Monday, December 31, 2007

Beige



Katy cannot believe that her mother is leaving her with her father while she goes off to an archaeological dig in Peru. After all, her father is actually referred to as "The Rat". From the band "Suck". Can you imagine? How embarrassing.

She knew that her mom has somewhat of a sordid past. Ran away from home. Hooked on heroin. Pregnant so young. But her mom changed as soon as she found out she was pregnant with Katy. The Rat didn't change quite so quickly. Katy has not even seen him in years. His yearly visits dried up when she was about 7.

But here she is now in L.A. in the Rat's dive of an apartment. For two weeks! How will she last?

When Katy is introduced to Lake (who she finds out has been paid to hang with her), Lake dubs Katy "Beige". As in boring. As in milk toast. It's not that Katy doesn't have interests. It's just that they have always been safe interests. Predictable. Katy thrives on order.

When she finds out that her mother is extending her stay in Peru, Katy is devastated. She just can't understand why her mom would do this. They have always been a team. They keep each other steady. Now Katy is stuck in L.A. for the summer with her aging punk rock dad, and her only friend is a paid friend.

This is my favourite of the Castellucci novels. I loved the Montreal touches, and I really believed in Katy. No, there wasn't a huge transformation in Katy, but she's not the kind of girl who would change so drastically over a summer. Her layers of fear do peel away, and it is a pleasure to read. And look to the chapter titles to give yourself a bit of a punk rock education.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks



Frankie has always been underestimated by people. From her family calling her "Bunny Rabbit", to her virtual invisibility on campus her first year at Alabaster, Frankie is seen as less than. Less than her big sister Zada. Less than the boys on campus who take up too much space. Not even capable of wandering into town on her own at the Jersey shore.

And then she falls off her bike.

Suddenly, gorgeous senior Matthew Livingstone is Frankie's boyfriend. His friends are her friends and she loves all of the attention that she gets. But she doesn't like the fact that Matthew seems to be at Alessandro's (Alpha) beck and call. So one day when Matthew dumps her for the boys, Frankie engages in some espionage. Turns out that the old boy network that her dad is always going on about is still alive and well at Alabaster. Frankie is certain that she could do it better.

Since this is still in arc format, I am not going to give too much away, other than to say that I love this book. Boarding school, feminist sensibilities, and smart characters. From wordplay to the introduction of other authors and social theory, from discussions of class to that of following the crowd and the rules, there is so much going on in this book. Frankie is an amazing girl, and I think that E. Lockhart has outdone herself. Every student at our school who has read this is raving about it. The readers who love Waiting for Alaska will fall for this title as well.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Luxe



The cover, the cover, the cover! The first time I saw this arc hanging out on a co worker's desk, I was just about overcome with jealousy. Nonchalantly I said, "Hmmm, this looks interesting...maybe I could borrow it when you are through?" She decided to read it, and it's been on my pile for a while now. I just started it yesterday, and finished it 5 minutes ago. I am going to buy myself a copy of the hardcover tonight.

The year is 1899, and NYC's social elite is doing what they do best. Going from fete to fete, and getting involved in scandal.

Sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland couldn't be more different. Elizabeth is just back from some finishing in Paris, and Diana still has her wild ways. Since their father died, their mother has been aging quickly and looking more distressed by the day. At the Hayes ball celebrating their new Fifth Avenue mansion, Elizabeth's mother presses her to dance with several suitors telling her daughter ominously that time is of the essence. While Elizabeth is off doing the proper thing, Diana is luring men into the coat closet in search of the perfect kiss.

Meanwhile, Penelope Hayes is waiting for handsome Henry Schoonmaker to make his entrance. She is certain that the time to make their affair public is upon them. He comes from one of the wealthiest families, and Penelope is certain that her own family's new wealth is enough for the Schoonmaker family.

What will happen when Mrs. Holland and Mr. Schoonmaker deem that a marriage between Henry and Elizabeth is a boon to both families? Will Penelope take this lying down? And what of Elizabeth's maid Lina? The one with a bit too much information about "sweet" Elizabeth and a certain stable boy.

Anna Godbersen has written a deliciously decadent story about love, betrayal, social class and friendship. Richly laden with historical detail, the characters are developed so well that readers will love and loathe each of them in measure. Sexy, but not over the top, fans of Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and just released The Sweet Far Thing will eat this title up. With an open ending, I am hoping to read more about Elizabeth, Diana, Lina, Penelope and the boys!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Freak



Miriam is quite happy to be herself. At least when she is not in school. She yearns for the time in the past when she and sister Deborah would play together at home and have great imaginative adventures. But Miriam has noticed how much that Deborah has changed. She wears fashionable clothes and makeup, talks for hours on the telephone, and has enough assets to garnish the attention of Artie Rosenberg, who has just happened to move in with their family for senior year.

When Miriam is at school, things are almost unbearable. Not that she complains. The pretty, cool girls smell of watermelon lip gloss, get the attention of the boys, and Jenny Clarke, in particular, seems to live to torture Miriam. This is not big obvious bullying...rather the subtle girl sort. Miriam almost plays along...just to make it go away.

Miriam is, however, close to the breaking point. There is no support at home. Deborah just doesn't want to be embarrassed, her college professor dad is busy, and her self absorbed mother is getting ready for an art show. What will happen when Miriam breaks? And why is Jenny Clarke so venomous?

I think that Marcella Pixley has written a gripping first novel about the underbelly of middle school. Miriam is so real, as are the watermelon girls. She is weird enough but not so much so as to be unbelievable. And the Fisher household is truly something to behold. There are many middle school girls (and their teachers and parents) who should be reading this book. Brilliant.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Dead and the Gone





So, you can imagine that part of my impetus to read Life As We Knew It was the shiny arc of this title showing up at work.


The time frame is the same, but this time the setting is NYC and the Morales family's experience of the meteor.


With Papi missing in Puerto Rico, and Mami missing from a hospital in Queens, Alex is the head of the family. He has Bri and Julie to take care of, but he is sure that this is just a glitch, and that his plans of Georgetown and the Presidency may well come to fruition.


Alex is a kid who knows that there are a couple of different NYCs. He is, after all, on scholarship at his school, and some of the boys never let him forget it. He doesn't wonder too much when money loses its' value, and he and schoolmate Kevin turn to body shopping in order to provide what each of their families need.


Somehow I thought that the story told from NYC would hit me harder. I found myself persnickety about facts like feet above sea-level in my borough, and a certain lack of terror that surely would have taken place.


I wonder if it is the lack of first person narrative that led me to yearn for the feeling of Life As We Knew It. That said, however, The Dead and the Gone does several interesting things. I love the way that Pfeffer built the disparity between social classes so easily into the plot line. Rich families do not experience the losses that Alex and his family do. Folks that exist in a perpetually clean NYC do not have to see the filth of the dead, do they? This is a reality of NYC. People who live here have incredibly different existences, one could say solely because of income. Also, I enjoyed the difference between the country and city post apocalyptic experiences.


These books really make readers wonder, "What would I do if...?"

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Life As We Knew It


This is a book that I have been meaning to read for a while. I do love a good dystopia title, but for some reason this was slow to come to the top of my pile. Jen kept telling me to read it. I should have listened sooner.

Frankly, Miranda is a bit sick and tired of hearing about the meteor and the moon. She knows the meteor is scheduled to hit, and understands that it is a big deal, but do all of her teachers need to give assignments involving the event?

Well, it turns out that this meteor is the biggest thing to happen to Miranda's life. All of a sudden, there she is with her mom, her little brother, and neighbour Mrs. Nesbitt, at the supermarket. They are loading up with everything they can think of that they might need to survive. With the moon out of its' traditional orbit, everything changes.

Readers follow Miranda's family and their post meteor months through Miranda's diaries. The unthinkable has happened, and now they are trying to deal with human nature in the worst circumstances. Extreme weather, plague, and no electricity are only some of the things they face.

This is a riveting, and somewhat terrifying read. As a mother, I would like to think that I would be as organized as Miranda's mom. I love the fact that Miranda is flawed...she is 16 after all. It was so interesting to see how she and her friends dealt with the situation in completely different ways. I cannot wait to read Pfeffer's follow-up The Dead and the Gone.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Swim to Me


It is a long way from Grand Concourse in the Bronx to Weeki Wachi Springs in Florida, but to Delores Walker it is the place that she hopes to call home. 16 year-old Delores' father walked out a couple of years ago after a typically horrendous fight with her mother, and since then, Delores, Westie and mother Gail were on their own. The move is not a hard decision for Delores (except for the part of leaving her little brother). Her family's cramped, food stained apartment is not exactly paradise, and ever since she first saw the mermaids perform at Weeki Wachi, she knew that is where she belongs.
A long, hot bus ride later, Delores is in Florida, auditioning for Thelma Foote -- head honcho of the show. Even though Delores isn't exactly a beauty queen, her grace in the water and sage advice from mermaid Molly see her through, and she is moving into the dorms and is destined to become the star of the show, not to mention the local news.
In a series of interwoven events, the Walker family is brought back together (at least partially), and Delores is determined to break out of the cycle of poverty and abandonment that has been part of her family history.
Betsy Carter has written an engaging slice-of-life story that immediately draws readers in. The dysfunctional Walker family isn't too extreme, and many will be able to see parallels to corners of depression within their own family circles. Delores is quietly determined and strong in ways that are believable and heartwarming. The setting of 1970s America is perfect for these characters who do not know who they are yet, but know who they are not.
The first I had heard of Weeki Wachi Springs was this year on a reality-type television program. I have to say, that I have a soft spot in my heart for Americana such as this park. When my daughter finds out that people are actually mermaids for a living, we may be in trouble here!