Jenny's Library

Reading Round-up 2013: week 46 – part 2

Posted on: February 6, 2014

cover image for Lock and KeyLock & Key by Sarah Dessen

Ruby’s mother has never been reliable, sometimes even disappearing for days, but the two of them have always muddled along somehow, and she always come back. Until now. Ruby figures if she can just keep it together and make it through high school without anyone finding out, then things will be alright. And for two months, she manages…well, mostly.  But when her neighbor contacts child services, Ruby is suddenly sent to live with the older sister she hasn’t seen in over a decade.

The relationship between Ruby and her older sister, Cora, is definitely the best part of Lock and Key.  It’s not simple, and it isn’t fixed easily or quickly or with simple heartfelt conversations.  Which is no surprise, as relationships are what Dessen is best at, and this is a very classic Dessen novel.  While it lacks the shop/restaurant/etc. with a quirky cast of characters, it still has lots of interesting people with serious but everyday problems.  It made me both laugh and cry, as any Dessen novel should.

cover image for SaltationSaltation by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Following the discovery of her aptitude for, and enjoyment of, flying Theo Waitley has made preparations to attend flight school rather than continuing on to a more scholarly pursuit, as is expected of students on the Safe World of Delgado.  Raised in a very different environment than most of her new classmates Theo, is behind in not just mathematics, but social skills as well. She’s also arriving mid year, making it impossible for her to try to blend in.  But Theo has always stood out.  The only question is, will Anlingdin Piloting Academy remember her for her skills, her lack of them, or for being a troublemaker?

I’m not sure if it’s Lee and Miller’s voice, or Theo’s analytical way of approaching life, (or me) but sometimes it feels as though events that ought to have emotional resonance lack the full punch.  That said, I am enjoying these books, and this one was particularly fun because it included getting to see Theo being competent and enjoying herself.

cover image for My Basmati Bat MitzvahMy Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

Some days, Tara Feinstein feels like she has just too much to juggle.  As if regular school work wasn’t enough, now she’s been partnered with the class clown for her robotics project.  Her best friend, Ben-o, is starting to act strangely, and her other best friend, Rebecca, has been spending time with her least favorite person, Sheila Rosenberg. When she decides to go through with her bat mitzvah, Tara knows it will mean extra studying.  What she doesn’t expect is her parent’s reaction, or having to argue with Sheila about whether she is Indian or Jewish – can’t she both?

This was a lovely and engaging story, full of realistic problems and middle graders acting in believable ways.  Tara’s family is supportive, but also unique and imperfect, as all families are.  Nothing is solved easily or neatly, and not every problem is even solved completely – some things take time.  Yet the ending still presents readers with healthy options and a better understanding of others, and hopefully themselves.  It should also be noted that Freedman is definitely drawing on personal experience, she herself is Jewish and her husband’s heritage is Indian, making her family much like Tara’s.

My one major complaint concerns the fact that it was made clear that neither side of Tara’s family talks about which of her elders she looks like. It had Tara herself, in fact, talking about her own looks as if she looked like no one else in her family.  And it attributed this to her mixed heritage, and talked about Tara feeling like she belonged to no one because of it.  While I don’t doubt that children like Tara often feel that way, and that there are families who do react this way to biracial children, in my experience the latter is extremely rare.  (I could be wrong! but that has been my experience.) The book, however, framed it as typical.  While this was a small part of the book, my reaction was anything but small, and not favorable or impersonal, and I fear I’m not the only reader who might react this way.

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