Saturday, January 11, 2014

Shorter Musings: MG Contemporary Fiction

Sometimes I read a book, and I even enjoy it, but I don't have much to say about it. I jot down a few thoughts and then I move on. When these start to pile up, I put them together in one post.

Here are some MG Contemporary books I've read recently.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Garbenstein
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library has a large cast of characters all working toward the goal of winning the game and being the first to get out of the library. It is most certainly an engaging and fun read. It is rather clear who the winners will be almost from the beginning, so the fun is in seeing how they win, not if they are going to. And that is a lot of fun. It hinges on one particular child being so utterly irredeemable as to be a caricature of a villain though. Even as someone who loves books, the references and tossed out titles got to be a bit much and I wondered what they were in there for. Is the author trying to highlight books he loves? Books he thinks kids should read? I can't see kids knowing all the references, or bothering to look up the ones they don't know. I can see kids, like Kyle, enjoying the game aspect even if they don't like books. It is fun that way even if it is in no way as good as either of the books it seems to be borrowing most from, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Westing Game.

Mother Daughter Book Club by Heather Frederick Vogel
I really enjoyed the concept of The Mother-Daughter Book Club. Four very different girls are forced into a book club together that is the brain child of a post-yoga discussion between their mothers. The first book they read is Little Women because they live in Concord, MA. I loved the setting and the details the author included about it, Alcott, and Little Women. I enjoyed all four girls to and felt that their voices and problems were realistic. This is the first in a series and it is a well-written and fun read to give any 9-12 year old series devourer you know. I would have liked it so much more if not a couple of issues I had. I don't like how the book relied on so many stereotypes to depict the characters. I'm hoping that after this set up and the series continues the characters are developed a bit more in their own rights. I also really didn't like the way the girls were sort of being encouraged by their moms to indulge in petty insulting behavior toward mean-girl Becca and her mom (who she clearly learned the act from). As a mother myself I see how that may be easy to allow to happen, but it still bothered me, particularly as it was concentrated on making fun of the size of her rear end. It seemed they didn't mind their daughters (or themselves) being petty when it came it to dealing with unpleasant people. I found it too annoying to truly love the book. I AM heartened to see that Becca and her mother are joining the group in the 2nd book, so maybe some of my issues will be put to rest there. I will be giving the series a continued chance, taking that into consideration.

The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher 
This is a fun MG mystery. Fast paced from the beginning, Kittscher has woven together a tale of intrigue and danger where the kids get to save the day. It is one of those books that MG readers who like mysteries will love. The mom-reader in my was side-eyeing it through a good deal though because I don't like it when kids take risks I can realistically see my own thinking would be awesome. 

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