1

Just Your Average Princess: If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince by Melissa Kantor

Hello!

Have I told you how much I love fairy tale retellings?! I know I have…on more than a few occasions!

Today’s review is a contemporary version of Cinderella and its called, If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? by s Kantor.

Wicked stepmother? Check. Evil stepsisters? Check. Miserable life? Check.

Lucy Norton’s life has all the makings of a Cinderella story. Her dad’s always away on business, leaving Lucy with her cruel sIf I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince by Melissa Kantorstepmother and bratty stepsisters. She’s burdened with chores, and has a hard time fitting in at her new school. So when she sees Connor Pearson, the star player on the varsity basketball team, Lucy hopes her destiny has finally changed. With everything else going on in her life, doesn’t she at least deserve to get the handsome prince?

Sometimes the happy ending isn’t quite the one you’d expect. Lucy’s about to discover the truth about finding her real Prince Charming… and finding herself

This was an adorable and self-aware retelling of Cinderella.  One of the things I always disliked about Cinderella’s story is that her father dies in the beginning.  I really like how in Kantor’s version, Lucy’s father doesn’t die, he’s just a little (or a lot) absent and blinded to is new wife and stepdaughters’ behavior.  The reader gets the same message, that Lucy’s alone without her being completely on her own forever.

Lucy is a pretty normal teenage girl.  She’s unique because she’s an artist and a basketball fan, which everyone at school thinks is weird.  She’s also the new girl and sits on her own at lunch almost everyday.  So when a popular boy and a group of popular girls suddenly start paying attention to Lucy, she struggles with the excitement of suddenly being popular although she knows she doesn’t quite fit in.  She see’s things happen at parties that make her uncomfortable yet she really wants the fairy tale prince.

I also like the way in which Kantor doesn’t completely villainize the Stepmother, Mara and the “evil” stepsisters.  Yes, Mara and her daughters are at times (most of the time) just a pain in the butt towards Lucy.  They don’t welcome her into their family in a fully loving way, but there are times when they all realize that they have misjudged Lucy and where Lucy is faced with the same realization.  Lucy learns that the reality you expect isn’t always the reality you actually have (with Mara and Conner).  All this said, I do feel like some of the resolution with Mara towards the end happened a little to quick.  Was it really Mara’s behavior, or did Lucy just adopt a different mindset?  Or maybe it was a mix of both?

What fairy tale would be complete without a cute prince for Lucy to fall in love with?  Do not fret! We have a prince, but I can’t say anything more about that without giving important plot points away!  Just pay attention for princely behavior!

If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? is a fun and light-hearted Cinderella story that will appeal to middle school readers and up and is definitely geared towards girls, who will relate to Lucy’s troubles!

Author: Melissa Kantor

Publisher: Hyperion (Sept. 2, 2005)

Format: Hardcover (Library Bound)

Length: 288 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince?

Standard
4

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

Standard
3

Rumors and Consequences: In Too Deep by Amanda Grace

Looks like a good day for a book review! But before we get to that, don’t forget you can still enter the Tempest Audiobook Giveaway until February 19!

In Too Deep by Amanda GraceI never meant for anyone to get hurt. All I wanted to do that night was make a play for Carter Wellesley. His heartless rejection was mortifying, but people got the wrong idea when they saw me leaving his bedroom, crying. That’s how rumors of rape started.

Now girls at school are pouring out their sympathy to me. Guys too. But not everyone’s on my side. The school has become a war zone and the threats are getting scary. What began as poetic justice has morphed into something bigger–forcing me to make a terrible choice.

I received In Too Deep by Amanda Grace from the publisher (Thank you Flux Books!) and was interested from the moment I read the jacket summary.

Although the plot of In Too Deep deals with sexual assault and rape, the story’s main plot line focuses on lies and how you can’t erase them.

One of the first things I noticed about this book is the honesty of the supporting characters. Take Nick for example. He is Sam’s best friend and has been for years. Although he does cherish their friendship and Nick is loyal, he is not afraid to call out Sam when she is wrong. Nick is not scared to say the things that may be difficult for Sam to hear, he knows its better for her to heat them. I appreciate this kind of loyalty and friendship portrayed in YA fiction, because often friends can be portrayed at loyal to a fault. This is reality. Real friendship is like that; real friends love you and aren’t hesitant to bring up the hard stuff.

Grace has written Sam’s character well. Sam is nowhere close to being perfect. The story starts with Sam making a dumb decision in an attempt to get a boy to notice her and then it’s like a dumb decision snowball that keeps getting bigger and bigger (I kept yelling at Sam in my mind!). Although Sam didn’t intend for the false rumors of rape to circulate around school, she also does nothing to stop them. Sam knows she’s in the wrong and has good intentions to put the stories to rest, but she just never gets up the courage to actually end it. Sam is a good person, but she makes bad mistakes. Sounds like me at that age and almost every other teenager I’ve ever known, which is why I think Sam’s character is well written. I think readers can relate to Sam.

Now, to the ending (without spoilers), I absolutely loved the ending especially the last few sentences (which I want to post but can’t because that would be wrong!). In the midst of tons of hardship and difficulty (brought on by the main character by herself) there is hope on the horizon, which is what made me really like this book.

Some people may be uncomfortable about middle schoolers reading In Too Deep based on the intense subject matter, but I think the lesson learned by the main character in the end is an important one for middle grade readers. That is why I would recommend this book to older middle schoolers and up who are looking for a realistic contemporary read.

Author: Amanda Grace

Publisher: Flux Books (February 8, 2012)

Format: Print ARC

Length: 228 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: In Too Deep

0

Refreshingly Refreshing: Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar

Starting high school is never easy. Seniors take your lunch money. Girls you’ve known forever are suddenly beautiful and unattainable. And you can never get enough sleep. Could there be a worse time for Scott’s mother to announce she’s pregnant? Scott decides high school would be a lot Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubarless overwhelming if it came with a survival manual, so he begins to write down tips for his new sibling. Meanwhile, he’s trying his best to capture the attention of Julia, the freshman goddess. In the process, Scott manages to become involved in nearly everything the school has to offer. So while he tries to find his place in the confusing world of high school, win Julia’s heart, and keep his sanity, Scott will be recording all the details for his sibling’s knowledge and enjoyment. While navigating his first year of high school and awaiting the birth of his new baby brother, Scott loses old friends and gains some unlikely new ones as he hones his skills as a writer.

So, I’m a girl.  Duh.  Due to this fact I tend to prefer books with girl main characters. I guess it’s because I like to be able to relate to the main character and its more difficult for me to do so if the character is a guy.  This means that I am naturally drawn to books about girls and I have to make myself read books with male main characters/narrators. Which is why I was skeptical when I first decided to listen to  Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar.  Within the first chapter, however I was completely and absolutely hooked by Scott and his story.

Lubar has created a witty, smart and likeable character so much that Scott quickly became one of my favorite YA male characters ever. The way Scott tells his story is so refreshingly sweet and humorous.  His journal entries to his unborn brother are so hilarious I found myself chuckling and pausing my audiobook to tell my husband about them.  Additionally, Scott’s unintentional concern for overlooked people (like Mouth) is so heartwarming (but not in a sappy way) that I wished he was someone I knew when I was his age.

Scott’s insecurities (He is not very good with his hands, so feels left out when his brother and dad work on cars together) and struggles (to show his annoyance towards Mouth or swallow it and be friendly instead) make him a very realistic kid. We all have those insecurities and conflicts within us—I know I do!  Which brings me to another thing I appreciated about Scott—relatability!  I totally related to Scott as a character, even though he is a guy.   Multiple times I found myself responding to a situation in the story with feelings of recognition and personal understanding while remembering similar experiences I had as a teenager.   Also, I appreciate that Scott matures and grows more confident in himself as the year progresses.  You see this exemplified in his developing friendship with Lee, the new girl.

Speaking of Lee, I also enjoyed the supporting characters a lot.  Lee, Mouth, Wesley, Mr. Cravutto and Bobby are all huge players in Scott’s life and my only complaint is that I wish I got to know more about each of them (especially Lee).  I’d honestly love to see what Scott and Lee’s sophomore year of high school looks like.

I think of this book as a more mature Diary of  Wimpy Kid.  It has a similar journal style and is equally as funny.  Recently, I recommended it to an 8th grade student who was looking for something like the Wimpy Kid books but was worth more AR points.  He checked it out over the break so I’m hoping to find out what he thought of it when we return to school.

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie is recommended for all readers (older middle school and up) looking for a lovable main character and a humorous, touching and overall refreshing read.

Author: David Lubar

Publisher: Full Cast Audio (March 30, 2006)

Format: Audiobook; 6 hours and 55 mins.

Series: standalone

Standard
0

Tough Girl Loves Nerd? Accidental Love by Gary Soto

Marisa is a Latina teenage girl with a volatile tempter. She goes to a rough school, can’t keep her mouth shut, and usually solves problems with her fists. While visiting her friend, Alicia, in the hospital, Marissa picks a fight with Alicia’s no-good, cheating boyfriend, Roberto and another guy who is with him. Somewhere in the brawl the other guy and Marissa accidentally take home each others cell phones. In order to get her phone back, Marisa has to call the guy who was hanging out with Roberto, only to discover he’s not Roberto’s friend, but is instead his math tutor. Marisa is intrigued by this nerdy guy, Rene, and agrees to meet him to exchange phones.

Once Marisa and Rene meet, however its obvious they’re drawn to each other and they become fast friends. Soon that friendship turns into romance as Marissa and Rene become inseparable. In order to bring up her grades, and improve herself overall (in addition to seeing Rene more), Marisa convinces her parents to let her transfer to Rene’s academically focused school by using her aunt’s address to register. Both Rene and Marisa have big plans to improve themselves culturally, they both try out for the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet; physically, Marisa strives to lose weight and Rene starts strength training; and emotionally, Marisa wants to work on her anger issues while Rene just wants to be cooler.

Although Rene and Marisa seem like such polar opposites they are good for one another and seem to balance each other out. But these differences (in addition to some outside forces) also cause some conflicts and issues in their budding relationship.

All in all this was a cute and meaningful read. Marisa and Rene are pretty realistic teenagers dealing with their own struggles and desires. The story is told through Marisa’s point of view, so you tend to see how multifaceted a character she is; feminine yet tough, vulnerable yet cynical, funny yet serious. Rene is also likeable, but you don’t see as many sides of him as you do with Marisa. The setting in which these two young lovers are placed in is also realistic; the starkness of Marisa’s high school versus the abundance in Rene’s.

I also loved the Spanish terms used throughout the novel. It helps you see how true to form the dialogue is. It’s common to hear Hispanic teens at my school using a mix of English and Spanish terminology, which is why I loved Soto’s use of it in Accidental Love. I haven’t read a lot of teen fiction that focuses on young Hispanic characters, other than books by Gary Soto. I know there are some more out there, I just haven’t encountered them yet. (If you can recommend others let me know please!)

The only thing I thought was slightly unrealistic was how easy it seems to be for these characters to transfer schools. In real life, would these characters get what they wanted most (to be with each other?). I don’t know, but I must sometimes remind myself that realistic fiction is still fiction. And that’s my only complaint!

Recommended for middle school aged readers and up.