Monday, April 28, 2008

Me and Orson Welles ***

Kaplow, Robert. Me and Orson Welles. 2005.

Why this book was recommended by School Library Journal is beyond me. I don't imagine any teenager would be interested in reading this. In fact, I can't imagine many people would be interested in reading it.

The book follows a week in the life if Richard Samuels who lives in NJ. In an unlikely turn of events, he is cast as Lucius in an Orson Welles production of Julius Caesar. He has to skip school to get to the rehearsals and the performances. He falls in love with Sonja and gets involved in the drama that is the theatre.

I am not sure if the goal of the book is to be coming of age story or a story that exemplifies how crazy Orson Welles was. Either way, it doesn't matter because I don't think either angle is working very well. I also find that most teens aren't all that interested in historical fiction so I don't think a 1930s NYC theatre novel would fly off the shelves of many libraries. I would skip this book unless you have some sort of fascination with Orson Welles.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

In the Cards: Fame ****

Fredericks, Mariah. In the Cards: Fame. 2006.

I didn't realize this was a part of series until I started reading it. The first book was In the Cards: Love. Unlike some other series, however, this book is fine all on it's own; the reader doesn't have to have read the first book in the series to understand what is happening in this one.

The school is abuzz when the music teacher, Mr. Courtney decides to put on the first musical the school has ever had. Eve, a total drama queen auditions for the show and does get in. Her friend Anna is the stage manager and their other friend Syd is also brought in to help out with playing the piano. The show is filled with drama right from the beginning with backstage fights, romance, and feuds. The star of the show has a famous father and starts to fall apart; it's not clear whether or not she will be able to perform at all. All the while, Eve keeps wondering what will happen because the tarot cards predicted something, but she's not sure how it's going to happen.

I recommend this for middle school/early high school girls interested in the theatre or performing, or girls just interested in reading a story with a whole lot of drama and backstabbing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cheater ***1/2

Laser, Michael. Cheater. 2008.

Karl is really smart. So smart that a group of students ask him to join their cheating group. The kids all come from different groups in school and no one would ever suspect they are working together. They use high tech cheating methods, like using cell phones and electronic pencils that send radio waves. Karl knows it's wrong and tries to get out, but he's in too far at that point. The maniacal Vice Principal starts going after cheaters with a vengeance, vowing to expel everyone he catches cheating. This makes things even riskier, but Karl can't seem to get out of it.

The only aspect of the book I had a problem with was that it was unrealistic. I know kids cheat, and they do it a lot. However, I don't think many are using methods like this. If they were smart enough to organize like this and get it to work, they probably don't have to cheat in the first place. Furthermore, the VP expelling people for cheating was also a stretch. A policy like that would never fly. At the very least, the parents would need to get a lawyer and there would be an expulsion hearing, but that didn't seem to happen here. These sorts of things made the book impossible to enjoy thoroughly.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Pull of the Ocean *****

Mourlevat, Jean-Claude. The Pull of the Ocean. Text copyright 1999, Translation copyright 2006.

This book won the French Prix Sourcieres and won the American Library Association's Batchelder Award.

This was a great book but it is only appropriate for the middle grades, not high school.

This novel is basically a re-telling of Tom Thumb in modern times. Tom Thumb is a midget/dwarf. He comes from a family of 7 children-- all of the sets of twins except from himself. His father is abusive and his mother is useless. Tom doesn't speak so everyone thinks he is stupid. He is, however, the smartest one in the bunch and he talks with his eyes and body. One night Tom warns his brothers they are in dangers from their parents and they run away.

The novel is written from multiple points of view, from the social worker that brings Tom home from school at the beginning of the story, people they encountered along the way, and all of the siblings themselves. This change in point of view makes the book interesting and keeps it flowing. It wouldn't be nearly as interesting and compelling if it were told from only one character's perspective.

Highly recommended for middle school.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Missing Girl ****

Mazer, Norma Fox. The Missing Girl. 2008.

This was a disturbing book. The chapters alternate between five sisters and a man who is obsessed with them. The sisters are having lots of problems at home-- their father is out of a job and the mother is making the only income. She is stressed out and they have no money. The family makes the decision to send one of the sisters to an Aunt so she can help out and take the burden off the family. Meanwhile, a pedophile is obsessed with the girls. He looks forward to seeing them every day. His only problem is choosing which of them he wants. They are all enticing to him in one way or another.

The pedophilia angle can be disturbing to some readers so I would urge caution for readers that might be sensitive to this sort of thing. Otherwise, this was a great book and I had a hard time putting it down.