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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

Grace’s mother is unstable. After Grace’s dad died, when she was two years old, her mother, Maggie, has gone through a series of boy friends, they’ve moved numerous times, she drinks heavily and ‘borrows’ money from whoever she is living with. When Grace returns to Cape Katie after two weeks at a music workshop in Boston, she finds Maggie has (1) moved in with Pete, the lighthouse keeper, (2) Pete’s son and her new housemate is Julian, Grace’s ex-boyfriend who posted their sextexts on Tumblr after their breakup and (3) her mother has sold her piano…the one Grace is supposed to practice on for her upcoming audition for music school.

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After storming out of the house, Grace walks to the beach for some solitude. Instead she finds a girl sitting by the water, shoulders heaving as if she’s crying. Unsure whether to skirt around her and leave her in peace or make sure she’s OK, Grace takes the latter course and meets Eva for the first time.

Eva, as it turns out, is living with Grace’s best friend Luca and his mother, Emmy. Eva is the daughter of Emmy’s best friend who recently died and Emmy is Eva’s guardian. Luca and Emmy are also Grace’s solid ground in the midst of her familial storms.

How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake, tackles a few serious issues, including what is a teenage daughter’s responsibility for her mother’s erratic behavior, who comes first, a daughter’s future or a mother’s present, and can a girl brought up in an unstable environment know how to truly love someone?

Blake does a great job of contrasting Luca’s happy family with Grace’s messed up one. She makes the budding relationship between Eva and Grace very realistic, with all the pitfalls and uncertainties inherent in a new relationship. She describes Grace’s dreams of being a concert pianist and the heartbreak when she thinks she may never achieve her goal. And Grace’s ambivalence about staying with her mother or leaving her is heartbreaking.

An all around good book!

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Maeve is a worrier. Not your typical worrier. She suffers from severe anxiety disorders, so much so, that when her mother and her boyfriend go off to Haiti for six months on a goodwill mission, Maeve is forced to live with her father and his second wife, Claire, in Canada. Maeve is too anxiety prone to live alone in their mountain cabin. Meanwhile, Maeve thinks of all the things that could harm her mom while going to and staying in Haiti (airplane crashes, tornadoes, viruses) and all the ways Maeve could die on her way to Vancouver. She has statistics for everything.

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Claire is pregnant and wants to give birth at home as she did with her twins, so Maeve studies up on what can go wrong with home births. Meanwhile, her father, a former rock star and now scenery artist, has decided now is a good time for him to start drinking and drugging again, similar to what he did was Maeve and the twins were born.

The only good thing Maeve has going, if she doesn’t screw it up, is her girlfriend, Salix. Salix is understanding about Maeve’s anxiety. She’s beautiful and a talented violinist.

10 Things I Can See From Here (one of Salix’s coping mechanisms for Maeve) is more a story about anxiety disorders than it is a romance. Maeve is afraid to drive, to climb a monkey bar, fly. Yet, as you can guess, circumstances will force her to face her anxiety and at least partially conquer it.

Carrie Mac treats the relationship between Maeve and Salix as a romance, not a ‘lesbian’ romance. The same anxiety, confusion, uncertainty would surround any relationship, regardless of the gender of the lovers. And, by the way, they make a cute couple.

10 Things I Can See From Here is a fun read. Enjoy.

 

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How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss is a charming book about intergenerational relationships, very similar to Jenny Downham’s Unbecoming.

While Hattie is home alone she answers a phone call. The stranger on the other end, Peggy, tells Hattie that her elderly neighbor, Gloria, is unwell and it would be nice if Gloria’s only family, that is Hattie’s family, would visit her. The problem is that nobody in Hattie’s family has ever heard of Gloria.

When the rest of Hattie’s family begins a two week vacation, Hattie decides to drive to London (Hattie’s not an experienced driver) to visit Gloria, who turns out to be her great-aunt. What she finds is a crusty old lady, sitting in a window seat sipping Champagne. Gloria makes it clear she wants no part of Hattie, but Hattie is unshaken.

On her second visit, Hattie learns that Gloria is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and suggests Gloria prepare a bucket list of places she’d like to visit while she can still remember them and the two women take a road trip, which Gloria reluctantly agrees to.

How Not to Disappear is a book about two women who have secrets: the first is a seventeen year old keeping a secret from her parents and the second is a seventy year old with a secret she’s never told anyone. It’s a rewarding intergenerational story about two people who come to terms with their lives and form a bond.

The parallels to Unbecoming are uncanny. In How Not to Disappear, Hattie meets an great aunt she never met. In Unbecoming, Katie meets a grandmother she’s never met. Both older women are suffering from dementia. The young women form a bond with their elderly relatives who in turn relate their life stories. Both older women led carefree theatrical lives. Both young women have an issue they must come to terms with. There is one more similarity which I’ll let the reader discover.

While the similarities are numerous, the books are vastly different and both should be read.

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If you want a typical Sarah Dessen book (which I did) which takes place in the summer (a good beach read) and features a girl falling in love with a boy who seems unlovable, then Once and For All is just the ticket. Louna Barrett is jaded about love. Having experienced true love once, she doesn’t think it will ever come again. Add to this the fact that her mother, Natalie Barrett, is one of the best wedding planners in the business and Louna has worked through many a wedding (and heard about many a breakup), her cynical attitude is understandable.

Enter Ambrose, the son of one of the older brides, who was AWOL right before his mother’s wedding, who Natalie had to separate from a female catering worker and drag to the ceremony, and you have the setting for disaster. I won’t tell you the result, but you can guess.

As with all Sarah Dessen books, you get what you paid for, an easy reading, fun, love story. Once and For All does have a slightly dark side, but it fits the story nicely. Louna’s best friend, Jilly, adds some comic relief as she shepherds her three younger siblings around all summer while her parents work in a food truck.

All in all, Once and For All is the perfect antidote for the dismal goings on around us.

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I’ll start off, up front, by saying The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein is a great book. But who would expect less from the author of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire.

Fifteen year old Lady Julia Lindsay MacKenzie Wallace Beaufort-Stuart has returned home for summer break to help her mother and grandmother pack up their household. Her grandfather’s recent death and the realization that they had lost their fortune forced them to sell their centuries old castle, Strathfearn, near Perth, Scotland to a school and construction was under way to convert the house and property to its new use. On her first day home, lying on Drookit Stane, a standing stone in the River Fearn, she is hit over the head and is unconscious for several days. Euen McEwen, a Traveller, a nomadic Scottish group, found her and brought her to the hospital.

Simultaneously, Professor Hugh Housman who was cataloging the antiquities of the household, mysteriously disappears. Julia remembers seeing him in the river, naked, prior to being clonked on the head and many feared that he had drowned, either on purpose (since his advances were recently rebuffed by Solange, Julia’s governess) or by accident.

The Pearl Thief is an amazing story combining Scottish folklore with a coming of age story with a little history with a small mystery. It takes place during the summer of 1938. The Travelers or Tinkers as they’re called (since many sell tin and other metals), are similar to gypsies and have that same derogatory connotation. They are not well regarded by the Scots yet have a long history in the land. The McEwens, especially, were friends with the Stuarts and Julia’s and Euen’s mothers played together as young children.

Wein contrasts the ‘haves’ of Julia’s upper crust gentry status with the ‘have nots’ the McEwens who live from day to day, traveling to where there is work, typically farming. Yet it is the Travelers whose philosophy it is that it is better to give than to receive.

Part of the pleasure of reading Elizabeth Wein is her descriptions–of the land, the history, the mythology. Her story traps you and her language reels you in. I can’t give this book and Wein’s other young adult books, enough accolades.

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Alice bought Teddy a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday. It was a lark, a gag gift. But of course, as you can guess, it was a winning ticket–$141 million, $50+ million if taken in a lump sum.  Both Alice and Teddy have had their share of trouble. Alice’s parents died when she was young, within 13 months of each other. At the age of nine, she was uprooted from her California home and relocated to Chicago, to live with her Uncle Jake (her dad’s brother), Aunt Sophia and cousin Leo. Teddy’s gambler father walked out on him and his mother, draining their bank accounts, forcing them to move into a small one bedroom apartment, pinching pennies to get by. So, they deserve something good to happen.

Alice, in unrequited love with Teddy for ages, hopes that the Teddy she knows and loves is unchanged with his new found wealth, but of course, that isn’t the case. Suddenly he’s on a buying spree, buying everything he doesn’t need.

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith (author of The Comeback Season,  Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, The Geography of You and Me, and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, among others)  is a ‘self discovery’ book. Alice, having a idealized memory of her parents, is trying to please them by doing volunteer work and applying to Stanford where her mother got accepted but could not attend. Is this what she really wants?

Her cousin Leo’s boyfriend is attending college in Michigan, where Leo is applying. But is that what he really wants?

And Teddy is spending money like he’s got millions, with no particular goal. Is that what he really wants?

The three teenagers all learn who they are and what family is in Windfall. As you read, I doubt you’ll be surprised by the end. It’s what you’d expect. It’s what I expected, but not what I wanted. I’m a big Jennifer E. Smith fan, beginning with her first book The Comeback Season, and you’re guaranteed a fun, readable story. But, in this instance, I wanted a surprise ending. I wanted her to go out on a limb. I wanted her to give us the unexpected, but I didn’t get it and that disappointed me. While the cliche is “it’s the journey, not the destination”,  in this instance I wanted the destination to warrant the journey and I didn’t quite get it. But still, I did have fun along the way.

SPOILER (maybe)

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I was rooting for the underdog!

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Sawyer!!!!!

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Imagine, if you will, a divorce so acrimonious that the divorcees no longer can be in the same room with each other. Add to that second marriages and a child from each of those, in addition to the three children from the initial marriage. The childrens’ relationships to each other are complicated.

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One more wrinkle, a shared second home purchased by wife 1’s father but saved from foreclosure by husband 1. Every weekend is a transition from one family to the next, with only the first three daughters staying the whole time. Again, never the twain shall meet.

Ann Brashares, author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, has written a unique book, touching on many of the issues surrounding divorce and second marriages, the primary being divorced spouses avoiding each other at all costs and the impact on all the children and their relationships to each other. There are subplots which enhance the story and which I’ll let you discover for yourselves.

The issues raised in this book are probably not uncommon among divorced families. The habitation of a second home may be unusual but it does not detract from the issues raised. Brashares takes both a serious and a humorous look at divorce. I expected something more light and fluffy from Ms. Brashares and was pleasantly surprised by The Whole Thing Together.

While I’d consider Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to be more ‘chick lit’, The Whole Thing Together is much more substantial. I’d definitely go for this one. You won’t be disappointed.

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