Monday, October 29, 2007

Izzy, Willy-Nilly, by Cynthia Voight

When Izzy loses half a leg in a car accident, she goes through all of the usual stages of grief (anger, tears, etc.), but it takes her a while to come to grips with how it will affect her, her family, and her friends. But life does go on and Izzy must find the strength to restart her life, return to school, and rebuild her friendships. With the help of a persistent new friend Rosamunde, she does that and more.

A charming, if somewhat long, novel about rehabilitation. For the most part, it is predictable, but the characters are realistic and believable, and there is a good pay-off at the end. Good entertainment with redeeming qualities. (Apparently the book is frequently assigned in school, which is a shame, but you could be forced to read worse!)

The Melting Season, by Celeste Conway

Snegoruchkka, the classic Russian ballet, serves as a metaphor for Giselle (another ballet metaphor in itself), a ballerina at an elite dance institute/high school in NYC who struggles to break free of her routine. It is a comfort for her to live in a world where her mother is evil, her late father was a saint, and her toys sit undisturbed on the shelf. But a new boyfriend and a desire to expand herself pushes Giselle into a new world with the unearthing of deeply buried secrets.

With a storyline that juts out in all directions and clunky dialogue, Conway is a mixed bag. The idea of the story is excellent but underrealized. For a story about ballet, for example, one really wanted to read more about the dancing itself. But there is promise here that a future novel might shake out the leaden parts and reveal a real talent.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Enna Burning, by Shannon Hale

In this sequel to Goose Girl, the attention now turns to forest girl Enna whose brother discovers a strange vellum scroll that teaches him the ability to speak fire. When that skill causes his untimely demise, Enna takes on the mantle of fire witch and helps her beloved Bayern defend itself from foreign invaders. But the power of fire is formidable and Enna and her friends must find a way to control this power or Enna will be destroyed.

Like Goose Girl and Princess Academy, this is a rich tale full of lots of adventure and strong characters. But Hale also includes some nice subtle lessons about friendship and the anxieties of growing up. All very wonderful stuff. Her stories do tend to wander on and a story that simply went from beginning to end might have been better, but even Tolkein had trouble finishing his novels.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Looking for JJ, by Anne Cassidy

Six years ago, Jennifer made a horrible decision and brutally killed her best friend. Both she an her victim were only ten years old. Now she's been released and everyone is obsessed with finding "JJ" and only a few people know where she is. One of those people is Alice - who know because she is JJ's new identity. In the story that unfolds, Alice both tries to carve out a new life and avoid a past that some want her to forget and for which many more want her to atone.

An interesting premise and an engaging read. British authors like Cassidy seem to feel an overriding need to connect all of the dots, but by the book's mid-point, this novel picks up some steam. I was disappointed that the book never reaches any sort of catharsis, but that didn't make it any less interesting.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Rules for Hearts, by Sara Ryan

Battle is spending the summer before college at a coop in Portland. What she knows (and her parents do not) is that her long-estranged older brother is there too. It's been years since they've seen each other, but any reunion of the sublings is upstaged by a production of Midsummer's Night Dream in which everyone in the house is participating, and by Battle's relationship with the older Meryl.

A mildly incoherent novel full of lots of talk (but not much action), this book drifts from one story to another, but doesn't really go anywhere. I found it a difficult story in which to become engaged, but there will be some folks who like it. I found it overly random and a bit too obtuse. I prefer a more straightforward narrative.

Girl of the Moment, by Lizabeth Zindel

When an internship at MOMA falls through, Lila gets a last minute opportunity to spend the summer working as an intern for superstar Sabrina Snow. As the summer progresses, Lila struggles with the demands of the job, with the fame of being in Sabrina's shadow, and with staying true to her own values under pressure from Sabrina.

Utterly predictable, this story follows in the fun escapist vein of a Meg Cabot novel, with the exception that Lila is far from perfect. Her mistakes make Lila more approachable, but they are the types of mistakes you can see from miles away, so it's hard to see them as credible. Some humor ensues and this is fine entertainment, but I'd still rather pick up the latest Cabot novel when I'm in the mood for this stuff.

One Whole and Perfect Day, by Judith Clarke

Lily hopes that she can make Daniel notice her. Her brother stays estranged from the family until a chance encounter with his grandfather makes him decide on impulse to bring his Chinese girlfriend home. Grandmother talks endlessly to her imaginary friend Sef. And grandfather surprises everyone by befriending an old Chinese woman. And then a magical and perfect day brings everyone together in perfect harmony.

Had I remembered how much I detested Kalpana's Dream, I almost certainly would never have picked out this book. Like that novel, this meanders incoherantly from one POV to another, making observations that intended to be profound but which basically make little or no sense. I imagine that there are (non-librarian) people out there who will enjoy this book. But I found it dull and unengaging.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Do-Over, by Christine Hurley Deriso

Elsa could really use her mother around, especially now that she has transferred to a new school in the middle of seventh grade, but her mother is dead. Then, in an act of supernatural magic, her mother visits her one evening and gives her a special locket that allows her to rewind time 10 seconds and redo the moment. Elsa learns to take advantage of this to deal with a popular bully and change her social status. And she also tries to correct the wrongs she sees around her. But in the end she learns that this magic is not what she really needs.

Mildly predictable, but a satisfying and quick read. A bit of a YA-version of Groundhog Day with all of that feel-good factor thrown in. The characters are engaging, if a bit too perfect, but there is plenty to relate to. Recommended for middle school readers.