Monday, August 26, 2013

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: Messed Up by Janet Nichols Lynch

Messed Up An abandoned teen cares for himself

Messed Up by Janet Nichols Lynch

Reading Level: Ages 12 and up
Release Date: March 1, 2009
Publisher: Holiday House
Pages: 250 pages
Source: Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By:Kate McMurry

R.D. is a fifteen-year-old Mexican-American boy with Cheyenne ancestry who's had a very rough life. His father abandoned him. His mother is in prison. His grandmother has recently deserted him. And to top it all off, his grandmother's longtime boyfriend, Earl, who has continued to care for R.D. after her departure, suddenly drops dead. To avoid being sent to a group home, R.D. pretends his grandmother is still around to care for him and struggles to take care of himself, supporting himself by forging Earl's signature on his Social Security and pension checks.

I've read multiple young-adult novels with the premise of a teen pretending he or she has not been abandoned in order to avoid foster care, but what makes this story unique is R.D. He's a very strong and sympathetic protagonist. It's clear he feels the harshness of his life deeply, but he never surrenders to despair. It's fascinating reading about how he learns how to take care of himself, and in the process gets a handle on how to deal with school and making himself into a person who has a chance to succeed in life, in spite of terrible odds in a world filled with gangs, drugs and violence.

This book is written in a clear, uncluttered style that never intrudes on the moving story. It's in first-person point of view, and R.D.'s personality leaps off the page in his thoughts, his reactions to the dark world around him, and the particular language he uses, such as "sez" for "says," "cept" for "except," and slang like "homies" and "saggin-and-baggin."

From page one there is a strong sense of what a basically decent person R.D. is. He clearly wants to stand back from life and be an observer, to survive by staying uninvolved in the terrible situations around him, but his heart won't let him. This is vividly illustrated when he sees a small girl getting beat up by a much larger girl, and he can't refrain from stepping in and stopping the fight when he imagines in his mind, "the little girl's head cracked open, blood streaming over the sidewalk." The death scene with his caretaker Earl is macabre and horrifying, but rather than crumbling from the strain of losing yet one more caretaker, R.D.'s response is to find a way to take care of himself--while at the same time feeling guilty that his need to survive is stronger than his grief.

It is always great to see a YA novel with a male protagonist, but especially welcome that this author has created a compelling hero so vividly alive he becomes a dear friend by the end of the book.

I rate this book as follows:

Hero: 4

Subcharacters: 4

Writing: 4

Plot: 4

Overall: 4

Monday, August 19, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book Review: Written in the Stars by Carly Syms

Written in the Stars Cute, young-adult, chick-lit novel

Written in the Stars by Carly Syms

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Pages: 326 pages
Source: Purchased
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

When 17-year-old Kate's long-time boyfriend Zach breaks up with her, he swears it isn't because he's fallen for someone else. He claims she doesn't have enough pizazz and she doesn't follow through on anything. Kate is devastated, but she's convinced that if she doesn't give up on him, Zach will take her back. She just has to figure out how to make that happen.

Her best friend Anna has been obsessed with reading her daily astrological horoscope for years, but Kate has always thought it was nonsense until she reads her horoscope the day of her boyfriend debacle and jumps on it as a lifeline, because it seems to point the way for how she can win back Zach. Every day she looks to her horoscope for guidance in achieving her goal, taking its rather cryptic messages as literal directives. Then one day she decides it is written in the stars for her to join a gym, and a handsome trainer only a few years older than she is takes her under his wing, becoming an important new friend.

This is a cute, chick-lit novel with a nice romance subplot as well. Poor Kate has a hard time accepting that the boyfriend who, up until now, has been quite good to her, has turned from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde--even when it becomes more than obvious he was lying through his teeth about not dumping her for another girl. While taking the horoscopes much too literally gets Kate into some comic mishaps, it also becomes a means for her to broaden her horizons, grow, and mature as a person.

This is a feel-good story with, as is the case for all comedies, a happy ending. It's a "clean read," suitable for teens of all ages, and a treat for adults who enjoy YA comedy.

I purchased the Kindle edition of this book. It is well formatted and edited.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 4

Subcharacters: 4

Writing: 4

Chick-Lit Plot: 4

Romantic Subplot: 4

Overall: 4