Strasser, Todd. No Place.
January 28th 2014
by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Dan has everything going for him-- he's a baseball star with promises of scholarships for college, he has a great girlfriend, and he is popular in school. Things are a bit tight at home because his mother has been out of work for four years, but when his father loses his job working with disadvantaged youth, the family loses their home and has to move in with an uncle. Things don't go well there, because the uncle thinks the father is a loser who's not trying hard enough to support his family, and soon the family moves into a tent in Dignityville, a shanty town set up by the city government. Dan had previous met a girl at school, Meg, who is in the town because her father has cancer and his bills have crippled the family. Her brotherAubrey helps with the administration of the tent city and also works in a restaurant. Dan's family settles in better than he does. Dan has to shower at school, get free lunch, and worry that college is not even a good choice. His mother wants to start a community garden and his father is off acting mysterious. To make matters worse, the uncle is advocating that the tent city be dismantled because it is bringing down property values. When Aubrey is badly beaten, Dan starts to suspect his father might be somehow involved, and things come to a head when a protest does indeed cause all of the residents to move out and no longer gather in one place.
Strengths: This is a timely story of a family on hard times. Luckily, Strasser has reigned himself in and it is also middle grade appropriate, even though the main character is older. This will be well received by readers who like Can't Get There from Here and If I Grow Up. Read alikes would include Bauer's Almost Home and Cooley's Shelter.
Weaknesses: This started with the beating up of Aubrey and then flashed back, which was just a bit confusing.It also would have been helpful to have a page or two of real life tent cities at the back.
Osborne, Jill. Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek
January 28th 2014
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Riley Mae's father is in advertising, and one of his clients is developing a line of athletic shoes for girls. When Riley is asked to try some on, the company is impressed with her and wants her to be their spokesperson. Her mother, a policewoman, is unsure whether this is a good idea, but the family prays about it and decides to let Riley do it. The whole line of shoes bears Riley's name, and there so many photo shoots that Riley is not able to play as much softball as she would like, and she is resigned to being a "floater" on the team. Her friend T.J. isn't happy, especially when Riley's replacement, Rusty, doesn't do a great job. Riley finds out why-- Rusty's father has been out of work for a year. There's no money for shoes, and sometimes no money for food. Riley tries to help out, getting a pair of pricey shoes from her company in Rusty's size and even going to WalMart and buying food for Rusty with her own money. Riley enjoys being a spokesperson, but it's a lot of hard work. Flip, the photographer, and Fawn, the make up girl and personal assistant, make it fun, and Riley becomes close with both of them. When the company wants to do a photo shoot at the Half Dome, Flip, Fawn, her father, and a magazine reporter all accompany her, but the hike turns treacherous, especially since Flip and Fawn are not quite the people they appear to be.
Strengths: This had some good moments. I liked how Riley had to struggle with time management to get everything done and to hang out with her friends. I liked how she wanted to help Rusty. The gender roles in this were good; having her mother be a police officer was a nice touch. The mystery.thriller at the end was well done, too.
Weaknesses: This could have been two books; one concerned with Rusty's family, and one with the mystery of Flip and Fawn. Having both in this book seemed rushed. And, while I know that Zondervan is a Christian press, this had a lot of rather boring details about church and the family praying, and even got into some rather rude territory. Riley asks her mother what she would say to someone who doesn't believe Jesus died for her, and the mother replies basically that such a person is just crazy. Rather offensive, especially since I have a fair number of readers in my school who are not Christian.