Book Reviews

Poetically Speaking with Me (Miss Print) about Gabi, a Girl in Pieces (A CLW Review)

poeticallyspeaking1For today’s Poetically Speaking post I’m taking over to review Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. Click the icon above to see the rest of this month-long series!

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel QuinteroGabi Hernandez chronicles all the important pieces of her senior year of high school in her diary. Through her diary she tries to make sense of her best friends Cindy’s pregnancy and Sebastian’s coming out.

Gabi also has to deal with college applications and the confusing world of boys.

Add to that her father’s meth addiction and her complicated relationship with food (thanks to her mom always harassing Gabi about what she eats) and Gabi’s plate is already more than full for the year.

In the midst of a difficult year Gabi finds solace in an unlikely place. Gabi always knew she liked writing and poetry. She just didn’t realize discovering the poetry within herself (and around her) would have the power to change everything in Gabi, a Girl in Pieces (2014) by Isabel Quintero.

Find it on Bookshop.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is Quintero’s first novel and the winner of the 2015 William C. Morris YA Debut Award.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is told entirely through Gabi’s diary entries as she navigates an especially complicated year in her life as many long-standing problems come to a head including her father’s addiction and Gabi’s mother’s disapproval of Gabi’s plans to go away to college.

Quintero brings Gabi to life with a vivid voice and authentic storytelling that mark this novel as a standout in the diary novel sub-genre. While Gabi sometimes comes across as younger than her seventeen years, she is always honest and raw.

Gabi’s story is effervescent and overall sweet even with real moments of sadness and other serious situations in the story. Given the nature of a diary format, Gabi, a Girl in pieces is not always a cohesive story as Gabi’s thoughts and her life jump from point to point.

What does remain consistent throughout is Gabi’s love of words. The enthusiasm Gabi feels as she begins to find her voice as a writer and discover new poets is infectious. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces is an empowering, thoughtful novel brimming with creative energy.

Possible Pairings: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, Undercover by Beth Kephart, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, Flannery by Lisa Moore, You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez., How to Save a Life by Sarah Zarr

Book Reviews

On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God: A CLW review

on_the_bright_side_of_things_im_now_the_girlfriend_of_a_sex_godI’m basically sure I do like Louise Rennison’s books, but wow her titles are long! I couldn’t bring myself to add “a Chick Lit Wednesday review” at the end. Wow.

Okay, so On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God (2001) (find it on Bookshop) picks up almost exactly where Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging left off (two days later to be specific). As Georgia continues her diary, she is very disillusioned by the prospect of going to visit her father in New Zealand on “the other (useless) side of the universe” instead of having time to spend (snogging) with Robbie–the Sex God.

Like the first book in this series, this one basically just follows a few months in Georgia’s life. Mayhem continues to follow Georgia as she and her friends devise new Beret-wearing methods at school among other kinds of mischief. This includes some chaos on the hockey field (the first book featured a rather disastrous tennis match). Rennison writes Georgia as a bit of a spaz–always thinking about herself and her appearance, heaping scorn upon Robbie’s more studious ex–so it’s nice to see her being athletic without really trying and without any ulterior motive.

Meanwhile, Georgia also has to figure out how to get back in Robbie’s good graces when he once again decides that she is too young for him. Part of her plan? Maturiosity and Glaceriosity. Yes.

Basically anything funny that came up in the first book has been revisited in this one. A personal favorite: Georgia’s continued bewilderment when faced with the phrase “see you later.” (Does it mean “see you later” or something else? No one knows.) There are a lot of developments in this volume in terms of inter-character relations (Georgia, her friends, Robbie, and so on). But there isn’t as much intra-character development. Again. By the end of the book, Georgia does have some new quandaries to think about (is it a problem that the SG doesn’t make her laugh for instance), but it’s still too early to tell if her new introspection will lead to a bit of enlightenment.

By the time I read this book (in a day), I was basically over my qualms about liking Georgia but feeling like I shouldn’t. The plots are simple and fun, Georgia makes me laugh. It’s fine.

That said, I have noticed that, like a few other laugh-out-loud funny books for teens, this one gets a lot of the humor from Georgia having kind of low self-esteem. A running theme in both books is Georgia bemoaning her ugliness as a result of her large nose. It doesn’t really impact the story, or send any message about beauty ideals or anything, I just wish Georgia could be a little more sure of herself. All of her friends (and snogging partners) seem to indicate that people think Georgia is pretty cool. I wish that she would figure that out as well. Maybe in the next book . . .

Possible Pairings: Boys Don’t Knit by T. S. Easton, Ghost Huntress by Marley Gibson, The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow, Alice, I Think by Susany Juby, Confessions of a Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, Sucks to be Me by Kimberly Pauley, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, My Big Nose and Other (Natural) Disasters by Sydney Salter

Book Reviews

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: A Chick Lit Wednesday review

There are six things very wrong with fourteen-year-old Georgia Nicolson’s life at the beginning of her first diary volume Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (2000) by Louise Rennison (find it on Bookshop):

(1) I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.

(2) It is on my nose.

(3) I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.

(4) In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic “teachers.”

(5) I am very ugly and need to go into an ugly home.

(6) I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.

My friend “Barbie” is insanely fond of Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicolson series, starting with Rennison’s debut novel Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging which was selected as a Michael L. Printz Honor Book in 2001. Having some free time after graduation, I decided to give the series a try. I read the first two books in as many days. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging is quite funny and I did like it, but the more I read the more I felt like I shouldn’t like it.

Georgia is not always the nicest person. She can be self-centered and rude. But she is so funny that it’s hard to be angry about it. As Georgia tries to figure out exactly what growing up means (aside from landing the Sex God), she often finds herself in some awkward situations (see the mention of a stuffed olive above). Although a lot of the book is outlandish in its humor, Rennison’s anecdotes are generally spot on in terms of authenticity. I have the old pictures with uneven eyebrows to prove it.

Part of my problem with this novel is that I couldn’t gauge if the voice was accurate. To me, Georgia’s diary reads more like that of a sixteen-year-old but after consulting with “Julie” it seems that Georgia’s misadventures could be accurate. Not having been the same kind of fourteen-year-old as Georgia, I needed some outside confirmation.

It also bothered me (though not enough to stop reading the series) that Georgia largely seemed exactly the same at the end of the novel as she did at the beginning. It doesn’t make the book better or worse, but it was something I noticed. If you want to see a similar book with more character evolution, check out Alice, I Think by Susan Juby another laugh-out-loud funny diary book with a teen narrator albeit a Canadian one this time.

All that aside, this book is hilarious. I’m usually hesitant of diary-style books but it works well here. Rennison uses the technique to amusing effect by including the time of certain entries to illustrate Georgia’s often rash temperament. Part of me wants to take Georgia under my wing and save her from herself, but the rest of me knows that if I did that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the rest of Georgia’s books. Oh the moral dilemma . . .

For some added fun, be sure to check out Georgia’s glossary of English terms at the end of the book.

Possible Pairings: Boys Don’t Knit by T. S. Easton, Ghost Huntress by Marley Gibson, The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow, Alice, I Think by Susany Juby, Confessions of a Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, Sucks to be Me by Kimberly Pauley, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, My Big Nose and Other (Natural) Disasters by Sydney Salter

Book Reviews

Alice, I Think: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Alice, I Think by Susan JubyAlice, I Think (2003) is Susan Juby’s first novel. It is also the start of her Alice series (not to be confused with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series). Before going into the details of plot and why I love this book, I want to address some of the issues I saw in negative reviews by saying this: The book is fiction and it is in the vein of satire. Juby uses hyperbole, sarcasm, and caustic wit to create this story. That doesn’t always create realistic situations or accurate portrayals of “real” people. But it does create a good novel. As long as readers go into this novel with what the film industry would call a willing suspension of disbelief, I genuinely believe most of them will be able to find something to like about this book. So, why am I saying all of that? Because Alice is awesome of course.

Alice MacLeod, our intrepid Canadian hero, read The Hobbit when she was very young. This led to a strong desire to attend her first day of school as a hobbit which is well and good creatively, but doesn’t work out so well in actuality. In fact it works out so badly, that Alice’s non-conformist parents decide to pull her out of school and teach her themselves at home.

Flash forward to the present. Alice is fifteen and talking her new therapist Death Lord Bob at the Teens in Transition (not trouble) center in town. In a misguided attempt to cheer Bob up, Alice finds herself agreeing to return to “normal” school among but one of many items placed on a “Life Goals List.”

As Alice leaves the shelter of her home, she embarks on a search for a new haircut, new clothes, a boyfriend and lots of other things. These hunts lead to hilarity of a high degree along with not a little bit of mayhem. In the end, Alice comes out maybe a little worse for wear but no less enthusiastic about checking items off of her list in the future. As Susan Juby suggests on her newly designed website, Alice shows that sometimes oddballs make the best characters.

As I started reading, I was surprised that I liked Alice, I Think as much as I did. (Although I am not alone in my enthusiasm. The book inspired a Canadian TV series as well as the entire trilogy receiving heaps of praise and award nominations.) The novel is written in a diary style, which usually doesn’t appeal. But Juby handles the style creatively, not letting it limit Alice’s narration or how events are conveyed to the reader and, most importantly, Juby still includes lots of hilarious dialogue.

Juby’s characters are also amazingly handled. Yes, a lot of them might sound more like cartoons than true-to-life people. But that’s okay. In a novel this funny, a lot of things have a cartoonish exuberance to them. Aside from that, the characters are endearing no matter how silly they might be.

As Alice works through the issues inherent to starting at a new school and tries to find new friends, readers watch her simultaneously learn how better to engage with the world at large (a revolution that continues in this novel’s two sequels Miss Smithers and Alice MacLeod: Realist at Last). Then there’s the fact that it’s literally a laugh out loud funny book. Definitely worth a look for anyone who wants a good, funny, entertaining novel.

Possible Pairings: The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander, Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen, Skinny by Donna Crooner, Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks, The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow, Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, Don’t Expect Magic by Kathy McCullough,  I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Define “Normal” by Julie Anne Peters, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Book Reviews

Living in the now: a review of Love, Stargirl

Love, Stargirl by Jerry SpinelliI just finished Love, Stargirl (2007) by Jerry Spinelli (find it on Bookshop). And I have not been able to pick up another book because I don’t want to lose the feeling of satisfaction that came from finishing it. At first, I didn’t think that this book could be as good as it’s “prequel” Stargirl, but now I’m hard-pressed to say which was better.

Love, Stargirl picks up where Stargirl left off. She has left Mica High in Arizona and, more importantly, her boyfriend Leo. The story reads as a year-long letter to Leo as Stargirl lives life as only she can and tries to understand how things went wrong with Leo and what her feelings are for him now.

Spinelli brings in a lot of memorable characters. My favorites are Charlie and Betty Lou. Betty Lou, particularly, has a special place in my heart because she gives some of the best advice I have ever heard when she tells Stargirl to live in the now and make the most of each today that she finds. Which, being Stargirl, she does. As the story progresses, Stargirl changes from a stranger to an integral part of her new hometown. Through small kindnesses, unexpected friendships, and leaving behind lots of oranges, Stargirl makes as much of an impression here in Pennsylvania as she did at Mica High–maybe even more.

The entire novel, especially the ending, is magical. I am as enchanted with Stargirl now as I was when I read Spinelli’s first novel about her. It was refreshing to see this amazing girl’s thoughts and hear things from her point of view (the first book is told in Leo’s POV). If you aren’t touched by Stargirl and her little kindnesses and the beauty of this book, then you are beyond all help. These books are fairly quick reads with straightforward prose, but both are the rare books that I feel strongly everyone should read. I think that if everyone tried to be a little more like Stargirl the world would be a better place.

Possible Pairings: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, The Blue Girl by Charles De Lint, Paper Towns by John Green, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Holes by Louis Sachar