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Book Review: Kill the Boy Band

Book Review: Kill the Boy Band

Book Review: Kill the Boy Band
Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: February 23rd 2016
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

Just know from the start that it wasn't supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That's why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying. We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him-his room key, his cell phone, and his secrets. We were not planning on what happened next. We swear. From thrilling new talent Goldy Moldavsky comes a pitch-black, hilarious take on fandom and the badass girls who have the power to make-or break-the people we call "celebrities."

This is one of those books I wanted to like so much. When I heard about it, I was super excited, but the reality is the book just doesn’t live up to the hype. In fact, it’s highly problematic.

Before I truly dive into what I had issues with, I want to mention that Moldavsky does weave an interesting murder-mystery tale. I was intrigued by the basic plot and it held my attention enough to finish the book. However, whatever potential it had was lost in passages that upset me.

I’m not going to go into the fat shaming because Sarah over at Women Write About Comics did a good job of that already. Anything I would have pointed out, she already has. I will admit that the tackle scene did not bother me as much as everyone else. Mainly, it’s because by this point, I was already outraged by the fandom passages, which I’ll talk about in a moment. However, the passage that did get me was this:

Her appearance was one of Apple’s main hang-ups. That was what she saw in the mirror everyday and the conclusion she always jump to when things didn’t go right in her life. And, I’m certain, it was always a reason she chose Rupert P. —-  out of all the Ruperts —to love the most. I had a theory that choosing which boy to love in a boy band has a lot about a person…..I think April loved Rupert P. because she couldn’t even envision herself being loved by one of the cute boys. She loved him because he was the only one who she thought could possibly love her back.

I think that boy bands don’t worry about having a snaggle-tooth of an ugly member in their otherwise perfect row of teeth — boys — because they know that there are girls like Apple out there. Girls who really don’t like themselves enough to aim higher.  (p 82-83)

No, just no. No. No. No. And I know, there’s a spark to truth in girls thinking they can’t aim higher, but this is because society continuously tells girls like Apple they’re not good enough. Can we please just stop pushing this ideology? Please and thank you.

All right, so fat shaming. Check. Making fandoms look like crazies? HUGE CHECK. I’ll be honest, this is where the book lost me. I know people will come at me and say BUT IT’S A SATIRE, but it didn’t work well as one for me. There are too many moments that speak of reality and what is actually happening in the world of social media that are quite scary. For example, threatening tweets. Here’s the passage about the type of things that Isabel sends:

Isabel’s infamous tweets range from the cartoonish and impossible:

I’m going to pull ur tongue out of ur mouth wrap it around ur neck n strangle u w it so hard ur eyes will pop out. i will pee in the sockets.

To the quaint:

get your funcking hands off him bitch I will cut u. # RupertLIsMine  (knife emojis)

To the cryptically disturbing:

I watch u in ur sleep. (p 24-25)

To me, these are too real. I know people who get tweets like this–or worse. There is nothing funny about them. It’s scary and disturbing and wrong. I suppose if you didn’t know social media well enough you would think they were over the top, but they’re not and they’re many people’s reality. And while the main character does seem to condom those tweets, that type of attitude is basically what Isabel is all about.

The picture of fandoms that Moldavsky paints wildly varies depending on where you are in the book. At one point we get this

There was no point being a fan these days if you weren’t willing to go the extra mile for your idols. It wasn’t enough anymore to send them fanmail and kiss the posters above our beds. These days you weren’t a true fan until you engaged in Twitter death threats and endless stan wars. The fandom landscape was peppered with land mines, and there was no other way to navigate it but to walk until you hit one. You come out the other side a little crazier, yeah, but you’re also stronger. You are a true believer. You’ll do anything for the object of your affection. (p 32)

And then no more than 30 pages later we get this

Other people may have seen fangirls as crazy teenage girls obsessed with a fad, but they couldn’t understand the small but important joy you can get from indulging in these fandoms. They didn’t understand that a new gif of Rupert K. grinning at you could be the difference between a crap day and a beautiful one. They didn’t get the friendship that forms, the community of people who shared in your same joy. Maybe it was obsession, but it was also happiness; an escape from the suckiness of everyday life.  (pg 63)

So, which is it? Are they crazy obsessed teenagers or just a community that finds joy together? I suppose you could argue for both, but that second quote? Man, that’s what fandom is all about. That quote really hits at the heart of what they’re are and why people love and cling to them. When I saw that passage, I had hope that Moldavsky was going to give me something good. Instead, she goes back to painting them all as crazy. In fact, when a plea is sent out to the fangirls by one of the Ruperts to help find the missing Rupert, the girls start climbing the scaffold and busting into the hotel. I suppose you could argue that the over-the-top is where the whole satire/humor comes in, but to me it felt more like shaming than anything else.

There are many other passages that I could point out and use, but I fear they would make this review even longer than it is. And honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many other issues with race, sexual assault, and homophobia that are being pushed aside because it’s a “satire”. I know this will be a controversial review, but I just can’t support or recommend a book that is this problematic.

Final Verdict: Kill the Boy Band tried, oh did it try, but sadly it failed miserably in my eyes.

Book Review: You Are Not Here

Book Review: You Are Not Here

Book Review: You Are Not Here
You Are Not Here by Samantha Schutz
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: October 2010
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

A startling novel about love and grief from the author of the acclaimed memoir I Don't Want to Be Crazy. Annaleah and Brian shared something special - Annaleah is sure of it. When they were together, they didn't need anyone else. It didn't matter that their relationship was secret. All that mattered was what they had with each other. And then, out of nowhere, Brian dies. And while everyone else has their role in the grieving process, Annaleah finds herself living outside of it, unacknowledged and lonely. How can you recover from a loss that no one will let you have?

On the surface You Are Not Here is merely another verse novel about death. Girl loves boy. Boy dies. Girl grieves, letting her own life disappear with his. The story is hardly new nor groundbreaking. Death and grieving is a common and slightly overused thread among the YA world.

However, go deeper and the real story begins to appear. A story of an instant connection, a secret love, and a world that is all theirs. However, when Brian dies suddenly of a heart condition, she learns that that secret bubble they created comes at a price. She realizes that she barely knew anything about him. Even worse, she’s not sure if they were really boyfriend/girlfriend or if anyone in his everyday life knew about her. A fact that forces Annaleah to remain an unknown face among the sea of his family and friends; forcing her to grieve alone and question every aspect of their relationship. She’ll have to decide if holding onto that love is worth losing everything else along the way.

While Schutz does a good job of revealing Annaleah and Brian’s story by alternating between past and present, I’m not sure I ever formed a deep connection with Annaleah. I understood what made her tick, but I still wanted to shake some sense into her. While there some sweet moments between them, it was overshadowed by the games he played and how he kept her at arm’s length. He was a jerk, a player, and mainly kept her around as a booty call. Instead of kicking him to the curb, she waited for him to call and deem her worthy of his attention. Even after his death, she is willing to throw away friends who truly care about her and while she does redeem herself in the end, it felt a little too late for me.

Teens, on the other hand, will enjoy the fast paced verse. The story is compelling and will hold their attention with ease. You Are Not Here will be well loved by those who have experienced their own loss due to death or enjoy the true-to-life stories. While not as gritty as Hopkins, this is still a nice recommendations for her fans. I would also suggest Twenty Boy Summer and I Heart You, You Haunt Me as good read-a-likes.

Note: This was my first book read from my Off The Bookshelf Challenge.  I did overall like You Are Not Here, but I will pass this one on to my teens. It’ll be a nice addition to my summer reading free book selection and I know a teen will enjoy/appreciate it even more than I did.

Book Spotlight: Skeleton Creek

Book Spotlight: Skeleton Creek

Book Spotlight: Skeleton Creek
Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman
Series: Skeleton Creek #1
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: Feb 2009
Pages: 240

Skeleton Creek has a secret. Perhaps even more than one...something Sarah and Ryan are trying to find out. The mystery leads them to an old, abandon dredge; a place full of danger that neither should have entered into. Of course, nothing can stop them from finding out the truth. Not an accident that leaves Ryan housebound or their parents forbidding them to talk to each other. And especially not the ghost of Old Joe Bush.

After 6 days of school visits with 800 teens this was hands down the favorite. As a non-traditional book I don’t think this book gets a lot of push among libraries, which is a shame. Carman has created a fun interactive book that is sure to get even the most reluctant readers excited. Part journal (Ryan) and part videos (Sarah) this book has that spooky element that my kids love.

I did show one of Sarah’s videos (password: theraven, jump about half way through) during the visits, which was truly sold the book. The room erupted in talk once it was finished and they begged me to show it again, especially the boys. It was fun to see the teens get so excited and walk out talking about it as they headed back to classes(even when it was the first book talked about). In fact, they were so excited about this book that both school librarians had to go and buy it afterwards for their library so the teens could check it out next year. (End of the year = school library closed) I’ve even been told that several have already come into the public library asking to check it out.

While Skeleton Creek was the top favorite, there were several other that stood out among the 20 different books I book talked. They were: Divergent, Blood Red Road, I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets, Meanwhile, and True Meaning of Smekday. If anyone would like to know more about those books, just leave a comment and I’ll cover them on Thursday!

Book Review: Prom and Prejudice

Book Review: Prom and Prejudice

Book Review: Prom and Prejudice
Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: Jan. 2011
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher

Lizzie Bennet is attending Longbourn Academy, a top boarding school, on scholarship. Normally, this would be a good thing...if only the scholarship kids weren't hated so much. Add on that Lizzie is also the "new" kid and her life is complete hell. While the other girls become obsessed over prom, designer dresses, and the prefect date, Lizzie tries to keep her focus on school and her part-time job. That is until Will Darcy,who has just returned from his semester abroad in London, enters her life. Handsome Darcy, who Lizzie is drawn to, until she learns he's as snobby and pretentious as the other rich kids; the ones who think her lack of money makes her beneath them. Can Lizzie look beyond a bad impression and found her perfect match? Or will her pride keep her from discovering love?

 

The Short of It: Very cute. Eulburg does a fantastic job of retelling a classic while adding her own twists. Adaptations can be hit or miss, but this one got it just right.

Plot: It’s no secret that I’m a Jane Austen freak, so to say I was a bit nervous picking up this one is a bit of an understatement. Surely, this could not compare to the original and leave me sorely disappointed, right? Wrong, oh so wrong. Eulburg takes the beloved favorites like Darcy, Lizzie, Bingley, and Jane and transports them into the present. Yes, there is a bit of predictability in that you know Lizzie and Darcy will end up together, but journey is not quite the same. There is definitely echoes of the original story, but Eulburg adds in her own twist and turns and slowly makes it her own.

The only thing that nagged me a bit was the prom emphasis felt a bit out of place. I know that it was the big to-do at the school, but really wasn’t for Lizzie. She was more worried about surviving the year rather than what shoes to wear. I know for some of the secondary characters the prom fueled their motivations, but it wasn’t the meat and the bone of the story. With the title, cover, and even had it opened I thought it would play out much differently than it did. Although, while misleading, I am glad that Eulburg shaped it the way she did.

Characters: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I took an instant liking to Darcy while I wanted to kick Lizzie out of a window a couple of times. Talk about your role reversals. Lizzie jumped to conclusions and was slow to forgive mistakes. I hated how she was unwilling to give Darcy a second chance even though he repeatedly tried to show he was a good guy. She refuses to drop her rich = snobby belief. I understand the girls at school, except Jane, treat her awful, but Darcy missteps are not in the same ballpark. I do like that she is big enough to admit when she is wrong though!

Now that said, Darcy is not without his faults. He does snap judge himself, but he does try to make amends even before he knows how the girls have been treating her. But don’t worry, he still kind of has that haughty I’m better than you attitude, however, his good guyness shines more often than not. Honestly, I may have loved him even more than the Darcy; perhaps because he wasn’t as priggish and I felt as if he were someone I could be friends with. I will say that he has to be my favorite character in Eulburg’s story.

Romance: As with the original, there is a lot of push and pull to the romance. Okay, mainly push. Lizzie’s first meeting with Darcy didn’t exactly go swimmingly and her distrust only grows from there. Darcy tries to show he is interested again and again, but her distrust and self-doubt get in the way. However, even during all this, you know they both really like each other. And despite it all, they really do work together and make a cute couple. I just wish they could have made it work a little sooner.

Writing: This area is pretty straightforward for me. Eulburg delivers a tightly written that delivered almost from page one. I rarely finish books in one sitting, but this was one I kept doing the “one more chapter” thing with until I was complete. The only thing that felt slightly out of place was the opening with the prom scene, but again I think that goes back to my whole prom emphasis point from earlier.

Librarian-Mode: I really do think that Pride and Prejudice/Austen lovers will enjoy this adaption, however, this would also make a good pairing with Anna and the French Kiss and Karma Club. If you want to pair it with other classic adaptations, be sure to look into Prada and Prejudice and Jane.

So, now it’s your turn…have you read Prom and Prejudice? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.

Book Review: I Now Pronounce You Someone Else

Book Review: I Now Pronounce You Someone Else

Book Review: I Now Pronounce You Someone Else
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: June 2010
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher

The teen-girl fascination with weddings comes to fiction in this hilarious debut, as 17-year-old Bronwen Oliver plots her escape from her family . . . by marrying into someone else's. Here Comes the Bride -- If She Can Pass Chemistry. Eighteen-year-old Bronwen Oliver has a secret: She's really Phoebe, the lost daughter of the loving Lilywhite family. That's the only way to explain her image-obsessed mother; a kind but distant stepfather; and a brother with a small personality complex. Bronwen knows she must have been switched at birth, and she can't wait to get away from her

The Short of It: I’ve been done with this one for a couple weeks now, but I’m still not sure what I think of it. I went in expecting one type of story and, honestly, got something completely and utterly different. It’s a cute story with a good ending message; one I liked, but didn’t love.

Plot: While I love the end message of this book, something about it has been nagging at me since I’ve finished. At first I thought it was the unrealistic aspect of being engaged and planning a wedding while being a senior in high school. Or how quick it was all happening or even how she was allowing her dreams and plans to be changed by another. But in the end, I feel all of this was a cover-up for what was really going on in her life. I wish McCahan had spent more time fleshing out the family problems. That was the real issue and should have gotten a bit more page time.

Characters: There were times I really liked Bronwen and other times I just wanted to shake some sense into her. Ok, mainly it was shake some sense into her. I hated how she allowed others to take control of her life, especially when it came to her mother. Even with Jared she let what she wanted be pushed aside for his desires. I hated seeing her create a fantasy life because she was so unhappy with her own.

Without trying to ruining too much, I will say once she stopped hiding behind the lies and fictional stories, I loved who she became. McCahan sent a strong, positive message to teenage girls with the road she took Bronwen down. In fact, the change is what made me finally really adore Bronwen. It was good to see her get to a healthy point in her life–one that included becoming who she wanted to be.

Romance: I have to admit I really enjoyed Bronwen and Jared’s relationship. Admittedly, it moved a little too fast, but they were still cute nonetheless. I found myself awing at some of their moments and secretly cheering for them even when everything went very wrong. Most of all, I love how McCahan shows that even when a relationship goes off track, it doesn’t have to be the end. I’m glad it wasn’t exactly a happily-ever-after, although, there was enough hope that one may be somewhere around the bend. I applaud for capturing the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to relationships.  It was nice to see a realistic look at the ups and downs and the messes a real romance can cause and leave behind.

Writing: Overall, I think the writing is pretty strong. However, there were a couple of spots that made me stumble/reread passages, mainly in regards to who was speaking and time continuity. While I can pass the who was speaking off to me reading late at night, the time issue bothered me the most. McCahan would describe how the characters did something, then would jump back in time and continue as normal. While I understand why it was done, it was hard as a reader to keep track of the timeline at times. And I know this is kind of small, but it drove me a little crazy, especially when I had to flip back and forth. Other than that I think McCahan has a great style of writing and would be willing to check out future books.

Librarian-Mode: This is going to fit best in with the realistic fiction crowd. While not exactly alike, it would be a good pairing with Twenty Boy Summer, Not that Kind of Girl, or The Karma Club.

So, now it’s your turn…have you read I Now Pronounce You Someone Else? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought.

 

 

Book Review: Catching Fire

Book Review: Catching Fire

Book Review: Catching Fire
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Series: Hunger Games #2
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: Sep. 2009
Pages: 400
Source: ALA

Life should be perfect and carefree now that Katniss and Peeta won the Hunger Games, right? Walking out alive? Check. Never worrying about money/shelter again? Check. Happiness and Bliss? Houston, we have a problem! The Capital is not happy about Katniss and Peeta's win and is viewing it as an act of defiance. Add in the hushed whispers of an uprising, and all hell is about to break loose. Katniss and Peeta know they will be the ones blamed for the chaos. Will they be able to appease the Capital and restore compliance among the districts? Or will this finally be the chance to take down the oppressive government? Catching Fire, the sequel to Hunger Games, is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat and wanting more.

 

I’m not going to do a review-review for this book because it’s so hard to do a proper one without giving anything away. And I really don’t want to mess around with spoiler spaces or anything like that. Plus, I have some exciting news to announce that ties in perfectly with this book & my low-key review. (So that means read to the very end!)

First things first, the review; this book can be summed up in one simple word. WOW. Just…wow. I went into Catching Fire with very high expectations and I was sure that Collins would never be able to live up to them. Boy, was I wrong! This book is exceptionally written and was better than I could have ever imagined. I had had some thoughts about where she could take the storyline, but I never expected the twists she threw in. Although, I do have to admit that at first I was very taken back by what she did. I thought it was overly convenient and too easy, but the more I thought about it the more I realized how perfect it was. It was spot-on on how the government thought and how they took action.

The love-triangle is, of course, still there. I enjoyed being able to see more of Gale, although, it was still not enough. I think I’m also falling more and more in love with Peeta. He has totally won my heart over and may be becoming one of my favorite characters. (But I’m still Team GALE!) I can totally sympathize with Katniss as she continues to try to deal with such a complicated and delicate situation. She was thrown into something as a way to win a game and now untangling her emotions is becoming so hard. I doubt I would be handling it as nicely if I were in the same situation.

And, sadly, this is where my review must stop. I’m too worried that I may give away something I shouldn’t! Besides, if I tell you everything now, there would be nothing to discuss at the first YA book group meeting that is being held by Michelle and myself! The Literary League (Read ‘Til YA Drop) will begin online discussion of Catching Fire on Sept 22nd and will end with a Skype talk the weekend of Oct 4th. I’ll be posting more info/details as it gets closer. I look forward to seeing all of you there!

Book Review: Absolutely Maybe

Book Review: Absolutely Maybe

Book Review: Absolutely Maybe
Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: May 2010
Pages: 274
Source: ALA

Her name is Maybelline Mary Katherine Mary Ann Chesnut, but you can call her Maybe. She's named after two Miss America winners and her mother's favorite brand of mascara. And while she could recite the Seven Select Rules for Young Ladies by heart, she is no tiara wearing wannabe beauty queen. In fact, with her oversized t-shirts, Kool-Aid dyed hair, and purple lipstick some may even say she's Goth. She spunky, has a mind of her own, and hopes to someday have a normal life.

Unfortunately, normalcy is not something she is familiar with. Her mother, Chessy, runs a charm school that promises her students will be winners. A Former beauty pageant winner herself, she knows all the secrets. But behind that pretty smile and big hair, Chessy is an alcoholic and serial marrier. She falls hard and fast, but can never make the marriages last.

When soon-be-husband #7 makes a move on Maybe, she's decided she's had enough.  With her best friends Hollywood and Thammasat Tantipinichwong Schneider (aka Ted), she heads off to L.A. to find her father. She's certain he will welcome her with open arms once he knows she exists. Armed only with his first name and possible profession, finding him proves to be harder than she ever imagined. While Maybe is determined to let nothing stand in her way of finding him, along the way she may just find something even more important. Herself.

 

My Thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I simply adored Maybe. It was nice to see her drop her defenses as she discovered who she truly was beyond the craziness that was her life in Florida. I was also happy to see that her journey wasn’t just a walk in a park. While things ended up well for her, she still had to deal with being without money, shelter, or a job. Yee, thankfully, did not idealize running away.

However, while Maybe had to go through some trials, her friends did not. I felt it was completely unrealistic how things work out for Ted and Hollywood. I mean, really, how often does newbie film student when a big competition their first time entering? Not to mention Ted being hired as an assistant for this famous celebrity with no experience and minimal references. And not only does he land the job, but he flourishes to the point where he is the most important part of her life? It all seemed too unlikely for my taste.

There are a couple of other very minor things that sort of bugged me to such as introduction of Ian. He seemed liked a possible love interest, but disappears soon after the introduction. There are a couple of mentions of him in passing, but the character himself never reappears. If he was just meant to be just a page filler, simply mention him and move on. Why spend time explaining how cute Maybe thinks he is if there is to be nothing more to it? I’m also not sure how I feel about Hollywood’s film and the reference that Maybe is the “teenage Oprah”. While I think Maybe is great, I didn’t see Hollywood’s Maybe. Was this something we were suppose to pick up between the lines…or is this just a product of his infatuation with her? (I’d be interested to hear other’s take on this.) My last issue is how easily Maybe forgave her mom. I realize without this Yee could have never had her happy ending, but it felt too much like fluffy clouds and sunshine. But then maybe I just worry that Maybe and Chessy will slip back into their old life without anything really changing, which would truly be the saddest thing ever.