Book Review: Bloody Jack

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy by L. A. Meyer

SUMMARY: Mary Faber, orphaned at age eight, roams the streets of London with a children's gang and spends a lot of time being hungry. When the gang's leader gets killed, Mary excapes by taking on a male identity and becoming a ship's boy for the British Royal Navy, where at least she is fed three times a day. Thus begins The Deception, a long and involved game of hiding her femine side at sea through many curious adventures, including fighting pirates, becoming a castaway,...and protecting herself from wayward sailors.

OPINION: There are a lot of teen books about girls going to sea, but this one is unique in that the heroine is so likeable! She is certainly not ruled by her circumstances. The irrepressible and saucy Jacky chooses her course and plans her moves to get what she wants! This was L. A. Meyer's first book. I actually read this book's sequel first (The Curse of the Blue Tattoo), and I liked it better. But, I recommend reading both and doing it soon because a third one is on the way in August!

Book Review: Millicent Min, Girl Genius

Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee

SUMMARY: Millicent Min, 11-year-old high schooler, is having a bad summer. In an effort to give Millicent a more "normal" childhood, her mom has not only signed her up for volleyball, she has also arranged for her to tutor Stanford Wong--jock, jerk, and Chinese-American slacker. When Millicent meets Emily, though, things start to look up. If Millicent can only ignore her grandmother's advice and keep her lies straight, she might actually make her first friend and live through the summer. (adapted from the back cover)

OPINION: Millicent is so smart, she doesn't even know how dumb she is. Not in the intellectual sense (she's going to be a senior in high school), but in the relationship sense. She has no idea how to relate to people her age, let alone how to make friends. It puts her in some really awkward-but-humorous situations, as she tries to hide her intelligence and even pretends that Stanford is tutoring her! This will be a fun, light summer read.


Book Review: Dustin Grubbs, One Man Show

Dustin Grubbs, One Man Show by John J. Bonk
This book will be released in September 2005.

SUMMARY: So maybe wanting to be an actor is an ambitious career goal for a guy in the sixth grade, but that doesn't stop Dustin Grubbs. He's about to make his theatrical debut in the school play, in spite of interruptions from ill-timed fire alarms, falling scenery, and child TV stars! Dustin is not defeated, and becomes determined to save the day and the play at any cost. (adapted from the back cover)

OPINION: This book has some great funny moments, as disasters strike one after the other and the action becomes increasingly absurd. I really liked Dustin's crazy family and the situations they caused, particulary the birthday party incident. Also, if you have even been in a school play, you will appreciate Dustin's struggles toward on-stage success! Look for this book, coming soon.


Book Review: The Singer of All Songs

The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable

SUMMARY: Calwyn knows nothing about the world beyond the Wall, until the stranger Darrow shows up and speaks to her of discord in Tremaris and a powerful chanter who is trying to kill him. To help Darrow escape, Clawyn leaves the safety of the Wall for a dangerous adventure to see the world, and perhaps to save it. (adapted from the inside flap)

OPINION: Marissa recommended this book to me, and it was well worth reading. So, start reading now! The adventure story is gripping and the fantasy world is unique and convincing. There is a second book, The Waterless Sea, which I cannot wait to get! The third in this trilogy is coming this summer.


Book Review: The Boyfriend List

The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

SUMMARY: Ruby Oliver has had a rough 10 days. Her boyfriend ditched her for her best friend, causing her to lose all of her friends and become the subject of bathroom-wall graffiti. In therapy, Ruby makes "The Boyfriend List" of all the boys she has ever liked, even if they weren't actual boyfriends (most of them weren't) and hilariously talks her way through the mess that is her current life.

OPINION: The title of this book sound raunchy, but it is actually a realistic portrayal of unrequited love, boyfriends, lack of boyfriends, friendships-gone-bad, and other high school angst. The writing style is a lot of fun, with a meandering voice that is very conversational and lots of asides put in as footnotes. Several parts of this book made me laugh out loud. If I had Ruby's life, I'd need therapy too!

BEST QUOTE: "I firmly believe that women should not get all cruel and petty with each other over men, because how on earth will we run companies and countries if we're preoccupied with someone else's big boobs in a pink sweater set?" (p. 83)


Book Review: You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah!

You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah! by Fiona Rosenbloom
This book will be released in September 2005.

SUMMARY: Stacy Friedman is getting ready for her bat mitzvah, and all she wants is the perfect dress, her friends by her side, and Andy Goldfarb to dance with her. But Stacy's plans start to fall apart, beginning with her stressed-out mother forcing her to buy a hideous sequined dress that makes her look like the bride of Frankenstein. Then, a betrayal by her best friend causes Stacy to utter the words that will wreak her social life..."You are so not invited to my bat mitzvah!" (adapted from the back cover)

OPINION: This book has all of the typical chick-lit elements: close friendships, cute boys, fabulous clothes, great parties, and, of course, a betrayal that (almost) wrecks everything! What makes it stand out is that it all centers around Stacy Friedman's bat mitzvah, a traditional Jewish coming-of-age ritual. This was a light, enjoyable read that managed to combine religion and humor pretty successfully. I really liked the chapter titles, including my personal favorite: "Avocado Schmear With a Side Order of Fried Frienship"!


Book Review: Sexy

Sexy by Joyce Carol Oates

SUMMARY: Sixteen-year-old Darren Flynn is a good-looking "guy's guy," a junior on the swim team, but he is uncomfortable with his maturing body and with girls. A seemingly innocent encounter with his English teacher, Mr. Tracy, troubles Darren. There are rumors Tracy is gay, and after the teacher flunks one of Darren's teammates, some boys retaliate, implicating Tracy in child porn. Tracy, who insists he is innocent, appeals to Darren for help. Will Darren stand up for his teacher?

OPINION: I am not particularly attached to this book, nor do I hate it. Teens deal with a lot of body image concerns, and it is good to see authors writing about boys' issues in this area. So, the premise was good, but, as the story unfolded, it just wasn't that interesting. This could have been a very psychological novel, but the plot devices just didn't unfold enough depth or motivation from the main characters.


Book Review: Geography Club

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger

SUMMARY: How can a diverse group of gay and lesbian students meet at school without drawing attention to themselves? Easy. They form a club that's so boring, no one will want to join: Geography Club. This club doesn't learn much geography, but they learn plenty about the treachery of high school and the danger of the human heart.

OPINION: This was Hartinger's first novel, and it now has a sequel called The Order of the Poison Oak. Hartinger has some street cred to deal with these issues. Not only is he gay, but he helped start a support group for gay and lesbian teens in his town. This book is fairly believable in its characterization of gay and straight (and bisexual) characters. It is sometimes funny, sometimes depressing, but always truthful in facing difficult issues head-on.


Book Review: Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off the Boat by Melissa de la Cruz

SUMMARY: Newly arrived from the Phillippines, 14-year-old Vicenza is a scholarship student at a snooty private girls' school in San Francisco. She dreams of love with Tobey Maguire, not having to shop at thrift stores, and being accepted by the wealthy, popular girls at school. Instead, she and her family work multiple jobs and squeeze every penny to pay for necessities. Can Vicenza find real friendship and love in America without any money? (adapted from the review by Booklist)

OPINION: This book is chic-lit with a twist: Vicenza, or "V", is a Filipina whose family has illegally immigrated to the US by overstaying their travel visas. V is a believable character who is struggling with issues familiar to many immigrant teens: traditional family expectations, poverty, and wanting to be a "typical American teenager." This book is not boring or heavy-handed--it is a genuinely fun read, carried by V's personality and some hilarious situations.

BEST QUOTE: "Books borrowed from the library were valued but ephemeral pleasures." (p. 129)


Book Review: Romiette and Julio

Romiette and Julio by Sharon M. Draper

SUMMARY: Romiette and her friend Destiny have been trying to find romance through the Scientific Soul Mate System dream program. However, Romiette keeps having horrible nightmares about fire and water. All this seems to change when she meets Julio, a new student at her school. It is love at first sight! However, a school gang violently opposes interracial dating and puts the lives of Romiette and Julio in jeopardy.

OPINION: I wanted to read this book because the title is humorous. And, as I expected, the story is a modern version of the Shakespeare classic. It is simultaneously romantic and suspenseful, although the author does tend to reference the Shakespeare stuff a bit too often. Everyone knows the story. However, the author is a high school teacher, and it is obvious that she writes from experience with students. I really liked the characters and thought the book was very clever.


Book Review: Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz

SUMMARY: It's not the glitzy and glamorous Hollywood. Sammy and Juliana's Hollywood is a tough barrio at the edge of a small town in southern New Mexico. The year is 1969, and they face a world of racism, school dress codes, the war in Vietnam, and the everyday violence of their own neighborhood.

OPINION: This book is really unique in its writing style and in the voice of the main character. Hippies, the Vietnam War, and "The Summer of Love" look really different when viewed through the eyes of Hispanic teens trying to make it out of the ghetto.

BEST QUOTE: "It's funny, everyone had always told us love was another word for belonging. No one, no one had ever told me that love was another name for exile." (p. 171)


Book Review: LBD--Live and Fabulous

LBD--Live and Fabulous by Grace Dent

SUMMARY: The girls of the LBD are back! This time they are a year older and have convinced their parents to let them go to the coveted Astlebury Music Festival after rock god Spike Saunders sends them free passes. But can the LBD handle a weekend of loud music and gorgeous boys combined with mud and gross portaloos?

OPINION: This book is totally fluffy, but it is a fun read. If you have ever dreamed of attending a music festival, meeting rock stars, and saving the world, this is the book for you!


Book Review: Breathing Underwater

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn

SUMMARY: Nick is intelligent, poupular and wealthy. Everyone thinks his life is pretty easy. Except that Nick has never told anyone about his father's violent temper. When Nick meets Caitlin, he thinks that she is the answer to all of his problems. But then Nick has to face up to the fact that he has inherited more from his father than green eyes and money.

OPINION: In all of her books, Alex Flinn writes about difficult subjects in a unique way. In this book, she tackles the subject of dating violence from the point of view of the abuser. Nick honestly doesn't think he has a problem, and the book really focuses on how he comes to terms with his issues. This is a tough book to read, but very well-written and worthwhile.


Book Review: Comfort

Comfort by Carolee Dean

SUMMARY: Kenny Willson wants nothing more than to get out of Comfort, Texas--away from the clawlike grip of his workaholic mother, away from his alcoholic ex-con father. Forced to give up football and band in exchange for constant work in his mother's run-down cafe, Kenny is determined not to lose his dreams. And when he discovers a talent for poetry and words, he begins to plot the moment that has the power to change his life.

OPINION: How far you would you go to get what you want? Kenny defies the wishes of his mother by staying IN school and having dreams that stretch beyond the walls of the cafe. But when your dreams aren't enough, would you be willing to run away? Steal? Kill? What I liked best about this book was the stark intersection between dreams and reality, where the best plans don't always work out in expected ways.

Book Review: LBD--It's a Girl Thing

LBD--It's a Girl Thing by Grace Dent

SUMMARY: When Ronnie, Fleur, and Claude (aka LBD, or Les Bambinos Dangereuses), are banned from going to a local music festival by their fun-hating ogre parents, the girls come up with a fantastic solution: stage their own festival at their school! It sounds brilliant, but can they convince administrators, find talented teens, and scrape up some cash to get this thing off the ground?

OPINION: This book is classic fluffy British chic-lit. The music festival is the main story, but there are loads of laughs and goreous guys in the subplots. Take it on the bus, to the beach, or to bed...wherever you need a good book for relaxation. It is a fun, enjoyable, and quick read. And now there is a sequel called LBD: Live and Fabulous.


Book Review: Travel Team

Travel Team by Mike Lupica

SUMMARY: Danny Walker is the smallest kid on the basketball court, but no one plays with a bigger love of the game or with more knowledge about moves and style. So why is he cut from the local travel team for being too small? And how can he and the other kids left out of this team get back in the game?

OPINION: If you love basketball, this is a book for you! But even if you don't, you will enjoy rooting for these underdogs as they take on family issues, crazy sports parents, community pressure, and, of course, the big game. Who knew that seventh grade sports could be so exciting?