February 17th, 2011

Book Review: Pink

Book Review: Pink
Pink by Lili Wilkinson
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: Feb 2011
Pages: 320
Source: ALA

Ava is ready for something new. Tired of a wearing black and remaining outside of the social norm, she wants to reinvent who she is. She wants to wear the pink Argyle sweater hidden in her closet. Maybe even date a boy. When she transfers to Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence she thinks she’s found the perfect opportunity; a place where no one knows her and she can try on a new “Ava”. The only problem? She must hide it from her changes from her parents and her girlfriend, Chloe. They’d never understand her new desires, plus they’re a nice safety net in case her new personality doesn’t work. The thing about secrets is they’re hard to keep and Ava risks everything if her two worlds collide. But as the dust settles Ava will discover who her real friends are...and maybe even a step closer to discovering who she truly is.

 

The Short of It: Hands down one of my favorite books! I’ve been gushing about this book to so many people since I read it in January (including the publisher and author!) I can’t remember the last time I was THIS excited about a book. In other words, why haven’t you bought it yet?

Plot: The first thing that sold me on this book was that it was about a lesbian. Can I say there are just not enough books featuring teen lesbians out there? Seriously, I wish there were tons more, so when I hear of one I usually jump on it. But…but…this book goes way beyond that. It’s not about being gay, bi, or straight; it’s about discovering who you are. Ava’s parents are so much about sticking it to the man and thinking outside the norm, that they have painted her into a new sort of box. The gothy lesbian look is all good and dandy, but Ava really just wants to wear pink. She wants to know what it’s like to be part of the “in-crowd” and maybe even date a boy. Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems, which is a lesson Ava learns the hard way. There are many bumps–okay potholes–and detours along the way as Ava tries to make things work. Of course, the end of the book was not the end of Ava’s journey. She still wasn’t sure exactly who she was and may not know for a while, but she’ll continue to try to figure it out. Honestly, this is my favorite part; a school year is not enough time to firmly stamp you are and what your sexuality is. Kudos to Wilkinson for keeping it real and not tying it all up in a nice little bow.

Characters: Ava is far from perfect. She makes mistakes. HUGE mistakes. I understand the desire to be someone new/start over fresh though. Been there, done that several times over now. While I don’t condone all the lying that Ava does along the way, I can sympathize and understand how she got to that point. One little secret turns into another and another and pretty soon it’s out of control. However, I love that Ava is brave enough to admit her mistakes and apologize to everyone she wronged. She may have gone about many things wrong, but she tries her hardest to make them right again. And it’s not a quick fix, either; she’ll have to rebuild some of those relations, but Ava is willing to do what she can. I also love that she didn’t buckle under pressure and return to how others saw her. She had the chance to return to how everything was before, but she stick to her instinct, even if it meant losing someone she cared about.

Before I move on, I have to mention the side characters, especially the Screws. Being a theatre stag-crew/props/behind the scenes person myself, the Screws where my people in high school. While none of my friends where anything quite like them, it did bring back happy memories. I will say that Jen was my favorite character overall. The whole geek girl is my world and I kind of wish she were real so I could make her my new BFF (or more). But seriously, if you finish this book and not have an intense love for the Screws, well, something just isn’t right! (I’ll still love you, but I’ll have my serious doubts.)

Romance: Okay, so I’ll be honest. Ava is not single for most of this book. She and Chloe are in a relationship from the get-go, but honestly, Chloe does not have much page time. And when she does, you kind of wish she’d just go away. She’s too stuck in the thought that her opinions are law and is kind of a big bully. Her words are cutting, brutal, and very hurtful, especially when aimed at Jen. Not to mention her ultimatum to Ava is pure bs. So yes, Chloe exists but she is a predominant character.

Now there are other flirtations that are in the book, but nothing that evolves to a full out romance. There is definitely the possibility of more, especially with one character, but Ava still has a lot of figuring out to do before she crosses that line. If nothing else, there is still a great friendship–even if more never comes from it.

Writing: Wilkinson does a superb job at pulling readers into her world and making this world universal for anyone. I know this book took place in Australia, but for most of the book I forgot that detail, except when they mentioned what university they wanted to go with. Seriously, though, I could have seen this story taking place in my own home-town, which is the beauty of it. Wilkinson is quite spot on for the entire book. There was not a single time where I thought the pacing was off or a character would do this or that. And just how realistic everything thing is. . . Ah, really, I’m going to quit now before I get too gushy!

Librarian-Mode: Okay, pairing time. So there are a lot of books I think this one would do well next to. I truly believe it should be a GLBTQ staple and is a nice read-a-like for Keeping You a Secret, Ash, and Geography Club. However, this is a very good coming-of-age story and would work with realistic romances as well.

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

 

September 15th, 2009

Book Review: Rage: A Love Story

Book Review: Rage: A Love Story
Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Release Date: Sept. 2009
Pages: 304

Johanna has been attracted  to Reeve for sometime now. She daydreams about their first touch, their first kiss, and eventually becoming a couple. The only problem? They've never even spoken and it's unlikely that Reeve knows she exists. The next problem? There is only a couple days left until High School graduation. With a lot of determination and a little bit of luck, Johanna manages to push her way into Reeve's life. But she's soon discovering that love is not all paradise; in fact, there's a much darker side filled with trouble and abuse. And the tighter Johanna holds on, the further into darkness she is pulled. In a story of first love, Johanna must decide if holding onto a fantasy is worth losing everything else.

 
This has got to be one of the hardest reviews for me to write. I’ve been looking forward to Rage: A Love Story for months, only to find it didn’t live up to my expectations. I went into it longing for a good lesbian love story, but that was certainly not what I got. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still ADORE Julie Anne Peters. She is a brilliant writer and Rage does not fail in that department. She does a beautiful job at bringing a story to life. The characters were quite realistic and I have no doubt that this situation could/does happen.

Yet, for some reason the plot didn’t sit well with me. There were moments that I cringed and wanted to shake some sense into Johanna, especially when she talked about wearing her bruises as badges of her love. I couldn’t understand how this girl she barely knew meant so much to her. How after only a week or so, she was allowing Reeve to abuse her. Why did she continue to cling to this girl instead of walking away? I can understand how hard it would be if they had been dating months or years, but weeks? The love aspect just seemed to happen much, much too fast for my liking. I do understand that all of Johanna’s fantasies may have given her the illusion of a deeper attachment, but I don’t know.

Now, before I end this review, I have to say that Julie Anne Peters ends the story well. There is a sense of healing that has and will continue to happen on both sides. I was left with the hope that both girls would see happier times ahead. I’m still a little sad that I didn’t get the good, romantic love story I had hoped for, but that’s okay. It will be a hard one to recommend to my teens, though, if only because I don’t know how to sell it. It’s not really one I can add onto a love or LGBT list, however, I can see it being received well by those who thrive on the “issue” novels.

Have you read Rage: A Love Story? If so, let me know what you think!

 

 

July 5th, 2009

Book Review: David Inside Out

Book Review: David Inside Out
David Inside Out by Lee Bantle
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: May 2009
Pages: 184

In this coming-of-age novel, David Dahlgren struggles with coming to terms with being gay. Even escaping into track becomes difficult when he develops a crush on his teammate Sean. David desperately tries to do anything to stop the gay tag being added onto this name. He distances himself from his openly gay best friend, dates a girl, and buys “manly” magazines, but can’t shake his feelings for SeanBut then everything changes when Sean lets David know he has the same kind of desires. They begin meeting secretly and David finds himself falling dangerously hard for Sean. He dreams of coming out with Sean at his side for all the world to see, but will he be able to turn it into reality? Or will he have to learn to accept himself without Sean?

 

I have to admit that when I got this book I was expecting a nice GLBT love story, but that is definitely not what David Inside Out is. In fact, by the end of the book I completely hated his main love interest. I understand that Sean is probably dealing with many of the same emotions as David, but he came off as a jerk who was only using David for sex. I never felt like there was a real connection between them beyond physical acts. Even the camaraderie we see at track meets and study groups feels like it was just a way to get into David’s pants. I know this situation is very realistic, but it still really rubbed me the wrong way.

On the other hand, this is an excellent coming-out story. David’s emotions are raw and truthful as he tries to come to terms with being gay and accepting himself as he is. I believe that any GLBT person would be able to relate with the road he has to travel. No matter what age you are, coming out is never an easy thing. Thumbs up to Bantle for capturing those emotions nicely.

The only other thing I wanted to mention was the pacing. At times it feels a little disjointed as Bentle alternates between skipping ahead and spending time in the moment. It was almost like a bunch of smaller stories sewn together to form the big picture. While there were a couple of spots where I wished there had been more/less detail, overall, it works well for the novel.

While David Inside Out may not be my favorite GBLT book, it was an enjoyable read and one I will certainly add to my collection.