Flashback September 2007

I’m flashing back to reviews from years past. Here is what I was reviewing in September 2007.

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg. Minx. Graphic Novel. My review. “Jane narrowly escapes injury in a bomb attack in Metro City; her parents, wanting safety, move to the suburbs. Jane’s questioning; Jane’s not satisfied with life. She changes her hair from long and blond to short and black; and she uses the move to change the types of people she has as friends. Outsiders, instead of the popular kids. But she wants more. Needs more. Or so she starts P.L.A.I.N. . . . .  People Loving Arts In Neighborhoods. See, Jane likes art; and she wants something more; and she’s not a fan of the suburbs. Put it all together, and she’s creating projects to bring art to the people, and to make them think. All done anonymously and quietly; a pile of stones sorted into a pyramid to protest new buildings, fireplugs decorated with hats and mittens, stuffed animals outside an animal shelter.”

The Qwikpick Adventure Society by Sam Riddleburger. Middle Grade. My review. “The Qwikpick Adventure Society is comprised of three kids: Lyle Hertzog (who is recounting their adventure, using the typewriter his Dad got him), Marilla Anderson (who took the pictures) and Dave Ruskin (maps.) And the adventure involves a poop fountain. Oh no, I’m quite serious. The Good: This is a great, old-fashioned fun book. Three kids who hang out together and have an adventure: going to see the sewage treatment plant. Because the town is about to update the treatment plant so it will no longer have a, erm, poop fountain. The humor is from the kids, from the journey to the sewage treatment plant and what happens there…. I was laughing and almost throwing up at the same time.”

Lessons From A Dead Girl by Jo Knowles. My review. “Laine and Leah have been friends forever. Since fifth grade. As high school students they drifted apart. There are secrets. Secrets Laine never wanted made public. I wish you were dead, Laine thinks. And now Leah is. Why? What happened? . . .  I found this devastating to read. It is so painful; and so scary, what children can do to one another, what teens can do to one another. The abuse and teasing and tormenting and control; the kids who do things, the kids who let it happen, the strange dynamics of friendship. The fear of a child being Laine; of a child being Leah. Of being Laine. Of being Leah. Leah; who damages Laine. But, of course, Leah herself has secrets. Her actions, her tormenting, her torments don’t come out of the blue. This book is beautifully written; Knowles manages to create sympathy for both Laine and Leah. And she doesn’t answer all the questions she raises. In some ways, Laine and Leah are a twisted love story. Twisted not because it is two girls; twisted because of how Leah uses power, secrets, and abuse to get what she wants and to manipulate Laine. And Laine, left with questions unanswered about who she is.”

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly. My review: “A haunting, lyrical book, where, quite frankly, nothing much happens. This is about the journey, not the trip. . . . It was published in 1942; Daly wrote it in college; so despite the date, this is really a book at small town America between the wars, in those last golden years before WWII. Angie leaves childhood behind after that summer; the reader knows that all those golden boys, Jack, Fritz, and Swede, will no doubt be seeing battle soon. . . . Angie is quiet and an observer, almost passive. Much is made of her not being part of the crowd before meeting Jack; she mentions girls she went to school with, but no friends. It’s as if she didn’t start to live until she met Jack. And, in many ways, in this place and time, it’s true. Without a boy, a girl who walks alone to town to get a Coke will be talked about. The rules are complex to the point of being an alternate world, about when it’s OK to call a boy (apparently, never); when it’s OK to go steady with a boy (apparently, rarely.) I’m sure this can be viewed as “clean” romance; Angie questions whether it’s OK to kiss Jack on a third date, even though she likes him; a declaration of love stops the world; she doesn’t understand what “necking” is, or the “fast” reputation of certain girls. But. But. There is so much more here, obvious to the reader who is, well, a little big older. And wiser. The couple who are in the back seat of the car and so quiet. We know, or suspect, what they are doing, even tho Angie does not. Just as we wonder at the inclusion of the young Dolly, from the poor family, going out with “the crowd” and drinking beer. There are the couples who disappear, the places people park.”

King Arthur: Excalibur Unsheathed: An English Legend by Jeff Limke and Thomas Yeates. Graphic Universe. Graphic novel. My review: “It seems like most of the Arthur (re)tellings I’ve read recently jump to the end, with the focus on old(er) Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, Mordred. So it’s nice to see one that focuses on the early years and Arthur building his kingdom and his power base; to learn of his early adventures and victories and Arthur becoming king, in name, and in power. Kingship starts with the sword and the stone but is made real with battles, kidnappings and quests. It’s always a little sad to read early Arthur, knowing the darkness which will come.”


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