“Boy21” by Matthew Quick
A written review by Adrienne
I finally was able to get my hands on Boy21 after hearing about it on the blogosphere and listservs all last year. Once the book was delivered I dropped everything I was reading at the time to read this book. My anticipation was high. My expectations were…well, I wasn’t sure what to expect really.
We meet Finley at the tail end of summer before his senior year. He and Erin, his girlfriend, are making plans for their escape out of their town. Where they live is majority poor African-American population ruled by the Irish mob. Finley and Erin can’t leave soon enough and their plan is to go to college on basketball scholarships. Erin is a very talented player while Finley is not so much. He makes up for his lack of natural talent by working hard both in practice and outside of it. He is always training to get better and to keep his spot on the team.
It’s when his coach comes by to introduce him to another basketball player, Russ, that Finley’s whole plan is in jeopardy. Russ, who would rather be known as Boy21, is the sole survivor of his family. Russ comes from a wealthy privileged background with fascination with outer space and is a basketball phenom. Finley is asked to befriend Boy21 as he tries to deal with the loss of his parents. Boy21 escapes into outer space and says he is waiting for his parents to come and get him so he’s no longer interested in basketball or his future.
What I liked about this book was the concrete focus on friendship between the two players. While jealousy rears its green head, it is dealt with in a mature and matter-of-fact way. Both boys realize they need each other and learn not only how to be friends but how to support the other when it’s needed. I’m so happy to have read this book and I’m deeply impressed at the simple maturity of the characters that make them real and relatable. Recommended for High School and up and reluctant readers.
I Know A Lot by Stephen Krensky
“I Know A Lot!” by Stephen Krensky and illustrated by Sara Gillingham
A written review by Adrienne
“I Know A Lot!” is about a little girl who, well, knows quite a lot of things. She know about rocks and flowers, the wetness of water and that with patience glue will dry. Krensky story takes everyday activities and enjoyments and sets their opposites next to each other as a subtle reminder to readers. Gillingham’s art uses six main colors: red, blue, black, white, yellow and gray to maximum benefit. Gillingham also employs the rule of thirds drawing the eye to underscore that page topic. Recommended for storytimes, lapsit and parents.
“Love and Other Perishable Items” by Laura Buzo
Life after college can stretch before a person like a long, seemingly endless road. Marriage, family, retirement can seem so far away that it can render many soon-to-be college graduates inert. This is what paralyzes Chris as he ponders life, feminism and film while working at the local grocery store he has dubbed “The Land of Dreams.” Chris finds a companionable soul in Amelia.
Ahh, but, here’s the rub, Chris is 21, Amelia is 15. Amelia falls for Chris and is happy to keep her feelings to herself, but we the readers get both points of view. Amelia’s is delivered in a voice filled with honest and straightforwardness while Chris’ is from his journal entries that range from rage to depression to finding the perfect woman to deep insight into his life and what he wants to do with it.
Amelia meets Chris as her trainer on her first day at work. She sees a connection between the two of them by way of their mutual love of literature. He sees her as a youngster, a nickname that she comes to dislike. Chris is slowly, painfully and sometimes regressively getting over his ex-girlfriend who uses his feelings and failure to move on to her advantage.
Buzo adequately captures the voice and feelings of a 15 year old girl who is practical, realistic and smart and lives a structured life. Buzo also captures that time of life when the future can be overwhelming and uncertain. Readers will be able to relate to both characters and the feelings that they express throughout the book. The book’s mood is quiet and thoughtful. Each character struggles with their feelings for each other with the reader really rooting for the both of them. But…hello?? She’s 15. You’ll have to read Love and Other Perishable Items to find out if they get together or not.
What I liked about this book was the relationship between Chris and Amelia. I really wanted to root for them as a couple despite the difference in age. They seemed to fit each other and “get” each other. I liked that Chris acts on his varying and quickly changing moods and emotions becoming a physical whirlwind while Amelia is calm, practical and steady as she goes. There were good and bad decisions made by both characters throughout the book and I found that reassuring. This book captures the turmoil at 15 and 21 which are rife with decisions made with too little information or too little experience. Recommended for High School and up.
A written review by Adrienne
On a broken-down, overgrown farm we meet Marvin Burke. Marvin is brutal, terrorizing, violent and bullying to all he meets and especially to his family: a wife, teen-age son and young daughter. See, Marvin is a firm believer: everyone is out to get him, scam him or take away what is his. He believes in his own prowess as a caretaker of the farm and the head of the household. He will brook no disobedience from anyone, especially his wife and son. How he punishes his wife is particularly gruesome and horrifying. You want to look away but you can’t. This is a book, not a TV or movie where you can hide your eyes until the scary part passes. You have to keep reading in order to move ahead.
Kraus writes with careful precision. Each word is chosen for how it fits in the narrative and mood. The mood itself is dark and grim. The characters are so fleshed out you’ll find them walking and talking around in your head, replaying entire scenes, especially when you aren’t expecting them. This dark, grim mood seeps into your brain, into your skin until you are just as trapped as Marvin’s family. Marvin’s creepiness comes from his premeditation, his deliberate intent approach to everything he does. Nothing is left to chance. He knows you are going to defy him and he’s already prepared your punishment.
What I liked about the book was Kraus’s writing. He writes sufficiently. There is nothing unnecessary or repetitive or rambling about it. He strips his characters to their essence showing us their most revealing and basic emotions and actions. As I said before, you want to look away, but you can’t.
A written review by Cathie Sue
It’s a Tiger! by David LaRochelle Illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
“Are you ready for a story?” queries the boy in the opening pages of It’s a Tiger. Sounds a little like a bedtime story but you may get unexpected results if you save this one for a quiet night. Instead read this lively and energetic picture book aloud to early elementary kids who will easily spot a piece of the tiger on each double page spread. As the story takes us from jungle to cave and from meadow to ocean we see the boy is never quite in peril but still cuts it very close. Not trying to spoil the end but a tummy rub goes a long way to soothe frightened children and tigers!
Tulsa City County Library System: http://tccl.bibliocommons.com/item/show/2789871063_its_a_tiger
A written review by Adrienne
“Revolution” by Jennifer Donnelly
Clinically depressed from the accidental death of her little brother for which she feels responsible, Andi, a genuinely talented guitarist, is failing prep school and doing her best to help her mother who is having a mental breakdown over the loss. Enter aloof, distant Nobel-prize winning father who in one fell swoop commits his ex-wife to an institution and takes Andi to Paris over Christmas break where he continues his groundbreaking genetic research. Pissed off and angry at her father and her situation Andi figures out the quickest way to get away from him is to give him what he wants: her senior thesis on an obscure 18th century guitarist. Her research uncovers a diary written by Alexandrine Paradis a companion to the last and lost dauphin who is also the subject of Andi’s father’s project.
Historical facts from the French Revolution and a musical journey not typically seen in young adult books are expertly weaved into Andi’s and Alexandrine’s stories of anger, devotion, promises and redemption. Donnelly’s Andi is sarcastic and smart and Alexandrine is independent and willful making them both characters readers can relate. Check out Donnelly’s website for a playlist which allows the listener exploration as many titles are not to a particular song, just to the artist or band. Recommended for High School and up.