Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sloppy Firsts *****

McCafferty, Megan. Sloppy Firsts. 2001.

I am so glad I read this book again. I decided to read it again after that Harvard chic plagiarized from it.

This is great YA lit. It is not only entertaining but it is intelligent. Jessica is a smart honor student. In her diary entries, she details her life after her best friend Hope moves away and she is left hanging out with the rest of her friends, whom she has discovered that she doesn't really like.

She is in love with Pau, who has no idea she exists. Her best male friend Scott wants more, but she doesn't. She starts an odd friendship with Marcus, a burn-out. Her sister is getting married. Her mother doesn't seem to like her very much. Her father only cares about her when she is doing well at track. She misses Hope and hates her friends. A new girl, Hy, moves to town and becomes friends with Jessica and her friends. Jessica hopes Hy might replace Hope, but then she feels sorry for trying to replace Hope. Then Hy backs off and disappears altogether.

Each diary entry is witty and wonderful. I was so sad to see the book end because I love this character and wanted to see what comes next. I recommend this book to every teen girl out there. I can't see any reader being disappointed.

Luckily, there are 2 sequels to this wonderful book. Sadly, some kid has the sequel checked out (darn it!) and I haven't bought the third book yet. I have to get on that right away!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life / Unrated with Rant

Viswanathan, Kaavya. How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. 2006.

Opal's dream has been to go to Harvard. Everything she has done has been to get into Harvard, which includes joining a million clubs, doing community service, and taking all AP classes. She goes on her Harvard early decision interview and she doesn't know what to say when the interviewer asks her what she likes to do for fun. He tells her basically to get a life and reapply for regular admissions.

Like she does with everything else, she decides to get a life, if that's what it takes to get into Harvard. Her parents also get involved, buying her every fashion magazine available, renting all of the latest videos, TiVoing hit TV shows, getting her a new haircut, make-up, etc. Her parents go so far as to go away and let her have a kegger in her house. As we already know from the beginning, she is going to get popular, get kissed, and get wild, but she isn't going to like it, and eventually it will go awry. And it does.

Can I recommend this book? No. Why? After it was plagiarized, it was discovered by some astute readers that it was, in fact, plagiarized. There are entire sections taken directly from Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty. Some sections are copied word-for-word and in some places the words are changed a little. Her works also mirror the works of other authors such as Meg Cabot although no side-by-side comparisons have been made with any other authors. The book was subsequently pulled from all bookstores. The publisher had said that they were going to revise the book and re-release it, but they have since changed their mind on that.

The author wasn't helping her case when she first claimed she had never even read the work of McCafferty. Then in another interview she claimed the book moved her so much that she must have internalized certain passages and that was why she ended up using them in her book. Huh? I read a lot, but I have never memorized entire sentences or sections of a book! And, if I did, I would think I would have remembered that I had.

This girl, a sophomore at Harvard, is now a bit of a disgrace. If her goal was to be an author, she blew it. She will never be able to publish anything anywhere again. No place would take the risk of plagiarism lawsuits. Right now she is lucky that Megan McCafferty has said she doesn't plan to sue. The publisher will probably take away her advance. I hope she didn't spend it!

If you want to read this book, you will have to get it used on Amazon since bookstores have pulled it. Some libraries still have it, although I am sure they will pull the books from their collections too, once they get returned. I only read it to see the comparison between the books. While I enjoyed the book, it is tarnished from this scandal. I think HS seniors going through the application process would enjoy the book because it is amusing, but it is hard to get past the plagiarism thing.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Moon Over Manhattan **

King, Larry and Thomas H. Cook. Moon Over Manhattan: A Novel of Mystery and Mayhem. New York: Plume 2004.

This is an adult book appropriate for YAs.

I didn't like this book one bit. There were some funny parts, but there wasn't enough good stuff to override the fact that this book had no point really.

Allison Vandemeer is the daughter of Arthur, a popular TV talk show host that is very liberal. She is dating Goonie, a poor, uneducated Hispanic boy with the IQ of a flee. She isn't into him that much but she wants to use him. She needs him to get her rather to let her go to film school at UCLA. She decides to write a fake note about eloping with Goonie to get her father upset. She figures after she comes home in a few days, he will be so happy she is home and not married to Goonie, that he will let her go to UCLA to get her away from Goonie. Anyway, things don't go right and mayhem ensues.

The story takes place in NYC. The characters are all varied. Some are interesting but none are really sympathetic characters-- they are all majorly flawed people with few redeeming qualities. I didn't really care what happened to any of them. At the end I thought to myself, "So what?" To sum up, don't read this book. Whomever reviewed this in SLJ and told school librarians to buy this is crazy. I can't imagine high school students reading this book at all.