Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught

This is the second book that I read where the main character is a "fat girl" making an issue of her weight, the previous book being Go Figure by Jo Edwards (December 17). In the previous book the emphasis bugged me, all she did was whine about being fat, but this book didn't have that effect on me. she used her weight to make a point. This was the "fat girl" empowering book I'd hoped for in the previous one.

Jamie starts a column in her school newspaper called "Fat Girl" where she talks about being fat and those implications. She discusses such things as how in plays (she's an actress) the Fat Girl never gets a lead role. She addresses going to the doctor or shopping at a popular store and how Fat Girls are treated. Many of her points are dead on. Then things get personal when her boyfriend Burke, also known as Fat Boy, decides to have bariatric surgery (his stomach stapled). Soon he's getting thinner and she's questioning her position as Fat Girl. On top of that pressure, her column is getting national attention, which at first is good for the scholarship she wants but emotionally trying when they twist her words, her co-worker Heath is sending her mixed signals, and she has the usual senior year pressures. Pretty soon the line between Jamie and Fat Girl becomes blurred and she needs to figure out what she really wants in life.

This book turned out to be pretty decent. At times it runs a little slow but I liked how strong Jamie was in her beliefs. It's about time that someone speaks out about what it's like to be fat and the public's negative reaction to that state of being. Many of her interpretations were dead on and it was very easy to feel her pain. Anyone who has struggled with weight can relate to her and it's nice not to see her give into public pressures. The other characters in the story are nicely developed. Burke turned out to be a nice contrast to Jamie when he loses weight. His obsession with weight loss further drives Jamie's struggle. The character/storyline of Heath might be a little too much for my cynical mind, but hey, it's fiction so why shouldn't the cute guy fall of the "Fat Girl?" It gives us all a little hope.

Aside from being a little slow, this book was worth the read. And, in an ironic twist for Jamie who was under the impression that Fat Girls couldn't be lead characters, her story proved that they can be just that and more.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Oblivion Road by Mcaulay

This is a thriller. Five teens set out for home after a ski trip in the mountains and in a snow storm on a short cut road, with less traffic. They go off the road and down an embankment. One kid is hurt. Two go out into the storm to try to find help. Instead, they find a prison van with a dead driver, also crashed. They head back to the suv and comparative safety to tell others what they found and huddle together for the night. They have plenty of junk food and gator ade to sustain them but cold will be a bit of a problem. Upon arriving back they discover an unconscious man in a prison uniform nearby and rescue him despite their doubts. Over the time he helps them in several ways and tells about one of the prisoners who had killed his own family and canablized his own sister. He says he knows where the nearest town and help is. At thirteen miles away the fitest teens and the prisoner, his hands still in cuffs figure they can make it to help. They leave one of the teens in the van with the injured teen and set out. What happens along the way, snow caves, attack of wolves, discovering another of the escaped prisoners, death, one girl falls over a cliff and is pinned by a boulder and a last wild battle between a very evil man and two of the teens is truly harrowing. Fast paced, easy to read, for entertainment only, this is not a book for a thoughtful reader. JDW 2/21/08

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Declaration by Gemma Malley

This book is set in the year 2140 when the "fountain of youth" has been discovered. A new drug exsists called Longevity that stops aging and allows people to live forever. The only problem with this is that people don't die and the world has become overpopulated. Drastic measures have since been taken, meaning that anyone who takes the drug isn't allowed to have children. People who chose not to take Longevity, or Opt Out, are allowed only one child. Any other children are considered Surplus and sent to live in a Surplus Hall where they are forced to make up for their parent's sins and become Valuable Assets or servants. One such Surplus is Anna who goes about her day being the best Surplus possible so that she'll be released into servitude and earn her keep. She "Knows her Place," at least until Peter shows up. Peter was found late in life and doesn't take to the whole concept of being a Surplus. He tries to convince Anna that her parents are good people and they love her. He tells her that he was caught on purpose so that he could find her and help her escape from Grange Hall and the evil Mrs. Pincent. Soon Anna starts to trust Peter and sees the value in what he has to say. Before long she's looking forward to being on the Outside and known as Anna Covey rather than Surplus Anna.

This book started out slow. Part of the problem was that being a fictional future meant a lot of background needed to be covered. That slowed the story. True the background information was filtered in throughout the story to keep it going, but it still caused the story to crawl. There was also all the time needed for Peter to convince Anna that he had her best interests in hand. Once you hit about page 90 the story picks up pace. It really gets exciting around the escape plan and the ending...whoa. That was honestly exciting. I'm not a big Science Fiction/Fantasy/Future fan so maybe that held me back in the beginning. As soon as you get past all that stuff, though, the escape/survival aspect of the story could very easily have happened at any time period so I wasn't hung up over the sci-fi part. There were also some major twists come the end of the novel and an aspect of the Declaration that completely changes how things work. The ending was worth the whole book. This book also gets you thinking about what the future has in store for us. People are living longer than before with the stronger health care that it might be only a matter of years before something like Longevity is found. Already the world is becoming overpopulated. Will it turn into this future scenario where the number of children allowed is limited and those who exceed the limit are either killed or shipped off to some boarding house where they're treated like slaves? Who honestly knows what's to come.

The book takes a little while to get into, but the ending is well worth the wait. It's exciting with a great twist. People who don't like futuristic fiction but enjoy an escape/survival story will like this novel.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

When The Black Girl Sings By: Bil Wright

Lahni was the only black girl at an all white prep school, and this novel tells the story. The School is called Darby School in Conn. There was another student who was Korean.

The next event was that Lahni, and her Mother went to Church. All this time, the music teacher at School Mr. Farringhelli wanted Lahni to enter a Music competition with her singing ability. After much practice, and effort Lahni does well in the Music contest, and places first. She uses as her accompanist her Choir Director from Church.

In the long run, Lahni adjusts to the Prep School, and makes good grades. The parent's of Lahni become divorced, and live in separate houses. It makes Lahni very unstable, and torn between her Mother, and Dad.

The ending of the novel is so happy that you must read this novel.

LRD 2/13/08

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

MacGregor Tells The World - Elizabeth McKenzie

When MacGregor West shows up at a house in California he doesn't know what to expect. He is there because he's trying to find out about his mother, who passed away when he was age 9. All he has to go on are letters his aunt gave him from this address. When he gets there he meets Carolyn and her sisters. After a dinner of pizza Carolyn and MacGregor talk about why he is really here, and that's when Mac finds out that her father is the famous author Charles Ware. Carolyn thinks he's there just to meet him, but after some convincing Mac tells her that he's there to ask how and if Charles Ware knew his mother. Mac and Carolyn start going out together and he is sucked into the world of Ware, where people say one thing to you but mean something totaly different. Eventually there is a confrontation between Charles Ware and Mac where he asks if Charles knew Mac's mother. Charles did know her and Mac's father too, who might still be alive. This leads Mac to search for his father and he does find him. Through all of this Mac and Carolyn's relationship begins to crumble as she gets ready to move to New York with her sister and his search for his father consumes him. They break up and he writes her a few letters but doesn't get a response.

Overall I enjoyed this book better than McKenzie's other book Stop that Girl. That one seemed fragmented and didn't have much of a plot resolution. This one on the other hand flowed better and had resolution in the end. I did like how Mac got sucked into the society of the rich and he wasn't fooled by what they were saying. He kept true to himself and searched for the answers he was looking for and didn't let the lure of being rich corrupt him.

T.B. 2/12/08

Monday, February 11, 2008

Picture Bride By: Yoshiko Uchida

Hana is the main personality in this novel. She is a bride from Japan chosen by a man in Oakland, Calf called Taro Yamaka, who was a shopkeeper. Hana was Yamaka's bride only known to him by a picture. Taro had no clue about her personality or her likes or dislikes. This novel unveils itself approximately during the 1918's in the United States.

Hana believed in Buddha, and her new husband Taro was Christian. Hana still wore her kimono. A typical breakfast for Japanese was bean soup, and rice. Hana was so happy she became pregnant, but the first born was a boy, who died. The next pregnancy was a girl the couple named Mary. In Japan male infants are regarded as a special gift to the family. The male boy can help his father in the rice fields.

Hana becomes the Treasurer of the Women's Society at the Christian Church . Her husband's store is not bringing enough income, so Hana would like a job where she can bring Mary her baby.

In the meantime, Taro and Hana move to a house in a neighborhood, where there family is the only Oriental. One day, Mrs. Johnson asks Hana if she would like to work for her two times a week. She lives a block from Hana's home. Her employer's husband is a Doctor. Mary, Hana and Taro's daughter, was a bright student and did well at the University. She became friends with the Teacher Assistant and eventually eloped with Joe in Reno, Nevada. Mary becomes pregnant, and has a baby daughter.

Next thing we read, is that Taro and Hana as Japanese, are sent to a detention camp in a desert environment that used to be a race track for horses. Taro and Hana live in a former horse's stall, which is pretty confining.

Later on, the daughter of Hana & Taro comes to visit her parents at the camp.

At the end of the novel, there was a surprise ending. Read the novel, and enjoy all the events.
LRD 2/11/08

Monday, February 04, 2008

Skinny by Ibi Kaslik

This novel, told in two different perspectives, focuses on the effects of an eating disorder on the sufferer and her family. Giselle is a med-student who suffers from anorexia, partly due to some "daddy issues." She is obsessed with why her father never seemed to love her, which she figures is due to the fact that she might not be his daughter. This, and her eating disorder, affects her ability to be loved by someone else, particularly her new boyfriend Sol. The other narrator of the novel is Giselle's sister Holly who seems to be struggling with life in general. Most of that is complicated by Giselle's problems.

As I reflect on this novel, it's hard to write about because the story felt so disjointed. It wasn't a fluid narration and I'm not just talking about the alternating narrators. It felt as though it was just snippets of these characters' lives rather than a continuous saga. The novel, in my opinion, was too reflective and somewhat confusing because it didn't seem to go anywhere. The ending, in particular, confused me. I didn't know what happened with either of the characters in the last two chapters. I wanted more concrete solutions to the problems the novel presented, but there weren't any. One aspect of the novel that I did like was the voice Giselle heard, the voice that promoted her disorder. That was a good technique to show her struggle.

This book was disappointing. I didn't feel as though it went anywhere or really did anything. It felt a little to disjointed and artsy for my opinion. I'm sure the author was trying to portray some bigger message, but it got lost on me.

Boot Camp by Todd Strasser

I read this because it is being compared to Boy Toy by Lyga. Both books contain a relationship between a boy and a female teacher many years older. In Boy Toy the kid was manipulated by the teacher to believe he was in love with her. He was led to believe that the feelings he was experiencing were true love. The teacher admitted wrong doing and was punished. The boy was traumatized and unable to have a normal relationship with a female for many years after.

Boot Camp is a nasty place of last resort to which parents send their kids who they see as out of control and themselves unable to stop the kids from destroying family, jobs, themselves. Garrett is a brainiac who falls in love with a teacher. Its his move on her. She is fired but not prosecuted as mother's job requires that nothing nasty hit the media. When Garrett starts skipping school, stealing his parents money, smoking pot, staying overnight with the lover, no longer teacher and refusing to listen to his parents they send him to boot camp. Garrett says that since he has great grades and great SAT test results and will be going to an ivy league college as his parents wish, he should be able to do whatever he wants. Parents should have given the kid a little slack, kid should not have done all that he did. Both are wrong, and right.

At boot camp, kids are brutalized, indoctrinated, controlled until they passively submit. Garrett compares the brainwashing to Hitler's tactics. The school gets results but at great cost. Garrett and two kids make a daring escape but when it appears that two people will die as a result of their actions Garrett separates from the others to rescue them with truly tragic results for him. There really are boot camps of last resort filled with kids whose parents saw them as hopelessly out of control. Perhaps parents believe that placing them in such a camp is "tough love." In writing this book Strasser tries to expose their true nature. I have seen television shows on this subject as well. I wonder why they continue to exist and what alternative a parent with a truly out of control kid (as Garret was not) has.
JDW 2/5/08