Johnson, Maureen. The Last Little Blue Envelope.
E-ARC provided by NetGalley.
Publication date 4/26/11
Tried to wait to read this; couldn't. *Sigh* Ginny gets an e mail from a mysterious Englishman, Oliver, who claims to have her lost backpack and the letters from her Aunt Meg that sent her on her adventures in 13 Little Blue Envelopes and were stolen in Greece. She talks her parents into letting her spend Christmas break in London with her Uncle Richard, and sets off to meet Oliver and get the letters back. The catch? The last letter sends Ginny off looking for more of her aunt's art, but Oliver wants to go along, sell the piece, and get a cut of the profit. Accompanied by Keith, who has been out of touch for a while, and his girlfriend Ellis, Ginny goes to Paris, Belgium and Ireland to retrieve the artwork, encountering a variety of complications along the way.
Strengths: Oddly, I liked the ensemble cast in this, even the the whole point of the first book was for Ginny to be alone. Her struggles with college applications, and her ultimate decision at the end of the book seemed realistic.
Weaknesses: Hard to say, since I really, really want to BE Ginny, and that clouds my judgement. I will have to buy at least three copies of this to keep up with demand. I don't know how many times I have had to replace the first book, since it has been so worn out. Has it really been 6 years?
Cassia lives in a tightly controlled futuristic world. Mates and jobs are predetermined, food is delivered directly to everyone's home, everyone wears the same clothing, and literature, art and music have been reduced to a preselected "best" 100. After Cassia is matched with Xander, a boy she knows, however, another face appears on her profile-- another boy she knows, Ky. She's confused, because mistakes aren't made, but starts to fall in love with Ky. This causes lots of problems, and the Society starts to crack down on Cassia and her family. This causes, combined with the organized death of her grandfather at the age of 80 and two poems that he shares with her, cause her to questions the Society for the first time. The sequel, Crossed, comes out in November of 2011.
Strengths: This is primarily a romance, and a much more realistic view of a future dystopia than I have read lately. This is how it would work-- we would all be convinced that whatever was being done was good for us. Meals delivered to the house? I'm all for it. So you marry my teenage daughter off to the best possible genetic match? Hmmm. Is the food good?
Weaknesses: I like my world's described and explained a bit more; this drew us in bit by bit, which is probably better story telling but a bit frustrating.
Rainfield, Cheryl. Scars.
I read this knowing that it was not a middle grade novel. Kendra had been cutting herself for six months, ever since memories of being sexually abused have surfaced. She is making it through the day with the help of a caring conselor, but when her father loses his job, her mother threatens to cut that support. Kendra feels like whoever abused her (and she doesn't remember who is was) is following her. She is helped somewhat by her new friend, Meghan, who becomes a romantic interest, as well as by Sandy, an artist friend of her mother's. When Kendra recieves threatening letters from her abuser, her agitation increases, and everything comes to a violent and surprising conclusion.
Strengths: This is a gritty and realistic portrayal of the aftermath of abuse. The characterizations are very well done, from the concerned-but-not-in-the-right-way mother to the supportive therapist. Nothing in this book is done casually. The writing is very good as well, and the list of support sites at the end is very complete and helpful.
Weaknesses: This is not something I would purchase for my middle school, but it's ridiculous for it to be challenged at public libraries.
There are a lot of books with more graphic situations and language that are done gratuitously, but this is a thoughtful and thought-provoking book that is extremely helpful in understanding the aftermath of abuse. I may give this to Picky Reader, since she tends to read a lot of problem novels. We would discuss this; I would not want a 7th grader to read this without support.