Sunday, May 18, 2014

Only Everything and The Meaning of Maggie

18475596Scott, Kieran. Only Everything (True Love #1)
May 6th 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Eros (the daughter of Aphrodite, who is NOT a fat male cherub!) has angered Zeus over her relationship with Orion, so she is banished to earth with her mother until she can match make three sets of mortals. Renaming herself True Olympia, she descends on Lake Carmody High like a force of nature: outspoken, inappropriately dressed, and much too royal in her attitude. The same day, another new kid starts. Charlie's father is a football coach, but Charlie prefers music. He tries out for the cross country team to get his father off his back, but turns out to be surprisingly good. He gets caught in True's cross hairs, and she tries to set him up with several girls. Meanwhile, Katrina is suffering in her relationship with the controlling Ty because she feels that she has nowhere else to turn; her mother is so grief stricken by the death of Katrina's father that she can't care properly for her daughter. Aphrodite is also a horrible mother, not getting out of bed and drinking ten bottles of wine a day because she can't handle being away from Olympus. True is worried that they might be stuck on earth forever, but luckily Hephaestus intervenes and gets them back on track a little, and True finally makes a match that was obvious to the reader from the start.
Strengths: Aside from the drinking (which doesn't end well at all), this is a fine YA romance that works for MG audiences. The tie in with mythology is a nice one. Scott's other books do very well in my library.
Weaknesses:  There need to be more positive depictions of people dealing with death in fiction. So  many times, people are completely devastated, and I don't think that's the case in real life. In real life, Katrina would realize that without her father's income, she would need to keep her grades up in order to be able to attend college with some sort of scholarship, and her mother would be even more vigilant a parent instead of letting Katrina move in with her skeevy boyfriend. Makes for a less dramatic book, granted, but readers who have experienced a loss have so few helpful examples of people dealing with grief that it is rather alarming. Sure, you can be sad, but you can't completely torpedo your own life or the lives of your children.

Still, the series should run to only three books, so I'll probably buy it.

18656207Sovern, Megan Jean. The Meaning of Maggie.
May 6th 2014 by Chronicle Books
ARC from Baker and Taylor

In 1988, Maggie's father  has quit his job at an airport because he is having increasingly bad problems with his legs falling asleep. Her mother goes to work, leaving her father and older sisters to take care of things around the house. Starting middle school is hard enough without these worries. She has a crush on a boy named Clyde, and starts a grudging friendship with Mary, who is popular and helps her out in gym class. She is concerned about keeping her title as science fair winner, and documents her life in a journal so that when she becomes president, all the details are known. Maggie's project this year is on multiple sclerosis, and she finds that her father's condition is much more serious than she realized. She wants to "fix" him, but when he suffers a health set back, she knows that all she can do is to hang on and enjoy the moment.
Strengths: This has an appealing cover, and there are some good details about life in 1988. (The library research part will make students wonder!) Drawing on her own family experience, Sovern gives a good description of what it is like to live with a parent who is struggling with a debilitating disease. There are very few books out there that deal with multiple sclerosis, and I have had students whose lives this disease has touched. A portion of the proceeds from this book will benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Weaknesses: Maggie's voice seems rather naive and immature for a sixth grader, especially one with two older sisters. It seems odd that her family is keeping her in the dark concerning the circumstances of her father's illness. I appreciate that the publicist addressed my concern with a historical point: I thought Maggie being taken to Take Your Daughter to Work Day in October of 1988 was odd, since that day is always held the fourth Thursday in April, but wasn't started until 1993. Apparently, companies had their own days whenever they wanted before that point in time. I'm glad they were so willing to check the facts!

The trailer is attractively done, but doesn't shed much light on the plot.


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