Monday, January 21, 2013

My Life Next Door: A Review

My Life Next Door, by Huntley Fitzpatrick has this written across the top of the cover:

"A boy.  A secret.  A summer."

Boom.  All you need to know to pick up the book, really.  That's a great YA love story in the making right there.

What was really interesting to me about this book is that it is the only YA book I can think of other than books by Madeleine L'Engle that made me ponder myself as a parent almost more than how I was a teen.  There are two moms involved in the story:  the uptight and unhappy mother of Samatha Reed, the protagonist, and Ms. Garrett, the mother of eight children who lives next door in what appears to be a constant state of chaos.  As Sam grows to know Jase Garrett, she is drawn into his family and sees the love, joy and laughter in their family that is lacking in hers.  Her mom is a single mom and never seemed to know quite what to do with her and her sister.  There was a moment that brought a pang to my heart, though, because I identified with the clueless but perfectionistic mom.  She is described as the kind of mom who would plan out meals based on a theme like, "Soups on Mondays," and "Pastas on Tuesdays," etc.

PEOPLE:  I HAVE DONE THAT.  Granted, it didn't last long, but I actually love this idea.

I literally froze right there as I stared at the page.  I don't want to be the kind of mom Ms. Reed is (and I do realize that detailed meal planning does not equal a cold-hearted detached mom-- it was just an unexpected detail.)  When Ms. Reed is concerned about what level of physicality might be happening between her daughter and Jase, it's finger-pointing and "Not under my roof, young lady!"  Whereas, Jase's parents have an entirely different approach when suspect their 17 year old son is getting ready for physical intimacy with someone.

Speaking of sexuality and intimacy, this book does spend a good bit of time touching on that topic also, so to speak, and I would imagine some parents might have concerns about it for that reason.  I actually plan on asking my girls to read it when they are in high school, because I like how the couple is presented as they fall in love with each other and try to navigate the tricky minefield of adolescent sexuality together.  It's handled with delicacy and tact while still being a great read.  Very sweet story.

For the record, I knew around chapter 8 that this author had to be the mom of a big family and I was right-- she's got six kids.  No one else could have portrayed the reality of life with that many children.  I have a number of friends with large, beautiful families, so I get to hear stories from them all the time, both about their own families and how other people tend to react to them.  I bet they would enjoy this story, too.  I got as much of a kick out of vicariously living with the Garretts as I did from the central love story.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Born Wicked: A Review

I chose Born Wicked, by Jessica Spotswood, because A) the title is alluring and B) the cover was also alluring.  Oh, the power of a good book cover!  (Authors have little to no control over what the book cover is, by the way.)  The cover my library had is different than the one on her webpage.  I think the hardcover image I am looking at this very moment is fabulous, but it makes it look like it's for an older audience.  It does, though, capture the mood of the book, in my opinion.  Seductive, yet innocent...mystery that beckons.

I was initially confused about when and where the book was set.  This was clearly not modern, but there were references to real places, so it wasn't high fantasy.  Eventually I realized this was set just before the beginning of the 19th century, and while the names of places were real, there is an alternate reality that strikes a similar chord to The Handmaiden's Tale.  The women in this tale are even more oppressed than they were in real life during that era, which is saying something.  If I'm wrong about all this, it just goes to show that the setting was vibrant while not being totally clear, which is interesting in and of itself.

From the first page, we know the protagonist is a witch and this is seen as a family problem.  I love stories about witches, so I was ready to read from page 1.  There is romance, there is intrigue, there are twists and turns.  Book 2 of the series comes out June 18th and I will definitely check it out.  This, so far, isn't a book I have to buy, but I did enjoy the alternate-odd reality she created and I respected Ms. Spotswood's world-building skills.  It is much harder than it seems to figure out how something like magic will work in your world, and being consistent with that is harder still.  I thought Spotswood did a great job of describing the magic in this world.  I also enjoyed character of Finn and hope to see more of him in the next book.