This round of book reviews – titles for YA and 9-12s.
Keris Stainton – Della Says OMG!
Della’s shy and kind of insecure, so when her diary goes missing – the same night the guy she’s liked forever starts taking an interest in her – she is, understandably, freaked out. This does a great job at presenting teen insecurities and relationships, including the nastiness of some characters, and it’s really nice to see something that addresses sex in an open way (both via Della and her best friend). A fast-paced read for anyone who enjoys contemporary teen fiction.
Jessica Rothenberg – The Catastrophic History of You and Me
I love the premise of this book so very much. Brie’s boyfriend breaks up with her, and it breaks her heart in two – literally. She narrates from the afterlife, where she is coming to terms with being ‘Dead & Gone’ (but still aware of what’s going on among the living). As she moves through the different stages of grief we learn more about the events leading up to her death – and what comes next. There’s a lot of really cool stuff in here, but it’s a 4-star rather than 5-star review because I think one of the niftiest bits (the end – and that whole thing, she said vaguely) could have done with more explanation and set-up. That being said, it’s well worth a read.
R J Palacio – Wonder
I was underwhelmed by this book, which I read for bookclub, and had many grumpy things to say about it. The premise, as you may know, is that there’s this kid, August, with facial disfigurations/abnormalities, and the story focuses on what happens when he goes to school for the first time. The novel has numerous narrators, so we get to hear from a lot of different characters – but it’s all about August, and this sort of overshadows them as individuals. August’s sister is really interesting, but again – the focus is all on how they see August, and that’s pretty much it. I think this is a book with a great message, about being kind, about seeing past appearances, but as a story it just didn’t appeal to me all that much. (I also thought it was going to go much darker than it did, at the end.)
Ann M Martin – Family Tree #1: Better To Wish
Oh! Oh oh oh. So I am kind of a big Ann M Martin fan, and she has this new historical series out that I wasn’t sure whether I would love or not. (In retrospect, this seems foolish. History! Yay!) There are four books planned, each focusing on one generation in a family, and this first book opens up with Abby Nichols on her 100th birthday, in 2022, looking back at her childhood and teenage years. The novel avoids melodrama or making a point of educating the reader about the time period, but there’s a wonderful sense of the past with all its prejudices and limitations. Abby’s life is not easy, even though her ambitious father can provide for the family; there’s loss of different kinds as the book progresses, and a difficult choice to make at the end. We see Abby grow up (at the end she’s graduated high school, and in the epilogue she’s in her twenties), and in the next book (out October) we’ll get to see her through the eyes of her daughter, and I am very excited. Highly recommended for 10+ (age range is I think 8-12, but older readers will appreciate this too.)