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.