Fun Size Reviews: August 15, 2011

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) begins in the aftermath of a party. From the get go, there’s cohabitation, hangovers, lack of parental supervision, and a giant mess. It’s like the WSJ’s worst nightmare. As the book rewinds, the story behind the the giant party comes to light. When April’s dad and stepmom move away during the second semester of her junior year, she moves in to her friend Vi’s house. Unbeknownst to her dad, Vi’s mom is acting on tour, leaving the girls with a house all to themselves. (There is a lot of sneaking around to make this even remotely believable, but even so, one has to suspend disbelief a little bit in order to accept the premise of the book.) April soon discovers that freedom can bring all kinds of shenanigans, but also responsibility and loneliness. Ten Things We Did is laugh out loud, pee your pants funny at times, but it also delves into the repercussions of April’s wild behavior. Fun as her new life may be at times, there are always consequences, and April soon learns that there are downsides to growing up too fast. Though these serious moments add depth to the book, Sarah Mlynowski’s story is, above all, fun, hilarious, and extremely quotable.

Middle school is hard enough without being the daughter of two celebrities. Eighth grader Hannah’s parents are actors, and her aunt creates award-winning documentaries. The expectations seem pretty high in a family of “perfect” people. Hannah feels constant pressure to be “perfect,” too. Though her mom says, “pretty is as pretty does,” she still feels an underlying push to be physically beautiful. When her mom dies, though, Hannah turns to bulimia–her secret remedy–for support. Her eating disorder spirals out of control until her aunt, who previously suffered with anorexia, takes her to Ghana while working on a new movie. In Ghana, Hannah gains a more global perspective, discovering that ideals of beauty can be very different from one person and place to the next. Hannah’s journey is ultimately about about finding your authentic self even in the most difficult circumstances, and finding people who will support you for that self. Cliche as it may be, Katrina Kittle emphasizes that beauty is what is on the inside. Kittle’s Reasons to Be Happy veers to the lower end of YA, bordering on MG, as it can feel a bit simplistic at times. However, it does not shy away from the harsh realities of binging and purging, painting a graphic portrait of bulimia for young readers who are likely struggling with their own body image.

Forever picks up a couple months after Linger leaves off. Sam is cured, but Grace is a wolf. As before, it’s awfully hard to be in love when half of the couple just can’t seem to stay human. When a girl is found dead, Tom Culpeper and other townsfolk have all the ammunition they need to launch a hunt for the wolves of Mercy Falls, putting Grace and the rest of the pack in serious jeopardy. This final book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy is packed with the same musicality, action, and romance as its predecessors. Forever is loaded with enough adrenaline to make a werewolf shift, but those who don’t find their bones breaking will feel their hearts aching with just as much intensity. As I’ve said time and time again, I don’t normally get into werewolves, but Stiefvater’s expertise as a musician, artist, and writer comes together to create vivid characters that are so multidimensional and psychologically complex that I just can’t help but root for them. Finishing this series definitely left me aching for more, but it went out on a high note, and I’m sure Mercy Falls is a place I’ll want to keep revisiting.


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