Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu. Somewhere Among
April 26th 2016 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
In this novel in verse. Ema's mother is from the US, and her father is Japanese. They live in the city until Ema's mother, who has had a number of miscarriages, can no longer take care of herself or Ema because she is so sick with another pregnancy. They move in with her father's parents. Her grandmother is difficult and hard to please, and nothing Ema does is right. Her grandfather is older and a bit sickly, but adores his granddaughter. The mother is too ill to do much but throw up and try not to fight with her in-laws. Ema's father comes to visit at first, but the journey from the city is very long, and his mother soon wins out in dissuading the father from coming. Ema has to start school and is bullied by Masa, whose mother hits him. All of this is set against the backdrop of late 2001, and mentions 9/11, which is difficult for the family because the grandfather lived through Nagasaki, and they worry about the mother's parents in the US. Eventually, the mother has the baby two months early, the grandfather ends up in the hospital, and Ema has to deal with her grandmother on her own.
Strengths: We need more books covering 9/11 as a historical event, and this was a nice perspective from another country. The details of life in Japan were very interesting, and things like how the school day runs and what houses are like will be new to young readers. Ema's worries about her mother and her struggles with her grandmother are realistic.
Weaknesses: This is very sad and moves slowly. Since novels in verse do very poorly in my library, I don't think I'll buy this one.
What I really think: Reading this felt like being hit repeatedly about the head with a tear-soaked teddy bear. It just got sadder and sadder and sadder. I appreciate that the author was trying to share life in Japan with an American audience, and if this had been ANY happier I probably would have bought it. 9/11 is sad enough without the premature infant and constantly sick mother and grandfather.
Hartnett, Sonya. Golden Boys
April 12th 2016 by Candlewick Press
When the Jensons, with their well-to-do dentist father, move into a working class neighborhood in 1970s Australia, they incite jealousy in Freya, who is tired of living in cramped quarters with her five siblings and abusive, drunken father. Freya is at first mesmerized by the kindness of Rex, the father, but later realizes that there is something a little creepy about the attention that he pays to the children, and that the family has left their previous home under a cloud.
I had great hopes for this book-- for one thing, I love the cover. Interestingly, the Australian blurb bills this as "the author's third book for adults". That's what it read like-- there was something about the very slow, descriptive prose and Freya's longings and philosophical musings that made it seem like it was NOT a tween book. There wasn't anything horribly inappropriate, but a decent amount of coarseness. There were also a lot of Australian terms that US readers might not understand. Will pass on buying.