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review 2017-03-02 05:43
Here's to You, Rachel Robinson
Here's To You, Rachel Robinson - Judy Blume

This one comes closer than Just as Long as We're Together to the Judy Blume I remember.  

 

Rachel Robinson is the tallest girl in her class, a gifted student taking advance classes, on the debate team and an aspiring musician.  Her mom's a trial lawyer who has just been appointed a judge, and her father is a lawyer-turned-teacher.  She's the youngest of three and a very serious girl who compulsively cleans her room, her closet and her drawers when she's stressed.

 

To those around her she's extremely competent and intelligent, so naturally she's offered places in special programs: social, academic, theatrical and her friends want her to run for class president.

 

Judy Blume has perfectly captured the duck-on-the-pond teen: calm, cool and collected on the surface but underneath a boiling, churning, furious paddling to keep it all together.  Her family life is far from tranquil and the worse things get at home, the harder she tries to control her immediate surroundings.

 

If this book were written today, there'd naturally be a semi-catastrophic climax to the story; something allowing Rachel to shatter and put herself back together into a healthier, better adjusted self.  But that's not real life and Blume does real life, even if it makes for slightly less exciting reading.   There are small, pivotal moments throughout the story; tiny releases of pressure here and there, that aren't magical fixes for anything.  Rachel moves along, grows up, discovers that she continues to wake up each morning and the world continues to turn.

 

If Blume did anything for her readers it was sharing with them the knowledge that they aren't alone in their experiences, their feelings, or their angst.  She may not do riveting yarns, but she does comfort better than anyone.

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review 2017-03-02 00:53
Just as Long as We're Together
Just as Long as We're Together - Judy Blume

This book and its followup, Here's To You Rachel Robinson are the only two Young Adult books by Judy Blume that I had not read as a young adult (they were published after my time).  I saw them both at a Free Little Library and thought, why not?

 

It's good, but I don't know if I'm missing something reading it for the first time as an adult; some small essence of teen that can be recalled but not brought up fresh, or if this just isn't as good as Blume's other YA books.  I enjoyed it but it failed to click with me on any deep level.  

 

The girls' friendship is flawed from the beginning; secret keeping is a big part of the plot here, but of all the secrets kept and revealed, the biggest one

that Rachel knew about Steph's parents' separation before she did

(spoiler show)

was never confronted or discussed.  How do you know something like that and not bring it up with your friend?  Keeping secrets about your own self is your prerogative, but keeping secrets that affect your bff seems inexcusable. 

 

Who knows though, I might have missed some subtle hint that Steph knew and was just not facing it.  Or maybe that just isn't a big deal to teens and I don't remember that far back as clearly as I'd like to.  Either way, it was still a good read, even if it wasn't a classic Blume.

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review 2017-02-26 07:47
Double Love (Sweet Valley High, #1)
Double Love - Francine Pascal

Hoo boy! did teenage me have some bad taste in books.

 

I saw this yesterday in a Free Little Library and couldn't resist finding out how it would read now.  

 

It's pretty awful; what was teenage me thinking??  The characters were so cardboard: Jessica is the vain, selfish, shallow, 'evil' twin; Elizabeth is everything good and shiny.  Jessica steals Liz's love interest and Liz is all brave and noble.  Liz's love interest is an absolute jackass of an 80's teen with a 50's mentality.  And I don't even know what the hell was supposed to be going on with their parents...

 

Dumb book.  I'd probably be less harsh with it if I didn't know there were authors out there like Blume who were doing exponentially better books for teens long before this was written, but thankfully there were, and thankfully I read them.

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review 2017-01-21 06:00
Smart Girl
Smart Girl - Sandy Miller

Books like these showcase the genius talent of Judy Blume for writing books for teens that feel like they're coming from a teen's perspective.  Sandy Miller is no Judy Blume.

 

I remember reading this way back when, but the only vague memory I had was that it appealed to me because the MC, E.E. was a very late-in-life child for her parents, as I was.  At the time, I probably overlooked a lot because of that, but after reading it again some 30 years later, forget it.

 

The message is an age old one - several age old ones, in fact: just be yourself, people need people, when it comes to friends, take the first step, take pride in your appearance, etc. etc.  But the writing is so clearly done by an adult who is lecturing their reader via parable that it's hard to take it seriously.  Imagine this scene, and substitute any 4 teenaged girls you know:

 

"Um...well...like my clothes," [E.E.] said, hesitating.  "I can't afford to just go out and buy all new things, and the ones I have are pretty blah."

 

"That's no problem," Rita said. "Your clothes are basically fine, if you just dress them up with a few bright colours."

 

"Why don't we come over one evening?" Sheryl suggested. "We'll go through your wardrobe and the three of us can decide exactly what you need."

 

..."You'll probably be surprised  at how little you need to buy," Sheryl continued enthusiastically.  "A new scarf or belt can work wonders."

 

Said no teenaged girl, ever.  I know some pretty awesome, responsible, teen-aged girls and none of them would have ever had a conversation even close to this.  Then there's the actual event, where the girls empty out E.E.'s wardrobe, make a written inventory of it, create outfits out of everything and then come up with a list of accessories E.E. can buy to round out her wardrobe.  This is a scene written by a grown woman who has forgotten or refuses to remember what being a teenage girl is all about.

 

Don't get me started on E.E. being scarred enough to become a "cold and hard" girl after one study date with a boy - a boy she admittedly didn't like much - turned out just to be a study date.  There's not a thread of authenticity in any of the characters in this book.

 

Still, it earns points for being published in 1982 and featuring a girl who is not only very intelligent and places a high premium on being intelligent, but whose favourite subjects are science and math, and for never once insinuating that this is weird, special, or rare.  That alone gets this book 2 stars. 

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review 2017-01-20 04:06
The Midnight Queen
The Midnight Queen - Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Imagine a spin on a Cinderella type fairy tale, mashed up with the Magic of Merlin, the mythology of Greece, Norse and the Romans with a gratuitous nod to Christianity and Judaism, set in an alternate UK/France and you'd have a good idea of The Midnight Queen.

 

I'm pretty sure this is meant to be a YA targeted story, but the writing works well enough to be argued either way.  It's pure fantasy, and it was entertaining.  When I was reading it, it was easy to lose myself in the story.  I didn't rate it higher because when I wasn't reading it, I didn't feel compelled to go back to it, which means, for me, that the characters failed to make me feel invested in their outcomes.  

 

Still, it was an enjoyable read and I'd recommend it to anyone with an affinity to fairy tales.

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