Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

My Facebook feed is chock-full of exasperated moms and dads who have already run out of summer activities for their kids.  (Except YOU, FCPS...I know your last day was today. Pull this out in 2-3 weeks and you can thank me for it then).  By now you've seen Finding Dory, been to the pool 4-5 days a week, and allowed more daily screen time than you'd like to admit.

 Here is where I come in. Over on our sister-site I've been reviewing the 2016 Books to Movies for a fun little change of pace.  The Great Gilly Hopkins just so happens to be one of those books.  And it also just so happens to be a great, award-winning summer read, making it a win/win.

Originally written in 1978, The Great Gilly Hopkins tells the story of an 11-year-old seemingly rambunctious foster girl, Gilly.  Always holding out hope her birth mother will come "rescue" her, Gilly bounces from foster home to foster home. When she is placed with the Trotters, though, Gilly's tough demeanor is broken down through love. She befriends her foster brother, has a unique friendship with the elderly man next door and actually learns what having a real "home" feels like.

The movie was released in February and stars Kathy Bates as Ms. Trotter and Danny Glover as the next door neighbor.  So, there you go!  Your kids read the book for 2-3 days (your loss if your kids are fast readers) and movie for 1 day. I've just planned 1/2 a week for you.  You're welcome.

My library only had this super-old version circa 1980, but whatever.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Confessions of an Almost-Girlfriend by Louise Rozett

I received this book as a promo from my Vine review site. I am always actively, now, looking for tween books to read, and the description of this grabbed me. A sophomore, whose father died in Iraq, who had an apparently rough freshman year, just kind of telling us how she feels.

Unforunately (for me) this is a sequel, and I didn't realize it - I feel like I missed out on the first book, "Confessions of an Angry Girl" - which tells the story of her freshman year.

Rosie has a bully, an "almost-boyfriend", a best friend who has found her life's passion already, which makes Rosie feel a little inadequate, a friend boy who suddenly has a perfect girlfriend... And she strongly, beautifully, has a sense of what's right and wrong - which isn't always the thing that makes you popular in high school.

While I always hate to jump in the middle of a series (and I love series, really I do - the character development is always so fascinating), this book does stand alone. However, I do think that in giving the background for this one to make sense, it gives away much of the first book's plot. While some people wouldn't mind, I'd normally try to go back and read the first. In this case, though, I think I heard almost too much to now want to purchase the first novel - there won't be many surprises. I might try to find it at the library.

However, I thoroughly enjoyed this book itself. Rosie is messed up, no doubt, as are both her mom and her brother. The loss of her father is something I can't even begin to imagine dealing with, but I know it happens to high-schoolers, whether or not in a war setting. 

Rosie, though, is extremely likable and Ms. Rozett does a great job of making her sympathetic, even as you realize that some of her thoughts and actions aren't the best choices (at least, I realize that as an adult...)
This was a really well-written book. I felt that the characters were believable in words, thoughts, and actions. The plot made sense, and the things that happened seemed like they COULD happen. It's not all hearts and flowers, which is more believable. I was a smart kid in high school, but I went to a small, small school in the middle of nowhere where the students wore all sorts of hats. The cheerleaders were scholars, the band kids played football too... There does seem to be a bit of that mixture of cliques in the book, in fact, which maybe makes more sense to me than it would to other readers. Rosie is obviously smart, but her best friend is a cheerleader type, and her almost-boyfriend is somewhere between a jock and a drop-out, she becomes involved in the school musical...

I could understand Rosie, even as I can't really identify with her - thankfully. 

The writing itself was tight and well-polished. I'm an editor at heart, and nothing jumped out to me as being badly worded or confusing.

As a parent, I had to cringe when the first scene opens at a mostly freshman/sophomore drinking party, and there is definitely plenty of mention of desire and drugs. This is probably best for an actual teen reader than for the 5-6th grade kids that I tend to deal with.

I hope that we get to find out what happens next, and will eagerly await the next book.

Rating: PG-13 - minor love scenes, substance use

Monday, July 1, 2013

love & leftovers by Sarah Tregay

Oh my goodness. Oh MY goodness.

Go find this book right now.

This book is good.

As part of my goal to read "The United States of YA" as created by Epic Reads, I picked up love & leftovers by Sarah Tregay at my local library. Had I taken a closer look at the title (which is actually love & leftovers: a novel in verse) I might have put it back down. I don't read a lot of poetry, and I very much try to avoid teenage emo angst. However, I grabbed up the first four books from the Epic Reads list that I could find at the library with any remote connection to my life (like the states I've lived in or frequently visited because friends and family live there), and love & leftovers was one of them.

Thank goodness I didn't put this one back down.

Because it's that good.

Even though it's in verse.

Possible BECAUSE it's in verse.

Seriously, the whole story is told through the poems of Marcie Foster, teenager, daughter, best friend, girlfriend, and poet.

The poems clearly spell out that Marcie had a rough summer that turned into a rough school year. Her parents' marriage has crumbled because of a fairly typical scenario involving less than standard participants. Her mother packs up a suitcase and Marcie and heads to New Hampshire (hi, Chanin!) to a family summer house.

Here's how Marcie explains the situation.

An Explanation

My mother

took two weeks off

back in June.

I asked her

(in July)

what we were doing.

I think she meant to say, "Vacationing"

but she said, "Running away."

Which might have been okay;

even though I thought that

if I ever ran away,

I'd do it with

a certain emo-sensitive rocker boy

and not my mother.

And then Marcie and her mother overstay the summer. So now Marcie is away from her home, her friends, her boyfriend, and her father. Instead she has her absent-through-depression mother, a new school, and no friends except for a really cute boy who brings her breakfast. Marcie is lonely and mostly alone. The only thing, besides her poetry, that seems to help is talking to her best friend. Talking to her boyfriend just makes her sad because they can't seem to speak of anything except for how much it hurts to be apart.

So Marcie copes and she writes and she starts to fit into this new life in New Hampshire. She still misses her old life, but she's beginning to feel slightly less lonely, until her mother, who hasn't been paying attention to much of anything at all, decides that she doesn't like how much time Marcie spends with the cute boy.

And so Marcie goes back to Idaho to live with her Dad and to try and fit into her old life.

That doesn't go as easily as she hoped. In fact, Marcie realizes how lonely you can be even when your favorite people are geographically close to you, but she also learns how amazing it can be to have truly good friends. And maybe, despite the big mess her parents made and the smaller messes she made herself, she might finally figure out how it feels to be in love.

Goodness, this book is good. It is, however, definitely for an older YA crowd. The topics this book tackles either head-on or tangentially are infidelity, sexual orientation, teen sex, teen pregnancy, clinical depression, betrayal, contraception, love, and divorce.