Jenny's Library

Reading Round-up 2013: Week 7

Posted on: March 28, 2013

cover image for Real Live BoyfriendsReal Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart

Boyfriends – real boyfriends, not narcissistic cheaters like Jackson – “do not contribute to your angst.”  They want to talk to you and spend time with you and kiss you!  They do not fail to call you on your birthday or act like pod-robots.  Ruby had a Real Live Boyfriend, emphasis on the had.   But lately Noel has been acting much like Jackson used to, and she’s not sure what to do or how to deal with it.  So of course Ruby decides it’s time to make lists.

I’ve always thought Ruby Oliver was rather adorable and fun, but this is the book that convinced me that she is really, truly, completely and totally awesome as well.  Possibly because this, her senior year, is when she learns how to stand up for herself without being so self-absorbed she refuses to listen, and also how to be helpful and supportive without letting people walk all over her.  Ruby still makes major mistakes, but for some reason her incremental improvements seem so much more monumental in this installment – possibly because by the end of it she has finally arrived at a fairly healthy and mature state of mind.

Lockhart comes out looking none too shabby either.  Not only is Real Live Boyfriends entertaining and insightful, but there’s a lot of deftly done foreshadowing, misdirection, and repetition going on.  The ending provides a wonderful bookend for  the start of the series and the tensions between Ruby’s parents are a wonderful echo of her own romantic troubles.

Even if the whole series hadn’t been a delightful read (which it has) this book alone would have made it worth my time.

cover image for The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Hazel Grace is slowly dying.  Very slowly, it turns out, as she was expected to have kicked it a couple years ago, but instead is still stuck being homeschooled and going to support group.  Her life is not without joy – books, especially one in particular, are welcome companions – but her life is certainly a lot more circumspect that of the typical sixteen year old living in Indianapolis.  Hazel may have a driver’s license like everyone else her age, but road trips aren’t in her future any more than a boyfriend is.  Until she meets Gus, who reminds Hazel that everyone is in the process of dying – and that dying is not a good excuse for refusing to live while you still can.

The problem with John Green’s books isn’t that they aren’t enjoyable or well-written, it’s that the hype doesn’t match the extent to which they fit my personal taste.  So I am left understanding why other people like them, in an abstract sort of way, but not really feeling the connection to them that so many others clearly have.  In short, The Fault in Our Stars didn’t make me cry, it just left me feeling slightly guilty about my dry eyes.

What I did love very much about this book was the awareness running through it that teens read more than just the literature designated for them, and that reading both above and below their sentence level comprehension abilities is both normal and useful – especially with regards to learning to read books more deeply.  The Fault in Our Stars is not just a book about loss and a rejection of sentimentality, it’s also about our relationships to books, authors, and other readers – and those parts made me very glad I read it

cover image for Also Known AsAlso Known As by Robin Benway

There are few places in the world that Maggie Silver hasn’t lived.  As the daughter of two spies and an expert safe cracker herself, Maggie’s life hasn’t ever been normal.  That may be about to change though – at least for a while – as a new assignment calls for her family to move back to New York City and for Maggie to go undercover as the typical high school student she might have been in another life.

I adored Benway’s first two books and I desperately wanted to love this one too, but I just didn’t.  I missed the down to earth sensibility that permeated her previous novels despite their unlikely plots, and it’s absence didn’t just make me sad, it made the whole premise come across as more incredulous than quirky.  It pains me to say this, but I would only recommend this to the most die-hard Gallagher Girl fans who have read every other teen girl spy books in print.

cover image for Pet Show!Pet Show! by Ezra Jack Keats

Archie is all set to enter his cat into the neighborhood pet show – if only he could find him!

Keats illustrations are beautiful as always and the ending is both sweet and imaginative. Unfortunately, the lack of contrast on some of the pages makes it less than ideal for story time.

cover image for Big Frog Can't Fit InBig Frog Can’t Fit In by Mo Willems, paper engineering by Bruce Foster

Both Willems the Big Frog break the mold in this “pop-out” book about a frog devastated by the fact that she is too large to fit inside the book.  Luckily her friends are there to help her – and their solution doesn’t involve changing a single thing about her.interior pages from Big Frog Can't Fit In

Like much of Willems work, this is a deceptively simple book that only grows richer with frequent rereads.  I’m very much looking forward to seeing what my preschoolers think of it.

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