Sunday, May 25, 2014
Herback, Geoff. Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders. Sourcebooks Fire, 2014.
Sixteen-year-old Gabe “Chunk” Johnson lives in Minnekota, MN with his controlling dad and former body-builder grandpa, who moved in after Gabe’s mom ran off with an architect to Japan. Gabe’s favorite thing about school is playing the trombone in the Minnekota Lake Area High School Band. Every day he buys multiple bottles of Code Red Mountain Dew from the school’s soda machine because he thinks the proceeds are funding summer marching band camp. Unfortunately, Gabe’s soda habit, lack of exercise, and his dad’s junk food purchases have caused him to gain a lot of weight.
One day, Gabe notices that the prices on the soda machine have increased. He finds out later that the proceeds are now going to the school’s voluptuous new dance coach and dance squad, formerly the cheerleaders, instead of the band. Consequently, band camp is cancelled for lack of funding. The band director flips out and does some crazy things and is dismissed by the school board. Helped by his friend and coworkers, RCIII, Chandra Gore, other band members, and band alumni, Gabe declares war on the cheerleaders and leads a rebellion to regain control of the soda machine and reinstatement of the band director.
Along with his cause, Gabe also gains a girlfriend, gets help shaping up and eating right from his grandpa, and helps the school acquire funding for the summer marching camp.
This book is extremely character-driven. There are a lot of stereotypes in this humorous novel, and Geoff Herbach destroys some of them. RCIII, for instance, is a black, talented athlete, but he enjoys hanging out with the band students! The Goth girl, Chandra “Gore” Wettinger, is actually very nice and sensitive, contrary to what other students think about her and her past.
I can totally relate to this story because I was in band beginning in seventh grade and continuing all through college. I also have three and directors in my family, so I understand the funding issues bands deal with. Gabe is such a loyal, hardworking band member, and he thinks his director is pretty cool. He epitomizes the typical band student and loves music.
I loved Gabe’s grandpa. He inspires Gabe and sticks by him; he is a great positive role model. He cheers Gabe, lifts him up, and supports his weight loss and fitness attempts. He gives him advice because Gabe’s father is still trying to overcome rejection from his ex-wife.
Readers looking for a humorous read will enjoy this story. It is refreshing and delightful to see and such an underdog become a hero! I recommend this book for eighth grade readers and high school and public libraries. I give it four out of five fleur de lis!
Reviewer's Note: The copy reviewed was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Reviewer's Note: The copy reviewed was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Scott, Victoria. Fire and Flood. Scholastic, 2014.
Tella Holloway’s brother, Cody, is very sick and dying. When, out of the blue, she gets a chance to try to save his life, she jumps at it. Against her parents’ wishes, she enters the Brimstone Bleed. The prize is The Cure—the remedy to save her brother’s life. To win, Tella will have to journey across a jungle, a desert, an ocean, and the mountains against other Contenders. There is only one prize, and she vows she will win it for Cody.
The Contenders’ only help comes from their Pandoras, genetically engineered animals with unique fantastical abilities. Tella’s Pandora, KD-8, which she names Madox, is a black fox with bright green eyes. He has the power to morph into other Pandoras and to read Tella’s thoughts.
As Tella bands together with other Contenders, she discovers that some Contenders are helpful and kind, while others are cutthroat and brutal. What Tella eventually discovers from Guy Chambers, another Contender, is that not everything is at it seems, and there is a reason for everything—especially in the Brimstone Bleed.
This book started out eerily similar to The Hunger Games, but ended up being something different entirely. Tella starts out as an average teenager, but grows and matures as the story develops. She becomes a stronger and more compassionate protagonist. Guy Chambers, Tella’s eventual love interest, is smart and well versed in survival techniques. However, he has a sweet, caring side that is “swoon-worthy” that will appeal to teen girls.
The mix between science fiction, romance, and adventure will attract both male and female readers. This book will be enjoyed by readers looking for a book similar to The Hunger Games and by those who enjoy a good survival story. The second book in the series, Salt and Stone, is expected to be released in March, 2014.
I recommend Fire and Flood for middle school, high school, and public libraries. I give it four out of five fleur de lis!
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose, edited by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil. Sourcebooks/Fire, 2013.
“Tonight I got arrested.” This is the first sentence of journals kept by Mary Rose, a young teenage girl who is fighting addiction to drugs and alcohol. She has a tragic home life; her father left Mary Rose and her mother when she was very young. Her mother always seems to choose boyfriends over Mary Rose and her sister. Her mother’s boyfriends are both physically and mentally abusive. By the age of fifteen, Mary Rose is an addict, has experienced sex, and has been gang-raped. Her loneliness leads to boredom, bad hygiene, drugs, and alcohol.
Mary Rose longs for friendship, love, and acceptance, but she continuously chooses the wrong kind of people to befriend. She is in and out of rehab clinics and hospitals; she reveals later in her journals that she has cystic fibrosis. Many of the children she has known through in hospitals have died; the life expectancy of CF patients is only thirty-two years of age, and that is for someone who has taken care of himself.
So Mary Rose lives her life on the edge, trying to experience everything she can as fast as possible because she doesn’t know how long she will be around. She writes to Nobody since no one will ever read what she has written, or so she believes.
Mary Rose’s journals were found after her death in her bedroom closet by her friend and given to the editors. They actually did no editing per se, only cut out some of the entries. Because Mary Rose died as a minor, her mom had to go to court to have her father removed from Mary Rose’s estate; he would not give permission for the diary entries to be published. After he left Mary Rose and her mother, he did not pay one penny in child support, and the editors did not think he should benefit from any of the proceeds of the book.
Mary Rose’s writing takes place over a course of about three years and is brutally honest; even though she had to drop out of school in second grade due to her illness, she was a brilliant writer. In her diary, she talks of despair, guilt, loneliness, and the physical pain of cystic fibrosis. She dreamed of being an rich actress or a famous writer but knew, in her heart, that she wouldn’t live long enough. She had seen friends as young as eleven pass away and had looked death in the face several times before she finally succumbed to complications due to CF in 1999.
I recommend this book with caution for high school and public libraries. It contains profanity, underage drinking, drug abuse, and many sexual situations. Readers who enjoy books by Ellen Hopkins or read Go Ask Alice will devour this book. Thank you to Sourcebooks/Fire which allowed me to read and review this book. I give it three out of five fleur de lis!
Sunday, March 16, 2014
Cosimano, Elle. Nearly Gone. Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin), 2014.
Sixteen-year-old Nearly Boswell is smart, especially in chemistry, where she is vying for a huge scholarship against her best friend, Ahn, and another student. She is also getting community service hours by tutoring fellow students. She and her mom, a stripper at a local club, had to move into a dilapidated trailer park five years earlier when her father left them. She feels that the scholarship could be her ticket out of Sunny View Mobile Home Park and her present life. But Nearly has a special, but unwanted, talent. When someone touches her she can taste the emotions that person is feeling.
Obsessed with the personal ads in the newspaper, Nearly hopes to read a message from her absent father. Instead, she finds mysterious math and science messages that foreshadow attacks on the students she is tutoring. Nearly realizes that the killer is taunting her and challenging her to solve the crimes. She thinks he is also trying to frame her for the attacks, which have progressively turned into murders.
A new student, Reece Whelan, is assigned to be tutored by Nearly, but she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. But as more of her students die, she turns to him for help instead of her best friend, Jeremy, who wants to be more than friends.
It’s literally a race against time to catch the killer. Will Nearly and Reece be able to solve it in time to save her and prevent more deaths?
Nearly Gone is extremely character-driven, and is a very well-written mystery. Nearly is smart, tough, and streetwise—a great protagonist! Reece comes across as a typical bad boy, but actually has a soft, protective side to him that girls will love. The cryptic clues so cleverly worked into the novel had me stumped during the whole story. Elle Cosimano’s debut novel will keep readers guessing and turning pages until the very end. It is scheduled to be available on March 25, 2014. I highly recommend it for high school and public libraries. I give it five out of five fleur de lis!
Monday, March 3, 2014
Kuehn, Stephanie. Charm and Strange. Electric Monkey/Egmont, 2013.
My review of Charm and Strange is going to take a different format from the reviews I usually write. It is not very often that I come across a book that I really do not know how to review. What makes this review even harder is that I cannot say much about the plot without giving up spoilers.
This debut novel is written through a series of events—“Matter” in the present and “Anti-Matter” in the past---through the eyes of Winston Drew Winters, aka Win and Drew. In the present, sixteen-year-old Win is a boarding school student in a remote part of New England. He won’t let anyone get close to him for fear of what he might do to others.
In the past, Drew is a young boy who excels at tennis and looks up to his older brother, Keith. He fears his overbearing, drunken father and often has unexplained blackouts. Drew has terrible motion sickness and bouts of uncontrollable, violent anger.
The summer Drew, Keith, and Siobhan, their younger sister, visit their cousins and grandparents leads to a family tragedy and more mental problems for Drew. It is also the reason he ends up at boarding school fighting demons in his mind and fearing what will eventually become of him.
Charm and Strange seems to start out as a paranormal novel but ends up as something totally different. The beginning of the novel is confusing and the plot wanders, but the plot threads finally weave themselves together to make sense. Some readers may not wait long enough to see this through and will miss the satisfying conclusion.
The plot is character-driven, and the author does a wonderful job of fleshing out the characters. Even the minor characters are extremely complex. Additionally, the subject matter has obviously been well researched and brilliantly integrated into the story.
Charm and Strange is a psychological thrill that deals with a sensitive subject. It is for mature readers. I highly recommend it for upper high school students and public library libraries and give it five out of five fleur de lis!