Sunday, March 27, 2005

Year of Secret Assignments **** 1/2

Moriarty, Jaclyn. The Year of Secret Assignments. New York: Scholastic, 2004.

This was a great book. It is about three friends, Lydia, Emily, and Cassie, who attend a nice school. They are hooked up with three students at a neighboring school in a required pen pal project. This doesn't go over well because the girls think that all the Brookfield High kids are bad and criminals, etc. The boys aren't overjoyed to be writing to girls from Ashbury, who they think are snobby and rich. It turns out they all hit it off in their letters and all decide they want to meet up after awhile. The only roadbump is that Cassie's pen pal, who was initially rude to her but finally warmed up, keeps standing her up, and then he is purposely cruel to her. Then the other 2 girls discover through their pen pals, that there isn't even a Matthew Dunlop that goes to Brookfield. This makes the two girls and their pen pals join together to find out who is teasing and hurting their friend.

Toward the end, there is a lot of vandalism in each school, believed to be in retaliation between the schools because of their rivalries. Lydia, Cassie, and Em are accused of being the perpetrators of the vandalism at Brookfield, even though they claim they are innocent. We aren't really sure as readers if they are innocent because they are pranksters, and it is believable that they would do such a thing. They have to prove they are innocent before they get expelled.

The entire novel is told in the form of letters to each other, journal entries, notes, and various other forms of communication. I thought it would hard keeping up with who was who, since the point of view changes often. There were a few times when I had to think to myself "Is Cassie the one with the dead father or the one who is high strung?" but I figured it out quickly enough since the writing style of all 6 characters is quite distinctive. My favorite is Em who uses big words, but uses them all wrong. It is amusing, but will be lost on readers that dont' know what the words mean in the first place.

This is supposed to be a companion novel to Feeling Sorry for Celia, which I recall enjoying a few years ago. I went on Amazon to see the reviews, and the characters are all different. I think the only similarity that makes it a "companion novel" is that the novel also centers around the same pen pal project, only with different characters.

I highly recommend this witty novel.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants *****

Brashares, Ann. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. 2001.
The Second Summer of the Sisterhood. 2003.
Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood. 2005.

The book I just read is Girls in Pants, but I thought I would review the whole series, since this is the third in a very popular series. The series is so popular that there will be a movie coming out this summer based upon the first novel.

The first book is based upon the unlikely premise that all four of these girls were born in the same month. Their mothers were friends in lamaze class and they became friends early on playing together. Then, the unlikely part is that they have all stayed close all throughout school, even though they are all very different from each other and have different interests. You have to suspent disbelief as far as that goes and just go with it, since the story itself is really great.

The book starts with the girls facing their first summer apart ever. They are going to be in different places-- Greece to see family, soccer camp, stuck at home with noone else, etc. They have a pair of jeans that miraculously fits them all, and they agree to send them to each other all summer without washing them so that they can have a connection. Again, you have to suspect disbelief that 4 girls that are all different body types would fit into the same pair of pants. The novel is great because we follow four separate stories really, but they all come together in a few letters and with the pants.

The second and third novel continue the story. This most recent, Girls in Pants, details their last summer before leaving for college. They are all somewhat scattered and busy, but they stay friends through it all. I recommend this entire series. They are really quite good. I hope there will be at least one more summer for the sisterhood, after their first year of college. It would be interesting to see what happens to them all after they are separted and have new lives apart from each other.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Margaux with an X ***

Koertge, Ron. Margaux with an X. Cambridge, Candlewick. 2004.

I didn't like this book because I had a hard time figuring out what it was about. The writing itself was good, and quite advanced, but I am not sure where Koertge was going with it.

Margaux is really attractive. Her and her friends engage in a lot of attention-seeking behaviours. Most people hate her because she is so pretty and men like her just for her looks. She hates her home life because it is really toxic, so she looks for ways to get out of the house and away from her parents. She meets an unattractive guy from school, Danny. He works with the Humane Society, looking after the dogs. In his spare time he goes to homes to check on the dogs that were adopted out. He lives with an Aunt that is ill.

The novel centers around their friendship, but there isn't really much to it. There was so much more that we still don't know about these people. There wasn't that much action or dialogue. I am still a little puzzled. I guess I wish I learned more about these characters, since the book was about them. I left the book not knowing anything more about the characters than when I started.