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Something older now: Tween and teen book reviews (Sup, Wib?)

December 23, 2011

Okay, I definitely needed a break from trying to remember what it was about children’s books I did or didn’t like.  After all, I’ve probably read almost 800 children’s books this year: new books, story time reads, ALL the Mo Willems books… They tend to blend after a while, and most of them can be summed up in the phases “worth it” and “not worth it.”  (Others, unfortunately, are more like “WHY DID SOMEONE PUBLISH THIS??”)

Because there were less of them, maybe I’ll have more to say about the tween and teen selections I read this year.  Can I get down to the low 700s in 45 minutes?  Let’s find out!

We should start with Jekel Loves Hyde, a book so bad that even *I* couldn’t finish it.  This book by Beth Fantaskey is so forgettable I can’t tell you anything except that the guy’s name may be Tristan, but at the time I thought it was so awful I just couldn’t go on.  I think my kid may have made it all the way through, but she definitely wasn’t crazy about it either.  A modern-day Jeckyl and Hyde SHOULD be all kinds of awesome.  Oh well.

I also didn’t fall in love with Ally Condie’s Matched, although I liked it well enough to put myself on the list for the next book in the series.  In this world, you’re matched up at an appropriate age, and Bob’s your uncle, I guess.  But for the heroine of Matched, she’s got two guys she’s into, and the system backs her on this: she sees both in her little Matchbox or whatever it is.  I would’ve liked it better had it delved a little harder into the world, but I say that about most teen dystopias nowadays.

Huh, I think I’m missing some books on this list.  Oh, wait, maybe I talked about them before.  (And I have some I’ve reviewed that I didn’t delete because I forgot I did some review last month.  D’oh!)  After listening to Vegan Virgin Valentine, I ended up reading two more by Carolyn Mackler: Tangled, which was pretty good, and The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, which was better.  Mackler’s a consistently good YA writer, although primarily for girls.  I would suggest her to a reluctant OR voracious YA reader because her books are pretty breezy.

Haha, I reread Christopher Pike’s Gimma a Kiss, which I didn’t remember as well as I’d thought.  The end is really bizarre–I mean, for Pike that’s usually the norm, but these early ones aren’t usually as bad.  By “bizarre” in this case, I don’t mean time-traveling aliens or prophetic dreams of vampires or whatever, I just mean “Wow that was rushed and a bit…ludicrous.”  Also: “This could’ve been solved with a comprehensive sex education class in the high school.”  But it’s not like I haven’t said THAT before.

I also reread Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love to see how it stood the test of time.  Surprisingly, it does, and other than the whole “How did you NOT know which twin it was–haven’t you met them before?” fiasco (which would make sense in the universe if they were new, or if they weren’t so completely different, but all the books that come later negate it all).  It’s really well-written and, had that author (I’m assuming it’s REALLY Pascal) kept going, it would’ve been a good series and not the disaster it became.

I have The Evil Twin to read for Christmas.  I’ve never read it before.  I stopped reading SVH in the 50s somewhere, after Jade Wu.  We’ll see what I think, since I don’t have the nostalgia tint that my friends do with it.

Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams is one in a line of Australian YA books that I wasn’t into.  Again, can’t really tell you what it was about, as it was completely forgettable.

On the other hand, Gayle Forman’s two books If I Stay and Where She Went are NOT forgettable.  The story of a girl who struggles to keep living after a family car accident, and her boyfriend in the aftermath, is haunting and highly, high recommended.

Gena Showalter’s Intertwined is one of those Harlequin paranormal teen books that they were advertising about a while back.  I…thought it was okay.  It’s about a kid with a bunch of different people in him.  At the time, I thought, “I’m not going to continue with this series” but after some of the other books I read this year, it’s been bumped up in my estimation.  STILL not sure I’ll go back to it, but maybe?

Don’t Care High was a beloved reread by Gordon Korman, one of the books he wrote when he was still a teen, I think.  It’s the hilarious story of an apathetic high school and two boys who are just crazy–and new–enough to want to change that.  Sort of.  Kind of reluctantly.  But definitely.  At first, I wanted to scream, because I’m an adult now and apathy annoys me, but I too got swept up.  It’s not as good as Son of Interflux, in my opinion–although the books are similar–but it’s SUCH a fun and funny read that still stands up to this day.

I read Spoiled by The Fug Girls (aka Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, fashion bloggers).  It’s cute for a debut novel by two women who fell into YA for the lulz.  It’s peppered with little shout-outs to the Go Fug Yourself readers, but ultimately it falls a little short.  Those who just want the breezy read will like it, but I have to admit I was expecting something a little more subversive.  (Also I think I’ve reviewed this before.  Sigh.)

Shauna Cross’s Whip It is super fun and in a lot of ways better than the movie, which is also super fun.  It’s the story of a small-town Texas girl who is alternative in a land of country fans, and how roller derby gets her into a scene where she feels she belongs.  If there’s one thing I like to tell people about teens, from my own experience, it’s to find them a scene.  They’ll feel and get more involved.  For me, my “scene” was the Rocky Horror crowd, where I would spent once or twice a week with a bunch of people of all ages who challenged me intellectually, and/or liked the same music and books that I did, when everyone else was like “God, Alana, why are you hiding a book behind your textbook, you big nerd?” or “Why aren’t your grades better if you read all the time?” or “Why aren’t your grades better if you’re so smart?” or “Oh” (to my comment “Oh, you’ll like the honors junior selection for English class; I read it in 8th grade and really enjoyed it”).  My daughter was so into the book and movie that she’s now learning to skate and wants to be a derby girl in three and a half years.  When our house sells and I have more time, and hanging out with my husband is no longer a special occasion, I’m going to look into hooking up with a derby group in the area and seeing if they’ll do junior derby.  I think it would be an amazing scene for her.

Okay, carpal tunnel.  Ow.  Time is short, too.  Gotta wrap this up.  More later, although I think I’ll be doing recaps during my vacation.  (I’m off all but two days for the next week and a half.)

Happy holidays, Booksliders!

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