To be completely honest, I chose to read this book last summer because it counted for a square on the Adult Summer Reading BINGO card! (It was a gardening theme, and the book had the name of a flower in the title.) The fact that I didn’t get around to reviewing this book until now, nevertheless, is not any indication of the quality of the story. I am just *very* bad at reviewing books as soon as I finish them. I have such a back-log to get through that I often play “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” to pick which one to do!
Though this book tells the story of a 15-year-old girl named Tiger Lily, it is actually narrated by a fairy named Tinkerbell. [Yes, the same Tinkerbell you've heard of before!] Tiger Lily, a native girl who has always lived as an outcast of sorts within her tribe, is desperate to find a way out of marrying a horrid man to whom she has been betrothed. Tiger Lily spends time in the woods to avoid her tribe and to try to escape her life, if only for short periods of time, and ends up running into Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. Not only does she fall for Peter, fully knowing she can’t actually make a life with him, but then Wendy Darling shows up in Neverland… If you aren’t don’t get your heart broken at least once by the end of this story, you don’t have a heart.
Ryan Dean West has a lot going on… First of all, Ryan Dean — yes, that’s his first name — is a 14 year old junior. Even though he attends an elite prep school, or perhaps because he attends an elite prep school, being two to three years younger than the other students in his grade causes a lot of resentment. Aside from being called a baby all the time, he also has to deal with the fact that he landed himself in “O Hall” [the residence hall for trouble makers] and is stuck rooming with a psychopath named Chas. Luckily, Chas is a rugby teammate and, therefore, has *some* reason not to randomly kill Ryan Dean in his sleep. Other than Chas, Ryan Dean’s biggest problem is girls. His age complicates dating a bit, since he would rather date people in his grade and not people his own age. Unfortunately, though it’s pretty clear that Ryan Dean is love with his best friend, Annie, she seems to think of him as a kid. And Megan, who clearly has the hots for him, is Chas’ girlfriend — which may end up giving Chas the excuse he needs to kill Ryan Dean for real. Luckily, Ryan Dean has another best friend, Joey, to help him through all the craziness and to try to talk some sense into him as needed. Although Ryan Dean occasionally feels awkward about the fact that Joey is gay — wondering, for example, if people will think he is gay by extension — he loves Joey like a brother and is [sometimes begrudgingly] grateful for his advice.
Even though the plot is not at all similar, I found that this book reminded me of I Love You, Beth Cooper. Ryan Dean, despite being a “jock,” somehow reminded me of nerdy Dennis Cooverman. Maybe it was his superior book smarts paired with a lack of interpersonal intelligence? One could probably make the argument that the connection in my mind stems from the fact that Ryan Dean got progressively more banged up throughout the story (just like Dennis), but I think I made the connection before the injuries started to pile up. I think that the overall humorous tone, realistic dialogue, and writing style were similar enough for my brain to make a link (though I feel compelled to warn readers that Winger had a very sad twist ending). No matter the reason, nevertheless, I think Larry Doyle fans are likely to be Andrew Smith fans as well.
Fat Angie isn’t exactly the most popular girl at school. She was getting by well enough before, but slitting her wrists and running out onto the court during a basketball game kinda made her a target for the bullies and mean girls like Stacy Ann Sloan. A lot of adults simply take the other students’ word for it when Stacy Ann taunts Angie and says that Angie started a fight, but Coach Laden knew Angie’s sister and has a soft spot in her heart for the troubled girl. After all, she knows Angie’s sister is a big part of the reason Angie is such a mess. Although she was a gifted basketball player and a good student, Angie’s sister decided to enlist in the military instead of going to college. She was later captured in Iraq and has since been presumed dead. Angie refuses to believe that her sister is dead, and she often wears her sister’s old [too small for Angie] basketball t-shirt as a way to keep their connection alive.
When a new girl, KC Romance, comes to town, one of her very first actions is standing up for Angie. Even when Stacy Ann tries to warn KC that Angie is not cool, she doesn’t care. So, Angie goes against her instincts and tries to open up. Making a new friend might not seem like a whole heck of a lot to some people, but it’s pretty heroic when you consider the fact that her own mother and her adopted brother treat her like crap and refuse to acknowledge the anguish that is Angie’s every day. I especially enjoyed the fact that readers were privy to Angie’s inner dialogue so we could share every awkward thought and every frantic grasp for something to say. Whether you want a coming of age novel, a book about bullying, or just something so raw and real you desperately wish you could crawl inside the book to give the main character a hug, you need to read this book. (FWIW, I’ve got my hopes set on at least a Printz Honor for this one.)
It’s not very often that I have enough down time to finish a book in only a couple of sittings — and even more rare that I finish a book and post a review the very next day — but this book was just so awesome that I couldn’t help myself! It was thought-provoking without being too preachy/in your face, told a very unique story, and had characters so well developed that I kinda wished I could jump in the story and hang out with them for a while. What was it about, though, right?
Rafe was a generally good kid, good student, and soccer player. He also happened to be gay. Luckily, because he had super-accepting parents and grew up in a very liberal city (Boulder, CO), coming out was fairly easy. His parents actually threw him a coming out party — his dad referred to it as a “cotillion” — and his mom became active with the local chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Despite the fact that he agreed to speak to students at local schools, Rafe started to get upset that his being gay was all some people saw. He decided to go away to a boarding school in New England so he could have a chance to live life as a “normal” guy. It was kinda cool, at first, to see how different life could be… but Rafe soon found out that withholding the truth — even though it’s not technically lying — can cause a lot of collateral damage.
Aaron Hartzler credits his acting ability to all the practice he got at home. After all, having questions about his faith and his sexuality weren’t exactly encouraged by his strict, Christian parents. If he wanted to stay out of trouble, he had to pretend to believe what they believed and to behave as they thought he should. As a child, he found it easy to get swept up in the excitement over the thought that Jesus might come down and take them all away to heaven at a moment’s notice. As a teen, though, Aaron had begun to enjoy his time on Earth too much to hope for the rapture. He also began to question many of the strict rules his parents upheld in the name of religion — especially the rules against listening to popular music and going to the movies. He began sneaking around and breaking rules and, what started off as smaller/more innocent lies, soon became intricately planned deceptions and full-fledged rebellion. Though I grew up attending church, my Presbyterian upbringing was very liberal and I found it fascinating [and sometimes horrifying] to see how vastly different it could have been even though his religion was based on the same holy book as mine.
As soon as I read this book, I knew I would have to save the review for Banned Books Week. It wasn’t so much because I thought people would be attempting to ban this book but because I thought the message [self-censorship] would resonate really well at this time. Though, I suppose some people would definitely be offended by several of the topics covered in this story. Either way… It’s certainly a good book to review this week.
Gossiping is practically a sport in many high schools, and Chelsea Knot could be the captain of the varsity team. Everyone knows that she can’t keep a secret, and it’s her tendency to gossip that likely keeps her in the good graces of some of her so-called friends. When she walks in on something extremely gossip-worthy at a party — one of the guys she knows was making out with another guy — she immediately heads downstairs to spill. The instant the words leave her mouth, though, she regrets having said anything. She is pretty sure he is going to get beat up and it will be all her fault. Unfortunately, her instincts were right and he ends up in the hospital on life support. To prevent wreaking any further havoc, Chelsea decides she has to take a vow of silence. I can’t say anything else without spoilers — and what I already said practically is a spoiler — so I will simply say that this was a very interesting and well-written story.
Happy Banned Books Week!
P.S. I won’t likely post a review every day this week like I normally would for Banned Books Week because I will be spending the rest of the week in Niagara Falls for the New York Library Association Annual Conference. (Sorry!)
I usually love David Levithan’s books. And I definitely started off loving this book, too. It was great to see an author who would help teens empathize with the people around them by creating a character who lived inside a different body every day and got to experience life from so many different angles. That is, until I got to the day where “A.” woke up as a fat person. I was horrified that Levithan showed so much more compassion for a heroin addict than for someone who weighed “at least 300 pounds.” I mean, I just don’t understand Levithan could insinuate that readers should be more accepting of all the complications that arose from A. living in bodies of people from different ethnicities, socioeconomic classes, and sexual orientations and then be so downright cruel in his descriptions when A. woke up in a fat body. If a person is addicted to food, which this kid Finn very well could have been, just imagine how much harder it could be for him to exist anywhere in society. A heroin addict can always go to rehab and then move away from the area where s/he is likely to run in to his/her old drug dealer and druggie friends… But a fat person can never get away from food — it’s necessary to eat if you want to live! Don’t understand how I can be so livid? Take this paragraph for instance:
When I finally take a look around and take a look inside, I’m not very excited about what I see. Finn Taylor has retreated from most of the world; his size comes from negligence and laziness, a carelessness that would be pathological if it had any meticulousness to it. While I am sure if I access deep enough I will find some well of humanity, all I can see on the surface is the emotional equivalent of a burp.
Sure, Finn could be lazy. But it’s also likely that there is *something* that caused him to “[retreat] from most of the world” and let himself go. I’m sure some people probably love this story and aren’t very upset by this chapter, but I am completely pissed at David Levithan right now.
P.S. I decided to do a quick search to see if anyone else out there had similar feelings about this book, and I was happy to find this review — http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2012/08/body-image-and-every-day-by-david.html — in which Christie Gibrich reacted with just as much indignation as me. So, yay that someone agrees with me, but boo that this is even an issue! /sigh
Since I heard last night that Rhode Island legalized gay marriage, I thought a review of a book focused on GLBTQ issues was in order this morning!
Liz was born female, but has always felt male. Being Liz in public and being Gabe inside was very difficult, but Liz started to make the transition to Gabe in 12th grade. Having an understanding best friend helped a lot, but having a family that still used female pronouns and refused to use the name “Gabe” was pretty hard. When the next door neighbor, a fellow music nut named John, found Liz a radio show on a local community radio station, it presented an excellent opportunity for Gabe to come out… But, it also meant that Liz would have to find a way to tell John about Gabe sooner rather than later.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children was not just a radio show. It was Gabe’s chance to introduce himself to the world and to work through his feelings with music. Before long, Gabe had fans — the Ugly Children’s Brigade — who would perform random acts of crazy art in honor of his show. It gave him quite a confidence boost to know that people liked the “real” him. Unfortunately, a casual date with a member of the UCB threatened to ruin everything when the girl recognized Gabe as Liz and spread the word on the UCB fan page. I won’t ruin the ending by telling you exactly how things played out, but I am sure you can guess [based on real life] that Gabe’s life got pretty tough after that.
I loved the realistic portrayal of Liz/Gabe’s struggle, the supportive best friend, and the fantastic “soundtrack” throughout. As a former college radio DJ, I especially appreciated the authentic setting of the run-down community radio station and Gabe’s trials and tribulations while he got used to being on air. I had more than a couple of “been there, done that” moments as I read this book.
I thought this would be a good book to review on Valentine’s Day, since it had a lot to do with love. Sadly, though, it was mostly about how love was off limits for Cameron Post. Why? Because of the strict Evangelical Christian views of her family [and the majority of people in small-town Miles City, Montana]. This belief system was so apparent that, even before she truly understood what homosexuality was, Cameron knew her feelings for other girls were unacceptable to the people around her. So much, in fact, that her first reaction to hearing her parents had died in a car crash was relief. Why relief? Because her parents’ sudden death meant they would never find out she had kissed her best friend, Irene, earlier that day. Cameron tried to lie to herself and was able to pass for “normal” for a while, but she finally admitted to herself that she was a lesbian because of a friendship/fling with an out-and-proud Seattle girl she met through swim team.
While it was interesting to read about how Cameron discovered and came to grips with her sexuality, it was devastating to read about her stay at God’s Promise — a church camp that was supposed “cure” Cameron of her homosexuality. Although this story is fictional, it is based on a reality too many young people face. I look forward to a day when all people can feel free to love whomever they love, regardless of gender, but I fear this will not be for a long time yet. In the meantime, at least GLBTQ teens have stories like these to help them through the hard times they are sure to face.
Happy Reading… and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Not only does this book receive my YA Librarian Seal of Approval for including lots of factual information and providing helpful resources for the teens who need them, but it also receives the Queer Teen Seal of Approval from one of my patrons. He saw the book sitting out on my desk [as I was about to start my review] and asked if he could look at it. I decided to hold off on my review until after he and I had a chance to discuss what he thought of the book. I figured this was the perfect test, after all, because he is currently in the process of coming out to his friends and is trying to figure out when/how he will come out to his family. After about an hour, he returned and told me, “It’s awesome!” He went on to say that he liked how it was “pretty much a ‘how to’ guide for gay teens.” I smiled and said, “That’s pretty much the idea!” So, yeah… I think this book is a “must own” for all libraries that serve teens — whether you think you have queer teens or not.