiple interwoven mysteries involving a few younger characters. However, I’m still not sure how large of an audience would enjoy a younger-YA/middle grade Victorian multi-layered mystery. My heart hopes that there are quite a few precocious mystery-lovers out there. As an adult, I flew through The Case of the Baker Street Irregular
in an hour or two and I’m not at all ashamed to say that I was legitimately surprised at some of the connections. Some other reviews have mentioned the transparency of the mystery but I found it to be entertaining til the last and honestly, I thought it better done than many adult murder mysteries I’ve read in the past.
This series is based on the mention of “Baker Street Irregulars”(221B Baker Street being the address of Holmes’ abode), various local children who would aid Holmes and Watson in their investigations in the original stories. The Case of the Baker Street Irregular
opens with Andrew Craigie, a young boy from Cornwall moving into a boarding house with his former tutor who is temporarily his guardian after his aunt passes away. Almost as soon as they arrive, Andrew’s guardian disappears. A prominent lord dies, his son has hallucinations, a woman visits Holmes and Watson to help her find her missing daughter, and someone is trying to fence stolen goods in a store on Baker Street. Are any or all of these things connected? If you’ve read any Holmes at all, you already know the answer to this question. I suppose one of my favorite things about Holmes stories is the multiple storylines. When so much is happening, I forget bits of information and when they come round again later in the story, I have those “A-ha!” moments. I’d much rather have loads of red herrings and random facts tossed out in order to make the eventual unraveling a surprise than removing all that extraneous detail and reading a murder mystery paint-by-number. (which I sometimes feel is what I’m reading)
I totally loved it and if you are a Sherlock fan and are looking for some entertainment without a lot of mental work, I think you’ll find this book an hour or two well spent. The only potential negative about the book was that I thought the author made Holmes a bit too sentimental and empathetic. I enjoy the little glimpses of humanity we get and I understand the reasons that it works in this particular story. For me, it wasn’t really a negative at all. I’m sorry this series wasn’t on my radar as a young girl but I’ll be finishing the series as an adult and that’s just fine with me. 5/5 stars
Looking For Alibrandi
Author: Melina Marchetta
Publication Date: 1992
For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it’s just been her, her mom, and her grandmother. Now it’s her final year at a wealthy Catholic high school. The nuns couldn’t be any stricter—but that doesn’t seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into her life.
Caught between the old-world values of her Italian grandmother, the nononsense wisdom of her mom, and the boys who continue to mystify her, Josephine is on the ride of her life. This will be the year she falls in love, the year she discovers the secrets of her family’s past—and the year she sets herself free.
Told with unmatched depth and humor, this novel—which swept the pool of Australian literary awards and became a major motion picture—is one to laugh through and cry with, to cherish and remember.
When I was in school, we routinely had to complete projects about our heritage. People asked (and still ask) “what are you?” meaning what is your nationality. A lot of these projects ended up with discussions about why third or fourth generation Americans still call themselves Irish, Italian, Korean, Filipino, Greek, etc. instead of saying they are American first. My blood is pretty watered down at this point—Irish, Swedish, German, Spanish…but it really doesn’t matter. I’m sure kids in other primarily immigrant countries had to do the same kinds of projects/presentations. I identify most with the mish-mash of cultural traditions that my immediate family celebrates and those of my dearest friends than those of any specific country from which my ancestors hailed. Sometimes I wish I was full-blooded something, or at least enough that I could be part of an ethnic community but until American Mutt becomes an ethnic category I think I’m out of luck. It is fun to go crazytime on St. Patrick’s Day, make Pepparkakor, and put sauerkraut on tons of stuff though. As much as I couldn’t connect with Josie’s Italian culture, I totally understood the Catholic school and community situation. It’s a close-knit community and everyone knows everyone else’s business. This is especially true when people have a lot of siblings. (Josie was perhaps lucky in that regard) And feeling guilty about everything? GUILTY! Anyway, I totally understood Josie’s confusion about her identity and her and several other characters’ confusion about their futures.
I kept putting this book off because it was the last contemporary YA Marchetta book that I’d yet to read, and I’ve been told many times that it was probably her weakest book. (which to me meant that it would still be better than 98% of the YA out there) Turns out I think it was my favorite Melina Marchetta reading experience to date. The narrator for the audiobook was perfect. I watched the movie the other day and I almost wished (slash actually did wish) that some of the characters had the narrator’s voice instead of the actors’ voices. I wish I could take back watching the movie because it felt trivial compared the book. I suppose that is what I truly enjoyed most about the book, though—Josie was living everyday life and getting up to no good with her friends, seeing a boy her family might disapprove of, and feuding with a girl at school but all the while she was thinking of her cultural identity, what she would do in the future, how people’s individual life choices affect where their paths go, and about the difference between sadness and pure despair. (I absolutely bawled during the death and funeral scenes)
I think I felt a real affinity to Josie as a student-- our experiences weren’t that far off. All-girl’s Catholic school. Uniforms. Nuns. She is much more of an overachiever than I was. I never cut school but I used to leave early when I had free periods to hang out at my sister’s apartment and play cards and watch movies. (oooo, rebel.) Anyway, I’m sure you all don’t give a crap about my high school antics and really, if you aren’t already reading Melina Marchetta’s books, I don’t know what I could do to persuade you. I could tell you that her books are beautifully written, that each one of them is emotional in a different way, that her characters are multidimensional, that she understands families and friendships more than most authors, and that each one of her books is a favorite of mine. All of that is true, and if you haven’t already started reading her back catalog, you are truly missing out. But if you’re still reading this I bet you’re my friend and you already have read one or more of her books. That’s one of the reasons you are awesome. (Yeah, you.)
A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness (from an idea by Siobhan Dowd), illus. by Jim Kay
Publication Date: 9/15/11
Publisher: CandlewickBlurb (GR):
This is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss. The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. . . .
This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.Review:
Last Fourth of July, I played a party game called Time’s Up
with some friends. The gist of the game is that everyone has a partner and you start with a certain number of cards as a group—say 40. Each one has a different movie/television show/book title on it and you use the same cards for the entire game so if you have great recall, the game is much easier. In the first round, you try to get your partner to guess the title by describing the movie without using specific words. (like Taboo
) The second round involves trying to get your partner to guess the movie by saying one
word. The third round is charades. This game is hilariously fun because I get to watch people try to act out Bridge on the River Kwai
and to see what the one word they’d pick is to sum something up. So many books are utterly forgettable. I read too much to remember all the details of everything over time. I reached 1,000 books read last week and so what if somewhere around 150 of those are children’s books, it is still a milestone. 1,000 books further down the line, I’ll still remember A Monster Calls
. While it would be a completely useless one word sum-up for the party board game, the one word for this book is beautiful because it is just that, inside and out.
I think it is lovely that Patrick Ness
took a story idea from an author we lost too early, Siobhan Dowd
. I’d read reviews of A Monster Calls
before going into it so I knew what I was getting into, but in case you don’t, this is about a boy dealing with losing his mother to cancer. I have not experienced the loss of a parent but this book did not feel emotionally manipulative to me, and from what I’ve taken away from other reviews, the feelings reflected by Conor ring true for at least a large portion of people who have gone through that nightmare themselves. No part of the book felt cliché to me either, which I frankly found surprising. There is an absolute skill to taking a heavier theme, writing a book for children or young adults, and making it not only accessible but I daresay appealing
to adults. I’ve never read anything Ness has written beyond this but I definitely will be doing so. He isn’t condescending to children. He doesn’t tell saccharine fairy tales, and I loved that. I guessed what the monster was there for all along but that takes nothing away from the book and the way the yew tree was brought into the story, through references and illustrations by Jim Kay
was perfect. On Kay’s website, he discusses the cover image and says,
“I have very fond childhood memories of being in the back seat of a car watching fields and farmland rush by. During the hour of twilight, the familiar objects began to lose their definition, became dark, anonymous forms. The countryside at night through the window of a car was both frightening and compelling; the everyday merged with the unknown, and this is how Patrick’s story felt to me.” (1
You and me, both, Mr. Kay. The eerie artwork paired perfectly with Conor's story. The whole book felt like he was stuck in an in-between place, which I suppose he was. Those aren't places I like to spend a lot of time but every once in a while...
I won a signed copy of this from my friend Jo
's blog, Wear the Old Coat
. It was definitely a prized treasure of mine from the moment I unwrapped the parcel.5/5 stars
What Can't WaitAuthor: Ashley Hope PérezPublication Date: 3/28/11Publisher: Carolrhoda LabBlurb (GR):"Another day finished, gracias a Dios."
Seventeen-year-old Marisa's mother has been saying this for as long as Marisa can remember. Her parents came to Houston from Mexico. They work hard, and they expect Marisa to help her familia. And they expect her to marry a boy from the neighborhood, to settle down, and to have grandbabies. If she wants a job, she could always be an assistant manager at the local grocery store.
At school, it's another story. Marisa's calc teacher expects her to ace the AP test and to get into an engineering program in Austin—a city that seems unimaginably far away. When her home life becomes unbearable, Marisa seeks comfort elsewhere—and suddenly neither her best friend nor boyfriend can get through to her. Caught between the expectations of two different worlds, Marisa isn't sure what she wants—other than a life where she doesn't end each day thanking God it's over. What Can't Wait
—the gripping debut novel from Ashley Hope Pérez—tells the story of one girl's survival in a world in which family needs trump individual success, and self-reliance the only key that can unlock the door to the future.Review:
When I saw that this book was not only about the Mexican-American experience but that it also included a teenage girl who excelled in math, I couldn’t wait to read it. (the Mexican experience aspect because I find it fascinating and the math thing to stick it to my 5th grade science teacher who told my mom that it was no big deal that I sucked at circuitry because I was a girl and would obviously never need to know anything about it) The only other YA books that I’ve read involving Mexican teenagers are Simone Elkeles
’s Fuentes brothers books, and those are firmly anchored by their romantic plotlines. While I enjoyed those books, I’m happy to say that What Can’t Wait
is not carried by Marisa’s romantic life. Instead, we follow Marisa Moreno through her senior year of high school. No one in her family has ever gone to college but Marisa and several people who surround her believe that she has what it takes to achieve something more. Her attempts are thwarted left and right but she doesn't give in. I have to say, I always find it refreshing when a teenage protagonist is a hard worker and grounded in reality. So many YA books are based around trivialities but this one deals with several more serious issues. Yes, I remember how ridiculous many of my teenage concerns were and recognize that these books of which I speak are probably very true to actual teenage concerns and life. I guess I just like things a little more gritty. The tone of this novel is realistic, a little on the dark side, but decidedly optimistic. And the pacing is quick yet steady; I never felt like the story was rushed or that there was lag.
This book gives of a Dairy Queen
series vibe, and we all know what a good thing that is. The family situation is quite similar as well—a teenage girl who has to work hard for her family to the detriment of her schoolwork, her friendships, her love life, and her future, a dad who just doesn’t get it, a mother who seems like a pushover in many cases, and siblings who often compound family stress. There isn't much in the way of descriptive writing going on but I truly didn't mind--Ashley Hope Pérez
wrote a book that feels
like we are reading Marisa's journal of her entire year. (perhaps that is another reason I kept thinking of DJ Schwenk?)
I checked out the publisher of this novel because I had never encountered them before and I thought perhaps Carolrhoda was a word in a different language—as it turns out, the origin of the imprint name is quite a touching story. The head of Lerner Publishing Group, Carolrhoda Press’ parent company, named the imprint after his wife’s lifelong best friend who died too young of breast cancer. She was in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia and worked to bring more books to children worldwide. Carolrhoda Lab
, an offshoot of Carolrhoda Press, is a smaller imprint dedicated to publishing , “distinctive, provocative, boundary-pushing fiction for teens and their sympathizers.” (I chuckled at the teen sympathizers line—I suppose I don’t mind being labeled as such) After reading this work, I am certainly going to see what else this imprint has to offer.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley
for allowing me to read this one!4/5 stars