Monthly Archives: June 2007

“Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac” by Gabrielle Zevin


I was rather fortunate to snag an advance copy of Gabrielle Zevin's ("Elsewhere") latest book at Book Expo. "Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac" is due to be released at the end of August, so you can imagine how excited I was to read it before the rest of the public.

Have you all read "Elsewhere"? I reviewed it a while back in this very blog and loved it, so check out that review here. Ok … are you back? Great.

In this novel, Zevin again plays with our conceptions of memory and history and examines how they intersect with our relationships at home, school, and with friends and boyfriends. Here Naomi Porter, who is just about to start her junior year of high school, trips down a set of stairs and loses her memory. Well, that's not precisely correct, as she only loses her memory of the past four years of her life. Naomi has completely forgotten her parents' divorce, her new baby sister, her ultra-beige house, her eccentric best friend Will, and her jock boyfriend Ace. Even beyond that, Naomi cannot recall how to drive a car, speak French, or why on earth she ever agreed to be the co-editor of the school's yearbook.

And so begins Naomi's story, in which she embarks on what amounts to a new life. She rejects Ace and his obnoxious friends, drops yearbook (and by extension, Will, her fellow co-editor), acts in a school play, and seeks out the mysterious, possibly dangerous James, the only person more damaged than Naomi.

Teen readers will enjoy much of this story. Naomi is a strong narrator with a powerful, distinctive voice. Even when she messes up — which happens quite frequently — it's hard not to be sympathetic to her. Zevin does a great job conveying Naomi's feelings of loss, abandonment, and isolation. Still, the character of James is so underwritten (he is, just about literally, a blank slate) that it's difficult to feel much toward him one way or the other. That's unfortunate, because a big part of the story involves Naomi and James and the ways in which they try to help each other find a place where they belong. Also, the ending feels a bit rushed and forced, as if Zevin herself wasn't exactly sure where the incredibly interesting premise of her story would lead.

I read this book in one sitting, which I suspect most of you will do, too. It's a good mix of drama, humor, and romance, really taking our conceptions of the classic coming of age tale and turning them around a bit. I was a little disappointed — perhaps I just expected more from Zevin? — but overall, I would recommend this to teen girls in 8th grade and beyond.

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Posted by on June 25, 2007 in Uncategorized


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“Girl at Sea” by Maureen Johnson


First off, I adore Maureen Johnson! If you haven't checked out her other books like "13 Little Blue Envelopes" and "Devilish," stop reading this blog, head to the Library, and pick up a copy. Ok, are you back now? 😉

"Girl at Sea" is a blend of coming of age, romance, and adventure with a dash of historical fiction. At first, I was worried Maureen might not be able to weave all these apparently disparate threads together, but she does so beautifully.

Our heroine here is 17 year-old Clio, an artistic, independent teen. Against her wishes, Clio ends up spending the summer not at her Philadelphia home but on a yacht searching for sunken treasure along the Italian coast with her eccentric father; his new archaeologist girlfriend; the girlfriend's beautiful Swedish daughter, Elsa; an old family friend; and a young engineering student from Yale named Aidan. When Elsa decides to make Aidan her boyfriend, Clio has no real objection. After all, she's crushing on Ollie, the tall, sweet art store worker who barely knows she exists. But then Clio gets stung by jellyfish — many, many times in one night — and after Aidan's gentle care, something changes for both of them. You'll love watching how Clio battles her growing feelings for Aidan with her loyalty toward Elsa.

Plus, I haven't even talked about the sunken treasure, the "Marguerite Stone," which may or may not be the key to deciphering ancient alien languages (!). Factor in Clio's strained relationship with her dad, her dad's crazy secretive ways during the entire trip, and a group of Italian hijackers, and you may start to get some idea what this story is about.

Like I said, there's a lot going on here, and most of it works so well that you'll ignore the pieces that don't fit in perfectly. The tentative romance between Clio and Aidan would probably be enough to satisfy most readers, so consider the mystery of the Marguerite Stone and the other adventures as just extra fun. This is a great book for teen girls for the summer (maybe 7th graders and up) who are looking for a page-turning mix of romance, action, and family drama, with a splash of humor and sarcasm, of course. I definitely recommend it!

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Posted by on June 19, 2007 in Uncategorized


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“Notes from a Liar and Her Dog” by Gennifer Choldenko


Author Gennifer Choldenko is well known for her Newbery Honor book "Al Capone Does My Shirts." "Notes from a Liar and Her Dog," which I'm reviewing here, was her first novel for middle school readers. Antonia ("Ant") MacPherson, a 12 year-old living in a small town in Northern California, narrates her own story. Ant is smart, adventurous, and fiercely loyal to her quirky, artistic best friend Harrison Emerson and her tiny elderly dog Pistachio. Unfortunately, Ant also lies. A lot. Need some examples? She switches the A's of her report card for Harrison's lesser grades. She conveniently rearranges the numbers of her mailing address to avoid paying Pistachio's vet bills. Most damaging? She insists to everyone who'll listen that she's not actually related to the MacPhersons, even keeping a journal and scrapbook for when her "real" parents return to pick her up.

As you might imagine, Ant doesn't get along very well with her parents or her two sisters. They fight constantly, and her mom often comments that she doesn't know what to do with Ant or how to respond to her. As Ant feels more and more alone — and as her father threatens to uproot the family yet again for his job — Ant takes some comfort in volunteering at a local zoo with her art teacher, Just Carol, and Harrison. When things take a turn for the worse and Pistachio ends up in the lion's den (!), Ant, at last, has to figure out a way to tell the truth.

Ant is a funny, endearing character. She'll win you over despite her inability to tell the truth, and you'll be interested to see how she rationalizes all her lies to herself. Towards the end of the story, there are some very touching, emotional scenes between Ant and her mom, when both finally begin to open up about how they feel about each other. This is a great choice for middle school summer reading, as it's a fast read but one that isn't just fluffy or silly. In fact, I have a feeling you'll remember Ant long after you finish her story.


Review #1:
I liked this book. A girl named Ant volunteers to help at the zoo. Her dog runs loose there and has to catch him before the owner finds him.

Review #2:
I liked this book because of the loving bond between the girl and her dog.

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Posted by on June 8, 2007 in Uncategorized


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