Posts tagged ‘review’

June 17, 2011

Review: Every Little Thing in The World

by renata

Confession: I love summer camp. Love it. I went every summer as a kid, and as an adult, I spent four summers working at various Girl Scout camps. (I’m still volunteering occasionally at one this summer, when time allows.) And, of course, I love YA lit. So you’d think that I would love YA books about summer camp!

Well, mostly, I don’t, and here’s why: all the children’s and YA books I’ve read about camp so far are wrong. First of all, they are always about the kinds of fancy, expensive camps where kids stay in cabins. Also, they are always about co-ed camps. I acknowledge that expensive, co-ed camps exist. But I went to the kind of Girl Scout camp where you sleep in platform tents and make weird little crafts out of pine cones. As an adult working at Girl Scout camp, I learned just how tight the budget is at those camps. The reason we made crafts out of pine cones are because pine cones are free and we’ve already spent our summer budget on glue and marshmallows.

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The camp I attended and worked at. NO CABINS. CABINS ARE FOR SISSES.

I literally laughed out loud (repeatedly) at the plot of Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, which involves Camp Rock being outshone by the bigger, fancier Camp Star. The problem with that is that Camp Rock is a friggin’ ridiculously nice camp. (I briefly Googled to try to find images of their camp so I could show you, but all I came up with were lots of pictures of the Jonas Brothers pouting in nature. But let me just tell you that in their very nice, wood-paneled dining hall, the juice comes out of trumpet-shaped dispensers. Do you even know how much craft glue you could buy for the cost of one trumpet-shaped juice dispenser?)

CampRock2

Look at them, inside their CABIN. Ugh.

Anyway, so YA books about camp tend to focus on the drama of life at a long-term, co-ed camp. (Or, a single-sex camp with another single-sex camp across the lake. These camps always have huge, beautiful lakes.) Usually they are romances that spring up amidst cushy cabins. Bah! Also, they are always doing weird shit like Color Wars. What even is a Color War? BAH. Books about camp never focus on what I love about camp: the friendships, the creativity that comes up when you’re bored in your tent with no electricity, the delight in gaining prowess at new skills, and (yes) spending time in nature.

I did find a camp book that I actually kind of liked (even though it was still wrong):

EveryLittleThingInTheWorld

Every Little Thing in the World by Nina de Gramont.

It’s the story of sixteen-year-old Sydney, a girl with divorced parents whose mother is fed up with her and whose dad is a strict “live off the land” type. Sydney gets sent to live with her father for the summer, shortly after discovering that she is pregnant. She’s afraid to tell her father, and he sends her off to an intense wilderness camp without the summer, completely unaware of her pregnancy. It’s a co-ed camp (drama!) and one of the boys happens to be the start of a Dawson’s Creek-esque TV-show (double drama!) and some of the boys are sent from a juvenile detention center (triple drama!). The teens get sent off on long canoe trips. To Sydney’s surprise, she really enjoys canoeing and being outdoors, and she enjoys the teamwork of canoeing. She also spends a lot of time reflecting on her pregnancy and weighing the options. I won’t spoil the ending, but I really appreciated how well de Gramont captured her tough decision and the process she went through. I also appreciated that romantic drama was kept to a relative minimum, even though it was a co-ed camp (boo). It captured a lot of what I love about camp–friendships, learning new skills, loving nature. And yet it had enough drama to make it a compelling and surprising read.

I’m still waiting for someone to write an awesome YA novel about Girl Scout camp. If no one does it in the next few years I might be forced to put pen to paper myself.

June 7, 2011

Review: White Cat by Holly Black

by renata

White Cat by Holly Black was on my summer reading list. It’s the first one off the list I’ve read so far. And I didn’t even read it, I just listened to it. (It’s fine, it’s still the first week of June. I have time, right?) Anyway, it was so awesome, you guys! Normally I’m kind of ambivalent about audiobooks. I love the idea of them, especially for long trips. But in practice, I get fidgety. I usually end up listening to a disc and then changing to music for awhile, then putting in the next disc. I listened to White Cat all the way through, and I was mad when it was over. I already requested the sequel, Red Glove, from the library. (In audiobook form, of course, since it is also narrated by my celebrity crush Jesse Eisenberg.)

Partly I think this audiobook was successful because of its narrator (my celebrity crush Jesse Eisenberg). He was a perfect match for the book’s narrator, Cassel Sharp. Cassel’s a teenage con man attending an upper-crust private school. He’s often the smartest guy in the room, though he’s not always quite as smart as he thinks he is. I know not everyone loved The Social Network the way I did, but hopefully we can all admit that my celebrity crush Jesse Eisenberg is an excellent smartass.

JesseEisenberg

My celebrity crush Jesse Eisenberg

I didn’t know much about the book. I might not have read it if it hadn’t been narrated by my celebrity crush Jesse Eisenberg. But I’m so glad I did! I knew it was a fantasy book, which isn’t usually my jam. But for some reason I thought it was an old timey fantasy book, which really isn’t my jam. But, it isn’t! It’s my favorite type of fantasy book, which is, of course, fantasy books set in modern day where everything is the same except for one magical difference. I also love it when the political ramifications of magical differences are explored in detail. (This is also why I love X-Men so much, though I guess that’s sci-fi, not fantasy. Whatevs. See also: the scene from Harry Potter when the Minister of Magic talks to the regular Prime Minister of England. Totally awesome. Is that book 5 or book 6? Uhh either way, totally awesome.)

Anyway, the one magical difference in the world of White Cat is that some people are born with a magical power. These people are called “curse workers” and they’re very rare. There are seven kinds of curse workers, and the most common type is luck workers. As the name implies, these people can change your luck. Mostly, people hire them to be present at weddings and baptisms and stuff. But there are other ones, like death workers (who… can kill you) and memory workers (who can erase your memories, or give you false memories). It’s illegal to ever use these abilities, so most people who have them end up as criminals.

Everyone in Cassel’s family is a curse worker, except for Cassel. He’s the youngest and he’s still in school while his two older brothers work their way up the hierarchy of one of the biggest crime families. His mother is in jail after one of her cons went bad on her. Cassel has learned a lot from her, though, and even though he’s not a worker, he’s still a talented con artist in his own right. But he tries to downplay his family life at school–he just wants to keep his head down and fit in. He especially doesn’t want anyone to find out that he accidentally killed his childhood best friend, Lila. Unfortunately, Cassel starts having strange dreams of Lila that cause him to sleepwalk, and he’s forced to leave boarding school when he almost sleepwalks off the roof and the school declares him an insurance liability.

Cassel starts to suspect that someone is working him, and he starts to discover that things in his family are not what they seem.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but it’s all very exciting! I figured out some of the plot twists, but not all of them. I rate this book four Jesse Eisenbergs (out of a possible five Jesse Eisenbergs).

WhiteCat

White Cat by Holly Black