Thursday, June 30, 2011

Teenage Waistland

Teenage WaistlandTeenage Waistland by Lynn Biederman & Lisa Pazer
New York, NY: Delacorte Press, 2010
317 pages
4 out of 5

"You all believe that losing one-hundred-plus pounds will solve everything, but it won't.  Something heavier is weighing on you, and until you deal with that, nothing in your lives will be right.  - Betsy Glass, PhD, at first weekly group counseling session for ten severely obese teens admitted into exclusive weight loss surgery trial

Patient #1: Female, age 16, 5'4", 288 lbs
- Thrust into size-zero suburban hell by remarried liposuctioned mom.  Hates new school and skinny boy-toy stepsister.
- Body size exceeded only by her mouth.

Patient #2: Male, age 15, 6'2", 335 lbs.
- All-star football player, but if he gets "girl surgery," as his dad calls it, he'll probably get benched.
- Has moobies - male boobies.  Forget about losing his V-card - he's never even been kissed.

Patient #3: Female, age 15, 5'6", 278 lbs.
- Mobidly obese and morbid, living alone with severely depressed mother who won't leave her bed.
- Best and only friend is another patient, whose dark secret threatens everything patient #3 believes about life

Told in the voices of patients Marcie Mandelbaum, Bobby Konopka, and Annie "East" Itou, Teenage Waistland is a story of betrayal, intervention, a life-altering operation, and a long-buried truth that proves far more devastating than the layers of fat that protect it.

This was an everything novel. Yes, the main focus is on four teens who have lap-band surgery in order to lose weight, but within the lives of those four teens, just about everything happens.  There's sibling rivalry, a parent living vicariously through his child, the big game, familial distance, and a terrible secret.  Describing it in a list like that makes it seem like it's the description for the next episode of some popular soap opera. The good news is that all of these issues fit the characters and the novel without it feeling like it's trying to do too much.

Multiple voices allow for this to not feel quite so overwhelming.  Marcie, Bobby, and East all take turns telling their portion of the story.  There is a fourth character, Char (short for Charlotte), who does not narrate, but is still an integral part of the story. Plus, the fact that all her information is rolled up with East's is a wonderful method for showing how closely the two have bonded and is a perfect set-up for what's to come.

The characters are interesting and dynamic without coming across as cliche. This is tough when you have the jock, the big mouth, the wild girl, and the shy girl.  Even the ancillary characters (like Marcie's perfect, modelesque step-sister) don't necessarily fit the mold you would expect.

I was sucked in to their stories and struggles. Some scenes made me laugh, some made me sad or angry, but mostly I just wanted to know what happened next.

Full disclosure: I borrowed this title from my local library.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dairy Queen

Dairy QueenDairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock 
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2006
275 pages
4.5 out of 5

When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people.  But D.J. Schwenk can't help admitting to herself that maybe he's right.  Because it's obvious that no one is talking about why D.J's best friend, Amber isn't so friendly anymore.  Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens or his mouth.  Or why her mom has two jobs, or why her college-football-star brothers don't call home.  And certainly no one is talking about how D.J's Dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the football team.  There's definitely a lot not being said.  And that's not even mentioning the many reasons that Brian Nelson is out of D.J's league.

Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

I love D.J. She reminds me of me, minus the being tough and playing football part. Ok, so I guess she doesn't remind me of me at all, but I love that there's romance without it being super-duper girly and gushy all the time.

D.J. has more important things to deal with, like working the farm while her dad can't, getting in shape for football, & figuring out what is up with her best friend, instead of being all woozy over a boy.  She just does her thing and eventually it all comes together instead of her working ridiculously hard to make everything come together and then it all falling apart so that it can come together the "right" way.  (I think I just described every romance ever.)  Don't get me wrong, there are elements of that here, but it's a little different. At least, it felt different.

This was another of my audiobooks and I think  Natalie Moore* is one of my favorite narrators now.  She sounded very much like a Wisconsin teenager and also has a way with other character voices. I loved this book. It makes a great summer read. I'm just sad that we don't have the others in audio. 

*Apparently, I'm not the only one who likes her. There's a list on goodreads.

Full disclosure: I borrowed the audio version from my local library.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In My Mailbox (20)

IMM is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.  The purpose is to share books bought, borrowed, scavenged, traded and won.  For more information click here.


The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book II: The Hidden Gallery The Pull of Gravity

The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood
The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner*


The Girl Who Could Fly

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester


Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book I Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading

Wildwood by Colin Meloy*

*2011 Debuts!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Marcelo in the Real World

Marcelo In The Real WorldMarcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork 
New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2009
312 pages
3 out of 5

Marcelo Sandoval hears music that nobody else can hear -- part of an autism-like condition that no doctor has been able to identify.  But his father has never fully believed in the music or Marcelo's unique perception of reality, and he challenges Marcelo to work in the mailroom of his law firm for the join "the real world."  There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm.  He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire.  But it's a picture he finds in a file -- a picture of a girl with half a face -- that truly connects him with the real world: it's suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.

I'm still not completely sure what I think of this novel. It took a second start for me to get into it, but even then it didn't always keep me.  It's well written. I like Marcelo and Jasmine. I want to punch Wendell in the face.

Marcelo is an interesting character, trying to get through life with an autism-like disorder. He manages well but it often bewildered by facial expressions and literal phrases that people use. The shift in his perspective is best part of the novel. He goes from his self-restricted world of his tree house, Paterson and the ponies, to the "real world" where he learns more than he thought possible. The understanding that eventually sets in is actually very sad.  It's the same as watching a child lose his innocence. And once it's gone, it cannot be retrieved.

Some of the plot points of the novel came up a bit short for me though. The mystery element was interesting for a bit, but then it began to feel like it was included simply for set-up and not for its own merit.  This element in particular redeems somewhat redeems itself.  For much of the second half of the novel, it felt like a lot was happening all at once but the conclusions were not completely satisfying.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


LeapLeap by Jane Breskin Zalben
Knopf for Young Readers, 2007
272 pages
4 out of 5

Daniel says: You know how life goes along and you don't always stop to think, is it okay? You're just too busy doing everyday stuff: homework, hanging out, watching TV, going to the movies. Well, life caused me to grow up fast.  Real fast. Like overnight.

Krista says: I remembered number one: Help Daniel.  A promise is a promise. I just didn't want to lose Bobby by taking sides with Daniel.

Daniel and Krista used to be inseparable.  Swim buddies. In the Barracudas.  Now that they're older, they've drifted apart--but when an accident leaves Daniel temporarily paralyzed, he needs Krista's help to swim again.

Things aren't as simple between them as they used to be, though, especially when Krista's feelings for another boy keep getting in the way of their friendship.  Now Krista and Daniel must both take leaps--leaps that take them to places they never imagined.

The story is cute. It provides details on how the accident happened and the immediate aftermath, but the story seems to pick up a bit later, when Daniel is able to go back to school. Along with the usual problems twelve-year-olds encounter, Daniel's friends and classmates struggle to figure out how to act around Daniel.  The accident isn't the only problem Daniel has either. He's got a crush on a girl who is clueless and his mother all of a sudden makes changes to her life that severely affect Daniel's.

The auxiliary characters add dimension to the overall story. Daniel's parents and their struggles following the accident; Lainie's relationship with her mother; the tension between the Kaufman's and the Rosen's; and the dynamic of Krista's group of friends. I like that the novel doesn't completely center around Daniel in his temporarily handicapped state because individuals who are handicapped (temporarily or otherwise) have more to their lives than that.  

This is an enjoyable audio book.  Daniel and Krista are represented by different readers, and they both do a good job of expressing the characters emotions and changing their voices to represent other characters. Overall, I enjoyed this story and having it read to me.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

In My Mailbox (19)

IMM is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.  The purpose is to share books bought, borrowed, scavenged, traded and won.  For more information click here



Leap by Jane Breskin Zalben (audiobook)


The White Giraffe

The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John
This was gifted by a local school librarian following a long 
morning of selling our summer reading program to her students. 
More importantly, a few of the kids have already asked to sign up!

Finally, a quick apology. I'm sorry that my postings have been somewhat sporadic lately.  My reading time has been taken over by Battle of the Books (BotB) titles for work and reading for my classes. But hey if anyone is interested in copyright, social media marketing, bookish travel guides or amateur photography, I'll be happy to put together some reviews. 

I have a few reviews in the works, but it will probably continue to be a little sporadic as I prepare for my summer abroad (more on this a little later).  Thanks for bearing with me!