Sunday, April 02, 2017

Speed of Life and Apartment 1986

Weston, Carol. Speed of Life
April 1st 2017 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Copy provided by Smith Publicity

Sofia's mother passed away suddenly, and now that eight months have passed, all of her friends think that she should be over her loss, but she's not. Her mother taught at the private school she attends, and she and her father are going to have to leave their apartment, which is owned by the school. Her friend Kiki's divorced mother seems to be putting the moves on her father, and everything is just too much to handle. Sofia writes to the advice columnist Dear Kate with some of her problems and is surprised when she gets an answer back! She writes to Kate when things get really bad, but when it turns out that her father met the columnist at Sofia's school and is dating her, things are a bit awkward. Sofia doesn't think her father should be dating, but Kate is as nice as her daughter Alexa is difficult. When Sofia and her father start traveling out to the suburbs to visit Kate, Sofia meets Sam, who is cute and nice. Things are a little complicated, but when the school apartment has to be vacated, Kate invites the two to live with her. Things don't always go smoothly, but Sofia realizes that life goes on at a rapid pace, even when we aren't quite ready to keep up.

The author of this book has written for Girl's Life since 1994, so thoroughly understands the teen mind. This book does have a lot of very frank talk about "health class topics", although nothing is sensationalized. This is not the sort of thing that I enjoy reading, but is definitely informative to young readers who may have embarrassing questions about these very topics and lack adults in whom they can confide.

The issue of parents dating and blended families comes up in real life far more often than parents dying, so it was good to see how Alexa and Sofia got along and eventually made some sort of peace with each other. Tweens often move to new schools, so Sofia's transition from a small private school to a suburban public one will intrigue readers.

This book read very much like Phyllis Reynold Naylor's Alice books, which started over thirty years ago, or Judy Blume's Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, which is over forty years old, so it is high time there were new novels that address teen issues with helpful, unflinching advice.  Keep in mind that younger readers definitely might have questions after reading this book and will hopefully seek out supportive adults to answer them.

30653867Papademetriou, Lisa. Apartment 1986
April 11th 2017 by HarperCollins
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Callie lives in New York City, having moved from New Jersey to a very swanky apartment after her father got a much better job. Her mother, having been stressed out by being a social worker, now makes artisanal soaps. Callie has moved from a crowded, struggling school to a private one where everyone is posh and shiny. Her grandmother, who is well-to-do, lives near the school, so Callie often visits. She is a little alarmed that her grandmother seems to be very interested in a man who is a neighbor, although she allows that her grandfather passed away some time ago. The neighbor, however, has an apartment that is practically a museum to the 1980s, and Callie is a little confused as to why her grandmother seems to want to go back to that point in time so very badly. After some mild trauma at school, Callie decides to skip a day, and takes herself to a museum. There, she meets Cassius, who is "unschooled" for reasons we late find out. The two get along after an initial rough start, and Callie finds herself skipping school for a lot of time. Her parents are struggling with her father being laid off, as well as some unspecified law suits, and Callie learns some family secrets.

There are a lot of sad things going on in this book, but Callie is a frenetic and upbeat tween who tries always to see things positively. She and Cassius have a great time visiting museums, and even though he is facing his own difficulties, he is also upbeat. I loved Callie's easy relationship with her grandmother, who was delightfully individual as well.

Some of the sad issues involve Callie's uncle Larry, who was gay. I loved the interchange that Callie had with her own father, who supported his brother despite his own father's refusal to accept this-- Callie waits for her father to say that Larry was also a murderer or something horrible, because she doesn't understand why the grandfather was upset that Larry was gay. The grandmother is still grieving for Larry (hence the desire to go back to 1986), but is eventually able to make some peace with herself with Callie's help and insight.

This is definitely a New York City story, so fans of Paula Danziger, Kimmel's Forever Four and Lisa Greenwald's Sweet Treats and Secret Crushes will enjoy spending time in that city. This is a realistic fiction book, but it still has the feeling that it will verge into fantasy at any moment, making it a good choice for readers who enjoyed Stead's When You Reach Me.

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