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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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Perfect for Summer Lounging: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Hello!

It’s getting to be about that time…summertime!

Yes, it’s true! Teachers and students around the country are beginning to rejoice! Whoot!

With that said, let’s talk about a great read for your beach/pool bag. It’s not actually set in the summer, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulbergbut it’s a fun contemporary novel…and what better for the summer than a good contemp?!

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder… are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

From romantic comedy superstar Elizabeth Eulberg comes a fresh, fun examination of a question for the ages: Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

Right?! It’s a romance…or is it?! Perfect for lounging by the pool or on the beach!

It has been said by reviewers before me, but I’ll say it again; Better Off Friends really is like the YA version of When Harry Met Sally. One of the best things about that movie was the mini interviews with all the different couples that were in between scenes throughout the movie, and Eulberg does something similar in this book. Instead of interviews with random couples however, she gives us dialog between Levi and Macallan as if they’re sitting with us at a table over coffee telling their story. Their back-and-forth teasing banter is just so spot-on!

In fact, so much of what Levi and Macallan deal with over the course of their story is so spot-on realistic. In addition to their own friendship/relationship drama, both Levi and Macallan are also confronted individually with the regular middle/high school woes. They have friend issues, family problems and school troubles just like normal teens do and Eulberg writes them with authenticity, while also keeping in line with the fun, light, and all around adorable plot.

Additionally, in keeping with the honesty of the story, both Levi and Macallan are average, non-perfect people. Most of the miscommunications and misunderstandings that go on between them stem from their flaws and inability to deal with awkward and difficult situations. Just like real life! I’m not a teenager anymore (not by a long shot!! haha) but I still struggle with figuring out how to deal when things are awkward and difficult!

The story’s pacing in quick. Levi and Macallan start off in middle school on the day they first meet and over the course of the book their story takes us all the way into high school. Both narrators give us the details on pivotal moments throughout the course of their friendship and they alternate chapter to chapter, which also helps an already fast paced story feel quicker, which can be good or bad depending on your preference. I happened to like the quickness because it makes it that much more perfect for your poolside summer lounging.

So do they remain just friends or do they take the leap and pursue more? I can’t tell you! You’ll have to pack Better Off Friends in your beach/pool bag! It really is a fun, sweet, and light-hearted contemporary read that will make you smile!

Author: Elizabeth Eulberg

Publisher: Point (February 25, 2014)

Format: e-galley

Length: 288 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA (possibly older MG too)

Buy the Book:

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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)

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Boy Problem

Hiya!

Last year I read and loved Kami Kinard’s The Boy Project and now it’s almost time for the sequel The Boy Problem: Notes and Predictions of Tabitha Reddy. I can’t wait, thus this read is my focus for today’s Waiting on Wednesday!

Twelve-year-old Tabitha “Tabbi” Reddy believes in signs. Like fortune cookies. Magic 8-Balls. Shooting stars. And this year, she hopes, looking for the right signs will lead her to the right boy! Inspired by her BFF, Kara The Boy Problem by Kami Kinard(star of THE BOY PROJECT), Tabbi starts her own “project” in the hopes of finding a cute crush. With the help of a math lesson on probability, Tabbi tries to predict who the right boy for her might be! Where is she most likely to meet him? What is he most likely to look like? Full of fun illustrations, hilarious equations, and lessons in cupcake-baking, life, love, and friendship, this book has a 100% probability of awesomeness. A perfect “next step” for fans of DORK DIARIES.

Kinard’s first book was so fun and The Boy Problem sounds like it’s going to be just as cute of a read! I’m pretty excited because I don’t have to wait until it’s released on April 29, I was lucky enough to get an ARC from Scholastic so I’ll definitely post my review when I’m finished!

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Sheer Perfection: Better off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Hola!

Sometimes the perfect book comes along at just the perfect time. That’s what happened for me with Elizabeth Eulberg’s Better off Friends.

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Better Off Friends by Elizabeth EulbergLevi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder, are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated? Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

Seriously, this one came along at the best time. I’ve been on a pretty big fantasy kick recently (for like the past year! haha) so I think I was ready for a quality contemporary read to really dig into. And talk about quality! Better off Friends is probably one of the best contemporary romances I’ve read in a while…right up there with Stephanie Perkins and Sarah Dessen!

I’d heard this one compared to a high school version of When Harry Met Sally and for real, Better off Friends is definitely an homage to that classic film. Macallan and Levi are kind of thrown together by their school principal, but quickly form a relationship based on need and a very silly British television show. Macallan is struggling to make a new life after her mother’s death, while new-guy Levi is simply looking to fit in, so both think of their friendship as kind of a new start. I can completely relate to Macallan and Levi’s friendship because it’s always been easier for me to be friends with guys than with girls. There is a freedom that comes from a friendship with a guy that one can’t get with another girl, but as Levi and Macallan soon discover that freedom usually comes with it’s own share of drama.

Eulberg writes the swoony, drama laden friendship between Macallan and Levi with expert skill. Each chapter alternates between Levi’s narration and Macallan’s. As I’ve mentioned in the past, sometimes switching between narrators can annoy me, but Levi and Macallan’s voices are so clear and distinct that I never have to check back to see who is telling the story. In between each chapter Eulberg has inserted commentary from both narrators, just like in When Harry Met Sally, and the banter between the two is sheer perfection! These were probably my favorite parts of the story, they just added both fun and perspective to Macallan and Levi’s story.

But this isn’t just Levi and Macallan’s story. Throughout the book, we get glimpses of how friendships change as we get older, especially in that transition from middle school to high school. Also, we see the way in which Levi’s mother serves as a stand-in mom for Macallan who is navigating her teenage years without her own mother. Each of these secondary relationships are realistically painful and joyful and just so well portrayed.

You really need to consider adding Better off Friends to your TBR list. I promise you wont’ be sorry, especially if you are looking for a strong contemporary read! It is most definitely a YA title, but I believe that older middle school readers, as well as adults, will appreciate it just as much as I did.

Author: Elizabeth Eulberg

Publisher: Point (February 25, 2014)

Format: ARC (e-galley)

Length: 288 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA/MG

Buy the Book: Better Off Friends

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Bright and Inviting: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Hi there!

In early February, I received a huge order for my Media Center. It’s always so exciting to get new books in to share with the students. Seriously, being a Media Specialist and purchasing books for the school quenches my overwhelming thirst to buy books for myself…at least a little bit!

I just sat there and drooled...

I just sat there and drooled…

One of the books that came in with this particular order was Drama by Raina Telgemeier.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can’t really sing. Instead she’s the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

I loved Smile (Telgemeier’s first graphic novel) so much so I was really looking forward to Drama. But I must say that although I enjoyed reading Drama, it wasn’t nearly as wonderful as Smile.

I feel like there was just too much boy drama in it. I know! I know! This coming from the girl who ADORES books with romance! I guess there just was too much friendship and relationship issues for me…hence the title “drama”. I don’t think Callie learned anything about herself in the end because she was just too wrapped up in all the boys. But, in the end Telgemeier is so talented at portraying those moments of middle school memory that still make us cringe and shake our heads at our middle school selves. There were so many times that Callie’s story took me back to the halls of both Sequoia Middle or Ridgeview Junior High School (yes, I went to two middle schools!) where I had some embarrassing drama of my own!

One thing that disappointed me was that I don’t really feel like I got to know Callie deeply. I know she’s not into being in the spotlight and she’s super creative and loves to read, but other than that? I don’t feel like I got to see much into who she was as a character, which is sad because that’s one of the main reasons I enjoyed Smile as much as I did – I majorly connected with and understood the main character!

Telgemeier’s artwork, though is fabulous!  The pages are bright and inviting, which really is her style, and I  will always rush to get her next title, even if this one wasn’t my favorite.  So, in the end despite it’s flaws, Drama was still a fun read that I couldn’t put down and I recommend it daily to students (so much that the waiting list is pretty long!).

Author: Raina Telgemeier

Publisher: Graphix (Sept. 21, 2012)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 233 pages

Series: standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:  Drama

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Waiting on Wednesday: Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All

Hello!

Waiting on Wednesday is weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Tales from a Not So Smart Miss Know it All by Rachel Renee RussellAs school begins this week I’m reminded of books my students simply adore!  The Dork Diaries is one of those series that I simply cannot keep on the shelf and there is always a waiting list.  So, when I heard Rachel Renee Russell is continuing the series with a fourth, Tales from a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All, I got excited because I know my kids will be too!

Nikki Maxwell develops a sudden interest in student journalism that may or may not (okay, definitely does) have to do with the fact that mean girl Mackenzie has started writing a gossip column. And there just might be some juicy info involving Nikki’s crush, Brandon, that Nikki doesn’t want Mackenzie reporting to the world. So Nikki joins the school newspaper staff—and ends up as an advice columnist! It’s fun at first, answering other kids’ letters. But when Miss Know-It-All’s inbox is suddenly overflowing with pleas for guidance, Nikki feels in need of some help herself. Fortunately she has BFFs Chloe and Zoey on her side—and at her keyboard.

Needless to say this one will be purchased for my Media Center when it is released on October 2, 2012! What book are you waiting on today?

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Middle School Scheming: Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

Aloha!  Welcome back!

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy GrenwaldToday’s review is for the second 2012-2013 Florida Sunshine State book I’ve read this summer.  There are fifteen total so I still have quite a way to go, but I’m not worried.  It is summer after all!

Charlie Joe Jackson may be the most reluctant reader ever born. And so far, he’s managed to get through life without ever reading an entire book from cover to cover. But now that he’s in middle school, avoiding reading isn’t as easy as it used to be. And when his friend Timmy McGibney decides that he’s tired of covering for him, Charlie Joe finds himself resorting to desperate measures to keep his perfect record intact.

First let me say that Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading is really fun.  Yes, I know I’m a librarian so I shouldn’t be excited about a book that gives kids tips for not reading, but this is such a cute book!

I know for a fact that my students are going to love this one.  It is written in the same style as Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and my students love those so much that this one will be an easy sell!  Even my reluctant readers will approve because of the fun illustrations and super short, but not choppy, chapters.

In between each chapter Charlie Joe Jackson gives the reader one of his 25 Tips for Not Reading, which are hilarious and break the story up in a good way.  Even one who loves reading as much as I do got a kick out of Charlie Joe’s reasons why sports are better than reading!

Charlie is your average middle school boy.  He is funny, smart (but not super smart), mischievous and just a nice guy.  He just doesn’t like reading.  Charlie’s scheming does get himself and his friends into trouble, but that’s a normal part of middle school.  He actually reminds me of a student I had years ago who is now in high school probably still planning ways to get out of reading!

What I really liked about Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading is that there isn’t some cheesy moral at the end.  Charlie doesn’t wake up one day realizing the fault of his non reading ways and suddenly learn to love books.  He just doesn’t, but that is okay because he does learn some other equally important lessons along the way.  I would have been disappointed if it ended up being a bait and switch and I know my students wouldn’t have appreciated that either.

Overall, Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading was a fun, cute and humorous.  There were even times when this book had me chuckling and reading paragraphs out loud to my husband, so if you’re looking for a light and fun middle grade read I highly recommend this one!

Author: Tommy Greenwald

Publisher: Roaring Book Press (July 5, 2011)

Format: Paperback

Length: 240 pages

Series: First in a series

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Third Wheel (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #7)

Waiting On WednesdayHi! I hope you’re having a wonderful day today!

It’s that time of the week where I post about a book I am eagerly anticipating.  This The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinneyweekly event is called Waiting on Wednesday and is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

This week I’m spotlighting the soon to be newest installment of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, The Third Wheel!  If you don’t already know (you must not know any middle schoolers) this book series  is a pretty big deal.  I seriously can’t keep them on my shelves, which is fine with me!  A new Wimpy Kid book means more of my students reading and an increase in my circulation!  You can’t go wrong with that!  Seriously, if Jeff Kinney just keeps writing new additions to this series, my job will be that much easier!  (Thanks Mr. Kinney!)

So, this new Wimpy Kid title will answer some serious questions:

Will Greg finally get a girlfriend?
Can Manny become any less annoying?
Will Rodrick ever give Greg a break?
We can’t wait to find out!

I know my students are going to be asking me about this book as soon as school starts in August, which means I’ll have three and a half months of telling them that The Third Wheel is scheduled to be released by Amulet Books on November 13, 2012 (which also happens to be my birthday!).

Are you waiting on a specific book this week?!  Leave a comment with the title – I always love to hear about some upcoming new reads!

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Waiting On Wednesday: Small Medium at Large

Hello everyone!

Waiting on WednesdayWaiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, where book bloggers get to showcase the upcoming titles they’re excited about.  I love this meme because it helps me know what soon to be released books to add to my To Read List!

The book I’m highlighting this week is Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy.  A few months ago I saw this book get some notice on a few other blogs so I’ve had my eye on it for a little while now and it is scheduled to be released July 3, 2012  (my husband’s birthday!!).

Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy

After she’s hit by lightning at a wedding, twelve-year-old Lilah Bloom develops a new talent: she can hear dead people. Among them, there’s her over opinionated Bubby Dora; a prissy fashion designer; and an approval-seeking clown who livens up a séance. With Bubby Dora leading the way, these and other sweetly imperfect ghosts haunt Lilah through seventh grade, and help her face her one big fear: talking to—and possibly going to the seventh-grade dance with—her crush, Andrew Finkel.

Doesn’t this sound like a cute middle grades read?  I love the idea of gaining a supernatural gift a lightning strike – it sounds so superhero-esque!
Now, I do have a review Advanced Reader Copy that the lovely Joanne Levy sent my way (THANKS SO MUCH!)  so keep your eye posted in July for a Small Medium at Large Giveaway and interview with the author!  I can’t wait to get started reading this one!

In the mean time, check out Joanne Levy’s blog and website for more news on Small Medium at Large!