Saturday, February 08, 2014

Pretty Blue Books

17814086Behrens, Rebecca. When Audrey Met Alice
February 4th 2014 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky 
E ARC from

Audrey feels a bit hemmed in by her responsibilities as First Daughter now that her mother is president. She misses her friends back home, and is having trouble fitting in to her new school, although she has a crush on Quint. After her movie party for her class is canceled, she finds a diary and a pack of very old cigarettes under the floor boards in her room. These turn out to belong to Alice Roosevelt, who certainly was a celebrity figure in the early 1900s. Audrey finds herself taking a lot more chances when she reads about the sorts of derring-do that Alice got up to. She forgoes the little girl clothes her mother wants her to wear, attempts to sneak out to smoke the ancient cigarettes, and speaks out publicly in support of gay marriage after talking to her uncle about his disappointment in not being able to marry his partner. These actions get her mother in trouble, and Audrey has to find a balance between being her own person and being a person in the public eye.
Strengths: This is based on some good research, and even the voice of Alice's diaries seems rather authentic. Neither girl is badly behaved-- just frustrated with a situation that should be fun but can feel very narrow. The historical notes in the back are helpful.
Weaknesses: I had sort of hoped this involved time travel, but it didn't. That's okay, though, because it means that this would be a good way to get historical fiction to readers who might be against it. (But that's a strength and not a weakness.)

13037526 Hayles, Marsha. Breathing Room     
June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

In 1940, Evvy is sent to the Loon Lake Sanitorium to try to be cured of her tuberculosis. The standard treatments of extreme rest (no talking, no coughing, certainly no getting up out of bed for a long time!) are covered, but Evvy does manage to make some friends with the other girls in her ward. There is some buzz about WWII and popular culture at the time, and some people get better and some don't. For a nonfiction title to go with this, try  Invincible MicrobeQueenie is another book about this disease.
Strengths: I picked this up because I have a student doing a National History Day project on tuberculosis, and this certainly had a lot of information about treatment during this time and what it was like to be a patient.
Weaknesses:  Like all of the novels I have read set in tuberculosis sanitoriums (Martha Brooks' Queen of Hearts, Ellis' The Year of My Indian Prince, Degens' On the Third Ward, Hull's View from a Kite-- why do I know this?), this moves slowly because that's what it was like to be in a sanitorium. I can't say I get students who ask for this kind of book, and yet I keep reading them!

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever read The Plague and I, by Betty McDonald? I am rather fond of tb ward stories myself, and have been meaning to read this one...