Monday, January 21, 2019
Concerned for her daughter's safety, Peyton's Mom ships her off to live with her brother and two sons. There, Peyton tries to heal (emotionally and physically) but the process is complicated by two things: her uncle and a new boy. The uncle was a compatriot of Peyton's father in Iraq and the lone survivor when their group was taken out in combat. Seeing him reminds her too much of things she really doesn't want to think about. The boy is Owen. And while he is also an MMA fighter, he couldn't be any more different from Reed -- kind, gentle, and protective of Payton. But even if he is a good guy, Peyton isn't sure she's ready to rekindle romance, even if her heart has other ideas.
Ugh. Take pretty much any stereotype of YA romance and this novel has it. And the fighting stuff really did nothing for me. It's aggravated by a huge amount of stupid male posing going on (so over-the-top that even the characters in the book have to call it out). The dead and absent parents don't help the story much either and probably contribute to the plethora of poor conflict resolution skills being demonstrated by the kids. Still, I finished it and for one reason: Peyton. She's one of the stronger characters I have seen in a while. An occasional poor decision here and there is more than made up for by her strong will and clear sense of values. Her heart may lead her into Owen's arms, but she still knows it's not a great idea and she owns that. To be able to stand up to all these violent men, she shows incredible bravery. She fights her own fights to the end -- no damsel in distress moments here -- without relying on the men around her to resolve her problems.
When she starts getting rejects, she's surprised. At first, it's just early decisions at top schools, so she figures that the competition must have been stiff. But when she is eventually turned down by every school to which she has applied (including her safeties), she is shocked. Depressed and afraid to confess to her mother what has happened, she instead endures her mother's ecstatic preparations for the college odyssey which will never happen. But the mystery of why she got turned down remains and deepens as Mischa and her friends discover that there's been foul play.
An interesting mystery that plays on the omnipresent threat of college rejections. The actual story is entirely too drawn out for me (so many plot developments that could have been resolved with ease and alacrity). And Mischa, while she grows in the story, didn't grow enough for my tastes. In sum, a promising idea, but not delivered well.
Bob has a number of extraordinary powers. No one except Livy seems to be able to see Bob. The two of them can go outside with Bob wearing a ridiculous disguise which five year-old Livy made for him that makes Bob look like a chicken. And, after the five year interval, the two of them reestablish their connection. But while five year-old Livy accepted her friend as-is, ten year-old Livy wonders why Bob is here? And where did Bob come from? That search takes them on an adventure for ramifications much greater than childhood friendship.
Told in alternating viewpoints between Livy and Bob, this is a sweet middle-grade adventure. Sort of an outback ET, there is a really big moral lodged at the end, but the story itself is a fun adventure that is a joyful read. Quirky illustrations liven the text throughout.
Then, at their senior prom, an active shooter alert and subsequent school lock-down brings them back into each others' orbits. Unable to fight the appeal of getting an inside scoop, they team up to cover the story as it unfolds. In the process, they find each other.
A fast-paced romance and mystery combined together. As an avid fan of Gilmore Girls I couldn't quite rid my brain of the image of Paris and Doyle as the inspiration for the two protagonists here (it actually works pretty well in this case!) which gave the book some appeal. But as the rather crazy plot would suggest, this story is all over then place. It manages to get the various threads tied up by the end, but it's a confusing ride.
Saturday, January 05, 2019
Rachel’s mother believes that she developed the talent to be able to see a person’s “soul mate” after she was struck by lightning. The experience also prompted her to found a support group for lightning strike survivors.
Rachel, jealous of how much attention her mother lavishes on her group, has grown obsessed with getting struck by lightning too. It seems like the only way for Rachel to get noticed by Mom. Rachel would also like to know more about her father (who Mom alleges was her soul mate) but Mom has always refused to go into much detail.
While clearing out the junk in their garage one day, Rachel discovers an old box which contains clues about the past. And when Rachel starts snooping through it, she discovers that her mother’s rosy-colored recollections are not even true.
A character-rich story in a picturesque setting (Cape Cod) with just a small touch of magic and lot of complicated relationships. Just about every character in the story is complex enough to relate to the others in different ways. Being set in a small town, it makes sense that everyone knows everyone and their histories are partly shared and partly unique. There’s also a certain fluidity as friendships wax and wane throughout the novel. It’s a rich enough story that a re-reading might be justified. For me that would be too much work, but I admired the writer's effort in creating something so sophisticated.
Jamie Baxter is the type of kid who doesn’t get second chances and after a near-fatal incident on the football gridiron, his career prospects seem bleak. But his coach manages to pull in some favors and slips him into the elite Fullbrook Academy on a full scholarship to play hockey.
Jules is much more at home at a rich person's prep school like Fullbrook, but after three years the place doesn’t seem so gleaming and pristine anymore. She's disgusted by the way that boys get to be boys and the girls are mostly added on as an afterthought. Dozens of the school's traditions are, as one character puts it, in place to “benefit the boys and not the girls” and she wants to fight back.
For Jamie, the recent arrival, it is a surprise to see what privilege is associated with these wealthy kids, but it is the sexism of the students and the staff that eventually push him over the edge. And Jules’s little rebellions eventually escalate to one grand gesture to take a stand against tradition.
There’s not much subtlety in this grueling account of white male privilege and twisted notions of consent. While the general ideas made me think hard about my own experience in private schooling, the ideas are handled here with a sledgehammer. That makes for entertainment (if the subject of sexual assault and objectification can be considered light reading) but it doesn’t lead to much reflection on the subject matter. That will probably be left for anyone who wants to discuss the book afterwards but there isn't much gray area here.
Tuesday, January 01, 2019
Milo already knows a half-sister (through the same donor), Hollis, who he met when they were kids, but they didn't stay in touch and reconnecting is awkward. Still, it seems easier to have an ally before contacting their father. Hollis has her own issues and is reluctant to join Milo's quest. But he wins her over and as they start the process they discover that there are more half siblings out there. The four teens, while struggling with their feelings about their shared father, find bonds between them.
A thoughtful and thought-provoking story about family ties in non-traditional families and the emotional stresses associated with IVF. Friend doesn't take any of this very far (just lightly touching on the stresses between parents or the tendency for children conceived through donors to be more prone to delinquency and emotional conditions), but she does work it in. The far more important story about how a group of four young people who have grown up separately find a bond based solely on an absent member of their "family" both confirms the power of a genetics and simultaneously subverts it by showing the stronger connection through common adversity. In the end, the sperm donor becomes inconsequential to their experience and to the story.