Five YA books plus one 8-12s this time around, featuring rehab and summer camp and weight issues and families and friends and angst. So, y’know, the usual.
Amy Reed – Clean
I have a weakness for teens-in-rehab stories, and this one is intense. Told from five different perspectives, it looks at both the intense time in treatment and what came before – the steps towards an addiction getting so out of hand that it landed them here. This shies away from easy answers and simplistic explanations, and features bucketloads of ‘issues’ without ever making them the sum total of what the characters actually are. Worth checking out.
Una La Marche – Five Summers (via NetGalley)
Summer camp novel! Four friends over the course of five summers at camp, plus a reunion – there’s a lot of flipping back and forth time-wise with this one. Emma, Skylar, Jo and Maddie promise to be best friends forever at age ten; at seventeen they’re finding out that life isn’t always that simple, and some secrets emerge that threaten to shake things up (although the more subtle growing-up, growing-apart has also taken its toll). Fun read, at times a bit predictable, but… summer camp! Yay!
K A Barson – 45 Pounds (More Or Less) (via NetGalley)
I really liked this book about weight loss and body image and the dieting industry of doom. Ann is sixteen and a far, far cry away from her teeny-tiny mother, or any ‘ideal’ weight. When her aunt Jackie says she’s getting married and wants Ann to be a bridesmaid (lovely twist on this: it’s a same-sex marriage, and Jackie is the sanest one in the entire family), it’s the catalyst for an infomercial-advertised weight-loss regime that… does not work. But making new friends, and exploring the relationship she has with food, and with her family, is what Ann needs in order to start feeling a bit more comfortable in her own skin. (But less, y’know, preachy and simple than that, because it does address the way in which it is far, far easier to be a thin girl in today’s world, and how eating and weight issues are complicated.) Recommended.
Ann M Martin – Ten Rules For Living With My Sister
Cute read for the 8+ crowd about Pearl and her has-everything-good-happen-to-her-ever older sister Lexie, and what happens when their grandfather comes to stay – forcing the girls to share a room but also to come to terms with what’s happening to him. Family, friendship and classroom politics feature heavily. The sequel, Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life (So Far), is now available.
Sarah Dessen – The Moon And More
I love love love Sarah Dessen’s books and I did love her latest one, which revisits the beach town of Colby that features in several of her other books. I love that we get to see a town that is ‘tourist destination’ for most other people through the eyes of people who live there all the time, and as ever there are some nifty references to familiar characters. That being said, I did miss the swoonworthy-love-interest factor that Dessen does so well – which is in some ways, it must be said, part of the point of this book. Emaline, the main character, is torn between small-town life and the opportunities that getting out of there would offer, and this is reflected in her break-up with longterm boyfriend Luke and a new romance with college-going, intellectual Theo. Theo is charming in some ways, and definitely has an appeal, but there are also many ways in which he’s not a dream guy (which the book is definitely conscious of). It was a really interesting relationship to portray, but… you’d miss the loveliness of Dexter or Wes or Owen. Anyway. That aside, there is general fabulousness about family – Emaline’s birth father and half-brother are in town for the summer, and she’s figuring out how to deal with them, alongside her own crazy-yet-loving family (her mom, stepfather and stepsisters). And there’s the intense filmmaker who’s determined to make a documentary about a reclusive local artist, which raises a lot of questions about small-town life and success. This book, more than Dessen’s others, makes me wish she’d write an adult novel – there is a richness here to the supporting characters that isn’t often found in YA, and it’d be great to see that play out in another field. For the moment though, this is another thoughtful and eloquent summer read for Dessen fans.
Dawn O’Porter – Paper Aeroplanes
Flo and Renee have never really spent much time together, but are brought together by first an embarrassing incident at a party and then a family tragedy. Set on Guernsey in the 1990s, this is a story of best friends and school pranks and family troubles and boys and sex and all those other good things. It does a good job at zooming in on teenage concerns, although some of the dialogue feels a little stilted (more contractions, please!) and at times some of the mean-girl stuff feels closer to thirteen than fifteen, particularly in the context of what else is going on.