Thursday, January 31, 2008

How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle

Last Thursday was my birthday. I went to work for a couple hours and while I was there this book came in the mail. It's one of the books on my 2008 Must Read List so it was a very nice surprise. Happy birthday to me!

My fan status for e. lockhart and Lauren Myracle is pretty well established, but I have not read anything by Sarah Mlynowski. Off the bat there are a few additional things that endeared this novel to me. 1 - I used to live in north Florida. I worked in Wakulla County and I've likely seen Old Joe for myself. 2 - I love the Waffle House! 3 - 3 really terrific teen girl protagonists. (Unsurprising considering the authors.)

How to Be Bad is a road trip novel. Jesse gets it in her brain that she has to drive Vicks to Miami to see Vicks' boyfriend who just started college there. The trip is really an escape for Jesse who is reeling from her mother's cancer diagnosis. The kink in the plan is that the girls are poor. Enter Mel, who also works at the Waffle House, but who is wealthy and so desperate for friends that she invites herself on the trip with the promise to pay for gas, food, and lodging.

Okay, so this is where you have to turn off your reality button. The girls kind of just leave. The fact that the families don't hunt down their children is just something you have to let go. Same with Mel's mother's AmEx Card. Another point of "huh?" was when all 3 girls started singing a song that was completely unknown to me. Turns out it's an old folk song called Red River Valley. It just seemed weird to me. I guess it's a big teen hit!

I had to remind myself to just enjoy the ride and not get picky on the details, but some readers may have difficulty. My enthusiasm for the story did not develop until after the party scene. I don't know if that's a problem from 3 writers trying to make 3 lead characters or if the plotting was a little slow for my taste. On top of that, I had a hard time connecting with Jesse. She had to grow on me.

I thought I would easily figure out which author wrote which character, but it did take me a few chapters of each for certainty. (I'm not going to spoil that here.) Chapter 19, which Lauen Myracle wrote, is near genius for its description of the Veggie Tales Jonah movie. Having a 4 year old and relatives who purchase those movies, I knew to what she was referring. It is head to toe Lauren Myracle at her hilarious (and sincere) best. I was laughing out loud.

Well. If an asparagus can let go of his self-righteousness, then surely I can too.

Same with e. in chapter 28 regarding the naming of the duckling and the coral castle. She nails the funny and the heartbreak. (*sigh* Ruby3...)

Sarah-who-is-new-to-me wrote some of the best boy/girl flirting dialog I have read in a long while. Mr. Exceptional = awesome.

The book comes out in May and will make a fine summer read. Furthermore, the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 comes out this summer, so put this one out as a readalike.

P.S. Patti, this is mentioned in the book. As my one and only Canadian friend, have you had it?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jenn!

Dear Jenn,

You diva of the Gossip Girl Corresponding. You queen the heavenly baking. You babe of the youth materials relocating shiznit. Happy Birthday to you!

Yay birthday!

(hope you don't mind the m&m chick. all my pics of you are at work!)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Something to Blog About by Shana Norris*

Libby Fawcett knows better than to keep a regular journal that could fall into the wrong hands, but when she finds a website that offers password-protected online journals, it seems fail-safe. She uses the journal to swoon over her longtime crush, talk about her two best friends, and vent about her arch-nemesis (the meanest girl in school), whose father, naturally, her mother has been dating.

The jacket flap says that the story is about Libby’s journal getting discovered and published all over school, but there’s a lot more going on than just that storyline. She agrees to tutor the crush in chemistry (even though she’s almost failing it herself) and they develop a real relationship. One of the best friends is pursuing the other, flowers-from-secret-admirer-style. The story with her mother is a big one – Libby flips out when she learns that her mother is dating (the mean girl) Angel Rivera's father, and things get even more complicated when Angel wants to join forces to break them up.

In some ways, it has the feel of a teen movie, but a quality one. Libby has a great voice and personality, all the supporting characters are pretty well developed, and there’s enough going on to keep it interesting. Everything is resolved in the end, and there’s nothing too deep, but it really captures the late middle school/early high school experience where the small stuff means big drama.
I keep seeing it recommended for fans of the TTYL books, but it really made me think of the Princess Diaries books and would probably be great for girls not ready for the sex stuff later on in that series. Something to Blog About is super clean and well-suited to younger teens.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I kind of-sort of know Shana. We’ve been online journal friends for years and have swapped Baby-Sitters Club books. I’ve been silent on my journal for so long, though, that I’m not sure she’d know who I am anymore, but I still feel like I should say so.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jenn's 2007 Faves

Ok… So, I’m really far behind on this but I wanted to throw my two cents out there since GG is on a bit of a break right now. My list is pretty small. I guess I spent most of 2007 reading books that weren’t new… or I didn’t note but a few of the new books I did read!

In no particular order…


The Off Season by Catherine Murdock

It Had to Be You (GG Prequel) by Cecily von Ziegesar

Don’t You Forget About Me (GG #11) by Cecily von Ziegesar

What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Unforgettable: It Girl #4 by Cecily von Ziegesar

Derby Girl by Shauna Cross

Bliss is not your average country gal. Although she may have to live in a small Texas town (due to the fact, you know, her parents want to...) she knows she has no desire to fit in. She's got blue hair, a punk rock attitude, and the desire to seek out the different. This is all sort of a problem since her mother is completely obsessed with beauty pageants. And not only with her own beauty pageant past, but she also insists on entering Bliss into them. Pageants that Bliss never, ever, ever wins. So when the opportunity presents itself to skip off to Austin and try out for the all female roller derby league. Bliss jumps at the chance.

This book is set in the fictional town of Bodeen, Texas, which claims fame as the maker of Bluebonnet Ice Cream. Maybe the reason it took awhile for Bliss to win me over is that she was so hard on the tourists that came to visit the Bluebonnet Ice Cream Factory. I recognized that Bodeen was based on Brenham, where the very real (and extremely yummy) Bluebell Ice Cream Factory is located. You know, where they eat all the ice cream they can and sell the rest. A place where I would LOVE to visit. I mean - wouldn't you want to see an ice cream factory in action and then sample all the yummy flavors? Although now that I've looked at the Bluebell website it shows you only get one scoop of ice cream. That's totally lame. Only one lousy scoop? But if it was their Chocolate Covered Strawberries ice cream, it might be ok...

So yes, Bliss took awhile to win me over. But won over I was. I could have done without a few of the "what's cool" lectures, I'm not sure they were entirely necessary - they certainly annoyed me more than anything, but on the whole this is a cute book. And if you can make it through the first half you'll be rewarded with with angsty goodness like dealing with parents who don't understand, growing apart from your best friend, and hot boys who just might break your heart. The author's enthusiasm for the roller derby really shows in the derby action sequences. They were really well written, super fun, and I felt like I was there in the stands. Bliss' love interest, a hot musician she nicknames Senor Smolder, also makes for some great reading. And, last but certainly not least is Bliss' mother - a total hoot of a character.

It's also being made into a movie directed by Drew Barrymore and starring Ellen Page. Who, by the way, is a fantastic choice to play Bliss. I wonder who they'll get to play Bliss' mother. That would be a fantastic role. She's just so over the top that her character will translate particularly well onto the big screen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Head Case by Sarah Aronson

Frank is a senior in high school when he makes the decision that will change his life forever. He drives drunk and kills two people - one of which was his girlfriend. He barely survives the accident himself. He lives, but is paralyzed from the neck down.

This book is told from Frank's perspective. His anger, frustration, regret, and depression is evident. Frank is not feeling lucky to have survived. He wishes he was dead. He wishes he didn't have to be looked after. But mostly he wishes that night never happened.

It is a remarkably fast read for a book that is such a downer. But it reads pretty true. I'm fairly certain most of us would find the situation difficult to deal with at any age, not just as a teenager. His rage at the way his life ended up was very realistic. My biggest complaint is that Frank's emotional turnaround begins much sooner than seems realistic. Only two months after he returns home Frank is already making progress. To my mind that seemed too soon for emotional breakthroughs. Regardless, I think teens will stick with the book. It is like the ultimate rubbernecking experience. Literally.

This book is a pretty strong public service announcement. Don't drink and drive. You're not going to like the consequences. One would hope it would make teen readers think twice before

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Unwind by Neil Shusterman

“The Second Civil War, also known as ‘The Heartland War,” was a long and bloody conflict fought over a single issue. To end the war, a set of constitutional amendments known as ‘The Bill of Life’ was passed. It satisfied both the Pro-life and the Pro-choice armies. The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively ‘abort’ a child on the condition that the child’s life doesn’t ‘technically’ end. The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called ‘unwinding.’"

The novel begins with Connor. A teen deemed troublesome by his parents and slated to be unwound. Of course, even though Connor has proven that he’s a pain to raise, it certainly doesn’t mean he’s stupid. He catches wind of his parents’ plan and runs away. He knows that if he can make it to his eighteenth birthday (still two years away) he’ll be safe. No one, not even someone who was supposed to be, can be unwound once they are eighteen.

Risa is a StaHo – or an orphan who lives at a State Home. She had several years to prove that she was worthy of her life, but only proved that she was ordinary. Not extraordinary in any way – which she needed to be in order to keep her life. She is also slated to become an unwind.

Lev is different, he’s a Tithe - raised from birth to be unwound once he reaches his thirteenth birthday. He believes that he is gifting his life to a higher purpose and his life-long religious instruction has made this a Godly endeavor for him. Lev knows he’s not an ordinary unwind, he’s special.

These three teens are inadvertently thrown together and their lives are never the same again.

This book is absolutely chilling. I think it is Shusterman’s best book to date. It was so suspenseful that I had to put it down after chapters – I was desperate to find out more, but I needed time to process everything that was going on. The book deals with the value human beings place on human life. When does life start? When is it appropriate to end a life? Just like today when the issue is filled with shades of gray, Shusterman’s envisioned future is no less foggy. He presents the choices, shows us their benefits as well as their ugly underbellies, and then steps back. An admirable, and I imagine extremely difficult, accomplishment.

What I was particularly impressed with was the author’s ability to introduce ideas and characters into the narrative and bring them up later without it feeling labored or overly obvious. The urban legend of Humphrey Dunfree is a good example. Humphrey is introduced several times and so as the book progresses the reader isn’t really expecting any revelations. But they come, boy do they come. There are also great plot twists, the characters were extremely well written and compelling, and the ending was hopeful, but not sappy or overly tidy. This book is ripe for discussion. Good stuff.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

French Milk is Lucy Knisley’s travel journal from a month spent in Paris. She went with her mother in January 2007, a few months before she graduated from college. The book is a combination of comics and photographs of their trip. It’s mostly day-to-day tourist stuff – dinners, shopping, museum visits – with some time spent worrying what she’ll do when she graduates, thinking about facing adulthood, and considering art.

While there’s not a whole lot of story (being a travelogue), Lucy’s voice is so perfect, that you kind of start to feel like you know her, and like maybe you should go visit her in Paris. And have a croissant. Or at least pick up a pen and start drawing a travel journal of your own. Good for those with wanderlust. (Unless you’re trying to get over it.) I’ll look forward to more.

2008 Books We Can't Wait to Read

Here's our start to what we are looking forward to in 2008. I was inspired by all of the blogs I read and then some. The books below aren't all my picks and the list is woefully incomplete. I hope some of my teammates chip in with theirs. We'll also have to see what folks mailed back from ALA. (How girly is this list? *sigh*) Still, a sad lack of GNs I think. I know they're out there... First Second has to have something amazingly cool coming out.

New Stuff from Favorites:
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (I already blogged this, but I'm anxious to see what others will think.)
Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart , Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle
The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi
Love & Lies: Marisol's Story by Ellen Wittlinger
Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman
Ever by Gail Carson Levine (she talked about this at the Texas Book Fest in November.)
The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

Patti suggested a YNF!!

Out of Line: Growing up Soviet by Tina Grimberg

The GNs:
Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg
Jellaby by Kean Soo

Extra Crunchy Specials:
Jumpy Jack & Googily by Meg Rosoff & Sophie Blackall (Illustrator) - Just looking at this makes me so happy!

Also, Frankenstein Takes the Cake by Adam Rex - both Frakenstein Makes a Sandwich and PSSST! are my son's favorites. Can't wait to see this one.

The X-Files:
Justine Larbalestier's book about the [parking] faeries! Maybe not until '09, but we can hope.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bleach, vol 1: Strawberry and the Soul Reapers by Tite Kubo

Bleach is a manga serialized in Shonen Jump so you know it has boy appeal. It’s also on adult swim, which is how a staff person at my library came to recommend it for purchase. I like manga well enough, but one problem I do have with the format is that I don’t have the patience to read 20+ volumes. Although this isn’t a particularly strong argument seeing as that for 2 years I collected individual issues of Fables. But back to the review.

Ichigo “Strawberry” Kurosaki is 15 years old and he’s sees dead people. He usually helps them out with a task, like beating up vandals who wrecked their memorial flowers. Ichigo’s dad runs a local health clinic. His mom is deceased and he lives with his crazy dad and two younger sisters. He is surprised with a visit from a (cute, 300+ year old) Soul Reaper named Rukia Kuchiki. Her job is to help souls move on by way of a Konsô, or soul funeral. I’m not certain but this seems to mean giving them a loving whack with her sword. But there are 2 types of souls! Dilemma! Good spirit ghosts and bad spirit Hollows, who attack the living and the dead to devour souls. Soul Reapers also have the job of vaporizing Hollows via spells and a aforementioned big old sword.

In their first meet up, Rukia tries to transfer some power to Ichigo, but ends up transferring all her power/Dark Force to him. And there is the drama and the comedy. Ichigo, who’s a little cocky but has a heart, has to learn from Rukia and together they have to fight THE EVIL. There’s more drama about what will happen to Rukia if she doesn’t get her power. I believe it’s that she may become “human” forever. The scene where she tries to open a juice box is hilarious. So far I really like this manga. I have read vol 2 and there’s a scene, with Chad, that brought tears to my eyes. It surprised me, too!

I’m going to leave it to Jenn H & maybe Laura to clarify anything I missed here. Bleach, it’s not anything special since it has its own TV show, but I am enjoying it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Printz Award Winners

The YALSA Blog has posted the winners for the various media awards. Here's the list for the Printz.



To say I'm shocked is an understatement. It's always exciting to see what has been chosen. Jenn H blogged Feathers & Repossessed in one sitting back in September! She nags both a Printz Honor and Newbery Honor in one week. Also, it appears that DREAMQUAKE is the 2nd book in a 2-part series. Weirdness!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Right Behind You by Gail Giles

Kip was 9 years old when he murdered Bobby Clarke. He threw gas on Bobby’s baseball glove and lit it on fire, the fire spread to Bobby. It took Bobby 3 days to die.

Kip has lived with the horror of being a murderer ever since. It has been several years since Bobby’s death. Several years of intensive therapy at the juvenile mental health facility where Kip has lived ever since that awful day. Several years during which Kip has internalized his shame and guilt and unworthiness as a human being. On the eve of his release Kip and his family assume new identities and move to Indiana to start again. But how can you start a new life when your old one is still haunting you?

This is a story of morality, penance, and redemption. The central issue the book deals with is whether or not it is possible for a person to make amends for an act of cruelty or whether that one act, even when committed as a small child, shapes your worth as a human being for the rest of your life. Does intent matter when the end result is the same (as in manslaughter vs. murder)? What has to happen in order to balance the scales – and is it even possible? Is it up to the individual or is it up to the community?

Giles deals with these questions masterfully. I couldn’t put this book down. That’s not to say it’s a perfect book, but it is riveting nonetheless. Kip is an incredibly likable character. He is consumed by guilt and tends to sabotage his life when it seems like it is going too well. He feels that he deserves to be continually punished. He’s surrounded by a loving family that wants him to live a new life and helped along by some extremely competent mental health professionals, but he still feels as though this one action shadows his every subsequent moment.

(*POSSIBLE SPOILERS*) What I found so interesting is that Kip always, always, always refers to himself as a murderer. It takes Kip many years to understand that although he did something that was horrible and has to live with the results of his actions, it doesn’t necessarily mark him as ruined person. He is the only one who can decide if the course of his life will be about this one action or whether he’ll be able to move past it. This was one of the strongest parts of the novel – even though others (like Kip’s parents and psychiatrists) understand that it was more an impetuous violent act with disastrous consequences, Kip can’t actually move on until he, himself, can accept that fact. And not just accept responsibility (because he’s always accepted responsibility), but more accurately accept that he is more than that one action – he is everything that happened before and after. Kip sums it up perfectly, “I’ve been waiting to forget that I murdered Bobby Clarke. Or forgive myself…I figured out that I can’t forget. I can’t really forgive. But I can live. LIVE with it.” Which is what this reader had been desperately hoping for the entire book. (*END OF SPOILERS*)

Michelle and I are soon to be discussing this title at our book club at the local juvenile detention center and I can’t wait to hear their thoughts on Kip and his life. I wonder if they’ll think he was responsible for his actions at 9 years old. If they’ll think the community was right to vilify him to such a degree. And I’m especially curious about what they’ll think about his friends’ reactions when they find out about past. It should be a very interesting conversation because this book is nothing if not completely discussable.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

This I Believe, ed. by Jay Allison

I just finished listening to the audiobook of This I Believe, a compilation of essays from the NPR show of the same name. People were asked to send in essays of a few hundred words about the principles that guide them. There’s a combination of famous people (Isabel Allende, John McCain, Penn Jillette, Bill Gates), some from the original edition of the show in the 50s (Martha Graham, Jackie Robinson), and a bunch of just regular people who submitted their essays to the website. When I started listening, I was expecting to enjoy the famous people’s essays and zone out during the regular people’s, but I was so wrong. The regular people’s essays are so moving, so inspiring, so clever, and they make some of the famous ones seem like generic high school graduation speeches.

I keep thinking about how important this book is to me now, but also how meaningful it would have been to me at 16 or 17, but in a completely different way, and what a different experience reading it will be for me in ten or twenty more years. I want to buy copies for people I know, because I suspect that this kind of flailing around, trying to get a hold on My Personal Belief System is fairly universal. (I’m sure it’s not everyone, but I’m not entirely convinced I want to be too friendly with people who never change their ideas about anything.)

I’m torn, though – the audiobook is amazing. They actually have all of the writers reading their own essays. Seriously. You can listen to Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger, and Helen Keller. Helen Keller! But the book would give more time to sit and stare off into space after each essay... I think I’d recommend getting the audio if you can, but read it, read it, read it. And give it to a teenager that is trying to figure things out.
Other reviews:

First book of the New Year: Incantation

It took me a while to post, but I thought I would review the first book I finished in 2008...

Alice Hoffman's newest YA novel takes place in Spain in the year 1500. Estrella deMadrigal lives in a small village with her grandparents and her mother. Her life is idyllic, with a best friend who is like a sister and a special relationship with her mother. Her grandfather is a respected town elder and teacher, and her mother dyes are treasured for their beautiful shades of blue.

Her perfect life is shattered when persecution of Jews, both known and hidden, erupts into violence and betrayal. She comes to question everything she has thought she knew about her family, her village, and herself. Hoffman's lyrical prose and use of the Kabbalistic termanology starkly illustrate the horror of religious persection and witchhunts. Estrella's journey to find herself and her future will move teenagers and adults alike.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

HP7, What I Was, Fourth Comings, and The Sweet Far Thing are the books of 2007 that I just couldn’t wait to read. The Sweet Far Thing in particular is one that I kept careful tabs on as the release date changed and Libba Bray’s (oh so very rockin’) blog went into hibernation as she worked on the book.

An 832 page-final-installment-of-an-award-winning-fantasy-series is no small undertaking. I am also referring to reading it. I started before Christmas and had to stop when I left for vacation and knew I would 1-hate carrying it around and 2-not have time to read anyway. I read this book hungrily. Gemma is a rich character and I love love love to read her. I couldn’t stop turning pages and yet it felt like I was making no progress. This is exactly how I felt reading HP7. What more could she put in our path? Another twist! Another mystery! That was who?! I almost couldn’t take it. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I am a page sneaker. I page snuck for this book. Fowlson, folks, Fowlson! He freaks me out.

But I did get spoiled unexpectedly. I read Libba Bray’s blog with Bloglines. I hearts Bloglines. I came to her post about answering questions in the comments section and thought, great – I’ll go back and read that when I’m finished. The next day I read her post thinking all would be fine because spoilers would be in the comments, but somehow Bloglines showed two lines which revealed 2 words that rocked my reading. It’s probably karma for being a sneaker, but darn it if I didn’t want to see what is perhaps the biggest of the big spoilers.

Like Harry, I was often frustrated with Gemma’s behavior towards the seriousness of having to decide what to do with all the magic. Whereas Harry had great sidekick help from Hermoine and Ron, Gem has Felicity, Pip & Ann. Fee and Pip continue their irksome self-absorbed whining. Ann, a little better, is often swayed by the others. Additionally, like Harry, Gemma doesn’t know who to trust or what information to trust. It’s to the author’s credit that she works this so masterfully. We are in the same boat as Gemma (though there are hints which I defy most readers to pick up on) and what a wild ride it is to uncover the truth. We have a few new characters, but the best developments involve the characters we know, or think we know. My head still hurts just thinking about how stressed out I was over this. As I mentioned before, the barrage of new information can be wearisome, but the story is addictive.

Finally, underneath this excellent fantasy (and hot romance!) story resides a solid foundation of social awareness. Gemma’s observations on sex roles, class, politics and war are very much central points of this book. I am sure many teens will be far more captivated by the fantasy and romance than the social commentary, but I hope it isn’t entirely lost on them. I hope that the messages of free will, justice, and their own power to make change in the world find a way into their lives.

*fun bit* check out this Victorian Fact Sheet and the books the author read in preparation for writing.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Useful Fools by C. A. Schmidt

Alonso is 15 years old and completely in love with Rosa, the daughter of the doctor who works at the public health clinic in his town. He looks forward to every Saturday when they both assist at the clinic. However, both their lives are irrevocably changed when Alonso’s mother is assassinated by revolutionary forces. Alonso must flee with his remaining family to another town to escape further persecution from the revolution.

Yet even in a new town Alonso is not safe. He gets into contact with his best friend Rodolfo who has suffered at the hand of the Peruvian police. Because of his losses due to police brutality, Rodolfo has become enamored with the revolution and encourages Alonso to join him fight against the government. Alonso soon finds himself in a serious moral dilemma. Does he turn his back on his friend who has helped out his family? Does he join the people who assassinated his mother? Or should he do nothing and become a potential victim again?

The Book has several strengths - chief among them the characters of Alonso and Rosa. They were compelling characters that helped to keep the story moving along. Their romance was not only very sweet, but also helps to set up the political and cultural climate of class divisions and revolution. The story shifts back and forth from their perspectives. This adds an element of suspense, especially as their lives become increasingly endangered due to rising violence. Readers will want to finish the book if only to see how their relationship is resolved.

Regrettably, there were also some weaknesses. I found it hard to believe that Alonso would be swept up in the movement and join the revolutionary group that had just murdered his mother. Especially since the revolutionaries only conversed in tired clichés and unconvincing rhetoric. It was also somewhat difficult to understand the political and cultural landscape of Peru. Useful Fools is set during a time of incredible political unrest when average people were caught between a corrupt police force and revolutionary terrorists. According to the author’s note nearly 70,000 Peruvians died during this time period. Unfortunately, this author’s note comes at the end of the story. Readers who are unfamiliar with Peru’s political history might find it difficult to grasp the various political background necessary to fully understand the story. It would have been much more helpful to have this note at the beginning of the novel to familiarize readers before they began reading.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Get Well Soon by Hulie Halpern

I was initially reluctant to read Get Well Soon. I thought it sounded too similar to It's Kind of a Funny Story by Vizzini which I had really enjoyed. I'm glad that I actually sat down and read this. Although there were certainly similarities - both books featured teens admitted to psychiatric hospitals, both authors employed humor to lighten very serious issues, both featured possible romances, and both teens benefited from their stay in the hospital. Even so, the stories ended up reading differently from each other and seemed to compliment each other rather than compete.

Anna is admitted to a hospital by her parents. She's seriously depressed, she's obsessed with her weight, she doesn't want to go to school anymore and she's not leaving her room very much. On arrival to the hospital she's allowed a pencil and paper where she begins writing a letter to her best friend documenting what is happening to her in the hospital. Initially she is confused, scared, and distrustful of the staff and hospital environment. With each passing day Anna begins to work through her depression. She makes connections with the other teens hospitalized with her, she opens up during her counseling sessions, and she begins to understand that all the thoughts and ideas that she has internalized might not actually be true.

Anna has a voice that seemed spot on to me. She's immature, insecure, but increasingly able to find humor in situations that previously sent her into tailspins. Her narration isn't always reliable and you wonder if there is more going on in her therapy sessions than she's relaying in her letter. You get the sense that she is experiencing continual growth and will come out of the situation better than she entered it.

A fast read that will appeal to a wide variety of readers. I could see lovers of realistic fiction, girls who just want a funny story, as well as girls who are more into chick lit all enjoying this book. And its short enough to appeal to reluctant readers too.