Howse, Emily. Zitface.
Olivia has a good life-- she has a solid group of friends at school, and has been successful getting a fair amount of work acting in commercials. When she lands a big part in a Wacky Water commercial AND the really great J.W. starts to like it, middle school is even better even though her divorced father lives far away. When her face starts to break out very badly, however, things start to fall apart. This is no ordinary acne; this is nodular acne, and it hurts and looks awful. Olivia's agent sends her to a dermatologist, who prescribes a treatment regimen, but it doesn't help and eventually blossoms into cystic acne on Olivia's face, back and chest. She loses her job with Wacky Water, kids at school start to call her Zitface, and J.W. isn't as interested in her now that she isn't "pretty".
Strengths: This is a much needed problem novel on a difficult topic, and so deftly and beautifully handled. There are always a few children in middle school who have significant acne, and this book might help them, but more likely would be good for students who don't have massive problems with their faces to understand the plight of those who do. On top of that, the characters in this were great. I especially love Theo, who has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Olivia knows that acne is a small problem in the great scheme of things because of Theo's problems, and it's nice to see that both of them can see through exteriors in a way that J.W. doesn't.
Weakness: Huh. Can't really come up with anything. Really looking forward to having this book in my library.
Brennan, Sarah Rees. The Demon's Surrender.
Sequel to The Demon's Lexicon and The Demon's Convenant. Sin and Mia are both poised to take over the Goblin Market. Sin feels she should, because Mia is a Tourist and Sin has spent her whole life in the market, but Mia wants control so that she can somehow save her brother Jamie from the Magicians. They start to grudgingly work together because there are so many obstacles for both of them. Sin's mother is killed in a magician attack, her younger sister exhibits powers and is wanted by the magicians, so she has to take her half siblings to her father for safety. Most importantly, Sin's relationship with Adam develops into a romantic one... and then his body is taken over by the demon Anzu. For a while, it seems impossible that this will come to any happy conclusion, but in the end, things work out as best they can.
Strengths: LOVE this series, and already have a student eager to finish it. I was able to write this review several days after reading the book; sometimes fantasy is so convoluted that it requires notes, so I appreciate a story that I can remember! The action/adventure and sense of humor in this is great as always. I'm very curious to see what this author will write next! I was interested to see that the cover of the first book was redesigned. Much better.
Weaknesses: More violent than I remember; more people die. I was also a little leery of Sin and Adam's relationship, but it was kept fairly clean.
Parkinson, Siobhan. Long Story Short.
Jon's mother is an alcoholic who can barely take care of Jon and his sister Julie. The father left long ago, and their grandmother has very recently died. When Jon's mother brings home a bag of apples for dinner and hits Julie in the face, Jon knows that things cannot continue. When Julie's face doesn't clear up, the two plan to run away to Galway to stay with Julie's father. There are many problems along the way, but more surface in the second half of the book. The mother has died, Jon is accused of murder, and it turns out that he has not been telling the whole truth about many things.
Strengths: This is the sort of problem novel that Picky Reader likes, and the details of running away are quite good.
Weaknesses: This is a slim volume, and looks like it is for younger students, but there are several uses of the f-word. Also, the second half of the book is hard to follow. If Picky Reader finishes her Harry Potter rereading marathon, I'll see if she'll give me an opinion.
Hubbard, Kirsten. Like Mandarin.
Grace, whose mother had her perform in kiddie beauty pageants as a child, just wants to do well in school and leave her small Wyoming town, but is intrigued by the wild Mandarin. When the two are paired for tutoring and service projects, they become friends despite their differences, but this is not an easy thing. Grace has to put up with her mother taking her younger sister to the same sort of beauty pageants, and has her friendship with Grace tested by the opinions of others. The two plan on running away to get out of their town, but how will that work?
Strengths: This was a highly intriguing novel. It flirts with the girls having crushes on each other-- there is a kiss-- but this never develops as much as it seems it might. The interworking of small town relationships and reputations is fascinating, and the description of the taste of beer was top notch.
Weaknesses: While the beer drinking and general antics might move this to high school, the thing that made me decide not to buy it was more... the tone. In contrast with Zitface, this doesn't reflect middle school concerns. Olivia is concerned with school and family; Grace is concerned with her future and distancing herself from her family. I would definitely buy this for high school, though!
1. 42 miles 2. 38 books 4. 30 quilt tops
(May make my goals yet!)