Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: All These Things I've Done

All These Things I've Done
Gabrielle Zevin
2011; Farrar, Straus & Giroux; ISBN 978-0-374-30210-8 (hardcover)

Summary:  In 2083, chocolate and caffeine are illegal, water is rationed, and Anya Balanchine is trying to hold her family together.  Her grandmother is dying, her older brother Leo is mentally disabled due to a childhood accident, and Anya has two years before she turns eighteen and can be legal guardian to her little sister Natty.  To make matters worse, her family is well-known as chocolate smugglers, yet Anya is beginning to fall for Win, the assistant DA's son.  All Anya wants is to stay out of the family business, yet it seems that she's destined for it.  Will she choose to be a bystander or a participant?

Set in a realistic future, All These Things I've Done is a character-driven novel, one that is different from other YA novels.  It's not as plot-focused as you'd expect from Gabrielle Zevin, the author of the intriguing Elsewhere and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac.  Some things don't work in this novel, like Anya's occasional asides to the reader and a few contrived coincidences.  What does work is the character study of Anya.  With her tough-as-nails exterior, Anya tries to conceal her fears and worries.  Her relationship with Win gives her a momentary respite, but Anya is too practical to let romance interfere with her duty to protect her family.  Fans who liked Wither will like All These Things I've Done even more.

Other Reviews
Mostly Reading YA:  http://mostlyreadingya.blogspot.com/2011/09/review-all-these-things-ive-done.html
Letters Inside Out: http://www.lettersinsideout.net/posts/review-all-these-things-ive-done-by-gabrielle-zevin/
The Reading Housewives of Indiana:  http://www.thereadinghousewives.com/2011/09/review-all-these-things-ive-done-by.html
Miss Print:  http://missprint.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/all-these-things-ive-done-a-chick-lit-wednesday-review/

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Review: The Rites & Wrongs of Janice Wills

The Rites & Wrongs of Janice Wills
Joanna Pearson
2011; Scholastic; ISBN 978-0-545-19773-1 (hardcover)

Summary:  In the small town of Melva, North Carolina, Janice Wills knows what group she belongs to: Socially Unimportant Intelligent Girl.  As a budding anthropologist, Janice has made it her goal to have her research on Melva's adolescents published in Current Anthropology before she graduates from high school.  She's the kind of girl to take notes and remain detached in order to observe everything; she's not the kind of girl who'd enter Melva's Miss Livermush Pageant, in spite of her mother's encouragement.  Yet slowly, Janice begins to see the flaws in her research methods.  She's not clever and smart and observant--she's mean and closed-off and scared.  With the help of old friends and new challenges, Janice looks at her world with a new set of eyes.

A coming-of-age story with a different slant, The Rites & Wrongs of Janice Wills combines a realistic protagonist with some engaging thoughts on teenage culture.  Janice has a lot of growing to do over the course of the novel, and her growth comes believably, with a few missteps along the way.  The focus of the novel is Janice's development, set against the backdrop of her small town.  A quick read that includes a dash of romance and some good friendship issues, this first novel occasionally descends into stereotypes and cliches.  Yet there's still an engaging sweetness to this novel, like taking a few bites of pecan pie.  The Rites & Wrongs of Janice Wills will be enjoyed by fans of novels like The Sweetheart of Prosper County.

Other Reviews
Christina Reads YA:  http://christinareadsya.blogspot.com/2011/06/book-review-rites-and-wrongs-of-janice.html
Dear Author: http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/overall-c-reviews/c-plus-reviews/review-the-rites-and-wrongs-of-janice-wills-by-joanna-pearson/
Letters Inside Out: http://www.lettersinsideout.net/posts/review-the-rites-and-wrongs-of-janice-wills-by-joanna-pearson/
I Like These Books: http://www.ilikethesebooks.com/2011/08/rites-and-wrongs-of-janice-wills-by.html