Posts Tagged ‘teens’

The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin

This has to be one of the most embarrassing books I’ve read lately.  More so than the Kendra Wilkinson biography.  It’s embarrassing because it’s something that I would have read in 4th grade.  And I’m 27.  But I am a proud former Babysitters Club fan, so I couldn’t resist.  And I know that all of you other BSC-ers want to know.

The Summer Before” is the recently released prequel to the Babysitters Club series.  Were you always curious about how the Babysitters Club came to be?  Kristy Thomas, Mary Ann Spier, and Claudia Kishi are neighbors in the small town of Stonybrook, Connecticut.  During the summer before 7th grade, the tweens are keeping themselves busy but are noticing that they are growing apart.  Claudia is into art and fashion and most recently, boys, after her pool party birthday where she meets a boy who is a few years older than her.  Kristy thinks that boys have cooties and is mostly focused on sports.  Mary Anne is shy and is still treated like a baby by her widowed father.

In typical BSC book fashion, each chapter is told in the perspective of a different girl.  Kristy’s birthday is coming up, and more than anything, she wants to hear from her father.  She is also unhappy about her mother’s relationship with Watson (the father of Karen, of the “Babysitters Little Sister” series).  Mary Anne is also thinking about a lost parent, her mother, who passed away when Mary Anne was young.  She finds a box of her belongings in the attic and frequently looks through to learn about her mother.  She’s also realizing that she’s no longer a child, even though her father still treats her like one, and she is tries to show him that she is growing up.  Claudia gets her first boyfriend, Frankie, an almost-9th grader, but learns that maybe her feelings were stronger than his.  She also recognizes that maybe she’s growing up faster than Kristy and Mary Anne and perhaps they don’t have as much in common as they used to.  Stacey McGill is also introduced in this book, although just in a couple chapters.  Stacey’s family relocates to Stonybrook from New York City.  Stacey had problems at her old school after being diagnosed with diabetes.  Her family hopes to start her life over in a new town.

The three girls make attempts to spend time together over the summer, but there is a clear separation between Claudia and the other two.  Right before school starts back up, Kristy comes up with an idea to start a club where the local parents can call and reach a group of babysitters to book someone without making call after call when people aren’t available.  Mary Anne’s father finally is convinced to let her babysit alone, which is perfect timing.  After Claudia’s breakup with Frankie, all three girls talk and realize that maybe they are growing up at different rates, but they will still always be friends, no matter what.

I’m wondering if this book was written for the 10-year old crowd, or for someone like me in their late 20′s who wanted a walk down memory lane.  Either way, it definitely brought me back!  I didn’t remember a ton about the series, but as I was reading, I recognized names and things that happened.  Stacey wasn’t exactly incorporated into the story, just briefly introduced, and I can’t remember how she’s incorporated into the first book.  Dawn was nowhere to be seen either, but I think she comes in a few books into the series (I vividly remember “The Ghost at Dawn’s House” about the Underground Railroad secret passage!).

I actually purchased the UK version of the book (it was the cheapest one on Alibris) so there were some random British references thrown in (lots of extra U’s, “lantern” instead of flashlight, a few other things that I thought were funny).  There were a few other things that I thought were weird – the cover of mine had a picture of what looks like a cell phone?

The series ended in 2000 (I’m sure the girls were still 13 years old) after a 14-year run, but were being rereleased starting in April 2010.  I wonder if the books were being modernized, hence the cell phone on the cover.  Email or computers weren’t mentioned at all in this one.  Who knows.

There is SO much more that I could talk about regarding the BSC, but maybe I’ll save that for another post.  But I’ll just ask this: what was YOUR favorite book of the series?  I don’t know if I could pick a single book that was my favorite, but I know I always loved the Super Specials!

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Browsing around on Amazon one day, this book came up as one of the “Recommended for You” picks.  I don’t tend to pay much attention to book summaries because after I received the book in the mail, I realized that it was a Young Adult novel.  But that’s okay – I still think some Young Adult books are entertaining and interesting.  I also took a YA literature class in college to fulfill my lit course requirement and I really liked the class (plus I got an opportunity to read some books that I never got a chance to in high school).

Thirteen Reasons Why” is about a pretty serious subject – teen suicide.  Although it’s a little different than you may think… Hannah Baker has already taken her life.  One day soon after the incident, one of her high school classmates, Clay Jensen, receives a mysterious package on his doorstep.  When he opens it, he’s shocked to find what’s inside.  Inside are seven cassette tapes, each numbered front and back written in blue nail polish.  When Clay pops the first tape into the cassette player in his garage, he can’t believe that he’s hearing Hannah’s voice speaking to him.  Hannah has very strict instructions for the listener of these tapes and they must be followed through with or else.  What are the tapes about?  On each tape, Hannah talks about one of the thirteen people who drove her to end her own life.

As Clay starts hearing about things that his classmates did to ruin Hannah’s life, he’s wondering what he could have possibly done to hurt her.  They had worked together at the movie theater and Clay actually had a crush on her but was afraid to ask her out.  As he switches each tape, he is curious as to which tape is his.  As Hannah speaks, she also refers to a map and certain locations that relate to parts of her stories.  Clay had found this map in his locker several weeks before, when Hannah was still alive, but didn’t understand what it was and just had shoved it into his backpack.  Clay continues to listen, tape by tape, learning secrets about his classmates that only the other twelve people on the tape plus Hannah will ever know.   He also realizes that he may have been the only one who could have saved her.

Even though I mentioned that this was a YA book, I didn’t think it was inappropriate for an adult to read.  I actually liked it (for it being about a very serious and sad subject).  The way it was written, the story would be told from Clay’s perspective but then the transcripts from Hannah’s tapes were also incorporated as Clay was listening to them.  It really also makes you think about how your actions may effect someone else, even when you think it’s no big deal.  Some of the things that happened to Hannah didn’t seem like something to end your life over, but to her, obviously they were.  For someone who has a child that is high school age (not me!), it also may open up your eyes to see what goes on in their lives and maybe they need some support or someone to talk to.

This is Jay Asher‘s first published novel.  The official website for “Thirteen Reasons Why” is pretty cool – it includes an interactive map that Clay follows in the book (Clay’s was a real paper map, not interactive – just to clarify) and videos of each of Hannah’s tapes.

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

A new book was released last week from one of my favorite authors, Jodi Picoult.  Unfortunately, the book isn’t available for the Kindle yet so I can’t read it.  I refuse to pay $14-18 in a store when I can (eventually) get it for $9.99 for the Kindle.  I guess I’ll just have to wait.

In the meantime, I thought I’d write about one of my favorite books of hers, “Plain Truth”.

This was the second Jodi Picoult book that I ever read (“My Sister’s Keeper” was the first) and it totally made me fall in love with her writing.  In “Plain Truth”, a teenage Amish girl named Katie is accused of murdering her baby…. which she denies even ever giving birth to.  Ellie is a lawyer who is familiar with the Amish and agrees to take on the case, even though Katie really doesn’t want her help.  Throughout most of the book, you are asking yourself several questions: Was it really her baby?  How did she get pregnant?  How did the baby die?  What really happened in that barn???

Ellie asks an “old friend” of hers, a psychiatrist, for assistance in determining what is truth and what is fiction and as Katie goes to trial, the real story comes out, piece by piece.  During this whole process, Katie is being shunned by her Amish community (including her own father) and you learn a lot about the rules and values of the Amish people.

Bonus – this book has been made into a movie!  I’m sure everyone has heard of or seen the movie version of “My Sister’s Keeper” (except me!  I know I would hate it.), but “Plain Truth” was a Lifetime movie starring the wonderful Mariska Hargitay.  I accidentally ran across it while browsing the TV listings guide a few months back and watched about half of it.  I accidentally fell asleep during the other half – not at the fault of the movie.  I probably had a migraine.  Anyway, I totally love Mariska in “Law & Order: SVU” and was worried that she’d have the same I’ll-kick-your-butt demeanor that she does as Detective Olivia Benson, but she doesn’t.  She has a much softer personality and you could see her being someone that a frightened, confused teenage girl could trust and bond with.

What I like about this book is that I was asking myself questions and trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle throughout the story; it was never just handed to me already put together.  I also enjoy books involving trials and such, as long as they’re about something interesting (that’s probably why I’m a big fan of “Law & Order: SVU”, too).  Quite a few of Jodi Picoult’s books have this same feel, typically the newer ones, but I had a really hard time reading some of her older books.  I’ll write about her other books another time!  Hopefully I’ll be able to write about “House Rules” sometime soon… as soon as it comes out in Kindle format!

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Jaci has read 1 book toward her goal of 35 books.
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