Saturday, May 19, 2018

All Summer Long and Road Whiz

Larson, Hope. All Summer Long
May 1st 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Public Library Copy

Bina and Austin are next door neighbors who can't remember a time when they were not friends. They normally spend their summer together accumulating fun experiences (petting cats, eating ice cream, swimming, etc.) for their Summer Fun Index, but this year Austin is off to a soccer camp. Bina's parents have decided she can stay home alone, but it's actually a really boring to spend the summer before high school. After a Netflix binge, her mother cuts her off, and Bina must find things to do. After losing her house key and breaking into Austin's house to retrieve the one he has, she runs into his older sister Charlie, who was lifeguarding but broke her arm. The two share an interest in music, and Bina is pleased to be hanging out with an older girl, helping her babysit and occasionally meeting up with Charlie's sort-of boyfriend. Austin does return her texts, and when she and Charlie fall out, the summer loses a lot of its promise, even when her uncle and his husband adopt a baby.. When Austin comes back, things are weird, but Bina does get to see her new favorite band, Steep Streets, and gets encouragement from the lead singer to pursue her musical dreams by starting a band.
Strengths: Ah, summer. It always seems like such an idyllic time, but was it, really? There's a lot of boredom, a lot of lack of direction, and it can be very difficult to get together with friends. I love that Larson capitalizes on this, as well as having Charlie be a "summer friend". Haven't we all had people with whom we only spent time in the summer, mainly because of proximity? The fact that Bina and Austin are changing is also very true to life. Quite nice.
Weaknesses: The interior illustrations are all black with an orangey yellow, which was hard on the eyes. I would have preferred just black, or maybe the lovely turquoise of the cover.
What I really think: Will definitely purchase, since this is a higher quality graphic novel like Roller Girl or El Deafo. 

Pattison, Darcy. Road Whiz
8 April 2018, Kobo Writing Life
E ARC from Netgalley

Jamie's father, who is usually away on business, wants him to play football, but Jamie doesn't want to. When he sees that his mother is depressed and gaining weight because of his father's absence, he asks her to start running with him. The two do a number of 5k races, and Jamie is irritated when a boy from school, Chan Maxwell, frequently beats him. After his mother lets him adopt a greyhound, Road Whiz, the two run together, and Jamie is glad of the companionship. School is difficult for Jamie, since he doesn't have many friends, and he is taller than average. He continues to train for races, but can't make the progress that he would like. Eventually, his father (who does visit occasionally) realizes that not only is Jamie not going to play football, but the father is also missing out on Jamie's life.
Strengths: I am ALWAYS looking for books about distance running, and this had some good descriptions of races. It's nice that the parents are alive, if somewhat dysfunctional, and good that Jamie is motivated to keep running. Dog stories are also good, and I know someone who has adopted several retired racing greyhounds, so that was a nice inclusion.
Weaknesses: Many of the details of this are half a bubble off. The treatment of the mother's weight as well as the fact that the father doesn't want her to have a job seemed odd, and I thought that Jamie would have joined a high school cross country team. His desire to always win a race rather than improve on his own time bothered me, because that's not how we motivate runners on my school team. It was also odd that he had no real friends (except for Brad at the end) and spent so much time with his mother.
What I really think: The cover sinks this one for me. I could forgive the odd details, since I need so many running books, but the 1980s font and graphic on the cover will not encourage readers to pick this up. Another round or two of edits would have helped this book a lot. It has some potential, but in the end, just didn't work for me.
Ms. Yingling

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