“In kindergarten I remember wondering why I had to line up with the girls when I knew I was a boy.”
This is an excellent, realistic story that explores a teen’s struggle with gender identity. Since Gabe announced that he’s transitioning from Liz, his family barely looks at him. At least he’s graduating in a few weeks and plans to move to a big city where he can pursue a career in radio. Plus he has Paige, his best friend since grade school, who supports his transitioning to the extent that Gabe wonders if she’s flirting with him. There’s also John, Gabe’s musical mentor, who helps him get a late hour radio show on the community station. Music is life to Gabe: “When you think about it, I’m like a record. Liz is my A side, the song everybody knows, and Gabe is my B side— not played as often but just as good.”
Gabe names his show “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children.” He charms the audience with his musical taste and assignments to perform harmless pranks around town. His groupies create a fan page on Facebook and post photos of their pranks in tribute to Gabe. Along with some attention from girls (other than Paige) and a chance to win a radio contest that could give him a full-time show, Gabe is enjoying his B side more than ever. But when someone outs him as Liz on the Facebook page, Gabe must deal with backlash from his fans and friends.
The characters are solidly drawn and are a pleasure to read, especially Gabe, Paige and John. The story is expertly crafted and delivered. Readers are sure to be enlightened by the emotions and other realities that transsexuals face— which are not only humorous, painful, and joyous, but also familiar to all, no matter your gender and sexual orientation.
This is a biography in which Aaron Hartzler describes growing up in an extremely religious household. His father works at a Bible College and his mom runs the Good News Club (religious teachings for children) once a week from the family’s living room. They attend church two nights a week plus Sunday mornings. Aaron and his siblings are taught that the Rapture will happen— Jesus will come back to judge everyone by their earthly actions, which will determine whether they enter heaven or hell. But as Aaron turns 16, he forms an interest in pop music and movies— both of which his parents do not allow. When he buys the Pretty Woman soundtrack as a present for the girl he likes, his father takes him out of the school play. This is devastating for Aaron, who loves acting even more than the forbidden music and movies he’s careful to keep a secret from his parents. Eventually he meets Bradley, whose house Aaron seeks refuge in as often as possible. Bradley’s parents are divorced but living together, and are so relaxed that they drink alcohol in their home. Aaron struggles with his faith throughout the book, as he often feels that his actions are not so awful that God would stop loving him.
This book contains very personal experiences from Hartzler’s childhood, and I felt total empathy for him throughout. This would be a good book for anyone interested in the lifestyle of an extremely religious family… or a young man’s struggle with his parents wishes and religious beliefs… or a teenager’s struggle with his sexual identity… or simply as an autobiographical coming of age novel.
Aliens have taken over earth. Cassie’s parents have died, and she’s traveling through the post-apocalyptic terrain, hoping to reunite with her younger brother. No one knows what the aliens (the Others) look like, and at this point many people think they could look like humans in disguise. Thus, Cassie prefers to be on her own. She encounters another person whom she hesitates trusting, but ultimately needs his help to survive and move closer to finding her brother.
I realize that the majority of reviewers loved this book. I couldn’t get into it. The storytelling was too slow and I didn’t care much about the characters. The romance seemed too abrupt… and I didn’t think the writing was very strong. This was clearly not the book for me. Many other reviewers who reacted negatively mentioned how excited they were to get their hands on the book, as there was a lot of pre-release hype. After they read the book and found they disliked it, this resulted in some very angry reviews. I’m not in this category, since I somehow evaded the hype. Although I cannot personally recommend The 5th Wave, I will still suggest it to those who may be interested as an apocalyptic sci fi that’s really popular, which a lot of (other) people love.
Freesia loves her island home of Agalinas. Daddy and Mummy are always there for her and her little sister, Angel, adores her. At school she takes fun classes like Foundations of Foundation and Spanglish Immersion. Best of all, there’s always a party to dress up for. But during a visit to the Dressy Dress Shoppe, there’s a blackout. Freesia’s vision slowly focuses on the glass-enclosed bubble room that she’s standing in. On the opposite side of the glass are uglier, messier versions of Daddy and Mummy, and an older (and meaner) Angel. Not-Mummy explains that Freesia has been living in a simulation program called Bubble World for 3.5 years. There have been problems during updates to the program, which caused her to wake up. After a brief visit to the real world (where the only benefit is that the food tastes 100% better), the updating problems are resolved and Freesia is sent back to Agalinas. Everything will be perfect again— except Freesia threw out the memory blockers her father gave her before linking back into the program.
Although this book clearly contains a large dystopian/sci-fi element, it reads and feels like pure fiction. Half of the action is lighthearted and fun, taking place in the perfect reality world. The other half of the plot takes place outside of the computer simulation, where Freesia struggles to adjust to the “odious” real world. Classes are difficult, her sister hates her, and the people are uglier (including Freesia herself). She discovers that reality isn’t perfect, but neither is Bubble World. Although the themes aren’t groundbreaking, the delivery is fun and humorous— an enjoyable read through the end.
Cath hates college. She’s worried about leaving her dad home alone. If it weren’t for Cath and her twin sister Wren keeping a close watch on him, their father would live in a constant state of mental instability. Largely because their mother abandoned the family when Cath and Wren were eight years old.
Wren chose not to room with Cath in college so they could establish separate identities. Cath knows this will only benefit Wren, because she’s the social one. Cath is so awkward and incapable of dealing with people that she basically lives in her dorm room. Wren regularly goes partying to get drunk with her new roommate, whereas Cath and Reagan only grunt hello at each other. Plus, Reagan’s over-smiley boyfriend Levi is always around and wants to be invited into her dorm room to talk, even when Reagan’s not home. But at least Cath finds relief by escaping into Carry On, Simon, the internationally popular fan fiction she writes based off the Simon Snow series (Harry Potter read alike). And she’s getting to know a cute boy in her Fiction Writing class who she meets at the library to write stories together.
The characters and dialogue in this book are really strong. I especially liked Reagan, who becomes more friendly with Cath throughout the story. She’s dry and critical in a loving way, and is a different character than I’m used to reading by far, which is a good thing. Levi is the complete opposite of Reagan. He’s overly friendly and smiles so much that it really does seem creepy at points. But he’s extremely sincere and a great friend. More on him later. Cath and Wren struggle with their relationship and also deal with family problems regarding their dad and estranged mother (was it necessary to bring the estranged mother into this story? I’m not sure). It really is painful to witness Cath’s extreme awkwardness. The reader has no choice but to root for her to come out of her shell. Some of her more clueless than average moments got to me, and she could be too whiny. But the amazing characters around her save the story for me. She does face a struggle in her Fiction Writing class that helped me appreciate her more. It’s also clear how much research and effort the author put into Fangirl. She wrote many scenes from the Simon Snow series and excerpts from Cath’s fanfic Carry On, Simon. Besides some issues I had with Cath, she is loveable in a lot of ways. This is a realistic portrayal of awkward-girl-lost-at-college with many coming-of-age struggles, and includes awesomely different characters from the norm.