four and a half windows


Along for the Ride is classic Sarah Dessen, which means, of course, that it’s awesome. The novel follows Auden, an insomniac overachiever who doesn’t really know how to let loose, live, have fun, and connect with people, through the summer after she graduates high school and before she starts her freshman year at a prestigious university. 

Rather than staying at home with her overbearing, intellectual, egotistical mother, she decides to visit her father, his new wife, and her new sister in the beach town of Colby. When she packs, she fills an entire suitcase with her textbooks to get an early start on college reading–that’s the kind of girl Auden is, but that’s not who she’ll be at the end of the summer.

In Colby, Auden finds her father too immersed in his novel to care about his new family. She finds herself wandering the town at night, first alone, and then with Eli, a local guy who also doesn’t sleep at night. Eli is dealing with his past, and helping Auden rediscover hers and do all the things she missed out on for the past eighteen years, when her parents expected her to be a miniature adult rather than a child or teenager. She also, after a rough start in which she hooks up with a guy who turns out to be the recent ex-boyfriend of a girl who works in  her stepmother Heidi’s store, finds herself some surprising new friends, once she learns to stop judging people at first glance, something she learned from her holier-than-thou mother. A lot happens in Auden’s summer of transformation, and it all comes down to connecting with people and living life. 

As I read, I kept finding similarities in this book to my favorite Sarah Dessen novel, This Lullaby. Both books, for example, involve older brothers transformed by their girlfriends and heroines who have had to grow up too fast and whose worldviews are changed by new guys. There was more, but I don’t remember right now, and it’s not important. Anyway, it was inevitable that I would be comparing the two books, with those similarities that stuck out to me (also I reread the first book just before reading this new one) and I’m sad to say that I didn’t find Along for the Ride to be quite as strong. The characters weren’t quite as real, the voice not quite as distinct, the world not quite as vivid. Of course, not the best of Sarah Dessen is still completely excellent. I loved this book, and was not fond of putting it down. The writing drew me into Auden’s world, into the town of Colby and kept me fascinated with the lives of its residents. Auden, and all the characters, were excellently well-drawn, with people being Sarah Dessen’s real strength in all her books. She makes them real, and she always focuses a lot on the relationships between them (all kinds–friends, family, romance, it’s all here). This book is no exception; everything in that regard was very well-done. This novel does not disappoint; it is typically wonderful Sarah Dessen. 

Four and a half out of six windows:

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When the story starts, it’s been a hundred years since the Cubs won the World Series, and five years since Ryan’s father died in an accident. It’s opening day, and the anniversary of her father’s death, and Ryan’s at Wrigley Field instead of in science class. Her father loved the Cubs.

Ryan is unable to get a ticket, but she meets a boy in her math class who she’s never spoken to before, and the two of them, despite being unable to get into the game, soak up the atmosphere together. It’s one afternoon, but it’s one afternoon that will change everything for Ryan.

The Comeback Season is, yes, a book about baseball. The atmosphere of the Cubs games and Chicago is so wonderfully captured and real and alive; it made me want to move to Chicago and watch baseball. I don’t like baseball, and I’m hoping to move to New York next year. Although perhaps I should be taking the two awesome books I’ve read recently that make me love Chicago (where I’ve never been) as signs from the universe or something. 

It didn’t take me long to be completely absorbed into this story, despite the odd choice of third person limited present-tense. It’s different, but it worked; it wasn’t long before I felt myself fall into the rhythm of it. It’s so present, which sounds weird for a book about a girl who is having trouble moving on to the future, but it most definitely works. And there is rhythm here, and style, and voice, and an eloquence that is just lovely and unique, much like the book itself. 

Ryan is a complex, believable, and likeable main character. Her relationship with Nick is very real–after their initial connection, it ranges from comfortable to painfully awkward, just like any budding teenage relationship. The Cubs brought them together, and baseball is very much a theme that weaves this whole book together, and I love it. It’s a very orignal idea, to take what is otherwise kind of a girly romantic book and use baseball as the backdrop for it, but it works. It’s a very effective metaphorical mirror to what is going on in Ryan’s life. 

Much like any Cubs game, The Comeback Season is both heartbreaking and hopeful. It’s a different sort of book, and it’s amazingly poignant, powerful, and, in the end, breathtaking. It’s both predictable and unexpected, simple and complex, about the past, the present, and the future. It’s courage and faith and disappointment and hope. It’s brilliant. I never expected to love a book about baseball, but I did, and I feel certain that Ryan’s comeback season will stick with me.

Kate’s life is pretty miserable. Her best friend has dumped her. Her father quit his job to sell infomercial vitamins in the mall. Her family, as a result, is having some serious money troubles that can only be resolved by her grandmother coming to stay. Of course, Grandma being around just makes everything more tense and more stressful. Kate is also lusting after a boy who has done nothing but torment her since they met in ninth grade. Will also has a bit of a reputation around school for hooking up with every girl he sees. Kate likes Will, but she doesn’t want to, and when he starts to act like he might be interested, she certainly doesn’t want to be just another name on the long, long list of girls that Will has been with…does she?

I loved Elizabeth Scott‘s other two books, bloom and Stealing Heaven, but Perfect You just might be my favorite! It’s a close call as to which is the best, but Perfect You is in no way disappointing, and in many ways awesome. Kate is an awesome main character, but I loved all of the characters, and the complicated relationships they had with each other. Perfect You is a fresh, funny, and honest story that is everything readers will expect from this talented writer, and more! Honestly, I can’t recommend highly enough this fantastic story about family, romance, friendship, love, life, and growing up.

This is a spoiler-free review! As Meg Cabot requested on her blog, I certainly do not intend to reveal anything that might ruin it for you, but I do want to share some of my thoughts on Airhead.

Emerson Watts is a video-game-playing tomboy, a loner at a school full of those she and her best friend, Christopher, have dubbed the Walking Dead. Christopher seems to be Em’s only friend, but she likes it that way, for the most part; she just secretly wishes that perhaps he could be something more than a friend.

What seems like an annoying but relatively routine trip to the opening of a new Stark Megastore in her neighborhood, an event at which Christopher and Em are chaperoning Em’s annoying little sister, turns out to be far more important in Em’s life than anyone could have predicted. In fact, it changes her entire existence, but that’s all I feel comfortable sharing with you at the moment–you’ll just have to wait for the book to find out what happens there!

Airhead is definitely one of my favorite Meg Cabot books, and she’s written some really fantastic ones. I loved the characters, the whole premise of the novel, and, of course, Meg’s funny, distinctive writing style. Meg Cabot fans will adore this book, but so will those who aren’t necessarily fans; I gave this to a friend of mine when she had nothing else to read on a school trip, and she quite enjoyed it, even though she usually only reads fantasy! I’d say that says a lot about the awesomeness of this book, and hopefully has convinced you to preorder it (the book will be out 1 June). Like many of Meg Cabot’s books, this is a fun and entertaining read, but also a smart, and at times thoughtful, novel. I’m really excited for this book, and already can’t wait for the next book in the series! It’s not quite a cliffhanger, but the end does leave the reader itching to know what happens next. But first, you have to read what happens to set off the whole series, and for that, you’d better mark 1 June on your calendar!

Daphne Grab is a member of The Longstockings blog and The Class of 2k8. Alive and Well in Prague, New York is her impressive debut novel about Matisse Osgood, a New York City girl through and through who has to move with her parents to Prague, a small town in upstate New York about four hours away from the city. Matisse loves the city, and that, along with her bitterness about having to leave her world of art galleries and foreign restaurants and everything she loves, makes her seem to be a bit of a snob at first. Matisse has a bit of a holier-than-thou attitude; in her opinion, city people (herself included) are cultured and artistic and mature and intelligent, and the residents of Prague are backward hicks. The name of the town, in Matisse’s opinion, is a cruel joke.

However, Matisse’s attitude can be forgiven, a bit, when readers discover the real reason she and her artist parents left the city. Her father, a rather famous sculptor, has Parkinson’s Disease, or PD. He can’t sculpt anymore; he can hardly function even with the help of all his medications. Matisse can’t deal with that, and she doesn’t want anyone in Prague to find out. She doesn’t want to have to deal with the huge pity party that she left behind in the city. Matisse has a lot to deal with; she may be a pain and a snob at first, but there’s a real reason she’s acting that way. She’s refusing to deal with what’s really bothering her (her father).

Soon, though, despite her attitude, she begins to make some friends. Violet, a loner who writes poetry and sits by herself with a book at lunchtime, for one. Maybe even Hal, her next-door-neighbor who Matisse at first writes off as a complete hick, and Marco, who at first just seems like a shallow stereotype of a jock. Despite alienating her best friend in New York, maybe Matisse isn’t as alone as she thought.

I quite enjoyed Daphne Grab’s debut. Matisse is a realistic character, especially in terms of the way she handles (or rather, doesn’t handle) her father’s illness. Matisse’s character development is right on. Alive and Well in Prague, New York is an engaging, interesting story, and solidly well-written. I loved Daphne Grab’s portrayal of small-town life, and it’s pretty accurate (though I don’t live in such a tiny town, the community where I live is a lot like Prague, New York in some ways. And, yeah, I’ve been on a hayride!). I put this book down feeling quite satisfied, and I look forward to Daphne Grab’s future efforts. This book will be released on June 3.

“[…]Big Fat Manifesto is the story of Jamie, a senior in high school and a writer. She has great friends and a boyfriend she loves. She’s smart, witty, bold – and fat. Very fat. But she’s not ashamed; in fact, she writes a column in the school paper called “Fat Girl.” She educates people about the realities of being fat – the word she prefers over “platitudes like large or plus-sized – or clinical words like obese.” She’s busting myths and being loud and outspoken and, she thinks, honest – though what personal truths does she really reveal?

Big Fat Manifesto is the story of a fat girl in a society where being so is seen as socially unacceptable. In our culture, to be fat is probably the worst thing you can be. People hate fat. They don’t want to be fat. They don’t want to see fat people. They don’t want fat people to exist. To many of them, fat people aren’t even people. When Jamie and her skinnier friends go into a trendy store to expose their discrimination, that’s far too clear. But is there anything one fat girl can do about it? […]”

Read the rest here.

I wanted, also, though, to point out more of my relevant posts on my personal blog, and some reviews of other books that deal with body image.
‘Skinny’ on Redthebook.com 

‘Numbers on Redthebook.com 

My review of Jo Edwards’ Go Figure

Looks, by Madeleine George, reviewed