Ziegler, Jennifer. Revenge of the Flower Girls
27 May 2014, Scholastic
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Eleven-year-old triplets Darby, Dawn and Delaney are not happy that their older sister Lily is marrying the bookwormish Burton instead of her high school sweetheart Alex, because Burton is "the poopiest of nincompoops" and Alex would play games with them. They try to sabotage Lily's wedding in any way they can, including trying to convince Alex to shred the marriage license and convincing him to come to the rehearsal dinner AND the wedding, telling Lily none of the venues she wanted were available, sabotaging the slide show of the couple, and cancelling all of the meat dishes for the rehearsal dinner because Lily is a vegetarian but Burton's overbearing mother wants meat. They soon drag the bridesmaid into the plans, insist of wearing tuxes instead of froofy dresses, and on the day of the wedding itself manage to enlist both their mother and father into helping them save Lily from herself.
Strengths: Lily is not a bridezilla; she really does want people in her wedding to be happy, letting the girls wear tuxes, the bridesmaids have different styles of dresses, and accommodating Burton's mother as much as possible. The triplets' parents are reasonable. The wedding is held in the house. When I was this age, I went to a TON of weddings, so I can see the appeal. I have 38 cousins on my mother's side, most of them older, so my cousin and I were in charge of the guest book about once a month every summer! We liked to steal decorations off the cakes. (The receptions were always in church basements of VFW Halls; nothing fancy.)
Weaknesses: Disclaimer: I now hate weddings. Big time. Even so, I thought that the triplets behavior, while somewhat well intentioned, was completely odious. It turns out in the end that Burton's mother is pressuring him in to marrying Lily, but they don't know that. And who would put children that age in charge of anything? All of their pranks seemed mean spirited, which was at odds with the generally well-balanced portrayal of the family. Perhaps this is just too young for middle school students.
Keplinger, Kody. The Swift Boys and Me.
27 May 2014, Scholastic
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Nola has always lived next door to the Swift boys and been friends with them, especially Canaan, who is her age. When their father moves out, the boys all take it badly, especially the youngest, Kevin, who stops talking. Nola is at loose ends for the summer, since she usually spent most of her time with the boys. Add to the mix the fact that her mother is remarrying Richard and planning to leave the subdivision before the end of the summer, and Nola feels that it is up to her to find the boys' father and fix things. When visiting her unpleasant and demanding grandmother, she sees the father and follows him, finding out that he is living with a waitress in a neighboring town. Nola spends her summer doing odd jobs for neighbors and getting to know Teddy, a more well-to-do boy in the subdivision who has a trampoline in his yard but overprotective parents. Interspersed with the story are flashbacks to the time spent over the years with the boys. In the end, Nola isn't able to fix anything, but has to go on with her life.
Strengths: Well-drawn characters, and a realistic portrayal of how friendships tend to fall apart in middle school; that Nola's best friend is a boy makes it even more difficult. The neighbors are interesting, and the relationships are warm and heart felt. Richard is a great character, as is the grandmother. There's enough romance in this that girls will like it, but it probably will be most popular with 6th grade and younger instead of older readers. The setting is a bit unusual-- not many books set in economically disadvantaged areas of Kentucky.
Weaknesses:The ending is a bit over editorialized. Nola expounds on how everything is changing, but in real life, I don't think people tend to know that until years later. The rest of the book was so spot on that the ending surprised me a bit.
Oh, okay. That makes sense. The author is about 24. When I was 24, everything was Life Changing and Significant, because I was just starting to have epiphanies about my teenage years. Alright.
Snyder, Carol. Memo: To Myself When I Have a Teenage Kid
August 26th 1983
by Putnam Pub Group
Copy from Half Price Books donation
In 1980, Karen is irritated by her younger sisters Beth and Jill, as well as by her parents, who can't possibly understand why she can't wear SNOW BOOTS to school when she wants to ask someone to the Seventh Grade Winter Switch Dance! After some footstomping, Karen's mother hauls out her own teenage diary from 1955, reads it, and then gives it to Karen. This makes Karen think her mother may, in fact, be human, but she's busy at school. There's a lot of snow out, and shortly after she finally meets the man, Mr. Alexandrov, who frequently walks around her neighborhood, he is hit by a snowball in front of her school and taken to the hospital. Karen is called to the principal's office because the man called her name, but the principal is very understanding and doesn't blame her for the accident, suggesting instead that it would be nice to visit Mr. Alexandov in the hospital. She does, and starts to suspect (wrongly) that he may be the "Mr. X" her mother mentions in her diary, on whom her mother had a crush. The dance is canceled because of the snowball incident, although Karen convinces the principal to reschedule it for the spring, and Karen puts together an impromptu party... without telling her parents. They are understanding, and Karen is able to connect with her crush.
Strengths: Oh, my. This took me RIGHT back to middle school! Of course, I was actually in 9th grade in 1980, but the snow days, the 1950s dress up days (I blame Grease more than Happy Days). This was actually pretty good, with just the right amount of emphasis placed on social interactions, positive parents-- somehow more realistic than books today. More slice-of-life, ordinary topics, I guess. Quite fun. I'm sending this, with a bunch of others, to Molly at Lost Classics of Teen Lit-- I'm sure that her coverage of this will make me snort my tea out of my nose at 5 am some day!
Weaknesses: Tempted to keep this for my library, but really, it is amusing only to me. Sigh. My life is now the stuff of historic fiction. (Karen's dad, who works from home inventing a bionic arm, is a "room mom"! How progressive!)