5 August 2012
Kayla is having a hard sixteenth birthday, in part because she has a huge crush on her best friend Nicole's boyfriend Ben. Nicole skips her party, a huge affair that Kayla's party planner mother insists on throwing despite Kayla's objections, and things go wrong all night. When the time comes to blow out the candles on her cake, she wishes "I wish all my birthday wishes actually came true. Because they never freakin' do."
Well, now they do, from all her previous birthdays. Her Raggedy Ann doll comes to life, as does a bright pink My Little Pony. Ken ( as is Barbie and) thinks he's her boyfriend, and follows her around. It's bad enough that all of her wishes from when she was younger come true, but what about the wish she made that Ben would be her boyfriend? While Kayla is dealing with some of her goofier wishes, she also has to deal with her real life problems of Nicole becoming distances from her, popular girls giving her a hard time, her father who lives in Italy wanting to reconnect, and Ben finding her more interesting than he is finding Nicole.
Strengths: This is a clever twist on the wish fulfillment novel. I'm sure that most readers can think of some silly wishes they made over birthday cake, and some that are not so silly. There is a nice balance between the two, and while Kayla does learn a lesson (which you have to do if your wishes start coming true), its never too preachy. Much, much fun. This author also wrote Ripple, which was a surprise hit with my students.
Weaknesses: Available in paperback and prebind, and the print is a bit small for middle school. This is appropriate for middle school, but probably a bit more YA.
Keyes, Morgan. Darkbeast.
28 August 2012, Margaret K. McElderry Books
Book recieved from publisher; also reviewed at Young Adult Books Central.
Keara's pivotal birthday is upon her-- she will turn 12, making her an adult in her medievalish world, and she will need to kill Caw, her darkbeast. All children have companions that are bonded to them at birth and to whom they take all of their rebellion and bad qualities. Most children hate their darkbeasts, who tend to be rats, snakes, and toads, but Keara has always loved Caw, a crow, and finally decides that instead of killing him, they will run off together with the Travelers, roving actors who put on sacred and common plays throughout the land. The Travelers are leery of taking in Keara, but she is willing to help them, and makes friends with Vala, who is her age. When the troupe wants to win a competition, they put together a new sacred play that involves all 12 gods at once, but are then accused of heresy. This is bad for Keara, since failing to kill her darkbeast was also an affront to the gods, and she lives in fear that an Inquisitor will hunt her down. The Travelers seem to be the safest people to stay with despite their cultural differences, but will they stand by her?
Strengths: This was a very well-constructed fantasy world, and Keyes did not make the mistake of over-explaining the differences-- they were just shown through the narrative. Keara's actions are motivated by how she has been raised, even though she is flying in the face of the biggest cultural expectations. The characters are also well-developed and likable, and the action and adventure pulled me in to the story. Great cover!
Weaknesses: I didn't buy the whole driving point of the story-- that Keara really loved Caw. Not sure why-- just didn't, and this made it hard to accept the rest of the story. I'll be curious to see if my hard core fantasy readers feel the same way.