Sunday, March 27, 2005

Blubber, by Judy Blume

Continuing my survey of Judy Blume novels...

I actually read Blubber at the age of 12 or so but I don't remember much beyond the ending for some reason. I blocked out the obnoxious little brother or the subplot about vandalizing the mean man's mailbox. I remember the humiliations though. Strange what we remember.

This is of course a classic. Probably one of the better books about peer pressure and the sheer meanness that kids can express to each other. It struck home very hard when I was little since I had been in Blubber's place when I was a kid and struggled with the desire to be a tormentor instead of a tormentee.

Blume never really gives any advice for dealing with the problem and I know I was frustrated by that. To this day, I wonder if there wasn't a better way of dealing with teasing and being teased.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B Cooney

OK, the premise sounded really interesting: teenage girl finds a photo of herself on a missing child picture. Then the mystery and the drama of trying to discover the truth of what happened.

Great concept but absolutely lousy delivery. Perhaps I've been spoiled by reading some really good literature lately, but this was utter schlock. The author created the most amazingly two dimensional characters. These folks were so dull I raced through the book just to find some plot to keep me going. The young protagonist starts off interesting (some playfulness, anxiety, and teen angst) and she gets a boyfriend, but they end up both just putting me to sleep. They talk matter of factly about having sex, more like a mechanical thing than any talk about feelings. Her chats with her girlfriends are largely boring as well.

It seems that the author really doesn't know the first thing about teens or how they feel. Instead, there is melodrama, people crying and screaming for no real reason.

There are two other books in the series and when I started I was afraid that I would have to read them all. I won't bother.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, by Judy Blume

OK, so here I go into Judy Blume books. I blame Kara of course, because she bought me a pile of them for my birthday. She chose her own personal favorites, so I'll have quite a few of them coming up (although I'll try to intersperse other authors into the mix). I did actually read one or two of them wehn I was growing up, but it was a bit embarassing because they were so obviously girls' books. And the odd thing is that now I read all these "girls' books" now, I still find myself to be a bit embarassed to be reading them.

So, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great is the story of a girl who spends a summer in tarrytown with her older sister and family. She learns to play with a yo yo and she learns to swim and she has a few adventures, but the pace goes by pretty quickly and there isn't a terrible amount of depth. I suspect that I've grown used to YA literature so intermediate reads seem terribly superficial these days. I had the same problem with the Judy Moody books. It's an OK read, but nothing terribly memorable.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Stop Pretending, by Sonya Sones

Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy is Sones's first book and her most autobiographical, tracing the story of what she went through when her older sister had a nervous breakdown and had to be hospitalized. Sones's style (free verse poems that run a page or two) can be a bit precious at times, but it worked well in her latter books: What My Mother Doesn't Know and One of Those Horrible Books Where the Mother Dies. In those books, the verse was often witty and individual poems stood on their own.

In this book, it is a bit thin and the poems seem largely based on what a much younger Sones might have written. Authentic, but juvenile and a bit thin.

The problem with here is that there is so much detachment. The character falls in love, but the observations are largely stereotypical and superficial. So in the end, you really don't feel much. Occasional pangs arise over the pain of a family trying to cope and a young woman having to decide what to tell her friends, but this just doesn't reach.

Thankfully, Sones gets a lot better in her latter books.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is the type of book I would like, even if it was written poorly. An "issue book" for Young Adults, I'm not really sure if the intended readership would be as gung-ho for it as I. But as a fellow survivor, like the protagonist, I can't help but relive some of my own experiences even as I read about hers.

The story, more or less like the blurb portrays it: A school year in the life of 9th grader Melinda, who loses all of her friends because she called the cops (and got everyone busted) at a party at the end of the summer before the year (and the story begins). We take a leisurely stroll to finding out what happened at that party, during which Melinda's amusing cynical observations about cliques and HS life make for amusing reading. But underneath her sarcasm, there is a achingly painful story to be revealed. And an ending that I really didn't see coming.

Anderson doesn't have a lot of poetry in her writing and there are few really memorable quotes, but the story is engrossing.

As an adult, it is hard to watch a character suffering so much pain, needing so much to reach out for help, and yet denying herself the help that she needs. However, as much as I may hate watching it happen, I have to admit that it rings very true. It took me a decade before I talked about it, so Melinda's 9 months really seems like breakneck speed.


I've been trying to think of a good way to post reviews of the books I read, so I've decided to set up this BLOG just for that purpose.

What you'll see is that all of these books are Children's or Young Adults' books. At my age, I'm not supposed to be reading them, but I do. And I enjoy them. I hope you'll pick up a few of these and enjoy them as well.