Saturday, June 24, 2017

Braced (review)

Author: Alyson Gerber
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (March 28, 2017)

Rachel is excited about the start of 7th grade with its promise of soccer and friends and (just maybe) boys. But when the surgeon monitoring her scoliosis says the curvature in her spine is getting worse and that she must wear a back brace 23 HOURS A DAY, all her dreams seem doomed.

What follows is a year of difficulty and discovery, as Rachel learns to cope with the bulky clothes she has to wear, the difficulty in playing her beloved soccer, and the impact her brace has on her friends, teammates and her ever-so-cute crush, Tate.

What makes the story heartwarming is how Rachel starts to see the trials her friends and family are also going through, from her pregnant mom who used to wear a brace herself, to her friends coping with loss and love and confusion. There are times when this can be a little too convenient as far as lessons go, but what really works is how well the author captures the age and mindset of Rachel, and shows how she matures and gains perspective through her adversity.

Four out of stars


Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Upside of Unrequited (review)

The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (April 11, 2017)

17-year-old Molly is the queen of crushes, carefully tabulated and shared with her twin sister, Cassie, and good friends Abby and Olivia, but never, ever shared with the boys themselves. She is shy, but also afraid that the boys might see the overweight girl Molly sees in the mirror.

In this entertaining and often poignant story of taking chances and breaking out of her self-imposed boundaries, Molly must rediscover the girl in the mirror while at the same time dealing with her changing relationship with her sister. In a way, it reminds me of the theme (though not the story) of the Disney movie, Frozen, with sisters learning to define their own roles while exploring love outside, and inside, their safe but confining home.

With a wonderful cast of characters, from the sisters' helpful but unhelpful moms to the gorgeous Mina who sweeps away Cassie on her tangent to the smooth hipster Will and adorkable Reid who, in Molly's mind at least, vie for her first big step out from unrequited love to real live boyfriend, The Upside of Unrequited is fun and authentic and caring.

I strongly recommend for young adults, and anyone who remembers what it was like.

Five stars!


P.S. This also reminds me I should really get a copy of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Ms. Albertalli's first novel, which has been highly recommended.