Book Review: Jellicoe Road

Book Review: Jellicoe RoadJellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Release Date: April 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 432

Printz Award Winner 2009 

The stories of Jellicoe Road are not easy ones to tell. They are complicated tales that deal with car crashes, deaths, heroes, new friendships, disappearances, The War, and abandonment. Not many would dare to unravel all the riddles, but for seventeen-year-old Taylor Markham her future lies in its midst and it is all she can think about.

As leader of the Jellicoe Road Houses, her concentration should be on The War and protecting her territory from the townies and cadets. However, when the only adult she is close to disappears, her only thought is figuring out where Hannah went. To do so, she must figure out the connection between her mother abandoning her, Hannah’s rescue, a boy who haunts her dreams, words once whispered by a stranger, and five kids who lived on Jellicoe Road eighteen years ago. With the help of her friends and her so-called enemy Jonah Griggs, Taylor begins to unlock the answers she has been so desperate to find. But once the puzzle is complete, will she really have what she is looking for

So I’m a little torn on how I feel about this book. On one hand I really enjoyed it. The way the multiple stories were weaved together was done beautifully and gracefully.  I did put together the pieces long before they were spelled out, but there was never a point where I got bored/wanted to put the book down. In fact, it was one of those books that kept me up until 4a.m. because I needed to see the end.

However, there are still things that nag at me every time I think about the book. The first one is The War. I know it is a game/territory issue that has been going on for many, many years. It even comes complete with boundary maps and a complex rule book, but please, please don’t ask me to describe it. Why? Well, because I have no idea how it works or what the ultimate goal is each year beyond protecting territory. I understand the importance of The War, but it felt so trivial compared to everything else and honestly wish Marchetta would have left it out or explained it just a little better.

My second issue is with Taylor. I adore this character, but in the end she felt a little off. Maybe closed off is a better word. As a reader I never truly felt how deep her pain/torment went. This is going to seem weird, but I thought she should have been more screwed up then she was. If I were in her shoes, I would not have been able to think or function properly. I know it was hinted that many of her friends were worried about her, but it was based off her actions. As a reader, we were allowed to see her inner thoughts along with those actions and made her attitude seem more reasonable. She was distracted and disconnected…not utterly falling apart. I realize that a lot of her memories/experiences were most likely being repressed, but I wish it would have come to the surface just a little more. I know some/many will disagree with me on this point, but I just feel that when I understand a secondary characters pain/struggles more than the main character…well, it just seems wrong. (I’m sure that I’m making a bigger deal out of this than is needed, but some part of me just will NOT let it go.)

Even with these things nagging me, I really did enjoy Jellicoe Road. While I don’t think it would have been my choice for the Printz Award, it is very, very easy to see how it made it to the top of the list.

Book Review: Absolutely Maybe

Book Review: Absolutely MaybeAbsolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee
Release Date: May 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
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.

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.


Book Review: S.E.X.

Book Review: S.E.X.S.E.X. by Heather Corinna
Release Date: May 2007
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Pages: 332

We’ve all had those questions were we stop and think…am I normal? Is that what it’s suppose to look like? Is that really what happens? How do I do this? Thankfully, S.E.X. can answers all that and more. Corinna covers things such as female/male anatomy, changes that will occur to one’s body, different types of sexual orientations, how to maintain a healthy relationship, a checklist for sexual readiness, in-depth information on how to have safe sex/contraceptives, and STI risks/information. Her straightforward, truthful, no-bull approach to these topics makes it a book that any teen or parent should read.

While I think S.E.X. is an invaluable, accurate resource for teens, it is a little boring. I’m afraid teens may find it too cut and dry and discard it before ever giving it a chance. I was a little worried about the “how to do it” section, which covers such topics as kissing, foreplay, and intercourse, especially when I saw it included such things as fisting. However, after reading it, I can honestly say it’s nothing shocking. The section is more about what each thing is and what it entails. No step-by-step how-to or even pictures are included. And my way of thinking is, teens are going to get their information one way or another. I would prefer they get it for a book with accurate information rather than a porn site or, worse, by getting themselves in a situation they cannot control. Parents may wish to read it before their teens, but I honestly hope they do not withhold this book from them. It is important information that can not only keep them safe during sex, but can help them with every day problems regarding their bodies, identities, and relationships.

Book Review: Princess Academy

Book Review: Princess AcademyPrincess Academy by Shannon Hale
Series: Princess Academy #1
Release Date: 2005
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing USA
Pages: 336

Mount Eskel is known for one thing; mining precious blocks of stone called Linder. Imagine everyone’s shock when the king’s priests name Mount Eskel as the home of the next princess. Surely, the lowlanders must be playing a joke on them. However, they soon find it is no joke as every eligible female is herded off to an academy to learn how to be a “proper princess”.

Miri is one of these girls. Thanks to her small statue her father has never allowed her to step inside the quarry. She has spent most of her life feeling like a burden…someone who can’t pull her own weight because of this decision. When the academy first starts, she fights against the harsh governess and her cruel tactics to keep them in line. But when a beautiful gown and first dance is promised to the head of the class, Miri finally sees her chance to make a difference. If the prince can just pick her, maybe, just maybe, she can help improve life on Mount Eskel. Of course, Miri never imagined that the stuff she would learn to be a princess could be used to reshape life at home, even without the prince. Soon, she finds herself torn between wanting to being chosen and reinventing her village. Will the prince discover that Miri is the one…if so, can she really leave the mountain that she loves so dearly?

So first off, don’t pick up this book late at night. Otherwise, you’ll end up reading until 2 am because you simply cannot put it down. Princess Academy has easily made its way to the top of my favorite list. While at first glance, it may not seem like a book for boy, I believe there is still enough action that they could like it. In fact, one of the reasons I liked the book so much is because there is a little of something for everyone; there’s action, romance, and intelligence. Hale does a nice job showing that women can be strong, no matter what there size may be. Not only does little Miri show this through intelligence but it can be seen in others through strength and wisdom. Although I was able to pick who would be chosen, I wasn’t able to guess the reasons why. It was a nice little twist and sock to the rigid rules that royalty can have. (Or I’m just a hopeless romantic and like seeing love win.)

Book Review: Ever

Book Review: EverEver by Gail Carson Levine
Release Date: 2010-03-23
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 288

Olus is the Akkan god of the winds. He is also a very lonely god. At the age of seventeen he is the youngest god (the closest one is 300 years his elder). Yearning for a friend, Olus tries to live among the mortals. After several failed attempts, his goal to find mortal company seems hopeless…that is until he meets Kenzi.

Kenzi is a beautiful fifteen year old who loves to weave rugs and dance. She seems so carefree and happy and Olus loves to waste his days away by watching her. However, Kenzi's happy life is soon shattered as she finds herself the victim of an unbreakable vow. By the end of the month her life will be sacrificed to the one and only Hyte god, Admat. The only way to save her life and thwart fate is for Olus and Kenzie to complete dangerous and near impossible tasks. Will they be able to overcome the odds to live happily ever after or will death be the only path for Kenzi?

While I enjoyed Ever it is not my favorite of Levine’s books. It lacks the instant charm of some of her other works like Ella Enchanted. With Ella I was instantly hooked and in love the story and characters, but I noticed with Ever I was a quarter of the way through before I was hooked. The book at time feels a little rushed, especially when it comes to the romance. I never really feel like I know Kenzi nor Olus or truly believe their love. It does get better as the book moves along, especially with the tasks, but a lot of the book seems to be overshadowed by the religion aspect. Not only does Kenzi struggle with the concept of there being more gods than just Admat, but Olus himself often wonders if this god exists and how he relates to his world. Overall, Ever is a good read, just not one of my favorites.