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How It Should Be Done: Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord

Hello!

In high school photography was kind of my thing. I took a photography class and was even the head photographer of my yearbook staff for a few years. There were even these little freshman boys who had lockers near mine and used to call me “Camera Girl”…I loved it! I’d read Cynthia Lord before but was really interested in Half a Chance when I realized that Lucy, the main character, was an aspiring photographer!

When Lucy’s family moves to an old house on a lake, Lucy tries to see her new home through her camera’s lens, as her father has taught her — he’s a famous photographer, away on a shoot. Will her photos ever meet Half a Chance by Cynthia Lordhis high standards? When she discovers that he’s judging a photo contest, Lucy decides to enter anonymously. She wants to find out if her eye for photography is really special — or only good enough.

As she seeks out subjects for her photos, Lucy gets to know Nate, the boy next door. But slowly the camera reveals what Nate doesn’t want to see: his grandmother’s memory is slipping away, and with it much of what he cherishes about his summers on the lake. This summer, Nate will learn about the power of art to show truth. And Lucy will learn how beauty can change lives . . . including her own.

Half a Chance is one of those middle grades novels that deals with difficult topics, but does it exactly how it should be done. Often times in middle grades fiction difficult topics are dealt with using a heavy hand, but Cynthia Lord manages to handle hard subjects with a perfect mix of sweetness and gentleness. What we see is Lucy struggling to get her father’s attention and help her new friend Nate’s family come to terms with their grandmother’s growing illness. All of this difficult stuff is approached through Lucy’s camera lens and creates a book that isn’t heavy handed in it’s struggles.

Lucy is your quintessential middle school girl who is constantly riding that line between self discovery and lack of confidence. Her father is this world renown photographer who is rarely home, she is the new girl in town who is starting to have a crush on her new friend and who isn’t too sure about the girl across the lake who hasn’t been very welcoming. I understand Lucy in the midst of all of this and she’s a very likable character.

The summer lakefront setting just adds to the gentle way Lord approaches Lucy’s story. The morning sunrises over the lake and the haunting calls of the loons (who play a major part in the story) create that kind of hazy summer setting that always seems to find itself in coming of age stories. It makes me wish I spent summers in a lake house!

I would highly recommend Half a Chance to any middle grade readers looking for a quick contemporary and even to parents interested in finding a way to open the conversation about an ill grandparent.

Author: Cynthia Lord

Publisher: Scholastic Press (February 25, 2014 )

Format: Hardcover

Length: 218 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:

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People Are Like Plants: Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg

Bonjour!

Today is my Husband’s birthday! I think he’s pretty awesome so Happy Happy Birthday to him!

HusbandOkay, on to more bookish things! Since my school is an International Baccalaureate World School, I’m always on the lookout for titles that have a global focus. TSerafina's Promise by Ann E Burghis is why I had high hopes when I started reading Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg.

Serafina has
a secret dream.

She wants to go to school
and become a doctor
with her best friend, Julie Marie.

But in their rural village
outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti,
many obstacles
stand in Serafina’s way–
little money,
never-ending chores,
and Manman’s worries.

More powerful even
than all of these
are the heavy rains
and the shaking earth
that test Serafina’s resolve
in ways she never dreamed.

At once heartbreaking and hopeful,
this exquisitely crafted story
will leave a lasting impression
on your heart.

Serafina’s Promise gets points for being a beautifully written novel. But it also get’s points for having an international (non USA) setting, and extra points for being a novel in verse! This book has it all…a librarian’s dream!

This book is set up into three clearly cut parts. To start out, we meet Serfina a preteen Haitian girl living in extreme poverty. Serafina is responsible for hiking to gather the family’s daily water provision but we quickly learn that she deeply desires to go to school and one day become a doctor. I’m impressed with the way Serafina is written because it’s impeccably realistic. Serafina is very innocent, yet she struggles with jealousy toward her friend who can afford to go to school. She deeply loves her family and sick baby brother yet is resentful towards her worried mother’s strictness. Despite living in a different setting Serafina’s realistic character allows teens from more privileged circumstances to connect with her.

One of the strongest aspects of this book is the setting. The descriptions of Serafina’s home, the flood scenes, and the city details after the earthquake, it is clear that this story takes place in Haiti, not just any random developing nation. The Haitian Creole words sprinkled in throughout the verse only add to that already strong sense of place. Sometimes non English words in a story can distract the reader, but these fit in well and are usually easily understood based on context, however there is a Haitian Creole glossary in the back of the book to help with this further (*the educator in me cheers in delight!*).

And to make this book that much better, while reading I stumbled upon a few short lines that immediately became one of my favorite quotes ever. To set the scene Serafina is working on a garden with the help of Gogo, her grandmother who praises Serafina’s hard work with the plants.

“Gogo’s word make me feel taller.

People really are like plants -

kind words make them grow.”

Serafina’s Promise is one that is strongly recommend to middle grade readers because it is such a sincere and well written story. I also think it could be a very powerful book in a classroom or book group setting, so teachers and librarians…have at it!

Author: Ann E. Burg

Publisher: Scholastic Press (September 24, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 304 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:

 

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Love and the Letdown: The Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver

Howdy!

Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy had been on my TBR list for quite some time, but it wasn’t until I had about fifteen students, all in one week’s time, command that I finally read these books. So, I just do what my students tell me, mostly because these girls were a little rabid and I was honestly a bit scared Delirium by Lauren Oliverof them! haha

So, I finally read Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem by Lauren Oliver in early fall. I was on a bit of a necessarily review writing hiatus (life was crazy yo) so I decided to consider these books as a whole.

Overall, I thought the whole premise behind these books was really inventive. The idea of love as a disease that future governments would strive to eradicate is pretty interesting. I mean when you think about it, it does makes sense that love would be seen as the root of all the world’s problems. So I was impressed with the first book, Delirium and how Oliver portrayed this dystopian world where love was a thing to be feared. Overall, Oliver’s world building was pretty strong. I loved the excerpts from the Book of Shhh (Lena’s society’s holy book) and the legends and myths that were retold to fit the society’s needs. Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

The way society was set-up in Lena’s, the main character, world reminded me a bit of the society in Westerfeld’s Uglies series. When teens turn a specific age they are to undergo massive surgery to “fix” them. In the Uglies books it is to make them “pretty”, whereas in Oliver’s books the surgery is intended to cure one’s brain of the disease of love. When we meet Lena she is prepping for her soon-to-be-scheduled “cure” when someone comes into her life forcing her to rethink everything she has been told.

I really liked the first two books, Delirium and Pandemonium. In these first two books, Lena’s world slowly unfurls until the world she knew becomes a totally different creature altogether. The momentum was building just like the rebellion….and then we got to Requiem. Really, I was enjoying the book, not as much as the first two but enjoying it, and then we got to the ending. I’m not going to give anything away here, but talk about a let down! I felt like Oliver just left us with nothing and I was Requiem by Lauren Oliversuper disappointed.

All in all, this was a fun series. In the end however, I just wanted so much more than what Oliver was willing to give, I guess. I did enjoy the books however as a whole, and would recommend them to 7th grade readers and up who are fans of the dystopian genre.

Author: Lauren Oliver

Publisher: Harper Collins

Format: Audiobook

Length: Delirium (11 hours and 47 minutes), Pandemonium (10 hours and 37 minutes), Requiem (10 hours and 13 minutes)

Narrator(s): Sarah Drew

Series: The Delirium trilogy

YA/MG: MG or YA

Buy the Book: Delirium Pandemonium (Delirium) Requiem (Delirium)

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I Finally Read John Green! Paper Towns by John Green

Well hello again!

Last year I realized that I hadn’t read any of John Green’s books. So I quickly went to my public library and grabbed the audiobook of An Abundance of Katherines. I didn’t like it.  In fact I didn’t finish it. But I continued to hear people talking, writing, and tweeting about how much I needed to read his books! So I picked Paper Towns.  I liked this one much better.

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she Paper Towns by John Greencracks open a window and climbs back into his life – dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge – he follows. After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues – and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer Q gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew.

So, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book. I was pretty much hooked from the start of the book. I mean, starting a story off with a dead body is always a good hook, right?! Well, yes! It is!  And I had no idea that this book was actually a mystery at its heart, which was kinda cool!

The main thing I enjoyed about Paper Towns is that is set in Orlando, particularly the Baldwin Park (Jefferson Park in the book) area, which I live incredibly close to.  In fact, Q and his friends all attend Winter Park High School, which I jog by frequently as it’s a 5 min jog from my house! Pretty stinkin’ cool! I love stories set in places I’ve been to, but books about where I live are even better!

So, let’s talk characters. I really liked Q and could totally relate to him and his friends.  He is a rule follower by nature who doesn’t like to take chances (sounds like we have some similarities!) and has an awesome sense of humor. So, yeah I liked Q. He grows and changes as a character throughout the story. I don’t quite know if I liked Margo Roth Spiegelman. Actually, I’m not sure if the reader is supposed to like her at all. She is so selfish and narcissistic.  This girl has obvious mental health issues but has seemingly no intention of getting healthy. But at the same time she is adventurous and exciting and completely charming. No wonder Q is drawn to her. My confusion towards Margo had no affect on my enjoyment of the story though. It’s a good story.

So, what did have an effect on my enjoyment of Paper Towns? Okay. Here we go.  The use of the “R word”. On multiple occasions.  For those of you unsure of what the “R word” is, it’s the use of the word “retard(ed)” in a derogatory way. So why does this have an effect on my enjoyment? Well, “when ‘retard’ or ‘retarded’ are used…as synonyms for ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’ by people without disabilities, it only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities as being less valued members of humanity” (r-word.org). Coming across this word in Paper Towns, was incredibly disappointing and distracting for me. I still liked the book (although definitely less than I would have had it not been used) and I don’t believe that John Green is a bad person or anything like that, I am just deeply hurt and bothered by such an accomplished (and awarded) author’s use of this hateful word.

All in all, Paper Towns is most definitely a YA novel and I would only recommend it to older middle school readers and up, but like I said before, it’s a good story and an enticing mystery. I wouldn’t say that I loved it (and I definitely didn’t dislike it!) but hey! At least I’ve finally read a John Green novel!

Author: John Green

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (October 16, 2008)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 8 hours 3 minutes

Narrator(s): Dan John Miller

Series: standalone

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: Paper Towns

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More Miri! Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale

Hi there!

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale was one of the first books that got me hooked into YA and MG fiction and it is still one of my favorites ever. So you couldn’t believe how excited I was to find out that there was going to be a sequel! Yay! More Miri!! Kyle over at A Reader’s Pensieve was so nice (as usual!) and loaned me her copy of the ARC of Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale! THANK YOU Kyle!! Now, ideally I would havPalace of Stone by Shannon Halee had time to read it before the release, but life happens.

Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city is a thrill to Miri. She and her princess academy friends have been brought to Asland to help the future princess Britta prepare for her wedding.There, Miri also has a chance to attend school-at the Queen’s Castle. But as Miri befriends students who seem sophisticated and exciting she also learns that they have some frightening plans. Torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends’ ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city, Miri looks to find her own way in this new place. Picking up where “Princess Academy” left off, and celebrating the joys of friendship, romance and the fate of fairy tale kingdoms, this new book delivers the completely delightful new story that fans have been waiting for.

Shannon Hale never lets me down. However, readers need to know that Palace of Stone is a very different book from Princess Academy. Things in book one were more innocent and more fairy tale-like, but thats what happens when one gets older: You grow, you learn new things, your eyes are open to differences etc… With Miri’s first trip away from Mount Eskel into the busy and sophisticated culture of Asland, Miri begins to see the world anew. As her eyes are opened to new ideas and new ways of living Miri becomes caught between simplicity and complexity.

Miri is just as she always was bright, brave and a little out spoken but in this book we see her grappling with far more serious issues (revolution!) than she dealt with in the first part of her story. She makes some mistakes, but pushes through to do what is right. I love Miri and would be totally fine is Shannon Hale gave us even more Miri! I enjoyed the little love triangle between Miri, Peder and Timon because it does actually move the story along. Miri’s relationship with Timon is what allows Miri to see things differently in the first place.

I will say that the world building in Palace of Stone isn’t as good as in Princess Academy. Of course authors would do most of that in their first book, but in this one we have Miri traveling to Asland, a city Miri has never been before, and I felt like I didn’t really get to know the city at all. It seemed like Asland was just a backdrop for the action to take place and it really could have been any city. Additionally, I felt like the supporting characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been (like they’d been in the first book). I only got to see Miri, and maybe a little bit of Britta, as multi-dimensional characters, but I would have liked to see more life in the others.

So, yeah, I had a few small complaints, but overall I really enjoyed Palace of Stone and think that it was an interesting continuation to Miri’s story. I’d honestly like to know what happens next for Miri and Peder, but I can’t get my hopes up for a third Princess Academy novel! ;p I do, of course, recommend this series to any middle grade reader looking for a good read!

Author: Shannon Hale

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (August 21, 2012)

Format: paperback (ARC)

Length: 223 pages

Series: sequel to Princess Academy

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: Princess Academy: Palace of Stone

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One Hot Romance: Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols

Hello! Glad to see you back!

High school senior Leah Jones loves nothing more than flying. While she’s in the air, it’s easy to forget life with her absentee mother at the low-rent end of a South Carolina beach town. When her flight instructor, Mr. Hall, hires her to fly for his banner advertising business, she sees it as her ticket out of the trailer park. And when he dies suddenly, she’s afraid her flying career is gone forever.

Such a Rush by Jennifer EcholsBut Mr. Hall’s teenage sons, golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson, are determined to keep the banner planes flying. Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business — until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers — and the consequences could be deadly.

First, I need to thank the author, Jennifer Echols, for my ARC copy of Such a Rush! When I received it I was so surprised and happy to discover that it is personalized! I love it so much, thank you!

Now, I must admit that I was a little hesitant to read Such a Rush because of the flying and airplane themes. I was worried that I’d come across pages and pages of piloting description that I’d have no interest in, and this was my introduction to Jennifer Echols so I had no idea what her writing style was like. I was pleased to find that this book didn’t bog me down with technical description at all. The flying details were there, but they were woven into the story so gently that they fit in perfectly. The funny thing is that I read most of this book on the airplane to Boston (book about flying while flying!) and became so engrossed that I stayed up late for the first three nights of my vacation to finish Leah’s story.

So, let’s talk Leah. I really loved Leah despite the fact that I didn’t immediately connect with her on a deep level. Leah is not the type of main female character I automatically relate to. She is gorgeous, tough and confident. I usually relate more with the bookish, average, smart girl who uncovers her hidden strength type, so Leah was a little difficult at first. The more I got into the story though, the more I realized that with Leah what you see on the outside isn’t always a reflection of whats going on inside. Her tough confident character is at times a wall she puts up so that she can’t be hurt by others. Leah doesn’t want people to know she is feels deeply and is as vulnerable as she is; she is complex. One thing about her that I don’t get though, is why does she so often just let people misinterpret her? Why doesn’t she stand up for herself when she knows people are judging her unfairly? Maybe she realizes it ultimately doesn’t matter. I don’t know. But I do like Leah.

Oh yeah! Leah also has crazy curly hair, and I laughed at Echols’ description of how Leah finally realized that she needed to embrace her curly hair because I had a moment just like that when I was in high school!

The romance in this book is hot. Yeah, that’s right. I said hot. There is some major pent-up passion just waiting to be released and although I loved the Hall brothers, I’m still not sure if I forgive some of their words or actions at specific parts in the story. I guess that’s okay though because it seems to me as I’m writing this review, that maybe that’s the point. Echols is writing contemporary fiction, not fairy tales, so her characters are ultimately incredibly flawed, but just like real people. Her characters are flawed because people are flawed.

I wouldn’t recommend Such a Rush to readers younger than high school because of some of the content. There is quite a bit of discussion about sex and even a sex scene or two (although Echols does leave us to imagine most of them).

The back of my book says that Such a Rush is “engrossing and intense” and I would completely agree. This is a really enjoyable summerish read for anyone searching for a quality contemporary romance. I’m definitely going to be on the look out for Echols’ other novels!

Author: Jennifer Echols

Publisher: MTV Books (July 10, 2012)

Format: ARC, Paperback

Length: 336 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: Such a Rush (pre-order)

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Trust Me, This Book Is Funny: Miracle Wimp by Erik P. Kraft

Well hello there!

I recently read Miracle Wimp by Erik P. Kraft.

Apparently I’m kind of funny, but people hardly ever notice because they don’t normally pay attention to me. Or if they do, it’s the wrong kind of attention, and they’re not going to hear what I have to say because they’re too focused on roughing me up. Do girls like funny? They don’t pay attention to me either. Even if I knew how to approach them, I’d never get my first sentence in before they’d walk away or shut me down. All this comedy gold is going to waste.

Everyone knows high school can be a nightmare, especially if you’re smart or funny. With his best friends by his side, Tom Mayo will navigate the perils of adolescence: atomic wedgies from the Donkeys, Wood Shop with crazy Mr. Boort, awkward first dates, and loathsome first jobs. Miracle Wimp by Erik P. Kraft

On my quest to read more “boy books” I came across Miracle Wimp by Erik P. Kraft, and immediately was drawn to the cover. I love this cover! The bright yellow and blue with hand drawn title is amazingly eye-catching, but not in a retina burning way! Anyway, back to my quest to find more books that will appeal to boys, I’m pretty sure this one is mission accomplished!

The boys at my school tend to be reluctant readers and when they do read they want sports or funny. Well, this one isn’t about sports (other than how bad at them the main character is) but it is incredibly hilarious. There were multiple times when Tom’s story had me cracking up out loud. I seriously cornered my husband on more than one occasion to read aloud a funny part to him. He laughed politely then edged away from me slowly…but that’s only because he had no context for the story. Trust me; this book is funny!

Kraft has definitely written (and illustrated) a high school version of the Wimpy Kid books. The book is told in episodes and has little sketches to go along with every vignette. These illustrations only add to the humor of the story and the short episodes make this book very readable and quick – a must for reluctant readers!

Tom Mayo (Miracle Wimp) is a likable main character. He’s your average goofy teenage boy who isn’t popular but isn’t the nerdiest of the nerds. He is smart and enjoys reading and drawing, but he’s also the funny guy which can sometimes save him in times of potential social danger. Tom is also a teenager who is willing to stand against people who are wrong, which really impressed me about his character (If I said more it’d be a spoiler so I won’t). He’s just a good guy trying to figure life out.

I only have two complaints. The first being the use of the “r” word (r–ard). Now, I acknowledge that it is only in the book once, but that was enough to put a slight damper on the book for me. I hate this word with everything inside of me and I hate the pain this word can stir up inside of people. I understand that the story is from a teenagers’ perspective and teens do use this word (I hear it at least 3x a day at work), but that doesn’t make it right. I believe this would should be deleted from our vocabularies. That said, I still enjoyed this book although I do feel a tinge of disappointment.

I said I had two complaints and the second one is that the story ended too abruptly. Honestly, I checked to see if pages had been ripped out (they hadn’t) and then I went online to see if there was a sequel (there wasn’t). But again, I still enjoyed the book.

Overall, Miracle Wimp will definitely appeal to older teen boys (although I’m a girl, not a teen I enjoyed it too) who are looking for a good laugh. There is some language here and there, so I recommend this one to older teens.

Author: Erik P. Kraft

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (August 1, 2007)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 245 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: Miracle Wimp

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Already On My To Buy List: The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani

Hello!  I read this book as part of the 2012 Debut Authors Challenge.

The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera HiranandaniAfter her father loses his job, Sonia Nadhamuni, half Indian and half Jewish American, finds herself yanked out of private school and thrown into the unfamiliar world of public education. For the first time, Sonia’s mixed heritage makes her classmates ask questions—questions Sonia doesn’t always know how to answer—as she navigates between a group of popular girls who want her to try out for the cheerleading squad and other students who aren’t part of the “in” crowd.

At the same time that Sonia is trying to make new friends, she’s dealing with what it means to have an out-of-work parent—it’s hard for her family to adjust to their changed circumstances. And then, one day, Sonia’s father goes missing. Now Sonia wonders if she ever really knew him. As she begins to look for answers, she must decide what really matters and who her true friends are—and whether her two halves, no matter how different, can make her a whole.

I have to say that I was captivated with this story from the start; I started it and didn’t want to put it down (although work, and real life actually did force me to!).

The Whole Story of Half a Girl is a coming of age story centered around a girl in middle school at a point in her life when everything (and I mean everything!) gets turned upside down. Sonia’s father looses his job, she has to go to a different school, her mother has to work more, her father is struggling with depression, she is trying to make new friends, and all while kids at school are making fun of her.

Hiranandani writes a story so real that it hurts at times.  The more I read, the more my mind was flooded with my own memories from this age.  Kids are not just dealing with one problem, but  are often blindsided by a multitude all at once, making the transition from child to teenager that much more challenging.  I appreciate the way this book illustrates the complexity of family issues, relationship struggles and the difficulty that comes with discovering one’s own (ethnic/religious) identity. There was potential for Sonia’s story to be easily clichéd or stereotyped, but Hiranandani manages to keep the story balanced and realistic while at the same time incredibly touching. And I think that Hiranandani does a wonderful job of writing about such deep issues, while also maintaining the middle grade appropriateness.

As a main character Sonia is both likable and easy to connect with.  In the midst of all the changes, Sonia is really trying to make sense of everything the best she can.  I especially like how realistically flawed Hiranandani writes Sonia, as exemplified in how she handles her new friendships at her new school.  Through much of the book, Sonia puts real friendship on the back-burner, instead turning her attention to the more superficial and in turn hurts some people.  Although its a mistake I understand why Sonia would do this; her life is so much upheaval she just focuses on whats easy for a while; going with the flow.  Eventually, however she realizes that going with the flow isn’t always the healthiest of practices, especially when it comes to who you spend your time with. Who, when faced with such difficult times, wouldn’t make the easy choice for a little while?

Overall, I was impressed with how moving Sonia’s story was and highly recommend it to any reader preteen and up.   The Whole Story of Half a Girl is already on my Too Buy list for my Media Center!

Author: Veera Hiranandani

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Format: Advanced Reader Copy (e-book)

Pages: 224

Series: Stand alone debut

YA/MG: Middle Grades

Buy the Book: The Whole Story of Half a Girl

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The Science of Acquiring a Boyfriend: The Boy Project by Kami Kinard

This book was my first read for the 2012 Debut Authors Challenge.

For anyone who’s ever felt that boys were a different species….

Thirteen and wildly creative, Kara McAllister just had her best idea yet. She’s going to take notes on all of the boys in her grade (and a few elsewhere) in order to answer a seemingly simple question for her science project: How can she get a boyfriend?

But Kara’s project turns out to be a lot more complicated than she imagined. Soon there are secrets, lies, and an embarrassing incident in the boy’s bathroom. Plus, Kara has to deal with mean girls, her slightly spacey BFF, and some surprising uses for duct tape. Still, if Kara’s research leads her to the right boy, everything may just be worth it…

I recently finished The Boy Project: Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister by Kami Kinard and have already added it to my To Buy List for my school Media Center.  I know for a fact my students are going to love it.  How do I know this?  Well, I know my kids.  I know they love drama, romance, journal style novels and stories about kids like themselves. Kami Kinard has hit the nail on the head with her debut novel.

Overall, The Boy Project is an entertaining and fun read.  The story is written in a journal style, similar to The Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney or The Dork Diary series by Rachel Renee Russell.  Kara has decided to study the act of getting a boyfriend for her science project, so the book is full of charts, graphs and doodles of her boy observation note cards.  Instead of chapters the book is written according to the dates Kara wrote in her “Soul Observations” journal.  All of these little illustrations are so cute and total fit in with what an intelligent and creative teen girl might actually doodle.

Speaking of the teen girl in question, Kara, is a very likeable and believable main character. I appreciate that Kinard created a smart main character who does not shy away from and attempt to hide her intelligence.  Instead of doing these things Kara uses her strengths to her advantage—she mixes her strengths (intelligence) with her interests (relationships and boys).  Throughout the book, Kara becomes more accepting of who she is and learns to embrace her creativity and talents.

I know my female students will really enjoy this book because it’s all about what is on any middle school girl’s mind—friendships and boyfriends!  Honestly, at first I was slightly bothered by the way Kara thinks that everyone in 8th grade, but her, has already had a boyfriend.  I was worried about the message this would send, but Kara’s obsession with getting a boyfriend eventually lessens as she starts to realize that having a boyfriend may not actually be the best thing ever.  I also know for a fact that boys were pretty much what I was focused on…in addition to school and my grades of course! I was also a major bookworm as a teenager (surprise! haha) and so is Kara, which adds to my love for her!  I really liked the way Kinard mentions some popular and well-loved teen fiction throughout the novel, I kept thinking, “Oh, I’ve read that one too!”.

The Boy Project is a great read for middle school aged girls and up (I’d even say some mature 5th graders too).  My only question and regret is why the heck didn’t I think of this for a science project when I was in middle school?!

Author: Kami Kinard

Publisher: Scholastic Press, January 1, 2012

Format: Advanced Reader Copy

Pages: 256

Series: Stand alone debut

YA/MG: Middle Grades

Buy the Book: The Boy Project: Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister