Saturday, December 17, 2011
The Pop Princess and the Pauper
My Double Life by Janette Rallison
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: May 13, 2010
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
A self-described "half-Latina" from a small-town, working-class family, Alexia Garcia is a dead ringer for twenty-something pop sensation, Kari Kingsley, who is also half-Latina. The amazing resemblance leads to a lucrative job offer to serve as the secret double for Kari at some of her public appearances so Kari can focus on completing an overdue album. Alexia's mom is strongly against the masquerade because, as she confesses for the first time in Alexia's 18 years, Alexia and Kari share the same father. He's pop legend, Alex Kingsley, the lead singer of The Journey Men--a fact that both Alex and Kari have been kept in the dark about as well. Alexia is furious at her mother for hiding this crucial information from her, knowing how much all her life Alexia has wanted to know about her father. Since Alexia is legally of age and doesn't need her mother's permission, she takes the job Kari's publicist is offering and heads for Los Angeles.
In adult romance novels, there is a classic story line called the "secret baby plot," in which the heroine had a baby years before that the hero never knew about. This is the first time I've ever personally heard of a novel where the "secret baby" is the heroine. What a great twist!
I am a huge fan of Janette Rallison and have read every one of her young adult novels. I must confess I was a bit disappointed initially on realizing that, other than a couple of scenes of comic relief, this story is light drama, not her usual laugh-out-loud comedy. But I quickly got into the book because, no matter what type of story she chooses to tell, Rallison is a great writer. All of the things I normally enjoy in a Rallison YA novel are here in spades: vividly three-dimensional characters, strong conflict, and compelling love stories, both familial and romantic.
Alexia is a dynamic and compassionate heroine, and her efforts to get to know her half-sister are emotionally moving. The complications created by Alexia's pretending to be her sister are both painful for Alexia and occasionally very funny for the reader. I particularly enjoyed Alexia's romance with teen heartthrob Grant. It is extremely well done, and I really liked Grant, who is not just gorgeous and sexy, but a thoroughly decent guy. One of Rallison's strengths has always been her ability to write a good romance plot, and as usual, she shines at that here.
Perhaps most moving of all is the growth in Alexia's relationship with her mother and the eventual outcome in Alexia's quest to know her father. The resolution of that portion of the book brought tears to my eyes. It was also a nice change to be able to experience YA-novel parents as caring nurturers. And not only that, but as deserving of a chance at achieving romantic happiness as well.
Drama Plot: 5
Romantic Subplot: 5
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Hilarious, fractured fairytale from the queen of young-adult romantic comedy
My Fair Godmother (My Fair Godmother #1) by Janette Rallison
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: January 6, 2009
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Sixteen-year-old Savannah develops a case of serious sibling rivalry when her boyfriend dumps her for her geeky big sister. Soon after, Savannah is fantasizing about how great it would be if her life were like a fairytale, with herself as a princess attending a ball with a handsome prince at her side, when her fairy godmother, Chrysanthemum Everstar, suddenly appears and offers Savannah wishes. Savannah is thrilled at this amazing, magical opportunity, but she nevertheless exercises caution while making her wishes so that nothing will go wrong. Unfortunately, Chrissy is not a full-fledged godmother—hence the moniker, “fair” godmother. Her incompetence lands Savannah in a series of wild adventures within multiple fairy tales, including Cinderella, Snow White, and the Middle Ages in general. Along the way Savannah discovers a romantic interest she would never have considered in her own era, when Chrissy tosses Tristan, a boy from Savannah’s class, into fairytale land with Savannah.
I am a huge fan of Janette Rallison. I’ve read everything she’s ever written, and many of her books several times. In my humble opinion, nobody does YA romantic comedy better than her. Normally Rallison does not include fantasy elements in her contemporary romantic comedies, but her venture into fairytale retelling in My Fair Godmother is extremely well done. Chrissy is a wonderful antagonist, a colorfully slapdash fashionista who can’t be bothered to thoroughly listen to Savannah’s wishes. As a result, Chrissy fulfills them in the worst possible way for Savannah as the wacky godmother abruptly flings Savannah and Tristan into arduous situations, which are conveyed by the author in laugh-out-loud scenes of comic mayhem.
Rallison’s stories are always character-centered. She excels at creating compelling growth arcs for her protagonists, believably moving her heroines from an initial perspective that is endearingly passionate and determined—but drolly skewed in its view of life and relationships—toward a hard-earned appreciation of a bigger picture of life by the end of her stories. This is especially true in the heroines’ attitude toward the boys they collide with in Rallison’s rollicking romance plots. That approach is terrifically in evidence in My Fair Godmother.
Another theme that Rallison deals with in many of her YA novels—and which she also does really well—is sisterly competition. It is definitely on display here in Savannah’s humorously troubled relationship with her sister.
Finally, if you’d like a break from the “gritty” and “edgy” fiction dominating the YA market these days, Rallison is just the ticket. You can always count on her YA novels, including this one, to provide a G-rated story suitable for all ages, but which is sophisticated enough in its execution to hold the attention of older teens and adults, as well. This novel, in particular, is filled with enthralling action without resorting to overt violence, in-your-face sexuality, swearing, or wild parties with drugs, alcohol, and smoking.
Fantasy World-Building: 5
Romantic-Comedy Plot: 5