Monday, September 18, 2006

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

Julie is enthusiastic about Jane Austen, but her friend Ashleigh is enthusiastic about everything. When Ashleigh finally reads Pride and Prejudice, Miss Austen's novels become her latest obsession. Embarking on a quest to find her own Mr. Darcy, Ashleigh drags Julie to a dance at a local boys' boarding school, where, in a plot that would make Miss Austen proud, Ashleigh unknowingly claims Julie's crush as her own true love and assigns Julie's affections to Ned, a Mr Bixby for sure.
While Julie's reluctance to tell Ashleigh the truth is annoying, and Ashleigh's refusal to listen to Julie is downright frustrating, Enthusiasm is fun enough to keep teens interested and to spark their interest in the incomparable novels (or at least the films) of Miss Austen herself.

What I'm Reading: Love, Ruby Lavender
On My Bookshelf: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen; The Book of Fate by Brad Melzer; Summerland by Michael Chabon

Friday, September 08, 2006

Anyone But You by Lara M. Zeises

An interestingly "blended" family: Seattle and her dad moved in with Layla & her two sons six years ago. When Seattle's dad left, Layla decided to raise Sea herself, and Layla, Seattle, Critter & Jesse have been a family every since. Sea and Critter aren't just like brother & sister - they're best friends. That is, until a girl, a guy, and Seattle's dad all enter the picture.
Lara Zeises tells the story from alternating points of view, so the reader understands Seattle's dislike of Critter's new love interest while also understanding Critter's attraction. The family situation sets up an interesting new dynamic to the boy-and-girl-as-best-friends story, but the re-appearance of Seattle's father in the midst of these brief weeks of discord is pretty predictable, and his role seems unnecessary- like he appears just because he's expected. We don't really know why he picked this week, this day to re-appear in Seattle's life - unless it's just to make this week more confusing for her.
Still, Seattle & Critter's confusion about their feeling (for others and for each other) is real & believable, and I was left wondering about their future - as siblings, as friends, and possibly as a couple.

What I'm Reading: Enthusiasm by Polly Schulman
On My Bookshelf: Summerland by Michael Chabon

Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen Headley

Patty Ho is trying to figure out what it means to be Patty Ho. Half white, half Asian, she's uncomfortable with both, since her white father left them and her Taiwanese mom is stricter-than-strict - and (thanks to her dad) very suspicious of white guys. This means Patty can't date, and when a Chinese fortune teller tells Patty's mom that Patty will marry a white guy, her mom decides the best place for Patty this summer is math camp at Stanford - where she's sure to meet a nice Asian boy.
And she's right. Patty doesn't want to be at math camp, but she's surprised by the people she meets there. Although unnaturally fond of math, most of the other kids at camp are fun, and when Patty meets Stu, a nice Asian boy who's going to be a doctor, math camp might turn out to be just what her mother ordered...
At first I thought this book tried too hard, and I didn't really like Patty. But I kept reading, and while I still think the author sometimes strains to be witty, I really liked the "hapa" Patty becomes. I loved the fact that this book makes being smart and going to math camp look cool, and I loved it that Patty didn't just start to figure out who she is, but that she's worth standing up for.

What I'm reading: Anyone But You by Lara M. Zeises
On My Bookshelf: Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt

In many ways, the story of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life is predictable. An adopted child's biological mother wishes to see her; the daughter isn't ready. She finally agrees. They bond. The mother reveals she is terminally ill, and the daughter finds the mother only to lose her again. But she is changed forever by the experience.
What makes A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life worth reading is Simone, the main character, and her distinct, fresh voice. Her adopted parents are present and caring, and her relationship with her younger brother is a positive one. She is not haunted by her adoption and is not interested in meeting her mother. Still, when her parents begin to press her, Simone finally agrees to meet with Rivka, and she discovers a piece of her heritage that she has, perhaps unknowingly, been missing. Rivka, the daughter of a Jewish Orthodox rabbi, is very much a practicing Jew. Simone, like her adoptive parents, identifies herself as an atheist (she even belongs to an atheist student group). But Rivka's quiet faith has appeal for Simone, and much of her limited time with Rivka is spent exploring not just her family's history, but what it means to be Jewish - and what it means to have faith in something larger than yourself.