Monday, November 17, 2014
I read This One Summer in one sitting. With no bathroom breaks! For a 320 page graphic novel, that’s really saying something.
The story is about a pre-teen girl named Rose and her parents taking their yearly summer trip to their lake house. This is something Rose normally looks forward to, but the tension between her parents is disturbing. Something is haunting her mother and it can’t be dispelled, even by her father. Rose doesn’t seem to have much refuge, even finding herself arguing with her slightly younger friend/neighbor on the beach Windy. The two are suddenly at odds, with Rose now interested in doing “grown up things” like watching gory movies, while all Windy wants to do is be a kid. The girls find themselves intrigued by a local drama between teenagers in the small town, but often disagree about what conclusions to draw about these “adult” events, which eventually become life-threatening.
This is a story with a fascinating slow boil to an intense conclusion, with everything coming to a head almost at once. Despite this, the story doesn’t feel contrived or too neatly tied up for real life; it remains very realistic and authentic the whole way through. This story doesn’t sugar-coat or preach, despite presenting some excellent life lessons when the characters have to deal with true problems. The writing is excellent, as is the art, which is done in an airy style and filled with purple melancholy tones. The art really suits the feel of the story, which is all about the bittersweet experience of growing up; although there is excitement at what lies ahead, many things are also left behind.
This is a great read for an older teen and up. For teens, this story would likely be very relatable and for adults, it immediately summons the nostalgia of adolescence. The Tamakis’ work has some serious literary merit, and that is definitely clear in Summer, which reads like a classic.
Friday, November 14, 2014
VERSUS - The APL Teen book review where two books on a related theme go head to head and only one comes out a winner. The winner will be decided by the author’s subjective and highly biased criteria i.e. her opinion.
November’s VERSUS stars two audio books that focus on the topic of Greek myths - Of Poseidon by Anna Banks and Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan. If you can already spot the winner then you’re ahead of the game!
Of Poseidon is a modern love story/bildungsroman within the framework of Greek mythology. Our protagonist is 18 year old Emma whose demure and clumsy persona is immediately embraced by Galen a feisty prince of the Syrena. Written with sensuality and detailed settings, the book lends itself easily to an audio interpretation. Although the narrator’s delicate voice struggled with the male characters, Rebecca Gibel deftly portrayed the emotional swells and depths of the characters as they develop new connections and relationships. The story may sound a bit familiar to the average young adult. Girl meets boy who saves her from danger, Boy and Girl don’t initially get along, Boy leaves Girl to protect her from himself. Boy is intensely jealous of Girl’s attention to other guys,--and I could keep going but if you are a Twihard you can pretty much fill in the blanks for yourself.
Did I like it? It reads like adult fiction and considering that Emma is in high school that just doesn’t ring true. I don’t remember a bell ringing at 18 where all of the sudden I just morphed and every relationship (romantic or otherwise) made sense. Some of the terms that Anna Banks used to world-build like the word mate instead of marry sound base and mechanical. When world-building makes you want to pause or gag, it’s not effective world-building. Also throughout the book there is an undercurrent theme that says “Men are great in every way and women are dumb, selfish, vapid, emotionally-unavailable creatures who need to mate as soon as they are 18.” Depressing! The ending of this book is also abrupt and was probably intended as a cliffhanger but most readers will already know where this is going. This book garners a strong 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods (you know you want another apostrophe!) is a painful plod through the Greek pantheon told through a cut and paste of various ancient Greek texts. Oh wait, it’s EXACTLY NOT that. Fans of the Percy Jackson series will be thrilled to have his distinctive humorous take on the world through the eyes of a demigod return in this audio book. Read by Jesse Bernstein this book is a reinterpretation of the original myths, starting with the ancient Greek creation story followed by a general overview of the 12 Olympian gods of the Greek pantheon plus Hades. Unlike the other Greek myth inspired books, heroes and monsters get short shrift in this tome with Riordan hinting throughout the book of another title that will come in the future. (Check out the cover image .jpg at the end of this review) Percy’s use of modern terms such as girlfriends instead of mistresses can be a little clunky at times but generally not disconcerting enough to make the reader question the text.
Did I like it? In the interest of full disclosure, I am a complete Percy Jackson Fangirl and I have had one pleasant email exchange with Rick Riordan. But that said I loved this book. I liked the way Riordan dealt with tough topics like patricide and cannibalism. He doesn’t give a pass to bad behavior and clearly condemns substance abuse. Jesse Bernstein has narrated Percy Jackson’s voice in this series from the beginning and once again he rises to the occasion providing the emotional context and vocal range that allows you to fully immerse yourself in the world created by Rick Riordan. A Full 5 out of 5 stars for a book that is as close to perfection as an author can manage.
And the Winner of this VERSUS is Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan. Listen to it today!
Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (2014)
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
After finding a copy of a 1950's popularity guide written by a former teen model, Maya decides to do an experiment. Maya decides to follow the advice in the book (including wearing a girdle & setting her hair in curlers) to see if it can help on her own quest for popularity. As this was a social experiment, she kept a diary of her daily experiences. No one outside of her family knew what she was doing. As she starts her year long journey, Maya is in 8th grade and living in a rough town on the Texas/Mexico border. She considers herself to be on the bottom rung of the social ladder and is determined to climb her way out.
This memoir is the result of Maya's experiment and was thoroughly enjoyable all the way through. Maya is a brave young woman, who will surely go far in life. I work with teens on a daily basis and there are not many I know who would stick it out and follow ALL of the advice given by Betty Cornell. The results are humorous, insightful, and inspiring. This is a book both teens and adults can enjoy. If you have a teenage girl in middle or high school on your holiday shopping list, check this out!
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