Saturday, January 25, 2014

Shorter Musings: YA Realistic

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 YA Realistic books I've read recently.

The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford 
I really enjoyed this book as a historical fiction on Soviet Russia and as a story of cultural collision. The setting is rendered incredibly well. The story has a true sense of place, and that was my favorite part of the book. I did have a hard time with the characters. I just couldn't trust Aloysha and felt that Laura was being too naive and trusting and I never connected with either as a result. Their relationship felt rushed and superficial even though it developed over the course of a semester.

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen
The Fine Art of Truth or Dare had so many elements that could have been so good: the large loving Italian family, the boy and girl from different worlds romance, the art. All of it fell short for me though. Way too many pages were spent on Ella's imaginary conversations with dead artist Edward Willing. Most of the characters never make it beyond stereotypes. Alex had potential to be swoon worthy but not enough time was spent developing him or their relationship.

How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True by Sarah Strohmeyer
I really enjoyed the concept of this one. It was unique in many mays and a perfect set up. It's not camp, but having the kids doing a job that takes them away from their parental supervision for a summer, places them in dorms together, and has them competing. It's a perfect formula for crazy antics, swoon worthy romance, and drama. And Strohmeyer strikes the right balance between all of these. Zoe is a wonderful heroine, able to keep up with her demanding boss, the stress of attending to so many teen actors playing fairy tale characters in one place, and hold her own when it comes to charming guys who are not all they seem to be. (I LOVED that Zoe always used her mind and thought through scenarios first.) At the same time, she is dealing with the loss of her mother after years of battling cancer. While the book is fun and lighthearted, this gave it an extra layer of depth and complexity. I also very much liked Zoe's romantic opposite as well as the other supporting characters. My one problem is that the surprise twist didn't really seem all that feasible to me.

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
So. Much. Expository. I think I really could have loved this book if not for that. Yes, I realize then it would be an entirely different sort of book, but that highlights best why this book just wasn't the right fit for me. I actually like to see scenes unfold, hear conversations in my head, live with the characters as I read. The long passages of exposition in this made that impossible and distanced me from both Sam and Emily. Added to that were all the details about all the countless people who don't really matter to the story being told. I get that Sloan was trying to make the reader feel the connectedness of the cosmos and all that, but there was too much of that and too little focus on the characters who mattered. As a result Emily is flatter than a pancake and Sam is too perfect to be real. It is a good story idea and I adored Emily's family and Riddle. It was for them that I kept reading to the end. 

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