Thursday, December 23, 2004

America ****

Frank, E.R. America. New York: Antheneum, 2002.

This book alternates between scenes from "Now" and "Then." Back Then, America lived as a foster child to an older woman, Mrs. Harper. Living with them is a man named Browning who gets America to trust him and then eventually begins to sexually molest him. He has to visit with his mother who is always on "errands", and leaves him alone with his older brothers who are bad kids and teach him how to be bad. He eventually runs away from there and lives on the streets until he is taken in by a drug dealer.

In the chapters that take place Now, America is in a different facility, Ridgeway. Most of the scenes center around his twice-weekly therapy sessions. He is resistant to accepting help during the entire time.

During the book, we see America as a nice little boy and then see how life makes him act badly. In the Now parts, the author makes America a sympathetic character so we are rooting for him throughout, hoping he will come around and get some help.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

A Terrible Secret *

Anfousse, Ginette. A Terrible Secret. Toronto: James Lorimer, 2000/1991

I had a hard time figuring out what the terrible secret was, and why it was so terrible. All I could figure was that the secret was how terrible this book was. This book was originally written in 1991 and translated in 2000 into English. Usually, a book is only translated when it is a good book, sells a good number of copies, and seems that it would have similar success if sold elsewhere in a different language. I have no idea why this book was ever translated. I can blame the bad writing on the translater, but I can't blame the awful plot on anyone other than the author.

Maggie is the main character but we don't really get to know her. Her friend Chloe does strange things, but the reasons aren't fully explained. There are all sorts of characters that come and go. None of them are really fleshed out at all so they all seem similar, no personality. The plot doesn't really make sense. There are a lot of things going on, but none of them really seem to come together to make any sense in the end.

The moral of the story seems to be that gangs are bad, but gangs are only mentioned a few times and aren't really the main thrust of the story. They are really only in the background and seemingly unimportant to the story until the end when we find out that a certain character was involved in one. There may be a point to this story, but it isn't fleshed out at all. I can't see any person enjoying this book. I don't even want to put it back on my shelves it is so bad. I can't see anyone wanting to read it.

This lead me to wonder why I ever bought it anyway. I went back to see if maybe I meant to buy another book by the same title and bought the wrong one. But, no, this book received a favorable review. This leads me to wonder if the reviewer felt bad giving a bad review? Am I just missing something spectacular about this book? The last sentence of the review was priceless: "The mystery keeps the pages turning, and the characters, especially Maggie, keep readers involved. YAs will be relieved when she lets go of her secret." I was relieved, but only that the book was over.