Saturday, March 19, 2011

Some Girls Are - Courtney Summers

This a White Pine Nominee for 2011.

Regina is a popular girl in a high school clique until one night at a party, her best friend's boyfriend tries to rape her. Stumbling from the party, she seeks the help of another of the girls in her clique, Kara, who instead of helping her, turns her own clique against her. Together with their leader, Anna, they make life at school hell. Incidents include: exclusion, ridicule, name-calling, painting the word "whore" on her locker, destruction of personal property, tripping her down stairs, locking her in storage closets, beating and abandoning her on the side of an isolated road. Pretty horrible stuff!

This is not the kind of book that I like to read. While suspenseful, I found that most of the characters were insufficiently developed, little more caricatures of the some of the worst teenagers in our society. Further, although it is true that adults in are busy, their absence, their ignorance and their apathy are greatly exaggerated in this novel, I suppose necessary characteristics for the plot to function. The events of the plot, while plausible are not realistic. The energy required to effectuate the perpetual hateful acts of the girls described in this novel is beyond that of any teenagers I know.

As a woman, it bugs me when authors use the old myth that women can't get along.

As a long-time high school teacher, it bugs me when authors vilify teenagers, who in my experience, are actually not the scary psychopaths written about in fear mongering newspapers.

Would I recommend this book? Nope!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Swim the Fly - Don Calame

Swim the Fly - Don Calame

This is another White Pine Nominee for 2011.

This is a funny novel.

Basically it about three teenage boys, who since childhood, have hung out together. Each summer, they create for themselves some sort of challenge. In this book, the boys up the ante because their ultimate goal is to have sex. They decide that this summer challenge is to see a live naked girl, as it represents the first step to reaching their final objective.

I don't want to reveal too much but the story is full of what I call "boy-humour": incidents that involve bodily fluids, cross-dressing, etc. I think not only my thirteen year old son, but my husband as well, would love it. My daughter and I would definitely laugh but this is a guy book.

That being said, I still enjoyed it because it moves along quickly and it isn't too disgusting. It touches on themes of friendship, love and living with courage and authenticity. In literary terms there isn't much there. The characters are developed in passing and the setting could be anywhere. Imagery, symbols and other literary devices are MIA.

For a young adult boy looking for a light read, I would recommend it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Beauty of Humanity Movement - Camilla Gibb

I must confess that Camilla Gibb is one of my favourite Canadian authors. I first fell in love with her Petty Details of So-and-So's Life and continued my love affair with Sweetness in the Belly. Mouthing the Words, although a difficult read, was told with authenticity and tenderness.

Being a traveller at heart, any novel set in Asia immediately draws my eye so I expected to fall in love with this novel. And I did.

The Beauty of Humanity Movement is about daring to express original thoughts at a time when those thoughts are not welcome. It is about fighting to speak the truth and the cost that such action entails.

Maggie is an art specialist who was raised in America but returns to Vietnam in order to find her father who was torn from her at a very young age. During her quest, she not only uncovers information about her father and his contemporaries but also immerses herself in this hitherto unfamiliar culture.

Gibb moves not only from one art form to another, from one culture to another, from past to present but also through the generations. There is beauty in this movement and despite the temptation to believe there is little beauty in humanity, Gibb brings us around to a deeper understanding of our place in the world, of our belonging to an international community and of our obligations to civilization.

Borderline - Allan Stratton

This is another novel nominated for the White Pine awards for 2011.

Allan Stratton has written several other Young Adult novels -- Chanda's Secret and Chanda's Wars being his most recent.

Set in New York, the protagonist is a young American of Iranian descent who is caught between cultures. Although he was born in the US, his parents are strict Muslims who strongly encourage Sami to eat Halal food and pray five times daily. This causes him to feel alone until a new neighbour moves in and accepts him without prejudice. His father, Arman, is mistrustful and protective and closely scrutinizes their teenage activities. In order to discourage this friendship, his father enrolls him at a private school where he is the target of bigotry and bullying.

One weekend, his father, a high level scientist dealing with biological material, travels to Toronto and attends a convention. Shortly after his return, the FBI bust into his house, rip it apart, interrogate Sami and his mother and arrest and imprison Arman. He is accused of being the American link to the Brotherhood of Martyrs, an alleged terrorist cell based in Toronto.

This is a novel which is topical and accessible. The plot is fast-paced, the language accessible and the themes relevant and of interest to young Canadians.

Fear the Worst - Linwood Barkley

Divorced and struggling to make a life for himself and his daughter, Tim Blake is an average guy working at as a car salesman when his daughter suddenly goes missing. The police make a few inquiries but quickly assume that Sydney has run away.
Tim does not believe this to be true. He goes to the hotel where she had supposedly worked and is told that she never worked there. He searches the area surrounding the hotel and slowly begins to doubt everything he thought to be true of his daughter. Nonetheless, his unconditional fatherly love drives him to continue his search.
Linwood Barkley is a master story teller. Right from the beginning of the novel, suspense prevents the reader from putting this book down -- and then unbelievably the suspense continues to build.
This is one of the novels nominated for the White Pine Award.