Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sweet Valley High ***

Pascal, Francine. Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love. 1983/2008

They have decided to bring back Sweet Valley High, which is a series *I* loved when I was in middle and high school. They are basically re-packaging the series, bringing it up to date with cell phones, different cars, etc., but the plot lines remain the same. I don't know how many they plan to bring back-- they used to have a new book out every month. I find that SVH is basically a more wholesome version of Gossip Girl, so for schools that can't have them due to content, this is a good alternative.

Liz and Jessica are twins. Liz is the smart nice one, the one on the school newspaper. Jessica is the one that isn't so nice, the cheerleader etc. She has no conscience whatsoever. This first book basically introduces everyone to the case of characters that we will deal with in the rest of the series, but also focuses on the girls wanting the same guy, Todd. Jessica knows Liz and Todd like each other but she stops at nothing to get him.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Cuba 15 ***

Osa, Nancy. Cuba 15. 2005.

This book wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. Violet is half-Cuban and half-Polish. Her family refuses to talk about Cuba. Violet's Grandmother insists that she have a Quince, which is a traditional party in many Hispanic cultures, celebrating the 15th birthday, similar to a Sweet 16. Violet isn't really into it, but she agrees. There is a lot of tension in the house as the party is planned, particularly between Violet and her father, who doesn't like Violet trying to learn about Cuba.

Meanwhile, she is forced to join the school's speech team and competes in the humorous story category, in which is acts out a story. She writes a story about her crazy family, and that is what she competes with all season. She isn't very good at it.

I would recommend this book to anyone Cuban or Hispanic, as they might be interested in reading about a Quince. Otherwise, I wouldn't recommend it. There are a few things that don't really make sense and certain things never come together. And, then there are aspects to the story that seemed unnecessary, as they don't add to the story at all. The writing is also not very smooth, it feels awfully choppy a lot of the time. The problems in the book are enough to make a person not interested in the subject matter put it down and not pick it up again.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

In the Company of Crazies ***

Baskin, Nora Raleigh. In the Company of Crazies. 2006

Mia is in middle school and suddenly finds herself troubled. Her grades are slipping and she is shoplifting. Her parents send her away to a boarding school for troubled kids. The kids there, only about a dozen it seems, have various psychological diagnoses that make it hard for them to function in a regular school. They are there for a therapeutic environment.

It seems unclear to me why Mia is there. While she has had some problems, it seems that the other kids have a lot more going on that Mia. It didn't seem like Mia really needed to be pulled out of school and put in a residential facility. The other characters were a lot more interesting to me and kept me interested in reading the rest of the book, to see what they were like and what might happen to them as time went on. The ending also seemed a bit rushed to me. There didn't seem to be any real resolution to her problems, but maybe that was because she didn't really have any problems to begin with. Maybe her parents were the ones with the problem!

I would recommend this book for middle school students interested in reading about kids living in a special school.