Sharon Draper’s BLENDED: A Powerful Story

What a thrill to meet the award-winning writer Sharon Draper at the SOKY Book Festival this past spring. Before the festival doors even opened, we had bought each other’s books! It turns out that her daughter is a dancer, so she wanted to give While I Danced to her as a gift. And I devoured her deeply moving novel, Out of My Mind, which is used in classrooms all over the country to promote understanding of kids with disabilities.   Sharon Draper with Kristin O'Donnell Tubb at the SOKY Book Festival Draper’s warmth and caring about kids and the complications of their lives is nowhere more apparent than in her middle grade novel, blended. Full disclosure: the subject matter of this book, the trials and tribulations of eleven-year-old Isabella whose divorced parents, one of whom is black and the other white, are in constant conflict, hits especially close to home for me. My oldest grandson is also a blended kid, with a white dad and a black mom who are not together. So I guess you could say that I really empathized with Isabella who gets caught in the middle, moving between households and negotiating relationships with her parents’ new partners. Her problems extend to the outside world where she has to deal with other kids’ curiosity about her identity and the harrowing experience of being shot in a racial profiling incident. On their way to her piano recital, she and her older brother are pulled over and [...]

By |2019-09-06T11:35:46-05:00September 6th, 2019|Review|1 Comment

Jennifer Echols Offers Refreshing Look at Teen Romance and More in Perfect Couple

High school yearbook photographer Harper is stunned when she and star quarterback Brody are voted “the Perfect Couple That Never Was.” Never mind that she’s been attracted to the handsome daredevil since their elementary school days. She's currently dating Kennedy, the intellectual film buff and yearbook editor, and Brody’s with Grace, a popular cheerleader. Besides, Harper and Brody have zilch in common. She wears glasses and obeys school rules, while Brody’s impulsive pranks land him in the principal’s office with astonishing regularity. Naturally, despite a bunch of obstacles, the two are drawn together. They shed their current dating partners and end up as an unlikely but mutually committed couple. This, of course, is a familiar trope in romance—bad boy with the good heart and six pack abs ends up with a nice, slightly geeky girl. In this case, it doesn’t hurt that Harper turns out to be astonishingly beautiful when she takes off her glasses. And yet, Echols manages to flesh out the characters of Harper and Brody and the issues each confronts, so that their romance feels authentic and their lives much more complicated than the issue of “will they or won’t they end up together.” Harper’s parents are locked in a bitter divorce battle. Her mother wants Harper to forego college and work with her in her newly acquired bed and breakfast. But Harper is passionate about photography and wants to pursue it in college and beyond. Meantime, her boyfriend Kennedy is controlling and emotionally abusive. If she [...]

By |2016-02-12T11:40:23-05:00February 12th, 2016|Review|0 Comments

The Last Time We Say Goodbye, Book Review

Dear Friends, When I fall in love with a book, it stays with me long after I’ve finished reading it. I wanted to share a review I wrote about a novel by Cynthia Hand that deeply moved me. Here goes: The Last Time We Say Goodbye: A Stunning Foray into Teen Realistic Fiction by Cynthia Hand Cynthia Hand, best-selling author of the paranormal romance trilogy, Unearthly, has departed from the world of fantasy to write a deeply moving realistic teen novel about the impact of a sibling’s suicide. In doing so, she neatly avoids the problem with the “problem novels” that first gained  tremendous popularity in the 1970’s. While heralded for taking on realistic problems teens were facing, such as suicide, substance abuse, and unwanted pregnancy, early problem novelists such as Jeanette Eyerly often made the difficult problem the focus rather than character development and growth.  Hand, however, joins the ranks of outstanding contemporary YA novelists like Laurie Halse Anderson and Chris Crutcher by tackling painful subject matter with fully developed characters who struggle to grow and heal in the wake of devastating experiences. As the novel opens, it’s been 47 days since Lex’s younger brother Tyler committed suicide. Lex, a brilliant math student and high school senior, is numb with grief. She’s broken up with her equally brilliant and devoted boyfriend Steven and distanced herself from her friends. Meantime, she tries to hold her mother together who’s drinking too much and crying at random times. When Dave, her therapist, [...]

By |2015-12-23T17:53:10-05:00December 23rd, 2015|Review|0 Comments