Sunday, June 05, 2011

Stupid Fast

Herbach, Geoff. Stupid Fast.Felton has always been a squirrely, little kid, but one spring he finds that he not only has grown a ton, he has been able to channel his energy into running and is amazingly fast. He is recruited for the track team, where he meets some boys who encourage him to play football. Over the summer, he trains for that and gets even bigger, but everything else starts falling apart. His best friend is away for the summer, and Felton is running his paper route and has met the piano playing prodigy who is renting his house. They develop a romance, but something is terribly wrong with Felton's mother. Even though Felton's father committed suicide ten years ago, his mother was holding everything together, but now she isn't cooking or cleaning or even leaving her room. This affects Felton's brother, too, who stops playing the piano and burns all of his clothing. Despite his success on the football field, Felton's sports career isn't going well either, because some of the other players resent his abilities and take it out on him. When everything falls apart, on whom can Felton count?

This comes out on June 10!

Strengths: This is a masterfully written book that perfectly captures the vibrating energy some teenage boys have. You can FEEL the hormones coursing through Felton's veins and completely understand his need to run, run, run. The romance is good, too, touching on a delicate matter in a fairly sensitive way. I love that the girlfriend confides in her father AND tells Felton that the two discussed the matter! This is definitely a problem novel-- when things fall apart, they fall apart in a big way, but there is a hopeful sense of humor and a strong support network to take care of Felton, his brother and his mother. Really, really good book.
Weaknesses: The first f-bomb I could excuse, as it heralded the mother's descent into mental illness. The second and third made me nervous. By the time I got to the section where there were five uses on about three pages, I was just ANGRY. I want to have this book on my shelves, but I'm not going to. A huge number of the check outs in my library are personal recommendations. The students know I read all the books. Should I be responsible for every single word in every single book? Maybe not, but I feel I am. My students trust me. I am not comfortable handing them books that use words that would get the students expelled. GAH!!

On top of that, there is an article in the Wall Street Journal that has everyone up in arms-- is YA too dark? Yes, yes it is. And not only that, a lot of authors need to realize that cleaner language might result in more sales.

Watson, Renee. What Momma Left Me.
Serenity is living with her very religious grandparents in the wake of her mother’s death. The adjustment is hard for her and her brother Danny: new school, new church, and new rules. Things improve when she makes friends with Maria and enjoys a church retreat, but the truth about her mother’s death eventually comes out. Her abusive, drug dealing father killed her mother, ran away, and later killed himself. Serenity deals with her loss by writing and confiding in her friends, as well as refusing to let her grandmother teach her to cook, since Serenity’s mother hoped to train to be a chef. Danny deals with his grief by running with the wrong crowd and trying to earn money in dangerous ways that eventually lead to a tragedy.

Strengths: I liked how Serenity had a strong network of support to get her through troubling times. The neighborhood in which she lives is a tough one, but she is able to make good choices. The characters are very well developed.
Weaknesses: I could have done with the inclusion of poetry, and there was a lot of religion, but it was done in a natural way. Also, girls are not going to expect a book with a cake on the cover to be this dark.

Jensen, Melissa. Falling in Love With English Boys.Catherine is super bummed because she has to move to London because her mother is studying the life of a girl, Katherine, who kept a diary in 1815. She does a lot of whining in her blog until she meets the daughter of a local shopkeeper and starts to hang out with her friends, and also meets Will, a very cute descendant of Katherine’s. Alternating chapters point out the similarities between the two girls: both love to shop, hang out with friends, and obsess about boys. Perhaps London will not be so horrible after all!

Strengths: Very nice romance, as well as fantastic travel description. Will takes Catherine sight seeing all through London. *Sigh* Can I read it again? (I'd be able to-- older teen daughter snagged this, read it, and asked to keep the copy I got at a book look because she adored it. Since it was paperback, I said she could.)
Weaknesses: Really? Complaining about being in London? The historical bits were interesting, but seemed a little less than authentic—they had that ring of trying to bring modern sensibilities of independent girls to a previous time where that sort of girl was probably very rare. The modern bits more than make up for that, at least after Catherine stops whining!


  1. Hi Ms. Yingling, so glad you liked Stupid Fast and I want you to know I take your f-bomb complaint seriously. Hate the idea that I'd put teachers in a hard position (my mom was a high school English teacher for 30 years). Thank you.


  2. Would you say that Stupid Fast looked and felt like a middle-grade book, with some heavy swears included out of nowhere?

    If they're handled well, I think some swearing in YA is acceptable. Although, of course, if I was in a school, not a public library, I would probably feel like I was putting my job on the line every time I chose a book that challenged community standards.

  3. Catherine and Will? really? She couldn't have picked more original names?

    Did you read Jennifer Donnely's Revolution? Sounds like a bit of a similar premise but in France. and with time travel. I think it was my fave YA all last year.