Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Indigo Summer by Monica Mckayhan

Life for fifteen year old Indigo Summer seems to be going well. She lands a spot on the high school dance team and gets a date to the homecoming dance with the most popular boy at school.  Everything seems to be going well until Quincy the star football player dumps Indigo for a girl who is willing to "put out."  When Indigo's self esteem and popularity takes a nosedive, she turns to the one person who has his head on straight-her next door neighbor Marcus Carter.  Indigo finally realizes how much of a great guy he is, but she doesn't know that someone else has shown an interest in him as well.


I finished this book within four days. It took me a month to read Sarah Dessen's Lock and Key, and I finished November Blues in a week.  This novel is designed for the reluctant reader. However, it may seem like fluff to the more avid readers.   I found this story to be a quick leisure read.  The story is very predictable in terns of what Indigo's choice would be.  I am glad to see that she made the right choice.  She could had put herself at risk by getting pregnant or even a STD.  Parents will be pleased to know that there are no explicit scenes and profanity. I believe that the goal of this book was to show young people that eventhough doing the right thing may seem uncool at first, but in the long run you will be glad that you may the right decission.  I think that Indigo has alot of maturing to do. For instance, she blames Marcus for her best friend Jade moving away. Marcus didn't even know who Jade was since he moved from another part of town. Since this was her first relationship, she was clueless about what to expect and how guys function.  I hope that her charracter develops  and grow to maturity throughout the series.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Challenge of Writing A Book Review

I use to think that writing a book review was easy. I thought that you wrote a summary about what the book was about and write if you liked it or not. However, when I started trying to get a job as a freelance writer with Suite101, I realized that there is a lot more involved. First, you can't use "I" or cliches. After applying for a job with them several times, I felt like my samples weren't good enough. I tried to write about books that carry substance.

I read 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares back in the summer, and it took me three weeks to read it. It took me even longer to write a book review. I found the story to be sluggish and nothing really happened until chapter 13. The story is targeted towards a much younger crowd than the original Traveling Pants series. I found Lena, Carmen, Tibby, and Bridget alot more interesting. I think that it was hard for me to relate to the new girls because I am older and they are much younger. Maybe I should go back and reread The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and write about it here.

I finished November Blues because the story held my attention. November discovers that she is pregnant after her boyfriend Josh dies. She had to face the transition from childhood to motherhood within months. Josh's parents wanted to adopt the baby in exchange for financial security. The story was predictable in terms of what November's decission would be. Writing a review for this book wasn't as difficult but I probably gave too much of the story away.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares

3 Willows: the Sisterhood Grows by Ann Brashares is about three girls Ama, Jo, and Poly who have been friends since the third grade. The story takes place in Bethesda, Maryland which is the same town the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series took place. Readers will recognize a few familiar faces from the original series.

Introducing a New Sisterhood

Brashares introduces three new girls; Poly, Ama, and Jo who are much younger than the original sisterhood. The girls are different from Lena, Carmen, Tibby, and Bridget. For instance, the three girls have only been friends since the third grade unlike the original sisterhood who have been friends since birth. Throughout The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, the girls were in constant contact through letters, emails, and instant messages. In contrast, the three girls write letters to each other but often cross them out or don’t send them to each other at all. The letters do help to explain their emotions and how they are reluctant to break off their friendship entirely.

Summer is a Time for Change

Poly has remained unchanged since the day the girls met. She longs for the joyful and carefree times the girls once shared. While Ama and Jo are away for the summer, Poly stays home to earn money by babysitting while attempting to spend more time with her mother. Poly dreams of becoming a model after learning that her grandmother was a model. She decides to use the money she earns for modeling camp. This venture means that she must change a few things about herself. Throughout the summer, she learns family secrets and some painful life lessons.

During the summer before high school, Jo spends her vacation with her mom at the family beach house. She gets a job at the local restaurant and makes friends with the older and “cooler” girls who work there. There are family problems at home, but she chooses to ignore them. Jo experiences a summer romance with a cute boy she meets on the bus. There is an instant connection between them but Zach has to decide if he already has a girlfriend. The girlfriend returns and causes trouble for Jo. After an incident at the restaurant, Jo learns a hard lesson in knowing who her real friends are.

Ama is an overachiever who is trying to step out of the shadow of her older sister Esi. She expects to spend her summer doing research or surrounded by books at an academic program. Instead, she is given a scholarship for Wild Adventures in Wyoming.. During her time at camp, Ama must learn to face her biggest fear.

Throughout the story, it may seem to readers that the girls’ friendship is going to eventually end. However, near tragedy bring the three friends back together. Even though this novel is targeted toward a younger audience, it doesn’t mean that older teens and adults won’t enjoy it. At some point in our lives, we have felt that we have outgrown our friends or had to learn who our real friends were. Like other novels by Ann Brashares, 3 Willows deals with real issues that teens cope with everyday. The pace of the novel is slow, but it is gracefully well written. This story proved that like willow trees, friendships need time to cultivate and grow.

November Blues by Sharon M. Draper

November Blues (2007) is the sequel to The Battle of Jericho which takes a look at teen pregnancy and what happens when everything doesn’t go according to plan.

Facing the Past and the Future

November Nelson has been grieving over the death of her boyfriend Josh after a pledge stunt gone wrong. Just when she thinks that life can’t get any worse, she discovers that she is pregnant with Josh’s child. She faces the challenge of breaking the news to her mother and the Prescotts. She is faced with the biggest decision that she could ever imagine.
When November finally tells her mother, she is understandably upset. November had plans to attend the Black College Tour and an academic summer program. She also had plans to attend Cornell University. Now, she knows that she has to alter her plans. After an outburst in class, November reveals that she is pregnant. It doesn’t take long for the news to get around school. November must endure whispers and criticism from her fellow students. November and her mother have a discussion about what it will take to take care of a baby. Mrs. Nelson tries to help her daughter see that she has left behind a world of having to worry homework and washing dinner dishes to the world of motherhood. She also tries to help November to understand that it will take more than allowance money to support a child. Mrs. Nelson finally tells her daughter, “I don’t sleep at night, November wondering about the answers to all these questions…honestly, I think its time that you figure some of this out yourself.” Mrs. Nelson gives November an assignment to go to the store and write down the prices of everything that the baby will need. When November and Jericho look at the prices, they are surprised by the results.
November faces more challenges during the course of her pregnancy. First, the Prescotts want to adopt November’s baby in exchange for financial security. November doesn’t make a decision right away but decides to think matters through. More difficulties arise when Dr. Holland shows concern over November’s high blood pressure. Sunshine is born premature and it is possible that she could face developmental problems. The Prescotts and their lawyer arrive at the hospital within hours after Sunshine’s birth. They bring the papers ready for November to sign and she makes her final decision.
Jericho Prescott has been grieving over the death of his cousin Josh. The pain is more than he can bare and his world is divided into life “before” and “after” Josh. In order to cope, he gives up playing trumpet and decides to go out for the football team. He hopes that the physical pain will suppress his emotional pain. As Jericho faces challenges on the football field, he faces challenges in his love life. His ex-girlfriend Arielle wants a second chance. Meanwhile, Jericho develops feelings for Olivia who is physically different from the pretty and popular girls at school. Despite her size, Olivia is a strong and intelligent young woman. Jericho finally sees Arielle for who she really is. He learns that outer appearances and girls like Arielle are superficial.
About the Author Sharon Draper
Sharon Draper is the five time winner of the Coretta Scott King Literary Award and the New York Times Bestselling Author. Her novels often deal with controversial issues such as hazing in The Battle of Jericho. Draper chooses to address these issues through fictional characters that teens can relate to.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Along for the Ride follows a girl named Auden who is an over achieving insomniac who doesn’t know how to let loose and have fun and is unable to connect with people. Even before her parent’s divorce, she was considered to be the “little adult”; opposite of her brother Hollis who has been traveling in Europe for the last two years. Therefore, Auden has missed out on having a childhood and being a teenager in order to focus her energy on academics to please her demanding intellectual mother.

After graduation, Auden decides to spend the summer with her father, stepmother Heidi, and her new baby sister in the beach town of Colby. Auden packs books so she can study ahead for the upcoming semester of her freshman year in college. When she arrives in Colby, everything doesn’t go according to plan. Her father is immersed in writing his book, while Heidi adjusts to motherhood. On the first night, Auden gets involved with a boy who she finds out the next day is the ex-boyfriend of Maggie who works at Heidi’s boutique. Auden ends up working at the shop, and is introduced to a whole new world-a world of girls.

First, Auden explores Colby’s nightlife alone until she meets Eli who is a fellow insomniac who is dealing with his past. Together they explore the town. Eli helps Auden to rediscover what she has missed out on during the past eighteen years. Auden gains new friends even with Maggie. She learns that there is more to Maggie than being a girly girl. As Auden spends more time with Heidi, she sees that she is not what her mother perceived her to be-a waste of space.

Through Auden’s transformation, she learns how to connect with people and develop new friendships. She also learns not judge people at first glance like her mother. Along for the Ride is a well written story which deals with personal transformation and relationships between family, friends, and romance. Sarah Dessen brings all of the characters to life. Her descriptions make the reader feel like they are in the middle of the action with Auden. Sarah Dessen fans will notice a few familiar faces from earlier novels.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Seventeen year old Macy Queen has a long hot summer to look fowar5d to when her boyfriend Jason goes off to Brain Camp. She takes over his job at the library and in her spare time, she plans to study for the SAT’s. Meanwhile, she silently grieves over her father’s death.

Life changes when Macy meets the chaotic Wish Catering Crew at her mother’s party. One night after Jason breaks up with Macy via email, she decides to go for a ride and follows the Wish Catering van. Before long, Macy decides to work for them, while keeping her job at the library. Delia, Monica, Kristy, and Wes help Macy to look at life in a completely different way.

Silently Grieving

Macy’s father died over a year and a half ago. Macy holds on to her father’s memories by storing his EZ Products that he use to order. Macy gave up the one thing that she loved and connected her to her father- running. One night, she opens up to Wes about her father’s death. Before that night, Macy has not expressed her feelings about father’s death, and what happened the morning he died. Her mother throws herself into her work, which doesn’t allow much time for anything else. Her sister Caroline makes plans to renovate the family beach house. However, this is too much for Macy and her mother to handle.

Macy Changes

In the first few chapters, readers may view Macy as boring. Macy’s routine started out as follows; go to work at the library, come home and eat dinner, check her email, and prepare her clothes for the next day. Soon, Macy breaks the routine when she starts hanging out with her new friends. At first, she resists but later changes her mind. Macy decides to quit her job at the library and work for Wish full time. Her mother does not like the new changes she sees and no longer wants Macy to hanging out with her new friends. She keeps Macy under her thumb by making her quit her job with Wish and having her work at her office. She also only allows Macy to do acceptable activities. It takes awhile to realize that these changes are for Macy’s own good.

Readers should be able to take something away from this novel, especially if they have lost a loved one in death. The Wish Catering Crew provided comic relief as they help Macy to put things into prospective and move forward with her life.

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

Seventeen-year-old Ruby has been living alone in the yellow house for sometime after her mother disappears for the last time. She plans to stay there until she turns 18 when she could finally be on her own legally. “Ruby where is your mother?” When the social worker asks this question, Ruby realizes that the game is up and she can’t talk her way out of the situation when the social worker reads the report.

She is unexpectedly reunited with her sister Cora, whom she has not seen in ten years. Her life suddenly changes when she moves in with Cora and her wealthy entrepreneur husband Jamie. Now Ruby lives in a luxurious house, attends private school, has new clothes and even a chance at a future. However, Ruby not only struggles to adjust to her new life, she also has to learn how to trust people. She is wary, unable to be grateful, and struggles to allow people to get close to her. She has been accustomed to taking care of herself and taking care of her mother when she was around. As Ruby struggles to fit in, she meets Nate, a genuine popular boy next door who understands her because he is hiding a secret of his own.

Facing the Ugly Truth

As Ruby struggles to adjust to her new life, she tries to hold on to a piece of her old life-her friends. First, she learns the truth about why her mother moved around a lot and the real reason why she gave out fake addresses. Ruby believed that Cora cut her and mother out of her life. However, their mother was the one who made it impossible for Cora to contact Ruby. Disturbed by this information, Ruby decides to skip school. Ruby learns the hard way who her real friend are. She visits her boyfriend Marshall. When she gets there, she discovers her best friend Peyton with him. Afterwards, Ruby rushes out and gets into a confrontation with Peyton. Ruby returns to the woods and drinks and uses drugs in order to ease her pain. When she wakes up, she finds herself in Nate’s car. She later learns that she was left alone in the woods. Ruby learns this valuable lesson; Real friends don’t leave you alone in the woods, they are the ones who take you out.

Sarah Dessen’s novels are based on real life issues that young adults experience. Readers will laugh, cry, and will be in suspense as they watch Ruby’s heart wrenching story unfold. Dessen also deals with such themes as the meaning of real friendship and family.