Saturday, August 25, 2018

Two Great High School Books

37007788Kaplan, Ariel. We Regret To Inform You
August 21st 2018 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

E ARC from Netgalley

Mischa attends a prestigious private school near D.C., at great personal cost to her single mother. Mischa has done everything she is supposed to do, keeping up her grades, doing well on tests, and getting good letters of recommendation from her teachers. When college acceptance day rolls around, however, things go badly, and in the end, Mischa doesn't even get accepted by her fall back school. Her friend Nate is very supportive and tries to help, but Mischa doesn't want to disappoint her mother, so claims that she got into Paul Revere, just so she doesn't have to tell her. She's so upset that she even visits Revere and talks to an admissions officer, and when she is there, catches a glimpse of her transcript-- which has Ds on it! Since the lowest grade she ever got was an A-, in gym, Mischa starts to investigate. A group of girls in her school who like to dabble in hacking help her out, and they soon uncover (after much fun sleuthing!) a grade changing ring that rewards the students whose parents have donated a lot of money to the school and that penalizes students who do very well but are poor. Even though this ring affects Nate, with whom she has an increasingly close relationship, Mischa manages to team up with her arch nemesis to put things to right.
Strengths: This is blissfully middle grade appropriate, which I appreciated. Mischa is a great character who is focused and really wants to make her mother happy by being successful. Her mother, who has pushed her a bit, is completely understanding when she thinks Mischa has gotten into only Paul Revere. The romance with Nate is great, and the peek into the lives of the wealthy and privileged is fun. The hacking and spying is right up there with Carter's Gallagher Girls, but more realistic. I liked it so much that I am slightly sad I don't work in a high school so I could hand it to every reader who comes into the library. (But not really, because I love middle school!)
Weaknesses: There is some borderline illegal activity, but it's essential for taking down the powers that are unfairly changing grades. There is also just a tiny bit of kissing, although to throw off a principal from finding out they had broken into the school to get records, one of the girls takes off her shirt, and there is also an Instagram account that is hacked and made to look like a girl is taking heroin.
What I really think: This was so much fun, both the grade changing ring and the romance, and I really enjoyed it. I just don't think middle school students in my area will care all that much. I would definitely buy this for any high school library.

I do understand that the East coast is more competitive when it comes to colleges, and students who want to go to prestigious universities might feel more pressure, but neither of my daughters gave college any more than the most casual thought and did okay! Have trouble really understanding books like this, but the hacking and spying made it fun!

Henry, Katie. Heretics Anonymous
August 7th 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Michael is angry enough at his parents that they have moved him and his sister yet again for his father's job as he goes into his junior year, but to enroll him in a Catholic school, no matter how good, makes him even angrier. He's an agnostic, and prepared to have a miserable time. Luckily, on the very first day he hears Lucy arguing with the teacher about religious points and thinks he has a soul mate. He does, in a way-- Lucy identifies herself as a heretic, in that her beliefs aren't quite sanctioned by the church, but she is very much a believer. She has a small group of other students who don't necessarily toe the line in plain black shoes, and they all decide that it's time to make their opinions known. They manage to do some underhanded but well thought out pranks, like changing the sex ed/abstinence video, but things get serious when the Latin teacher loses her job when her same-sex marriage comes to the attention of the school. Michael and Lucy start to date, and Michael's issues with his family situation also reach a tipping point.

Personal note: Ms. Henry is clearly a far, far better human being than I am! I have been an atheist since confirmation class, and of all the people who have been flat-out mean to me in my life, religious people have been the absolute meanest. Ms. Henry gets ENORMOUS bonus points for not only really understanding and describing Michael's beliefs, but for describing and being kind about ALL of the different beliefs she portrays. It's an incredibly difficult thing to do, and she pulls it off with a great deal of good humor as well!

Strengths: This is funny, timely, and explores a very little covered area of teen life. I spent a LOT of time involved with my church group in middle school and high school, and even more time thinking about what I believed and what I didn't. This comes up very rarely in literature, and this book covers not only Catholicism and agnosticism, but a couple of other, more exotic beliefs as well. The romance with Lucy is great, and the issues with Michael's family are realistically poignant. The cover is absolutely fantastic!
Weaknesses: Drinking and allusions to sexual behavior, while mild, make this more of a YA title.
What I really think: I would definitely buy this for high school but will hope for something else similar but more in tune with middle school students.

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