Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Two-Way Street || Lauren Barnholdt

It's a tricky game when you review books written by friends, and I've known the author for almost two years now. But ever since I'd read the blurb, I had a feeling that Two-Way Street, by the snarky Lauren Barnholdt was going to blow me out of the water. And it did.

Told in the same back-and-forth time jump of her debut novel Reality Chick, Lauren added another level and threw in alternating viewpoints! My brain hurts just thinking about working on something like that! But Lauren pulled it off well.

Courtney is forced to drive across the country with her ex-boyfriend Jordan because well, they'd planned the trip before they broke up, and it was too late to make alternative arrangements. At least, that's the word out on the street. The other word is that Jordan dumped Courtney for a chick he met on MySpace. And now she has to ride across the country with him. The guy who dumped her for a MySpace skank who Courtney has named Mercedes in her mind.


Poor Courtney.

The story jumps back and forth between the past, highlighting the development of their relationship, and the present—the three days on the road. You will be pleasantly surprised at the twists that pop up in this book, and you'll be rooting for both of them at the end.

My only complaint isn't even Lauren's fault. It's the cover artist's/photographer's fault. Jordan drives an SUV in the story, and there is a CONVERTIBLE on the cover. *grumble*

Oh well. The book's good.

Get it here: Two-Way Street

Monday, June 11, 2007

Boy Toy || Barry Lyga

Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is.
And fortunately for us readers, Barry Lyga doesn't make us wait too long to learn Josh's secret either...and once it's revealed, there is no turning back.
Five years ago, Josh's whole world was shattered. Some tense moments during a harmless game of "spin-the-bottle", a frantic slip of the tongue, and everything was different. In a bad way. Although his name was kept from the papers, everyone knew. Many lives changed as a result.
Now, Josh has a lot on his plate—college decisions, issues in his parents' marriage, a tendency to lash out violently, the girl he avoided ever since a fateful night during Spin-the-Bottle, a baseball coach who's on a perpetual power trip, and above all, the guilt he feels for seducing his social studies teacher. Affected with what he calls "flickers," Josh flashes back to those moments in his past in a most vivid way, never once blaming his teacher anything that happened.
This book is intense and riveting. Lyga captures the dialogue and thoughts of a teenage boy rather well. Not that I've ever been a teenage boy or anything, but I'm guessing they'd think a lot like Josh, even with his past weighing on him.
The book is realistic without being over-the-top; the tension builds at a perfect pace. I could have done without quite so much baseball jargon, but it's a part of Josh, and part of what makes him come alive. The book has a lot of language and many sexual innuendos. Never a problem for me, but there are probably some parents and librarians who'd want to take heed. This is definitely for an older YA audience. That audience will love the book though. It held my attention until the very last word, even with all the baseball stuff. ;)

Preorder it here (pub date September 2007): Boy Toy

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Edification of Sonya Crane || JDGuilford

Kimani TRU is a newish line of books for African American (okay, so I really prefer to say "black" only because I've NEVER been able to call myself African American without feeling like some kind of idiot, but whatever...) teens, but the plot of this one really intrigued me. As a light-skinned black person, I sometimes struggle with fitting in. Is it with the white people, with whom I tend to have more in common, as I listen to Death Cab for Cutie rather than Jay-Z? Or the black people, because that's who I *should* be with? Sometimes I forget the world is not accepting of me no matter what shade my skin is, because all they see is "black." I've never read a book where a middle-class white girl emulates the "ghetto" life of the black girls, but that's exactly what Sonya Crane does. That intrigued me enough to grab the book when I saw it on the library shelf. I loved the irony that the girl Sonya wanted most to be like ended up being what *some* may consider an "oreo"—black on the outside, white on the inside. Tandy Herman loves "white bands," she's brilliant in school, and yet she covers it all up so she can appear "down." Being a nerd is simply not cool, and having a 4.0 GPA is just... wrong. I learned that lesson the hard way during junior high/intermediate school. (It wasn't called middle school yet back then).
Sonya and Tandy become fast friends, but under false pretenses. Everyone thinks that Sonya is "mixed," and the stakes grow more and more as Sonya gets more involved in rallies and movements designed to promote black pride. The relationship grows in tension because both girls have big secrets that could destroy their social lives. Throw in typical girl vs. girl crime, and you have crazy, thick tension.

I would like to note the interesting use of covers. The cover to the up top is the original cover, but the cover to the right is the cover that amazon uses—a girl who is more visibly white. But part of the reason Sonya was able to "pass" was because of her more "ethnic" features, like curlier hair and a wider nose. And at the Kimani TRU Web site, the original cover is the one being promoted. What prompted the publisher to release a different version of the cover? Or is this something amazon did on its own?
The premise of this story was great. It is very interesting to read about someone having identity issues because of race, as I live with that every day. However, Sonya's life was far from charmed, and instead is strongly tainted with drug addiction, violence, and sexual abuse. The language in this book is strong, and the situations are very intense. It got to be a bit much for me at times. I wouldn't recommend this for the faint of heart.

Buy it here: The Edification of Sonya Crane