Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Perfect" Young Adult Books

Martino, Alfred C. Perfected by Girls.
Melinda is the only girl on her high school wrestling team. Her older brother is a captain, the coach isn't entirely supportive of her efforts, and to make matters worse, she's not wrestling well. Part of this might be because she is distracted by her new boyfriend, Stewart, and part might be that her grandmother, the driven president of a small business, wants Melinda to work with her instead of getting a fun job at the mall. Melinda is a dedicated wrestler who trains hard, but it doesn't seem to matter to some of the boys. After attending a wrestling camp for female wrestlers, Melinda is inspired to do better, but she is quoted saying unflattering things about her coach, who passes away shortly after that. The new coach wants Melinda to drop a weight class, something the previous coach never would let her do, and Melinda, spurred by guilt and anger, trains even harder to see if she can be the first girl to not only compete at a certain level but to win.
Strengths: Martino does the most awesome wrestling books EVER. (Sorry, Rich Wallace!) My daughter, who has been a wrestling stat for six years and has thought about wrestling herself, still talks about Pinned. The middle school wrestlers, many of whom ran for me, are usually big readers, and I just don't have enough books for them. However...
Weaknesses: Martino writes for high school. While there are great details about Melinda's wrestling meets, there are also far too many details about her encounters with her boyfriend for me to have this in the middle school. Sigh. I will definitely recommend this to the high school librarians and will probably donate a copy on behalf of my daughter.

Sales, Leila. Past Perfect.
Disclaimer: My parents were both teachers, and I spent WAY more time touring reconstructed villages than the average child, so the fact that Chelsea and her parents work in Essex, a colonial era village, amused me greatly. Chelsea has worked with her parents as long as she can remember, and she would much rather spend the summer working at a mall store with her friend Fiona. When Fiona decides to work at Essex, Chelsea is stuck, but at least gets to work at the graveyard instead of in her parents' silver smith shop with the annoying history geek Bryan. Across the street from Essex is Reenactmentland, a Civil War venture. The teens at both villages have an ongoing "war" where they sabotage each other. When she is "kidnapped" my Civil Warriors, Chelsea meets Dan and starts to think that he might be the key to getting over her ruined relationship with Ezra. Dan certainly is, but the two must meet clandestinely lest their camps find out about their forbidden love. When the "war" heats up, both do things they regret. How important is Essex to Chelsea, and can she and Dan overcome their differences?
Strengths: So much fun! It is hard to find romance books for middle school, and while there is lots of kissing in this one, clothes stay on. The whole angle of the reconstructed villages is wonderfully appealing!
Weaknesses: What's with the cover? This doesn't show any scene that I can think of in the book. In fact, I had a similar complaint about this author's Mostly Good Girls. I don't see how a cover designer could have avoided the colonial dress! (The Martino book, however, has an awesome cover. It's great because boys would not mind reading it.)

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