Tuesday, July 05, 2011

My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies

Zadoff, Allen. My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies.
NOT a sequel to Food, Girls and Other Things I Can't Have. with the further adventures of Andrew Zansky. Drat.

Instead, we are following Adam Ziegler (no wonder I was confused at first!) who is a theater techie who loves working with the lights. He has a good group of spectacularly vulgar friends, a bad case o
f acne, and crushes on a couple of girls; Summer, an actress, and Grace, another techie. The unspoken rule of hi
s school is that actors and techies don't mix, which adds some complications. Also making Adam's life difficult is the theater's golden boy, Derek Dunkirk, whose famous and wealthy father is the biggest reason why Derek has been allowed to design the entire production of A Midsummer's Night's Dream-- he clearly doesn't have enough talent to do it, although he thinks he does. When a lig
hting mishap causes one of the actresses to be injured a few days before the play is to be performed, Summer gets thrown into the role, and we watch as the faulty director melts down, Adam's friends get fed up with him, and Adam deals with his girl problems. Adam also deals with his fears in the wake of his father's death.

Strengths: *Sigh* Really, pitch perfect for 8th grade boys. Mature enough that high schoolers will like it, but clean enough that I can have it is my middle school. I know exactly which student I will hand this to on the very first day of school! Surly Teen Boy is reading this now. The characters and the romance were the things t
hat made me happiest, as well as the close knit group of friends. Excellent. And Mr. Zadoff can come to that lunch with Mr. Sonnenblick and Mr. Riordan where I just want to sit and listen to them talk. We'll make sure it's something healthy.
Weaknesses: Galley Smith thought that there should have been more discussion about Adam's fears and coping with his father's death. While it could have bee
n more fully examined, the story would have held without that element at all. I do see the point, though.

Haberdasher, Violet. The Secret Prince.
Henry Grim is back, and he and his friends are worried about the trouble brewing in the Nordlands. Henry is also concerned that his friends are changing-- Rohan has become a stickler for rules after the troubles in the first book, and Adam thinks they should no longer stay away from the rest of the students because they are different (Rohan is Indian, Adam is Jewish, and Henry is a former servant). This leaves Frankie, on whom Henry and Adam both have a crush, literally out in the cold-- the boys don't want to get caught wit
h a girl in their room, even when she brings cake! Henry arranges secret weapons training for the students because he feels that war with the Nordlands is coming very soon, and when an envoy is sent there, he and Adam tag along, disguising themselves as servants. The problem? Frankie has the same idea and ends up working in the kitchen in the Partisan school. When she doesn't make the train back, Henry and Adam stay behind to keep her safe, and uncover some alarming secrets about Henry's family that impact not only his continued education at Knightley, but the whole relationship between Britain and the Nordlands. A third book is sure to come.

Strengths: Like Knightley Academy, this has great friendships, adventure, the whole British boarding school thing that makes Harry Potter appealing to some kids... and oddly, no magic. I didn't want to read another 502 pages, but once I started it, I was absolutely hooked.
Weaknesses: Same complaint as the first book-- the twee author's name, lots of hype, and not great cover. Very solid book, though.

For people looking for books for middle readers and younger, hop over to My Favourite Books for their Under 14's Only promotion for July.I don't look at much in the way of picture books, but have some need for books targeted at the 8-10 range for my reluctant readers.

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