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Archive for the ‘YA Lit’ Category

Jean and Johnn by Beverly Cleary

In YA Lit on September 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Title: Jean and Johnny
Author: Beverly Cleary
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Rating: ***/****
ISBN:0380728052

Beverly Cleary is a giant in Children’s Literature, & has been for the past few generations. Whether a person has read her Runaway Ralph series, grew up with Ramona, or delved into her teen romances such as the one I’m about to review, it’s no mistake that her fiction has a timeless quality. Of course, some may be put off from reading this book because of the title itself, Jean & Johnny are two names which aren’t quite so common anymore, couple that with details relating to Jean’s economic background e.g. having to sew her own clothes, prices at the stores & drive-in, & it obviously dates itself a bit.

What makes it timeless is how Cleary keeps you engaged with the character, one many young girls can remember being. They were all fifteen once, or at one point felt very unsure of themselves. They were interested in boys, but didn’t have the confidence, or felt themselves appealing at all to the opposite sex.* Pop stars were their idols, & this shared interest was a great way to bond with their friends.

In Jean’s case, she’s an awkward young girl, who has a best friend name Elaine & they share each other’s company. But after sneaking into a dance, Jean is invited, to her surprise, to dance with the most popular, handsomest boy in the school, Johnny. This changes her entire outlook of herself, because she doesn’t see why a boy like Johnny would pay any attention to her. So, Elaine & she begin their efforts to make Jean noticed by Johnny to find out why he likes her, if he does at all.

What I liked most about the book is how it teaches you that you must value yourself & not depend upon the attention of others for self-esteem, how you should listen to your elders, especially in this case her sister Sue who is a little older & wiser, & how you should remember who has always been there for you, such as your dear friends, even after you start dating. Most importantly, it teaches a young reader that the exterior is only one aspect of a human, that they must pay attention to the behavior of a person to tell their true character & feelings.

*I’m not intending this to be heterosexist.

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

In YA Lit on May 23, 2010 at 12:49 am

Title: Anne on My Mind
Author: Nancy Garden
Genre: YA Fiction
Rating: ****/****

Controversial in its time, ‘Annie on My Mind’ seems tame by 21st century standards. It’s basically a story about two girls who meet at a museum & form a connection with each other. At first, the pair believe their love for each other is entirely platonic, but soon realize their feelings go deeper than mere friendship. Of course, being young & living in a society where things of this nature are not supposed to be discussed, the girls find their own way of dealing with their forbidden nature & eventually come to be unashamed of what they are.

It’s truly a story about the power of friendship & love, both girls have their own difficulties in life. Annie is growing up in a poor neighborhood, in a dangerous public school without friends whereas Liza (the narrator) experiences the claustraphobia of the private school & deals with the high expectations of her parents. The main conflict in the novel involves an incident with Liza’s school when they become aware of her relationship with Annie.

What I really liked about the book was that it was truly hopeful, touched a little upon the realities of class struggles, & painted a picture of homophobia that many teens face. It was almost too much for these girls, but their love was stronger than anybody’s hate or any guilt forced upon them. Also, have to say that there were no truly evil characters in this novel, because you understood them as misguided rather than hateful.

It’s a tame novel by anybody’s standards outside of the Westboro Baptist Church. 😉

My Summer of Love by Helen Cross

In YA Lit on January 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm
My Summer of Love by Helen Cross

My Summer of Love by Helen Cross

Title: My Summer of Love

Author: Helen Cross

Genre: YA Fiction

Rating: ***/****

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Mona is a young teenage girl living in Yorkshire finding herself rather lonely & bored with her existence. Her mother has passed away from cancer, her sister has just married & had children, leaving her all alone to wonder what her role as a woman should be. She finds more comfort in looking after animals, to show that she doesn’t care about people, but it’s rather obvious that she’s dying to have a friend. What turns her life around is when she’s asked to befriend a girl who has recently got out of boarding school, for what’s hinted as general difficulty in making friends or getting along with others. Tamsin doesn’t seem like she’d have any difficulty considering she’s wealthy, goodlooking, & confident. Mona being a working class girl with self-esteem issues latches on to Tamsin & revels in her upper middleclass privleges. But all isn’t well with Tamsin who lost her sister, Sadie, to anorexia. They bond with each other over their grief. Soon,they take it upon themselves to move in with each other while Tamsin’s parents are split up & develop an unhealthy relationship with each other, though neither is completely devoted & are both left wondering at times if it’s all an act. Are they just acting out how they were treated by other women? Are they really in love with each other? Is it a rejection of the roles society & family have given them?

Cross really hammers home a lot of the frustration young girls have to deal with since they both lack female figures in their lives, neither girl is fully able to understand what a proper woman should be. All they have left is pop culture & women they despise on a personal level to emulate & imitate. They learn that it’s dangerous to be a woman, because her appearance could attract the wrong kind of attention or even cause her to be unloved. Both girls on multiple occasions talk about what makes their appearances good or bad and make comments that lead us to believe they do not understand what a healthy attraction to women should be (confusing exploitation with adoration), & are jealous of their older sisters. In the background, there is an ominous feel to the story. A girl is missing & Mona assumes her to be dead & frequently imagines her body lying at the bottom of a lake.

For one summer, both Mona & Tamsin decide to live life by their own rules, disregarding what harm it causes to those around them or anybody who comes within their path. Cross’s work is a magnificent representation of the effects of class differences, exploitation of women, & cruelty of young girls. It’s a tough read for the first thirty pages, but afterwards the story builds & you’ll keep turning the pages.

Beauty reigns supreme in ‘Uglies’

In Sci-Fi, YA Lit on January 4, 2010 at 12:04 am

Uglies

Title: Uglies (Book One of The Uglies Trilogy)

Authors: Scott Westerfeld

Genre: Sci-Fi/Young Adult

Rating: **/****

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I have to say that I liked the premise of a world where no physical imperfection will hold you back in life, because every person receives an operation when they are sixteen to change them from an ugly to a pretty.  Even natural pretties, if they do exist, would not have an advantage over the former uglies who were surgically enhanced.  The book centers around the character of Tally, a fifteen year old girl living hundreds of years in the future, who has just lost a friend to New Pretty Town.  Her friend, Peris, turned sixteen three months before she, so he has been living a new life in New Pretty Town filling his life with social events, new friends, & has forgotten to write/see her once he had surgery.

When Tally sneaks into New Pretty Town to visit Peris, she is amazed by his beauty, but notices that his personality has changed.  He’s no longer the friend who would pull pranks & make fun of new pretties for their mindless ways.  In fact, his whole opinion has changed about being pretty & even though he is still friends with Tally, he makes their relationship contingent upon her getting surgery.  I guess even in a world where you are told past early childhood that you’re ugly, you would still be a little shocked as Tally was when Peris made his sentiments clear.  She had to be pretty to be his friend & he would see her after the operation.  Crazy!

Not to give much of the book away, but as we see from the first episode in New Pretty Town, Tally begins to realize, rather slowly, that there is more to being pretty than having your face & body changed.  Maybe all the science & biological reasoning behind becoming pretty is skewed, in hopes of  achieving a common goal outside of making everybody HOT!

The series starts off slowly, that’s why I give it two stars, but it does pick up towards the end. I’ll be reading the rest of the series as time/interest allows.

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Read more about the Uglies Trilogy here:

http://www.scottwesterfeld.com/books/uglies.htm