Tag Archives: chick lit

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han; read in July, 2009. Copy purchased by me.

Description from GoodReads:

Some summers are just destined to be pretty
Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer — they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

I’m irritated at myself for letting this one fall through the cracks.  I enjoyed Jenny Han‘s The Summer I Turned Pretty although it has now been 8 months since I read it so the details are fuzzy.  I read it while on vacation in Nags Head and it was a fun beach read.  Because of the title and the cover picture, I thought it was be fluffy, but it deals with some heavy issues.  I liked the character of Belly, and I liked most of the people she is surrounded by.  I could never really get into Conrad, though, and therefore the storyline involving him was not one I really liked.  The rest of the novel, dealing with family problems and a looming tragedy that Belly is oblivious to (but the reader can see coming), drew me in.

I bought this for my school library and it circulates pretty often with the girls who enjoy realistic fiction.

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Commencement: a Novel by J. Courtney Sullivan

Commencement: a Novel by J. Courtney Sullivan; read in July, 2009. Copy purchased by me.

Description from GoodReads:

A sparkling debut novel: a tender story of friendship, a witty take on liberal arts colleges, and a fascinating portrait of the first generation of women who have all the choices in the world, but no clear idea about which choices to make.

Classmates their first year at Smith College, Celia, Bree, Sally, and April couldn’t be more different. Alone and together, they soon learn that Smith is a hothouse: of sexual discovery, political activism, female bonding, and carbohydrates eaten with abandon. And although several years after graduation they live in far-flung places, their Smith years have left them fiercely devoted to one another. Schooled in the ideals of feminism, they must decide how it all applies to their own real world in matters of love, work, family, and sex. For Celia, Bree, and Sally, it will mean grappling with one-night stands, loneliness and heartbreak, parental disapproval, and changing maiden names. But for April, whose college activism becomes her life’s work, it will mean something else entirely.

Written with radiant style and a wicked sense of humor, Commencement not only captures the intensity of college friendships and first loves, but also explores with great candor the complicated and contradictory landscape facing young women today.

Commencement is an adult novel that came out last year.  I was up and down with this novel.  I enjoyed the sections set in college; it was fun to follow the girls as they explored their identities (including politics and sexuality) and the options available to them.  The bond developed based on room location is something many college freshmen can relate to.  I grew less interested in their post-college life and found April’s storyline downright irritating and unbelievable.  All four of the main characters never felt completely developed and I was unable to care about any of them.  The author takes advantage of many opportunities to discuss feminist ideas.  This was interesting to a certain extent but I can only read so much about what private school-educated white girls think about being a woman in today’s world before it grows tiresome.

Commencement is chick lit wanting to be more literary but not quite making it.  I think with more work, Ms. Sullivan could have put together a better book, but there is too much she is trying to accomplish.  It is a decent fluff read, just don’t expect too much, and be prepared for the outlandish storyline involving April in the second half of the book.

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The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander

Yikes, I am realizing that I am getting very behind on blogging!  I have over a dozen started posts that I just need to sit down and focus on.  Many of the upcoming posts will be reviews on books I read a while ago, and I still have stuff I want to write about the Kidlit Conference.

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The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander: Read in September 2009, ARC received from the author via a giveaway  (Thank you so much, Ms. Alexander!  I feel terrible this is so late in getting posted.)

Description from Good Reads:

Almost-15-year-old Austin Gray is tired of standing at the curb and watching the parade pass her by. Literally. She decides this is the year she’ll ride on the hood of a shiny pickup truck in the annual parade, waving to the crowd and finally showing the town bully that she’s got what it takes to be the Sweetheart of Prosper County.

But far from simply being a beauty contest, becoming Sweetheart involves participation in the Future Farmers of America (FFA), raising an animal, and hunting or fishing. Austin will do almost anything to become Sweetheart, and has the support of her oldest friend, Maribel, her new FFA friends (including the reigning Sweetheart, and a quiet, cute cowboy), an evangelical Elvis impersonator, a mysterious Cajun outcast, and a rooster named Charles Dickens. If only her momma would stop overprotecting her, and start letting Austin live her own life. But Austin can’t move on until Momma moves on, too—and lets the grief of losing Austin’s daddy several years before out into the open.

Here is a bighearted story that will leave readers agreeing with Austin that sometimes, it’s not what you ride, it’s how you roll.

I adored this book!  It has a great setting – the small Texas town – and Ms. Alexander does a nice job of letting the town be a character of the book on its own without ever letting it become a stereotype.  All the characters in the book are darling.  Austin is a strong teenage girl who makes mistakes and learns from them, and is able to be compassionate and independent.  Charles Dickens is adorable – he made me want my own rooster.  Every time I see the cover of this book, I fall in love with him all over again.

I appreciated the way Ms. Alexander let the reader see that there is a divide between the white and Hispanic members of the town without beating you over the head with it.  I love that throughout the book, Austin grows and develops new friendships, but she never lets go of her best friend Maribel, despite the cultural differences.  While I know that growing apart is a big teenage issue and many books focus on it, it’s good to see someone address the idea that it is healthy to maintain a friendship with someone as you both grow and change.  You may not have every little thing in common, bu it doesn’t mean you love each other any less.  I love that this just happens in the book, and it’s not a big deal.

I think that that idea can be applied to the whole book – there are a lot of things in the book that in other hands would be THE BIG ISSUE that is written with a heavy hand, but Ms. Alexander writes about the characters, and everything is just accepted as how they are.  One of the characters is an Evangelical, and the books doesn’t beat you over the head with his religious beliefs and it doesn’t make him look like a buffoon, which is often the two extremes a book will go to to prove a point.

There is a little romance, but it is not the focus of the story.  Austin and how she grows is the focus.

I truly cannot say enough to express how delightful this book is.  I think readers of many ages will find enjoyment in it.  I purchased it for our high school library, and I think middle schoolers and even upper elementary can enjoy it.  Jill S. Alexander can be found at her blog and her website.

 

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Take Me There by Susane Colasanti

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Susane Colasanti focuses on three main characters – two girls and a guy – in Take Me There. The novel is set in a public school for design in NYC and begins with all three main characters recently single. Rhiannon has just been dumped by her boyfriend Steve, and she relies on her two best friends, Nicole and James, to comfort her. She believes that she and Steve are meant to be together and spends most of the book plotting to get back together with him. Nicole recently broke up with her boyfriend Danny, and while she crushes on her math teacher, she also finds herself questioning why she broke up with Danny. Nicole also harbors a secret from her past that requires her to attend weekly therapy sessions with her mother. James is the least affected by his recent break-up and spends a lot of time focused on school, helping at home, and helping his elderly neighbor. The book follows the three as they plot to enact revenge on a mean girl at school, while each begins to understand what he or she really need in a relationship.

This it the first book I have read by Susane Colasanti. Her writing style is very suitable for some teen readers. Characters do not always say something, instead “she was like” or “so I go” is often what comes before a line of dialogue. As an adult reader who is obviously not the target audience, I was often taken out of the moment when I read that. It fits the character’s voice and I imagine some teen readers would not bat an eyelash, although I know not all teen readers would like it. It did make me take the book less seriously. Other YA writers succeed in establishing an authentic teen voice without relying on so much slang and lazy speech.

The book alternates between the three character perspectives, and the author rehashes events through each character’s eyes, often referring to something that the reader will not fully understand until several chapters later. This was a very frustrating experience for me. Before I understood that this was on purpose, I found myself flipping back pages to see if I missed something. Once I accepted that it was the format of the book, every mysterious reference made me sigh and lose interest in the current character and storyline and wonder how soon I’ll get to the character who will reveal the necessary information. Meanwhile, I also grew tired of repeating events because more than one main character experienced it. I wanted the storyline to progress faster.

The storyline itself is enjoyable. The reader watches the girls learn romantic lessons; Rhiannon realize that she deserves better from a boy and just who in her life provides that, and Nicole learns the importance of trust. Both are lessons familiar to girls and are often found in the romantic chick lit genre. The characters are fun and realistic, each with their own quirks. James was my favorite just because he was the most normal and written is the least teen-talky way.

I would only specifically recommend this to teen girls who want a fast, fluffy read, maybe reluctant female readers.

2 and 1/2 stars

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