With all of our 7th graders reading The Outsiders, there is a constant need for fiction set in the 1960s. Fiction set in the 1960s that gives a good overview of the events of the time and DOESN'T include a large amount of sex, drugs, or foul language. Sigh. While the following book was great, my search is going to have to continue, because I would categorize this as high school or public library material.
Tash, Sarvenaz. Three Day Summer.
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
May 19th 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Michael doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. He should go to community college to avoid the draft, but he's not particularly keen on the idea. He has a girlfriend, Amanda, but she's kind of annoying and he'd like to break up with her. When his friend Evan talks him in to going to Woodstock with some friends, the group gets within walking distance before their car overheats. After they walk to Yasgur's farm, Evan breaks out some tabs of brown acid, and Michael has a bad trip. He ends up in the medical tent where Cora, who lives nearby, is volunteering. Cora has just broken up with Ned, who wants to be a doctor. Ned was the perfect boyfriend, so she's a bit bitter, especially since her family still seems to like him. Cora gives Michael tea and walks him around (the standard treatment for a bad trip), and the two feel an instant connection. Eventually, they spend time together, listening to the music, hanging out, and even meeting Janis Joplin briefly. The general atmosphere of Woodstock is well described, and Cora's struggle with career choices is one that certainly would be typical of the time period.
Strengths: Interesting background on how the locals felt about Yasgur renting out his farm, some interesting intergenerational drama with Cora and her folks, and good coverage of the musical groups. I really felt muddy after reading this one! Great description of setting.
Weaknesses: Would have liked to have seen Michael developed more; his character seemed very flat to me. Either that, or more coverage of Cora's career thoughts. The names Evan and Amanda seemed out of place. Gary and Linda, yes.
What I really think: If it didn't have the f-bombs, sex, and drugs, I'd probably buy it, even though it's a bit light on plot. Just not a middle grade book.
Lynch, Chris. Hit Count
May 19th 2015 by Algonquin Young Readers
I love Lynch's writing, and while I give him credit for some creative uses of the f-bomb, there's too much drinking and drug use, as well as the language, for me to be comfortable with handing it to students. It also is rather slow paced and introspective, which is great for Young Adult literature. A good buy for high school libraries; not so much for middle school.
From Goodreads.com: "Arlo Brodie loves being at the heart of the action on the football field, getting hit hard and hitting back harder. That’s where he belongs, leading his team to championships, becoming “Starlo” on his way to the top. Arlo’s dad cheers him on, but his mother quotes head injury statistics and refuses to watch games. Arlo’s girlfriend tries to make him see how dangerously he’s playing; when that doesn’t work, she calls time out on their relationship. Even Arlo’s coaches begin to track his hit count, ready to pull him off the field when he nears the limit. But Arlo’s not worried about tallying collisions. The winning plays, the cheering crowds, and the adrenaline rush are enough to convince Arlo that everything is OK—in spite of the pain, the pounding, the dizziness, and the confusion.
Hit Count explores America’s love affair with football and our attempts to reconcile the clear evidence of its dangers with our passion for the game."
May 5th 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Even though I have a marked inability to dress myself (my favorite jeans are Lands End dark wash mom jeans-- when they went down to $10, I stocked up. Ten years ago.), I am intrigued by fashion. This looked promising, but again, was a bit too introspective and detailed for middle school. I also got distracted by wondering what exactly an "Unum" device was, and if it really existed, like the bar code scanner in the book that tells the girls if their outfits have "expired". For my set, I'll still with Chloe Taylor's Sew Zoey books.
From Goodreads: "In Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot new clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves. Both girls are pawns in a calculated but seductive system of corporate control, and both begin to question their world’s aggressive levels of consumption. Will their new “eco-chic” trend subversively resist and overturn the industry that controls every part of their lives?
Smart, provocative, and entertaining, this thrilling page-turner for teens questions the cult like mentality of fame and fashion. Are you in or are you out?"
Dessen, Sarah. Saint Anything
May 5th 2015 by Viking Juvenile
While this one IS completely middle school appropriate, it just didn't blow me away. Along for the Ride is one of my all time favorite romance books, Saint Anything, was just a bit too whiny, and I wanted to slap the mother. Yes, the brother is in jail because he's an idiot, but how about showing some love and support to the child who is still at home and not messed up? Also thought that the title and cover were less than attractive. Will buy; just not a favorite.
From Goodreads: "Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time."