Dowell, Frances O'Roark. The Sound of Your Voice... Only Really Far Away
August 27th 2013 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Marylin is having a tough year. She works really hard a being a cheerleader, wearing the right clothes, getting manicures, and sucking up to the evil Mazie, who somehow is "in charge" or making sure Marylin does everything correctly. This also means dating the right boys and joining the right clubs... but Marylin is starting to resent this. She really likes Benjamin, but Macie considers him too geeky, so Marylin claims to be buttering him up so that the student council funds new uniforms for the cheerleaders. Marylin's quasi-best friend, Kate, has problems of her own. She wants to be a poetry loving, black nail polish wearing guitar player, and be true to her own weirdness, but she misses playing basketball, and worries that her weirdness will get Marylin in trouble. Kate likes Matthew, who is trying to get the student council money for the audio lab, but Kate wants the money to start a school garden. Can each girl be true to herself, or is the siren call of boys and popularity strong enough for them to throw away their unique qualities?
Strengths: The first book in this series is crumbling to pieces and has been really popular. The second is less so. Girls do like to read about friend drama and cheerleading, both of which figure prominently.
Weaknesses: Lots and lots of whining, and several things that seem unrealistic to me. Who would really listen to Mazie? There's a middle school student council with MONEY, an audio lab, and a funded musical production? Does not compute. Girls will like this more than I did.
Oh, and it references Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle by John Tobias, which seemed like an older poem (what, 1966?) when I was in middle school (ten years later!).
Shen, Prudence and Hicks, Faith Erin. Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong
7 May 2013, First Second
This graphic novel ALSO deals with the cheerleaders insistence on new uniforms, although this time the plot centers around one geek and one jock best friend who find themselves running for student body president so they can take control of the money and give it either to the robotics club or the cheerleaders. A fine graphic novel for high schools, but since it contained a bit too much beer drinking as well as a student body election, I'll pass. It's in paperback as well, which means that it would fall apart in a year. Sigh.
Mack, Jeff. Clueless McGee and the Inflatable Pants.
13 June 2013, Philomel.
"It’s only fair, isn’t
it? Clueless McGee has mastered his Ninja Warz video game and he’d like a
trophy. It seems like a lot of extra work to have to win the science
fair to get one. . . . Yet that trophy is REALLY nice. And Clueless does
have an idea for a magnetic pickle that seems like an obvious winner.
So okay, he’s in. Until someone steals the trophy—and then he’s on the
case! Clueless will have to call on his finest ninja skills —not to
mention some luck and a lot of help from people more competent than he
is—in order to solve the mystery. . . .
continues to hit every note just right in this hilarious series that
young middle-graders will be reading, rereading, and exchanging with
their friends until (and even after) the next installment lands on the
shelves. With comic-style art throughout, this book is perfect for fans
of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, Dork Diaries and for any kid who likes mysteries, likes to laugh, and is a video game master!"
While I'm not a huge fan of notebook novels, there is no denying that students like to read them. Still, there's a difference between serving Jell-o as dessert, and encouraging children to eat Jell-o powder straight out of the package (which kids on the track team did when I was in school. And it probably contained Red Dye #2!). That's what this one felt like. The target audience is a bit younger than middle school, it's really on the silly/goofy side, and the pictures are not as well done as Wimpy Kid. Also, the paper over board cover will not hold up.
Still, for $7.79 each at Baker and Taylor, this three book series might be worth it. (Clueless McGee, this one, Clueless McGee Gets Famous(9 January 2014).) Any thoughts?