Book Review: Girls, Boys, and Other Hazardous Materials

Book Review: Girls, Boys, and Other Hazardous MaterialsBoys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman
Release Date: Feb. 2010
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 304
Source: Library

Charlie Healey, a freshman, believes that Harmony Falls will be her reboot to life. No longer subjected to the abuse of her "best friends," she's ready to hide her past away and become someone new. But on her very first day she'll learn that you simply cannot outrun your past. Faced with a best friend turned hunk and a girl she terribly wronged, Charlie learns to blend the old with the new. She'll need to learn to conquer old demons if she ever truly plans to achieve a new start. Amidst it all, Charlie will face many challenges such as jerky boys, a prank gone wrong, and learning what boundaries are okay to cross. Will Charlie shrink back into her shell or will she finally be brave enough to do the right thing?

The Short of It: Ah, so nice to have a book I really enjoyed. This was the first book I had read by Wiseman and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I got was a fun story about discovering who you are, correcting old wrongs, and standing up and doing what’s right. A story of friendship and life that’s worth checking out.

Plot: Ok, so I admit that the plot didn’t have a lot of originality. In fact, you may even say a lot of it was predictable, but something about it really pulled me in. Beyond the stereotypes, it is an honest story about a freshman getting a second chance as she figures out the truths to life. It’s about friendship and and learning to break out of one’s shell. Having been in Charlie’s shoes most of my life, I could easily relate to the storyline and it rang true to me. But don’t think that this book is all seriousness because there are still a lot of fun, crazy, and even drama filled moments. All around, I really do think it’s a fun plot (cliques and all)!

Characters: I think Charlie is a love her or hate her type character. Being where Charlie has been, I didn’t find her as annoying as I normally may have. I understand the power that some people can have over others, but I’m really not sure why Charlie allowed herself to be stomped on and belittled for so long. At first, I thought maybe it was just because she was weak, but I no longer think that’s the case. She obviously had enough courage to break tradition and tell someone of authority about the hazing issue. Something that had been going on for years, that no one else had really been willing to challenge and see that it changed. Not to mention the way she told off her former “best friends” during the dance. That kind of courage/strength doesn’t just appear because you’re going to a new school; I just don’t understand why she didn’t use it much, much sooner. Other than that, I really did like Charlie. She was a nerdy/smart girl, who although clueless at times, really did have a lot of substance to her.

Of course, I think her best friends, Sydney and Nidhi, really helped bring her to life. Both girls were smart and sassy and didn’t allow anyone to bulldoze over them. I kind of wish Wiseman would have fleshed them out more than she had though. For the most part, they were kind of stuck in the background (especially Nidhi) and never truly got to shine. I felt like there could have been so much more to them than being Charlie’s cheerleaders or filling the high school persona quota. It really is your classic case of secondary character who have so much potential that is never fully reached.

Romance: Without ruining anything here, I’m going to say that most of the romance is a read between-the-lines one. A lot of that high school drama of “oh he could never like me” type stuff. This is probably the area that felt the most cliquish to me. You’ve got the hunky jock who will inevitable like the sexy friend and then the boy who she grew up with who is just a “friend”. But while there is a lot of back-and-forth teasing and whatnot, nothing really happens until the last page. Like, literally, the last page. While there are couple of sweet moment here or there, don’t expect a heart-throb, sweep you off your feet romance.

Writing: Really no complaints whatsoever here. Wiseman really does weave a good story, even if it has all been done before. I was sucked into her world right away and never felt myself bored/not caring. The story flowed with ease and had me eager to see how it would turn out.

Librarian-Mode: I feel like I’ve been reading a lot and lot of chick-lit lately and have been giving the same recommendations over and over. Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials really is your typical high school drama full of peer pressure, friendship, and kicking away the norm. There are hundreds of books out there like that so I won’t go off naming them all. But if I were making a booklist I would easily throw this onto one with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Real Real, and Little Black Lies.


Book Review: The Secret Year

Book Review: The Secret YearThe Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
Release Date: Jan. 2010
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 208
Source: Library

One year. That's how long Colt and Julie secretly dated without anyone knowing. Not their family or best friends, and certainly not Julia's boyfriend.  Even at school, Julia would go out of her way to ignore Colt; after all, she was a county-club goer and he was "white-trash". But when they met on Friday nights down by the creek, none of that really mattered. They become teens who connected, and possibly loved, like they never had before. However, everything changes when Julia dies in a car accident. Not being allowed to mourn in public, Colt soon learns the price of secrecy. His only saving grace is a journal that Julia wrote during their relationship that ends up in his hands. It gives him the chance to relive the past as he mourns. The only question is what was he to Julia? Did she really love him or was he just a fling? And will the journal finally answer his lingering doubts or will it just add more?

The Short of It: I’m beginning to believe I’m one of those readers who is not the norm. After all the rave reviews, I expected to love this one. Instead, I found myself in neutral ground where I neither loved nor hated the book. The storyline was interesting, but it didn’t quite click with me. However, while not one of my favorites, it will still be one I’ll recommend.

Plot: I was certainly intrigued by the secret romance and Julia’s journal, but something about the plot felt short for me. I really can’t put my finger on it, but I never felt as if I was completely drawn into the world created. Maybe because I didn’t feel as if I knew enough about the before to truly care about the after. There were so many whispers of possibilities that could be that I was sad to never see fully see bloom.

Of course, perhaps the real reason I didn’t fall in love with this book is my own fault. Before chapter one had even ended the thought of “Oh, hey, this is like Twenty Boy Summer, but from the boy’s perspective” had entered my mind. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have, but I really couldn’t help it. The basic story of the secret love that dies kept pulling me there. I kept expecting so much more, but it just never appeared.

Characters: This is one of those instances where I cared about the secondary characters more than the main ones. Julia was too wishy-washy; one of those girls who could never make up her mind. She was a big-name around the school, but I don’t think anyone ever truly saw who she was. And I still haven’t decided if she was a master manipulator or someone who was too scared to publicly step out of her box. I’m leaning towards the latter, but the way she played with Colt’s emotions was maddening. I wish she would have just made up her mind instead of believing she could have the best of both worlds.

And Colt. I liked Colt, I really did, I just wanted to snap him out of it. I know he was grieving and what not, but the boy needed to let go. I feel like a jerk saying that, but he grieved almost as long as they were together.  He was obsessed with this girl that was never really his. And when he got the opportunity to have the real thing he blew it because he was still too wrapped up in a dead girl. I guess I just can’t understand having such deep feelings for someone who would only acknowledge you when there was no one around. If it were me, I would feel pretty worthless and I don’t think I would really want to continue to be in that situation.

However, I did like the secondary characters, especially Syd, Tom, and Kirby. I enjoyed when they made their way into the story and would have loved to see more of them. Perhaps because they were everything that Julia and Colt couldn’t be. They had their issues, but when it came down it they were afraid to let the truth be known or stand up for what they believed in. I was definitely cheering on Tom and Kirby as they stepped out and did what they thought was right, no matter what the consequences were.

Romance: I feel like I’ve basically stated how I feel about the romance issue. As far as Julia and Colt go, I never truly felt the depth of their love. There were hints about how their world felt different when they were alone, but it still felt like a sham to me. How can you spend a year hiding something and consider it to be real? There were hints of how Julia and Colt both loved each other, but if that were true, wouldn’t they have come out of the shadows much sooner? I know we’re supposed to believe that Julia was going to break-up with her boyfriend, but I’m not sure I believe she ever would. She was too comfortable with the perfect image in the light and the perfect fling in the dark. And while it was supposed to be something with no strings attached, I think we all know that never really works.

There were other hints of romances with Colt, especially with Kirby, but they never got the chance to fully develop. I was really rooting for these two, hoping that Kirby could break him out of the endless obsession that he had. And while I think she ultimately did help him, it was too little too late. I suppose that their relationship was a very realistic approach, but the happily-ever-after part of me had hoped for so much more.

Writing: I have absolutely no complaints here. Hubbard weaves a good story that will easily keeps the reader interested. I can’t remember anything that bothered me or pulled me out of the story. My neutral attitude really does have more to do with the characters than the actual writing. Yes, the characters weren’t really intriguing to me, but Hubbard delivered them well. I really did enjoy her style and look forward to picking up future works.

Librarian-Mode: This is going to do well with your realistic-loving crowd. The ones who don’t care about happy endings and want something real. I would easily recommend The Secret Year to those who enjoy books like Play Me, You Know Where to Find Me or Twenty Boy Summer.

Ok, now it’s your turn! Have you read The Secret Year? If so, what did you think?

Book Review: Zombie Blondes

Book Review: Zombie BlondesZombie Blondes by Brian James
Release Date: June 2008
Pages: 256
Source: Library

From the moment Hannah Sanders arrived in town, she felt there was something wrong.     A lot of houses were for sale, and the town seemed infected by an unearthly quiet. And then, on Hannah’s first day of classes, she ran into a group of cheerleaders—the most popular girls in school.     The odd thing was that they were nearly identical in appearance: blonde, beautiful, and deathly pale.     But Hannah wants desperately to fit in—regardless of what her friend Lukas is telling her: If she doesn’t watch her back, she’s going to be blonde and popular and dead—just like all the other zombies in this town. . . .

I have to be completely honest and admit that the ending ruined this book for me. In fact, had the ending been different this may have received a much higher rating. Up until the last 30 pages or so I had really been digging the book. While the social commentary on popularity has been done before (and is a running theme in teen zombie books) it was kind of fun to see Hannah work her way into that “in” crowd. With each new page turn, I kept thinking that something big was going to happen. Lukas, with all his warnings, was going to be wrong and this was just going to be a small town with odd quirks. I mean, hello, she was making out with a zombie and he totally wasn’t going after her brains (or blood). Sure the “in” crowd was a little odd, but they looked and acted too normal to be zombies. How evil could blonde haired, blue eyed next-door-neighbor teens really be? Ok, so maybe that was the point and all. Who would ever think wrong of the All-American teens in a small town? Yet, I was still so disappointed when it turned out Lukas was right all along. And the very end itself just made me scream. (I’m trying very hard not to spoil that point. Very. Very. Hard.) I mean I get it and all, but it was certainly not a satisfying ending. In fact, I was left with a sort of depressed and hopeless feeling. Maybe I’m just too much of a happily-ever-after girl to appreciate this type of ending?

Now, remember, my opinion is just one among millions. I may not have liked Zombie Blondes but you might! I mean, really, it was just the ending that killed it for me;I really liked it until that point. If you have read Zombie Blondes, please leave a comment! I’m very interested to hear others thoughts on it!

P.S. Yes, yes I know I usually write my own summaries, but I’m strapped for time lately. You may see a couple more product description summaries as I try to catch up, but I promise they won’t be here to stay.