Friday, April 29, 2011

Broomsticks by Sean McHugh and Katie McHugh Parker Diversion Press Blog Tour

Pocky McGuire has no idea why she is different. No one else in her family can levitate books or freeze and angry dog in his tracks. She felt alone in the world until one day she met a strange boy with a goatee. Unlike Pocky, Stamp had no doubt who he was. He was raised by witches and he was a witch. Upon meeting Stamp, Pocky hoped to befriend her magical counterpart and learn a few tricks of the trade. Stamp, however, wanted no part of anything or anyone mortal, including Pocky. Will it take magic to bring these two kindred spirits together?



BroomsticksThe real magic of Broomsticks is not about the witchcraft! It is about the magic found in a special friendship and the magic of being yourself!
 
This is a great MG novel especially for those readers that look at the back to see how many pages are in the book.  At 59 pages it won't seem daunting and with short chapters it's great for those reading chapter books.  Plus it's PARANORMAL for MG!!!  Can't say that for many books.
 
Pocky goes to school knowing she's a witch but feeling like a fish out of water thinking she's the only one.  She gets along with her roommate, who is the joke of the rich, snobby crowd.  Yes, even at the tender age of nine, there is one of those crowds, and I'm starting to believe it!  Anyway, Pocky meets Stamp on the rooftop and finds out she's not the only one in the world that can do magic.  She gets an education in magic from Stamp and they both learn something about friendship.  It's a cute story with a subtle message.  The writing is easy and straight forward.  It's third person Point of View if we want to get technical, but I don't.  There are great little drawings in it and yes, that is a goatee on a nine year old.  It's magic of course!  I hope there are other stories in this series.  It reminds me of Sabrina from the Archie and Jughead comics.  There's even a tribute to Elizabeth Montgomery in the beginning of the book.  The kids won't remember her, but I remember her and Pocky is as innocent and magical.  Grab a copy to read with your favorite MG reader!
 
Heather in Sandwich

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

We'll Always Have Summer (Summer, #3)
It's been two years since Conrad told Belly to go with Jeremiah. She and Jeremiah have been inseparable ever since, even attending the same college-- only, their relationship hasn't exactly been the happily ever after Belly had hoped it would be. And when Jeremiah makes the worst mistake a boy can make, Belly is forced to question what she thought was true love. Does she really have a future with Jeremiah? Has she ever gotten over Conrad? It's time for Belly to decide, once and for all, who has her heart forever.


Ahh.  It's spring finally and though this is the perfect beach read, love is in the air.  If you've read the other two books in the Summer series by Jenny Han, you'll appreciate that we finally get closure in the final book in the series.  Belly, now in college and known as Isabel, has been dating Jeremiah for two years and though the course has not always been smooth, it's been pretty good and they are in love.  So when they decide to get married they can't understand why everyone is so against it.  Didn't everyone expect her to marry one of the Fisher boys and everyone knows you can't count on Conrad.  The obvious choice is Jeremiah.  Isn't it?

Okay, you know that much from the book jacket so no spoilers there.  This book explores Belly's and Jeremiah's relationship and a few bumps they face in it leading up to the big question.  Then all the problems that question causes.  Jenny Han writes that part of the book-the headlong rush into marriage just like that.  There is a flurry of planning and questions and troubles and the book rushes too so that you can feel the underlying panic, maybe, that both Belly and Jeremiah feel to get it over and done with.  Belly wants to prove that she loves Jeremiah.  And maybe Jeremiah wants her to say "I do" before his brother can enter their lives again.  For some reason there is a sense of urgency and as a reader, I felt it too, rushing through the book as I read.  Yes, Belly loved Con, when she was younger.  He was her first love, but hey we all remember our first loves.  Some of us fondly, some not so fondly.  But, they have a part of our hearts because they were the first to break them.  This was true with Con.  He hurt Belly and she ran off to Jeremiah.  The question is did she choose him, one of the two she loved or was he the one she loved?

And then in this book, we finally get a peek into Conrad's head.  Thank God!  He'd always seemed like a heartless bastard before and I could never figure out what he wanted.  He just seemed to be toying with Belly.  And he seemed to delight in hurting her except for those six months they dated.  Now we find out just how he felt and his motivations and it all makes sense.  It's kind of like getting a chance to see inside Edward's head in Midnight Sun. (Twilight fans will know what I'm writing about.)  The distant, enigmatic Conrad becomes a real person in this novel and I say it's about time.  In fact, it would have been nice to have had his perspective all along.  It would have made for a more tragic love story.  But maybe Ms. Han just wanted us to have a nice light series to keep us entertained.  And I have been.  I read this in about four hours, stopping only to help tape up the air conditioner in our room.  It's light, easy reading and satisfying to the very end.  I loved the ending.  It didn't feel contrived, but very natural and Cousins like.  Now, if we could all have grown up that way....

 In previous books, Belly and the women were the most developed characters, but in this one, Jeremiah, Conrad, Laurel, Belly's mother and Taylor, Belly's best friend were well developed as well.  Cousins, the beach where most of the action of the series takes place has always seemed like a character, the house, the beach, the pool, Belly's room, the kitchen table, each played a part in the series.  Belly, Jeremiah, Conrad and Steven (Belly's brother) grew up in the house during the summers and monumental things happened there.  If an inanimate object can be a character, then Cousins is definitely a character.  It had it's effect on everyone.

This would definitely qualify as a One Sit Read for me.  I wasn't going to bed until I read the last page and I didn't cheat.  It would have cheapened the series for me.  I highly recommend this series for a light summer read, now that all three books are out and there are no cliffhangers.  Teenage girls should love this one, but I'm way past that and eagerly anticipated this last book in the series so any YA lover looking for a nice easy read should read this series.  I can't wait to see what Jenny Han writes next!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Halloween Kentucky Style by Charles Suddeth Diversion Press Blog Tour

Halloween Kentucky Style

For Halloween 1959, Mike and Timmy try to trick their cousins, Alice and Rose. The trick is on them when a homeless man and their nine-year-old neighbor team up to give them a Halloween scare that they will never forget.

Halloween Kentucky Style is a great MG novel with a nostalgic look back to simpler times when Halloween was simple and innocent.  It wasn't about the candy and the commercialized event it is today so much as it was the spirit of fun, tricks and treats.

Mike and Timmy are too young for the teenage parties they long to attend and too old for trick or treating.  But they don't want to sit at home watching t.v.  Imagine that!  In the time before X-box, Wii and texting, kids actually went outside to play!!  Mike and Timmy discover some great places to take their cousins, Rose and Alice to scare for Halloween and from the descriptions, they'd scare me, even today.  The cemetery, a spooky old mansion where they convince a friend to act like a ghost to scare the girls and even an old grist mill.  The boys want to scare the girls, but find out they have treats, home made fudge and fresh made apple cider if the boys don't scare them.  It's a dilemma whether to scare them or not.  But thanks to a homeless man and their friend who decides to do some haunting of his own, the boys get scared as much as the girls.

This is a great MG novel for boys because it's adventurous and focuses mainly on things boys like to do, at least I hope they still like to do them.  Traipsing through creeks and the country.  It may not be as safe as 1959, but I love the idea of kids getting outside and exploring rather than sitting behind a computer all day.  This novel is set close to when I was born, 1965 and I remember it was still safe to wander the neighborhood during the day.  I love the way the book is written in short chapters and easy to read sentences.  The sentences almost remind me of a more complex version of Dick and Jane, possibly because of the innocence of it all.  Now that's now to say that there isn't high adventure!  It's a great read for MG readers that need a book tougher than  The Bernstein Bears series and perhaps isn't interested in Magic Treehouse.  It's a great chapter book at 64 pages and I think it's innocence would appeal to many readers.

Heather in  Sandwich

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Guys Read Funny Business edited by John Scieszka

Guys Read: Funny Business

It’s here: Volume One of the official Guys Read Library. Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read initiative was founded on a simple premise: that young guys enjoy reading most when they have reading they can enjoy. And out of this comes a series that aims to give them just that. Ten books, arranged by theme, featuring the best of the best where writing for kids is concerned. Each book is a collection of original short stories, but these aren’t your typical anthologies—each book is edgy, inventive, visual, and one-of-a-kind, featuring a different theme for guys to get excited about.


Funny Business is based around the theme of—what else?—humor, and if you’re familiar with Jon and Guys Read, you already know what you’re in store for: ten hilarious stories from some of the funniest writers around. Before you’re through, you’ll meet a teenage mummy; a kid desperate to take a dip in the world’s largest pool of chocolate milk; a homicidal turkey; parents who hand over their son’s room to a biker; the only kid in his middle school who hasn’t turned into a vampire, wizard, or superhero; and more. And the contributor list includes bestselling author, award winners, and fresh new talent alike: Mac Barnett, Eoin Colfer, Christopher Paul Curtis, Kate DiCamillo (writing with Jon Scieszka), Paul Feig, Jack Gantos, Jeff Kinney, David Lubar, Adam Rex, and David Yoo.

Guys Read is all about turning young readers into lifelong ones—and with this book, and each subsequent installment in the series, we aim to leave no guy unturned.


I won this book in just a random Twitter  follow a few months ago from Walden Pond Press.  I don't read short stories very often but this one pulls you in and you can't help but read this one.  First of all, it's got a plethora of funny kid authors.  Then, they are writing funny stories.  What more could you ask for? The stories range from chuckle funny to so funny I was wiping my eyes trying to read.  Some of my favorites were the ones by Eoin Colfer with "Artemis Begins" and  "Your Questions for Author Here" by Kate DiCamillo and Jon Scieszka.

In Artemis Begins, Eoin Colfer tells an apparently autobiographical story of growing up with four brothers and how one of his brothers lived a charmed life able to sweet talk his way out of anything.  An unlikely role for the middle child, Donal was something of a hero in the neighborhood giving out and later trading his  "favors, tricks, con jobs, and sob stories" for candy and what have you.  Now, if you've ever read the Artemis Fowl series, you can appreciate the Artemis in Donal or the Donal in Artemis.  The story has an ultimate piece de resistance that is a must read and had me laughing throughout thinking, "That is so Artemis!"
But, even if you haven't read Artemis, you can appreciate the story for the sheer genuis of Donal.

The other story that I found so amusing was "Your Question for Author Here" by Kate DiCamillo and Jon Scieszka.  It's the story of a boy with a school assignment to write to an author and he wants the author to do all the work.  Instead, she ends up making him do the work and then some.  Joe sends a Perfunctory letter, though he is supposed to send a Friendly letter and gets a Perfunctory letter back.  Through a series of letters, he and the author become friends and Joe learns about writing fom the author.  Even so, his assignment doesn't go as planned and the story ends with a surprising twist making authors the hereos of the day!

Many favorite authors are included in this book of short stories and if you have a reader that checks for how many pages are in the book, this is the book for him. (I've found boys do that for the most part in my library volunteering and mothering, but I"m sure girls do it, too.)  I think reading short stories are easier sometimes for kids that don't like to read or who aren't as sure of their reading skills.  This is the perfect book for them.  But, if you aren't a kid, don't let that stop you from reading this book.  I passed being a kid many years ago and I loved this book!  And a must is the trailer that is posted on the Amazon site where you can order the book.  It features all of the authors telling a joke and it is great!

I recommend this book to anyone.  If you enjoy these authors, it's fun to see them write something outside their genre.  Great for any age!

Heather in Sandwich

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando

Dreamland Social Club Publication Date: May 12th, 2011
 Dutton Books/Penguin Group
 $16.99

Jane has traveled the world with her father and twin brother, but it's not until her fractured family–still silently suffering from the loss of Jane's mother many years before–inherits a house and a history in Coney Island that she finally begins to find a home. With the help of a new community of friends, a mermaid's secrets, and a tattooed love interest with traffic-stopping good looks, the once plain Jane begins to blossom and gains the courage to explore the secrets of her mother's past.
Colorful characters, beautiful writing, and a vibrant, embattled beachfront backdrop make this the perfect summer read for anyone who has ever tried to find true love or a place to call home.

The story begins with Jane, Marcus and their father riding in a taxi to their new house, the house they inherited from Jane and Marcus' grandfather, Preemie.  As they enter the dusty dirty house, they discover an old carousel horse chained with a triple length of chain to the radiator and locked with a padlock.  No one can guess the reason why.  Just that Preemie was known to be eccentric.  Jane discovers other oddities in the house as she finds old treasures about Coney Island, it's history, the one her mom knew.  It's very different and run down now.  Jane's first impression is that it should be torn down and something new should be put up.  That's why they are there.  Her father has been down on his luck and is hoping to design a roller coaster for the boardwalk, the new one that's being designed.  It's his ticket back up.  Jane couldn't agree more.

But then Jane gets to know Coney Island as it is and the people that love it as it is.  She gets to know the history of it from old books and memorabilia in the attic of the house that she and Marcus have inherited and she starts to remember her mother through the games she used to play with them realizing she was mimicking the games that were on Coney Island when she grew up as a girl.

I'll focus on Jane's character in my review, but there are numerous other characters in the story.  She's sixteen and very confused about her identity, her place in the world, what she stands for and who she represents.  She wears all gray, washed out of all color, signifying her life is neither black nor white, but somewhere in the middle.  She envies the people that others gawk at, the little person Babette, who is her friend.  H.T. Astaire, who when he doesn't use his prosthetic legs gets around on a skateboard.  And Legs, the seven and a half foot tall non basket ball playing giant.  They all know who they are and are comfortable with themselves.  She looks at them from a distance and wonders, "What's it like to be you?  And not me."

Throughout the book Jane is searching for her mother's secrets, friends that can give her a clue to what she was like.  Conveniently, the boy she likes, The Tattoo Boy, Leo is the son of her mother's best friend.  Leo and Jane have some late night escapades doing some of the things their mothers did at their age after Jane finds a set of keys in a mermaid doll in the top of her closet.  But they are marked cryptically and the last one has them stumped.

Political themes run throughout the book as well with the idea of knocking down the old Coney island and building a totally new one.  Jane's dad has roller coaster plans for this new place and it would be good for them, but she'd be a traitor to her friends and Coney Island to support it.  The tug of war puts a wedge between her and Leo.

But all of it takes a back seat to the character of Coney Island itself.  To the people that live and work there.  To the people that visit.  To the people that have spent their whole lives doing nothing but living the carnival life.  It's incredible that there is this permanent place that is like no other place in the world.  It can't compare to Disney World or Universal Studios, it's Coney Island.

The family motto is "It's only for one year," but Jane wants to put down roots this time even though it would be easier to run away.  She has this recurring nightmare about being a mermaid and a seahorse coming to rescue to bring her to the surface but it's just plastic and she realizes no one is going to save her, she'll have to save herself.  So she faces her friends despite her father's seeming betrayal of Coney Island.  And she searches for answers to questions like "Do you think you can feel nostalgia for things you've never experienced?" and "Was there any way to measure physical pain against emotional pain?"  Jane continues to search for answers but slowly finds herself, and I do mean slowly in the novel. 

But that's not to say the novel is slow.  I couldn't put it down!  From the moment I picked up to the second I closed the cover wanting more, it was great realistic fiction.  I know I put Stay at the top of my list and it remains there.  But this is a very different type of realistic fiction.  It's character driven and fast paced and really makes you think.  I'm still thinking of some of the questions and quotes in it and how I would answer them.  I'll leave you with some more gems, and remember if you don't like the cover and the name, get past all that, they really are pertinent to the story.

        "Love has to exist in the present tense, flaws and all." p. 209

         What's your earliest memory?
  
         What sound makes you happy?

          What was the last dream you had that you remember?

          Name one thing you want to do before you die.

         Why is a raven like a writing desk?

         What's the best thing about being you?  (all on page 212)

       "She didn't have a nose, Mom."  She stops at the corner and looks at
         me, sort of disappointed, and says,  "Did you happen to notice that
         her eyes were the most remarkable green?" (p328)



         "....She thought there were worse things in life than being funny-looking
               and maybe worse things in life than not having a nose or not having
               limbs at all.  Like not being loved.  Not being able to feel.  Not having
               anything to lose or give away." ( p. 329)

Those are just some of the memorable parts that stuck with me.  I'm telling you this one is a diamond in the rough.  It's easy to read and Jane is a character that is so likable, I saw bits and pieces of myself in her, that lack of confidence, the need for acceptance and a little bit of defiance.  The love story takes a back seat in this, though it's there, it's not the central theme.  The story is told in third person, but I really felt like it was first person as I read.  Sometimes though I would have like to gotten into Leo's head and known what he really thought.  Oh, and their first period teacher was so hip!  That is the only word you can use to describe him.  So get your Nathan's, an ice cold coke or beer and sit down for an unforgettable read!

Heather in Sandwich
                                                                                      
                                                                                          

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Warm Bodies

R is a young man with an existential crisis--he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he has dreams. His ability to connect with the outside world is limited to a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing.
After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and stragely sweet relationship with the victim's human girlfriend. Julie is a blast of color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His choice to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.
Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, Warm Bodies explores what happens when the cold heart of a zombie is tempted by the warmth of human love. (Picture from Good Reads, Summary from Amazon)

I am a zombie virgin.  Well, I was.  I had never read a zombie book before Warm Bodies was sent to me by Regal Literary free of charge for review.  This is the ARC that I'm reviewing.  And of course, this in no way influenced my review of Warm Bodies.  That being said, I loved my first zombie book!  It was a really sweet love story, full of philosophical questions about life, a glimpse into a not so unrealistic future and it was a well written adventure. 

"R" is a zombie with a lot of questions and no answers.  He's like an amnesiac living in a world surrounded by other amnesiacs except for the fact that "R" wants to know who and why and how and what now and is there more while the rest of the amnesiacs are content to sit for days on end staring or standing or sitting.  Right from the start we know that "R" is different.  He's disgusted by his hunger and the way he has to feed himself, but accepts it as inevitable.  But he still stands out from the crowd, sitting in cars trying to remember how to drive, playing records, trying to talk, get people to tell them their names.  He is appalled at their feeding habits, stopping to wash the blood of the dead from him in a puddle on the street.  Issac Marion writes so eloquently "There is a chasm between me and the world outside of me.  A gap so wide my feelings can't cross it.  By the time my screams reach the other side, they have dwindled into groans." (p.8)  The entire story is written from "R's" point of view, told mostly in his mind as he's a zombie of few words.

Julie is the other main character in this story.  She lives in the stadium where all the protected people live, safe from the zombies unless they venture out.  There is a little bit of farming going on inside, but most of their nutrition is gotten through pills as the food produced is not enough to sustain everyone living inside the stadium.  The seats have been taken out so that houses have been made and there is a city living within the stadium.  People are still having children, teenagers are still falling in love and some people are still hoping for a cure to the plague or curse or whatever it was that caused the zombies.  Julie's outlook on the zombie situation is a little different than her military father's.  He has become so single minded on winning that he's lost all sight of what's important, living instead of killing.  Julie doesn't blame the zombies for eating people.  She knows it's what they have to do to survive.  Even when her boyfriend is killed, she's not upset at the zombies. 

But when Julie and "R" meet and talk and begin to know each other (not in the biblical sense) "R" starts to change.  He begins to feel more human.  He wants to protect her.  Please her.  All the things, a boyfriend would do for his girlfriend.  And the more time he spends with her, the less zombie like he becomes.  He can string words together to form sentences.  He searches out food for her when she's hungry.  She teaches him to drive.  All the while, he doesn't feel the desire to eat her brains.  Or eat anyone.  From this point on the story goes really fast, and yes, I will say, "R's" character does indeed go through major character growth.  Julie's does as well.  They get into trouble and out and in again and I don't mean missing curfew I mean scary trouble.  Imagine, the world is dead.  All the houses in all the neighborhoods are empty.  There is a great chance of either being attacked by zombies or people for both of them.  When she's in his world, at least they are a little slow, but if he's in her world, there's no disguising him and very few ways of getting out.

Issac Marion paints a bleak future of the world to come.  I am not saying that I believe in zombies, but what if in all our building and oil drilling and bombing and deforestation and killing off of the rain forests we uncovered something that should never have been uncovered.  An organism that when released in the air spreads some kind of plague.  We already have a flesh eating bacteria.  It doesn't take much to stretch my imagination to believe in the world spread out before me in Warm Bodies.  It's not that complicated.  It's our world today, only a lot fewer people surviving in it.

The ending was satisfying, yet I wanted more.  I wanted to see what the rest of the world looked like and what "R" and Julie's place in the world might be.  Though I feel like the ending was conclusive, if Isaac Marion wanted to, this could definitely be a series.  It would have a different spin on the next book, but it would be interesting to see what happens next.

There was a little talk about sex, but it was minor.  Today's music is more explicit than this was, so anyone 13 and up should be comfortable reading this book.  If you're squeamish, there is talk about eating brains and blood and all the messy stuff that goes with that.  So you know, but you should expect that with a zombie book, I'd think.

I definitely enjoyed this book.  I don't relate to zombies, but "R" had some good thoughts and he was extremely likable even for a zombie.  I'd read another book about zombies by Isaac Marion just because it wasn't what I expected at all.  It wasn't about killing and power and control.  It really was a love story between two very different characters and having hope when you think there isn't any to be had.

Heather in Sandwich

Update-  Warm Bodies is being made into a movie.  The character of R has already been chosen.  According to the author's blog.  http://burningbuilding.blogspot.com/2011/03/warm-bodies-first-cast-member-not-april.html The cute little boy from About a Boy has grown up into a Cute Boy and he's been cast as R!  Now read the novel with him in mind.  It's even better!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Stay by Deb Caletti

Stay

Clara’s relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it’s almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is—and what he’s willing to do to make her stay.


Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won’t let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough.... (Picture and Summary from Good Reads)

How to start.  How to start.  Perhaps with what made me unable to put this book down when I got it last evening.   First paragraph-

" First off, I've never told this story to anyone.  Not the entire thing anyway, and not entirely truthfully.  I'm only telling it now for one reason, and that's because an untold story has a weight that can submerge you, sure as a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean.  I learned that.  This kind of story, those kind of things kept secret- they have the power to keep you hidden forever, and most of all from yourself.  The ghosts from that drowned ship, they keep haunting."

That first paragraph resonated with me so much that I had to dive in with my head and for once, open up that little place I allow to feel, my heart.  I knew Clara from the minute she met Christian and knew exactly why she did every action  she did.  I'd once held the power Clara felt of having someone love her so much that they'd do anything to keep her.  It's powerful and wonderful and scary to be the one that loves less.  But it's all consuming and Clara learns that there is a dark side to the power and Christian.  And his jealousies and walking on eggshells and having to lie about her past becomes too much.  It's emotionally draining.  And dangerous in a way Clara can't even imagine.  She and Christian were perfect and then Christian, perfect, beautiful, foreign Christian let his insecurities begin to show and there was no forgetting.  And there is accommodating and adjusting for certain things in a relationship and then there is what Clara did for Christian.

But this is not one of those stories where you can say "Oh stupid girl." and want to shake her because Clara has brought us into the story with her.  We are Clara for lack of a better way to explain it.  She put little asterisks in her story. Example- She lets us know her mother is dead.* Then at the bottom of the page
"*Yes this story has a dead mother. Mine.  She had a sudden aneurysm when I was barely four.  Died before she could even get to a hospital. Dead mother's have become a story cliche thanks to Disney movies and novel writers.  All the dead mothers in books, you'd think it was a common occurrence.  Even Dad's books have them.  But mine was real.  She was no cliche and neither am I."  It's Clara's story and she's writing it not Deb Caletti.  The author is not between us and Clara.  She's removed herself and I kept checking the description of the book to make sure this was fiction and not Deb Caletti's real story. 

Because the author removed herself from the story, I felt very close to Clara.  I identified with her, understood her trying to spare Christian's feelings, trying time and time to remove the hurt.  She was a nice girl.  She was nice to people and breaking up with someone, well it makes her feel not nice.  And she's sure that Christian's reactions are her fault, for that first giddy feeling of power.  The one she can't admit to at first but then tells her Dad, her Dad the writer who seems less like a Dad and more like an adult friend that takes care of Clara.  He respects her way more than any parent I've ever seen to be called a parent.  Yet he is parental when necessary, he doesn't tell Clara "no" when he doesn't like Christian. But when he sees warning signs, danger, he takes action.  But if Clara feels shame and can't forgive herself, her father feels even worse.  This stalwart man who plays metaphor games and would rather use clues to guess who's house they are renting than google him, the one that insists on protecting his daughter has a big secret.  One that changes everything for Clara.  She keeps us with her throughout the novel, with her asterisks as if she's sitting beside us letting us know the secret thoughts she had while putting her story down.  While unburdening her of the ghosts.  More than one passage made me stop and I had to read it over and over sinking into what it really was saying, not just the words on the top layer, but the deeper meaning.

 I felt so many emotions reading this novel and when I finished it, I wanted to pick it up and start again.  And I will.  I'll learn something new that I didn't catch the first time as I ate it up.  It isn't a light read or easy.  It's philosophical and deep with emotion and thought.  It is definitely character driven.  Clara brings us along through every emotion dragging us through the dirty self doubt and self incrimination to the final triumph of anger.  Does she grow in this book?  We're sitting here while she tells her story aren't we?  Dad is a big character in this novel and I like the relationship he and Clara have. Does Dad grow?  From a famous author to a human being, at least for Clara.  There is of course Christian.  And if you don't know a Christian in male or female form, then you're lucky.  I have a magnet for these type of people.  There are other secondary characters that bring some much needed relief to the tension in Clara's life.

If I had a rating system, stars, hearts, rabbits, hats, gold coins any of the creative things I've seen other reviewers use I'd throw all the things I had into a pot and make the biggest star, heart, rabbit, hat, gold coin and make it dance, sing, shoot fire works whatever.  This is the best realistic fiction I have ever read.  This is the best YA I have read.  This is the best book I have read.  Never have I felt more a part of a story, never have I been so involved, so unsure of the outcome, so tentative as Clara moved ahead with her/my life.  I wouldn't have Deb Caletti change even one word in this novel.  It isn't entertaining.  It's more than realistic.  It's real.

Heather in Sandwich

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