Sunday, June 15, 2014

On the Road to Find Out/Subway Love

18465630Toor, Rachel. On the Road to Find Out
June 10th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Alice is a pampered teen (both parents are high powered and wealthy; she describes her posh room in great detail) who does well in school but just can't be bothered to do extra curriculars. She does decide, rather randomly, to start running on New Year's Day, and keeps it up. After running for a while, she asks her mother to take her to get shoes that fit, and she ends up at a running store owned by Joan. Joan asks Alice to help out with a race, and while there, Alice meets the very cute Miles. Alice continues to run and hang out with her friend Jenni, whose mother died of cancer, and her pet rat, Walter, who is the most important "person" in her life. When Alice's dream school, Yale, rejects her, she spirals into depression. She and Miles meet up a time or two, and she keeps running and working at the store, where she gets in with a group of runners and is encouraged. When things go further south in her life, it's hard for her to run, but eventually she breaks out of her depression to notice that other people in her life are cutting her a lot of slack, and if she really wants to accomplish anything, she needs to get her act together.
Strengths: This had a lot of good information about running, and Alice's progress is enviable. Other reviewers asked if teens could really go from not running to a half marathon in the course of several months... unfortunately, I think they can! The college application experience is somewhat interesting, and the supporting characters are well developed. I liked Joan and Jenni a lot, and thought that Alice's mother was actually fairly awesome and supportive.
Weaknesses: Alice had a very high slappage factor. She was totally self absorbed and not likable. It was amazing to me that Jenni stuck with her and that Miles was interested at all. Her relationship with Walter the rat, as well as family friend Walter the Man, seemed a bit odd to me.

I'm debating whether this is more of a high school book, with the interest in college applications. Debating.

18339701 Baskin, Nora Raleigh. Subway Love.
13 May 2014, Candlewick Press

In 1973, Laura lives in Woodstock, NY with her hippy dippy mother, drug addled brother, and mother's boyfriend, Bruce. She frequently travels into New York City to visit her father, and wishes that she could live with him all the time. Jonas, on the other hand, is dealing with his parents' recent divorce, helping his younger sister Lily, and having to put up with his mother. He has taken a film camera that his father has left and starts to be interested in the graffiti art in the city. When he catches a glimpse of Laura on the subway and eventually talks to her, he becomes obsessed with finding her. The only problem? He lives in 2014, and the only time that their lives intersect is on the subway. Jonas still manages to help Laura with her difficult family situation, and in the process, learns some hard truths about love and loss.

This is definitely a Young Adult book, with at least five fairly gratuitous f-bombs as well as one sex scene.
Strengths: This was very evocative of 1973. I loved how Laura described being a "hippie" child in a school full of children who were solidly suburban, and how she compared many situations to The Brady Bunch. The portrayal of her brother is interesting-- one wonders what happened to the teenagers at the time who decided to tune in, turn on, and drop out, especially since they are in their 60s now! There's a nice twist, and this is a poignantly sad book. I personally enjoyed it very much.
Weaknesses: Time travel is a hard sell in middle school, and with the content of this I won't be buying it anyway. Curious as to how older readers would like it. Definitely encouraging my older daughter to pick this one up.


Paige Y. said...

I love this type of time travel book, but the reviews are all over the place as to the appropriate age group. Booklist has grades 8-up, SLJ is grades 10-12, Kirkus is ages 12 - 16, and Publishers Weekly is ages 14-up. I'll probably pass for my middle school.

Greg Pattridge said...

Don't think I'll delve into these myself, but I do have several people in mind that would most likely enjoy these titles. I asked my favorite middle school media specialist for her opinion and they are actually on her list of summer reading. I also giggled at your "high slappage" comment. Thanks for the super reviews.

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