Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer Reads, cont'd

The Eternal Smile: Three Stories

The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang.

Another three story graphic novel from Yang, another home run. American Born Chinese was great, but this one draws you in even faster - a combination of storyline that takes off like a rocket and artwork that is essential and perfectly executed. Attacking more general themes of identity, angst, and the need to escape reality - what is real? - than in ABC. Fantastic.

Okay for Now

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt.

I was afraid this book was just too depressing when I began, but it progressed nicely to a great story about overcoming awful family circumstances and the move to a new town while finding your strengths outside the mainstream. A skinny, punk-looking kid from the wrong side of the tracks that can't read very well but finds he has a natural talent for art. Unfortunately, the character development took a suspect turn at the end but still managed to leave you hanging.

Close to Famous

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer.

Like the above, Bauer deals with a kid who has been passed along in school until she reaches middle school unable to read. Also like the above, she is dealing with some hard family circumstances and finds a unique way to make her way in the world. For fans of cooking shows and cupcake wars, a great read. Also a few slightly unbelievable character developments, but easily forgiven for the hopeful boost provided.

Before I Fall

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

Ugh - if you need reasons to have nightmares about starting high school, this is the book for you! Mean girls on steroids, only the entire atmosphere at this Connecticut high school seems toxic. I could only drag myself far enough to feel it was too much for my library then gratefully put it down. The premise is time worn but still fun - Groundhog Day. After the protagonist and her nasty friends complete another day of pointless nastiness at school they have an accident that must have killed them - but she wakes again and begins to ponder their affect on other people and her own choices. My curiosity at what her eventual epiphanies will be was piqued, but the tone left me cold. Is this the stage where hope leaves YA? If I Stay struck me as much more grounded.

Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen.

I reached for this after starting the above and feeling myself getting sick and depressed. I'm getting a strong feel for why Dessen is so popular. She doesn't avoid hard subjects, but softens the sharp edges with decent people well drawn. I love that her characters come from such oddball situations and always seem to require schooling in basic social interaction - like how to make a friend. Given the complex world that make up female relationships these books almost read like how-to books, with a nice story to mask that aspect.