Saturday, December 5, 2009

Twilight Parody

Nightlight: A Parody by The Harvard Lampoon (NY: Vintage, 2009)

This parody dissects all the stupidity at the heart of the Twilight series, including the first movie. In fact, some of the images come straight from the movie, and a reader who has not seen the movie may not understand all the gags inspired by the silly visuals in the movie. On the other hand, only a reader who has been immersed in the novel--and wondered at some of its ridiculous situations and statements--can appreciate the (nit)wit that is Belle Goose and her fellow characters here. Werewolf fans, take note: the dogs are completely absent from this parody.

Not a Paranormal Romance

Nothing but Ghosts by Beth Kephart (NY: HarperTeen, 2009)

Thankfully, the main character of this complex novel, Katie, does not fall in love with a ghost. Rather, she deals with more figurative ghosts from the past, including her dead mother and a mysterious neighbor at whose estate Katie has taken a summer gardening job. While her father toils at his work restoring paintings to assuage his grief over his wife's death, Katie thinks that isolating herself from her usual friends and interests will help her come to terms with her loss. Instead she becomes involved in solving a mystery from the past, learning to love in the present, and looking forward to her future in a way she did not think would be possible when she started out. Bonus feature: sexy librarian character.

A Gallagher Girl Thriller

Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter (NY: Disney-Hyperion, 2009)

This is the third installment in this series about an exclusive girls' academy for training spies. Cammie "The Chameleon" Morgan is the protagonist; her mom is the headmistress of the school, and her dad is dead. Cammie's principal mission in this novel is to protect one of her best friends, Macey, from kidnappers who seem to want her because her father is running for Vice President of the United States. Cammie should know better than to trust appearances--and she's constantly reminded of that as her sort-of boyfriend Zach keeps appearing and disappearing throughout the novel and she can't figure out what's up with him or who might be trying to snag Macey.

Nonstop action makes this novel a thrilling ride for readers in grades 6 and up. No sex or language issues.

A National Book Award Winner

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (NY: Scholastic, 2008)

This historical novel, set in post-WW2 1947, features almost-sixteen-year-old Evie Spooner, whose stepfather Joe has just returned from the war. Everything seems great at first--Joe quickly finds business success while Evie's mom finally gets to stop working. Then Joe's past intrudes and the family takes a sudden vacation to Florida where Evie falls in love with an ex-GI who had served under Joe and seems to know something. The mysterious web grows ever thicker, and Evie has to intervene to set things right, as the title suggests.

Mild sexual situations, language. Grades 7 and up.

Weighty Issues, #2

My Big Fat Manifesto by Susan Vaught (NY: Bloomsbury, 2008)

Jamie Carcaterra is a fat girl on a mission: to broadcast the seamy underside of being overweight in a weight obsessed culture. She's writing a feature column during her senior year to expose all the crap she has to put up with--from snotty shop clerks to the lack of cute clothes for teens of her dimensions. She doesn't want sympathy--she doesn't have time for it with her busy schedule that includes a boyfriend and a big role in an upcoming school musical. Then her boyfriend decides to have bariatric surgery and Jamie's world starts wobbling.

Jamie is a great protagonist with a lot to say about the issues facing overweight individuals, especially teens. In particular, the novel shows the dangers associated with gastric bypass surgery--it's not a magic wand for fat people to become thin. There are dangers and it is not appropriate (or even possible) for some people. Additionally, Jamie shows that appearance should not matter so much and how much it hurts people when it does.

Excellent teen read, grades 9 and up. Sexual situations and cussing!

Weighty Issues, #1

Looks by Madeleine George (NY: Penguin, 2008)

This novel sticks in your head for a long time. At least it did for me. I read it more than a year ago, probably when it first came out, and the images from it kept popping back to me. I couldn't remember the title or author, but I remembered how accurately the author had captured the devastating effects of high school bullying on a friendless girl who is different from everyone else. In this case, the girl is obese, but since so many adolescents feel this type of isolation, her case can apply to nearly any teen who feels desperately alone and put upon because of her appearance or some other perceived defect.

Meghan Ball strives for invisibility, and it's amazing how often she is overlooked, despite her enormous size. Meghan recognizes a kindred spirit in new girl Aimee Zorn, although Aimee is as thin as Meghan is heavy. Aimee initially resists Meghan's overtures, but when Meghan's warnings about a girl who pretends to befriend Aimee turn out to be true, Aimee turns to Meghan for help. Meghan manages to conceive and help execute a plan that helps not only Aimee, but herself. This is not to say that the novel has a happy shiny ending, but circumstances are improved for both girls because they have each other.

Recommended for teens, grades 7 and up. Some sexual innuendos, teenage cruelty, moderate language.