2

Charming: The Sound of Your Voice…Only Really Far Away by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Hello!

I accidentally read the third book in a trilogy recently…before reading the first two! OOPS!

I honestly didn’t know The Sound of Your Voice…Only Really Far Away by Frances O’Roark Dowell belonged in a trilogy because it really did seem to stand on it’s own.

In the conclusion to the bestselling Secret Language of Girls trilogy, Marylin and Kate find that boys can be just as complicated as friendship. Marylin knows that, as a middle school cheerleader, she has certain obligations. She has to smile as she walks down the hall, be friends with the right The Sound of Your Voice Only Really Far Away by Frances O'Roark Dowellpeople, and keep her manicure in tip-top shape. But Marylin is surprised to learn there are also rules about whom she’s allowed to like;and Benjamin, the student body president, is deemed unacceptable. But maybe there is a way to convince the cheerleaders that her interest in Benjamin is for their own good.

Kate, of course, finds this ludicrous. She is going to like whom she likes, thank you very much. And she just so happens to be spending more time than ever with Matthew Holler. But even a girl who marches to the beat of her own guitar strings can play the wrong notes;and are she and Matthew even playing the same song? She’s just not sure. So when Matthew tells Kate that the school’s Audio Lab needs funding from the student government, she decides to do what she can to help him get it.

But there isn’t enough money to go around, and it soon becomes clear that only one of the two girls can get her way. Ultimately, though, is it even her way? Or are both girls pushing for something they never really wanted in the first place?

One thing I absolutely think is perfect about this book is the cover. The colors are just so bright and inviting. It is one of my favorite books to display in my media center!

Like I mentioned before, The Sound of Your Voice, is the conclusion of a trilogy. Since I read it without having read the first two books I can honestly say that I do believe it can stand alone and you don’t have to have read the previous books. Dowell does a good job of providing context in a way that doesn’t feel like she is playing catch up; there is no “previously on Dawson’s Creek” moments.

Identity and personal ethics are big themes for this book. Both Marilyn and Kate are struggling to figure out their own identities and how these identities relate to and influence the choices they make. They’re basically asking themselves questions about the type of person they will be.

The girls’ on-and-off-again friendship is completely relateable to anyone who has experienced middle school. While struggling with the shape of their own identities, they’re also figuring out if its okay for their friend to have a totally different identity – can friendship even happen with they’re so different from one another? These questions are so well known to middle schoolers that it just amazes me how well Dowell writes them. It’s like she vividly remembers what it was like to be at this pivotal stage in life.

As implied on the cover and in the book’s summary, there is some romance woven throughout the story, but it really does take a backseat to the real focus, which is Marilyn and Kate’s personal and relational issues.

For those of you who have actually read the first two books, you’ll enjoy hearing from these characters again. And for the people like me, who happened on The Sound of Your Voice…But Only Really Far Away without knowledge of the trilogy, you’ll be pleased with this charming contemporary story of friendship and identity.

Author: Frances O’Roark Dowell

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (August 27, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 192 pages

Series: Third book in The Secret Language of Girls trilogy

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far Away (Secret Language of Girls)

0

Cringe-Worthy Decisions: How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen

Well hello there!

As you may already know, every summer I read all fifteen of the Florida Sunshine State books so I can better promote them to students at school and because I love middle grades fiction. Well,  How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen is the sixth How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal AllenSunshine State book I’ve finished this summer.

Thirteen-year-old Lamar Washington is the maddest, baddest, most spectacular bowler at Striker’s Bowling Paradise. But while Lamar’s a whiz at rolling strikes, he always strikes out with girls. And his brother, Xavier the Basketball Savior, is no help. Xavier earns trophy after trophy on the basketball court and soaks up Dad’s attention, leaving no room for Lamar’s problems.

Until bad boy Billy Jenks convinces Lamar that hustling at the alley will help him win his dream girl, plus earn him enough money to buy an expensive pro ball and impress celebrity bowler Bubba Sanders. But when Billy’s scheme goes awry, Lamar ends up ruining his brother’s shot at college and every relationship in his life. Can Lamar figure out how to mend his broken ties, no matter what the cost?

How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy has this rhythm to it that is just awesome.  Seriously, just read this first paragraph:

“Since Saturday, I’ve fried Sergio like catfish, mashed him like potatoes, and creamed his corn in ten straight games of bowling. And it’s just the middle of the week. People call Wednesday “hump day,” but for Sergio it’s “kicked-in-the-rump day.” I’m his daddy now, the maddest, baddest, most spectacular bowler ever.”

I literally re-read that over and over again because I just love the way it rolls off the tongue!  Allen writes this way throughout the whole book.  There are so many sentences and paragraphs that you can’t help but re-read out loud because they just sound so good!

Lamar is an incredibly likable character.  He’s your average kid struggling to get out from under his brother’s shadow and deal with life after his mother died. He’s awesome at bowling, but bowling isn’t basketball and in his town, basketball is king. Lamar is hilarious and the dialog between him and his best friend Sergio is laugh out loud funny! I don’t know if my students will get Lamar’s love for bowling, but Lamar is so personable they will definitely like him. You just can’t help but like him.

So, as the title suggests, Lamar makes some really bad choices and one awful one that affect everyone he knows.  Lamar is like any kid (myself at that age included) where life is all about what you feel at the moment. Sometimes this running off emotion thing leads to horrible decisions with major consequences, which Allen portrays well in this book.  Lamar knows it was wrong the second he follows through with his choice and is forced to deal with what happens after.  Some things get wrapped up nicely, and some don’t, but Lamar knows himself better because of his mistakes.

How Lamar’s Band Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy will resonate with anyone who has ever been an emotionally driven teenager (ummm everyone at some point!) who has made some cringe-worthy decisions and had to deal with the aftermath. Middle grade readers and up will enjoy this book about “the maddest, baddest, most spectacular bowler ever”!

Author: Crystal Allen

Publisher: Balzer & Bray/Harper Teen (February 22, 2011)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 288 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy