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My Kind of Girl: Jessica Darling’s It List by Megan McCafferty

Happy first Friday of summer!

Today is our last day of the big field trip and we’ll be spending the morning at Animal Kingdom then it’s back on the bus for the six hour ride home!

I’ve always been interested in Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling books, but just hadn’t gotten around to reading them. (I even own the first two books in that series.) Then I discovered that McCafferty had written a prequel set in middle school, Jessica Darling’s It List: The (ToJessica Darling's It List by Megan McCaffertytally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection, so I figured I’d start there!

I hadn’t even gotten to homeroom yet and I’d already discovered five hard truths about junior high:

1. My best friend had turned pretty.
2. She didn’t know it yet.
3. It wouldn’t be long before she did.
4. That knowledge would change everything between us.
5. And there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

It’s the first day of seventh grade. Is Jessica Darling doomed for dorkdom? Join Jessica Darling as she learns that being herself beats being popular, pretty & perfect any day.

As a middle school librarian, I adore this cover. It’s bright and inviting. And when it’s sitting on a display shelf you’re eyes are immediately drawn to it. And basically that’s exactly what this book is: a bright and inviting story of a girl, Jessica, beginning her first year of middle school and dealing with the circumstances that come with it.

From the start I completely understood Jessica. She is your normal teenage girl struggling with the changes that come with beginning middle school, desperately wanting to fit in, and uncovering the mystery of the type of person she really is. In all of this “figuring things out” that Jessica is doing she manages to make lots of mistakes (like taking some bad advice), makes some good choices, and somehow keeps her humor and wit the whole time. This is why I like Jessica. She doesn’t wallow in her mistakes, she acknowledges them, seeks change, and soldiers on, all while making sarcastic jokes. My kind of girl!

Being a middle school librarian and a one time middle school girl myself, I think that Jessica’s middle school struggles are so honest and true to life. It’s hard to feel left behind when your friends are having a seemingly smooth transition, and it’s frustrating when you make fax-pas after fax-pas when all you want to do is not stick out like a sore thumb. I remember what it was like for me, I know what it’s like for my students and I think that McCafferty writes it all in a lighthearted way that makes you think and laugh at the absurdity/intensity of it all.

Going into this book without having previously read the other Jessica Darling books (which are more high school geared), I have a lot of questions but I am definitely making a point to take those books off my shelf and read them this summer! I think that any middle school girl, anyone who has a been a middle school girl, or anyone simply who wants to understand middle school girls will find Jessica Darling’s It List a fun, quick, and rewarding read!

Author: Megan McCafferty

Publisher: Poppy (September 3, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 223 pages

Series: First book in the Jessica Darling’s It List series

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:

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Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart

Haaaaay!

Holy junk! With this review I am finally up to date with my reviews! It is an amazing feeling! Whoot!

Today’s review is of the fourth and last book in E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver series, Real Live Boyfriends.

Ruby Oliver is in love. Or it would be love, if Noel, her real live boyfriend, would call her back. But Noel seems to have turned into a pod-robot lobotomy patient, and Ruby can’t figure out why.

Real Live Boyfriends by E. LockhartNot only is her romantic life a shambles:
Her dad is eating nothing but Cheetos,
Her mother’s got a piglet head in the refrigerator,
Hutch has gone to Paris to play baguette air guitar,
Gideon shows up shirtless,
And the pygmy goat Robespierre is no help whatsoever.
Will Ruby ever control her panic attacks?
Will she ever understand boys?
Will she ever stop making lists?
(No to that last one.)

Roo has lost most of her friends. She’s lost her true love, more than once. She’s lost her grandmother, her job, her reputation, and possibly her mind. But she’s never lost her sense of humor. The Ruby Oliver books are the record of her survival.

If you’ve read any of my other reviews on this series, you’ll know that Ruby is one of my favorite characters.  Throughout this whole series Ruby is struggling with change and acceptance and how to take care of herself while also taking care of her friends.  And in Real Live Boyfriends you see Ruby finally get it. It seems like things finally click into place. Not that Ruby is perfect, she’s still far from it, but she now knows how to work with what she has. She is just so relateable and I know that I second guessed everything like Roo does in high school!

I normally like Ruby’s parents a lot. They’re also incredibly imperfect and hilarious making them easily to love. But in this book Ruby’s mother drove me crazy! It seemed like she was acting like a whiny baby who couldn’t handle it when things weren’t easy for her.

This series is just one of the best in contemporary YA (definitely YA!).  They are realistic without taking themselves too seriously and just an all around fun series to read. If you’re interested, just know that Real Live Boyfriends is the fourth and last book in this series, so start with number one The Boyfriend List, you won’t be sorry!

Author: E. Lockhart

Publisher:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers (Dec. 28, 2010)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 225 pages

Series: Final book in The Ruby Oliver quartet

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book:  Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, plural. If my life weren’t complicated, I wouldn’t be Ruby Oliver (Ruby Oliver Quartet)

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Charming With A Twist: Welcome Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell

Welcome back to BookTasty!

I loved participating in the 2012 Debut Author Challenge.  It introduced me to new authors like Shelley Coriell and their debut books, like Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe.

Welcome Caller This Is Chloe by Shelley CoriellBig-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life. Readers will fall in love with Chloe as she falls in love with the radio station and the misfits who call it home.

This debut novel was charming, just like Chloe herself.  It was a fun story about pushing through hard times and about being there for those you care about. The book starts out lighthearted and fun but takes a twist for the more serious.

Chloe, although charming is also blind to the reality of life around her. She doesn’t realize that some people really do have real struggles that you can’t completely wipe away with a game or laughter. Seeing Chloe like this at the start of the novel you can understand why Chloe’s friends ditched her the way they did (although in my opinion that’s not the way to deal with your friendships so I’m not excusing them). I completely connected to Chloe with the whole friendship and relationship struggles as I dealt with situations that are almost exactly like Chloe’s in middle and high school. I know exactly what it feels like to not be allowed at the usual lunch table or to have rude (and blatantly untrue) things written about you in the bathroom.  High school girls are mean.

Despite all this social junk (and family junk because Chloe is dealing with that, too) Chloe matures a lot throughout the story. She not only learns how to be on her own and experience solitude, and she also learns how to just be okay in the sadness and confusion that life sometimes brings. But Chloe also learns what it means to be there for others in those difficult times.  Like the book, Chloe’s story starts out fun and lighthearted but takes a turn for the more serious.  She is a better balance of these two sides in the end.

I don’t know if Welcome Caller, This is Chloe is standalone or not, but I would love to read more about Chloe, Duncan and the staff at 88.8. This book was a really good read and recommend it to middle grades and high school readers as well as those who are older (like me!).

Author: Shelley Coriell

Publisher: Amulet Books (May 1, 2012)

Format: e-book

Length: 299 pages

Series: standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book:  Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe

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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