Author Daniel Berenson e mailed me recently, bemoaning the lack of middle grade romance books for boys! I sent him a list, and he's dutifully reading, but he has also written a book that matches that description. From July 10-12, you can get it for FREE on Amazon! As Mr. Berenson says " There's no foul language in the book and no sexual situations, only a love-crazed kid doing stupid things."
why not? It's hard enough to keep people in books over the summer, much
less books about kids doing stupid things. Check it out!
Forster, Miriam. City of a Thousand Dolls (Bhinian Empire #1)
5 February 2013, Harper Teen
Copy from public library
Nisha was abandoned by her parents at the city, which is a refuge for girls who cannot be kept by their parents because of the government's two children restriction. In order to pay for their keep, the girls are trained to be certain kinds of wives, and then "redeemed" when they are over 16. Men can bid on them, and Nisha hopes that Devan, with whom she is having a flirtation, will bid on her, even though he is from a rich and powerful family. Since Nisha is the assistant of the city's matron, she has been trained in many of the different houses and has connections there. She also has cats her converse with her telepathically-- we do find out why she is the only one who can do this. When first one girl, and then another, are found murdered on the grounds, Nisha helps to investigate before the city is considered an unsafe place to be sending unwanted girls. Nisha finds out a lot of uncomfortable information about the city as well as herself, and does figure out the mystery-- but only at a great personal cost.
Strengths: Extra bonus points for the ethnic setting-- all of the characters are described as having dark hair and eyes, and skin the color of amber, etc. leading me to place it in a setting akin to India.Nisha has lots of skills and takes her fate into her own hands. Considering that this book begins with a list of houses and characters, I didn't think I'd be able to read it at all, but I was sucked in. Readers who like Tamora Pierce, Rae Carson, and Kristin Cashore will enjoy this.
Weaknesses: Perhaps especially because I was pleased to see the characters of color, I was a little perturbed by several things. Lighter skin was highly prized. Women were treated as objects who could be sold, and one of the houses clearly turned out courtesans. Devan turns out to be an idiot. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book because of all of these things. Any thoughts?
(My go-to middle grade sci fi fantasy guru, Charlotte of Charlotte's Library, has this to say, and her take on this book seems spot on, "So, uh, I'd hand this to the 11 or 12 year old girl who already is
conversant with the concept of women whose role in life is to provide
men with pleasure, who wants an exciting mystery/unrealistic romance
with bonus telepathic cats." Yeah. Me, too.)