Sunday, October 16, 2005

Uglies ****

Westerfeld, Scott. Uglies. New York: Simon Pulse, 2005.

I guess this would be considered speculative fiction. Although this isn't a genre that I enjoy, I have to say that I did enjoy this novel.

This novel takes place in the future. Things have changed. When teens turn 16, they go from being Uglies to Pretties. They go through massive plastic surgery to become what society thinks is pretty. Everyone looks forward to being pretty. That is especially true for Tally who is friendless now that her best friend Peris is now a pretty and living in Pretty Town. She meets Shay, who has run away and doesn't want to be pretty. Shay knows of a place where people run away where people want to say Ugly-- The Smoke. She gives Tally directions to find them if she decides to run away.

Tally ends up being taken by the Special Circustances unit, and she is blackmailed. They won't make her pretty unless she tells then where The Smoke is. She doesn't know, so they give her a necklace with a locket on it. They tell her that once she gets there, she should push the button in the locket. Things are complicated because she doesn't want to betray her friend. She also ends up falling in love with Dave, but Shay is in love with Dave-- he is the reason she ran away to begin with.

I won't go into any more details. There is a lot more going on, but I don't want to give any more away. This is also the first book in a trilogy, so readers will be interested to continue on and read the next two books. Highly recommended for anyone wondering what the future could be like. This is a great mix of speculation and adventure/action.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Sledding Hill *****

Crutcher, Chris. The Sledding Hill. New York: Greenwillow, 2005.

I want to give Chris a high-five. This entire book is about thumbing his nose at the critics and book banners. There is so much stuff in here that people will find offensive that I imagine it will be banned left and right, even in places where his works were never banned before. Hopefully kids will still go out and buy it because it is so good. I believe he wrote this book in response to all of the school districts that have banned his works. Maybe a book like this will open a dialogue about the freedom to read, and the freedom of sharing ideas. I certainly hope so.

Poor Eddie Profitt finds his father dead and then a few weeks later he finds his best friend dead. This is all within the first few chapters of the book. The dead friend, Billy, narrates the book before he died, and then continues to do so as a spirit. As a spirit, he can be anywhere and know everything that is going on. (the book banners will hate that a spirit is narrating the book!)

Eddie starts high school and is no longer speaking. His holy roller mother wants him to find Jesus, but he has no desire to find him. She starts inviting the Preacher over, Tarter, and they are trying to convince him to be Baptized. Tarter is also a teacher at the school where he has been making students miserable for years. Eddie is in a Modern Lit class with the school librarian, and they all have to read a Chris Crutcher novel, Warren Peece. Well, the religious fundamental people start to try to ban the book. They also control the school board, so the Chris Crutcher books don't stand a chance. Eddie plays a pivotal role in the whole ordeal, but I won't go into any further detail on that. You will have to read about it to see what happens.

I enjoyed this book so much. Whoever heard of an author becoming a character in their own book? It's awesome! I have to say that anyone that is unfamiliar with Crutcher's work will not fully understand where this book is coming from. Crutcher is frequently banned because he writes about real things, real problems, and it is all very true to life. But, people don't like reality sometimes, and they think that reading about something will make a teen go out and do the things they read about. Anyone who has read Crutcher knows that he writes with some curses (where they are appropriate, not gratuitously), and he writes about the way things really are. So anyone that has read his previous novels will understand this book. Certainly others will enjoy this book, too, but fans of Crutcher will get a little added enjoyment from it.


Monday, October 10, 2005

24 Girls in 7 Days ***

Bradley, Alex. 24 Girls in 7 Days. New York: Alloy, 2005.

Despite the questionable title, I bought this book. Now that I have read it, I am left scratching my head. Who is this book meant for? Let me explain the plot so you can understand what I mean.

First, the main character's name is Jack Grammar. Someone with a last name like that just has to be a total dork. The book opens up with Jack being egged on to ask out a girl to the prom-- the girl he has liked forever. She turns him down. His best friends Percy and Natalie cook up a scheme where they put a personal ad on the online school newspaper for him, looking for a prom date, without his knowledge. This leave Jack with 24 dates in 7 days, the 7 days leading up to prom. He hates the idea once he finds out about it, and he gets really angry. Adding to the confusion are the email from FancyPants, who seems to be his real soul-mate, but she isn't interested in being his prom date or even meeting with him. Of course, he has some real bad dates and stuff, and in the end he has to pick a date.

So this leaves me wondering--who wants to read this book? It is about a guy-- but what guy wants to read about a total tool who can't get a prom date? While it is pretty funny, yes, there aren't that many guys that want to read about the subject matter. So, this leaves me with the girls. I know girls will read books with main characters that are guys, so this book does have an audience. I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys funny books, or books about proms.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Prom ****

Anderson, Laurie Halse. Prom. New York: Viking, 2005.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. A few weeks before the prom, the senior prom committee discovers that the prom advisor has gone off and stolen the prom money. Left with no money, it seems as if they aren't going to have a prom at all. Ashley couldn't care less since she has no interest in the prom and wasn't planning on going anyway. But, it is important to her best friend and some of her other friends. She jumps in to help her friends try to save prom.

Meanwhile, she has a lot of family drama going on. Her mother is VERY pregnant, and her father is always working on a home-improvement project that takes forever. Ashley wants to marry her boyfriend, who we see as a total loser, but she thinks is fabulous. She has no plans to go to college, and doesn't really know what she wants to do with her life. She is somewhat aimless in life and not sure where she wants to go in life.

The prom helps her focus and do something important for once. Obviously, the prom does happen (duh-- we know the book has to have some sort of happy ending.) The part of her journey through those weeks is what is interesting. The story isn't about the prom-- it is about Ashley growing up and finding direction in her life. Highly recommended to girls crazy about prom!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Invisible ****

Hautman, Pete. Invisible. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Doug is weird. He lives next door to his best friend is Andy, who lives next door. They grew up together and they talk to each other every night from their bedroom windows. Andy has become popular-- in the plays and the football quarterback, but Doug hasn't. He gets beat up and people think he is weird.

Doug has a lot of repetitive thoughts. He gets stuck on an idea and can't get off of them. He is also obsessed with railroads and trains. He is building a whole town out of matchsticks in the basement, with the tips rubbed off. He spends hours working on it. As the novel progresses, we start to understand that Andy isn't just a little strange; he is mentally ill. Because the novel is told in the first person point of view, we don't realize how ill until the novel almost comes to its conclusion.

I recommend this novel to anyone interested in reading a book about mentally ill people, particularly when the novel is told from the perspective of the mentally ill person. This novel reminds me a bit of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nite-Time, in that the affected person tells the story, so we aren't sure what is going on in their head and what is really going on. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the subject matter as well as anyone interested in stories that are a bit of a mystery, until all of the details are given at the end of the novel.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Shrimp ****

Cohn, Rachel. Shrimp. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

This is the sequel to Gingerbread. It isn't necessary to read Gingerbread to read this one, although it would make it more enjoyable. Reading the first book will help the reader understand the whole journey Cyd has been on.

The previous summer, Cyd went to NYC to meet her biological father and her half-brother and -sister. Now she is back, and looking to hook up with her ex-boyfriend Shrimp. She can't find him, but she befriends a girl from her school, Helen. She also ends up befriending Autumn, who hooked up with Shrimp while Cyd was away. She has never really had friends before, but she ends up liking it. When Shrimp comes back, he only wants to be friends with Cyd, at least for now. Meanwhile, Cyd's parents get on her about filling out college applications, but she has no interest in going to college.

Fans of Gingerbread will enjoy seeing how Cyd grows after Gingerbread ends. I recommend readers read Gingerbread and Shrimp if they are interested in reading about smart, quirky characters.