Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Silhouetted by the Blue
Serena is the star of her school's production of The Wiz, but her home life is threatening her concentration on school and the play. Her father has sunk into a deep depression over her mother's death in a car accident; it's so bad that he doesn't change out of his pajamas for days, is letting illustration jobs pass him by, and generally spaces out. Taking care of her little brother, who's acting out in school, is generally left to her. Not only must Serena negotiate this difficult home life, but she must also juggle the responsibilities of the play and the everyday normal life of a middle school girl.
What I liked: Serena is an engaging and realistically drawn character. Although the cover and distinct details in the story identify her as African-American, race is not a central aspect of the story. The effect of a disruptive home life is accurately depicted in Serena's lack of concentration and her younger brother's sudden acting-out in school. Musical theater fans will enjoy the references to shows (the title comes from a lyric in Ragtime); non-musical fans will not find the references overbearing. The ending is optimistic but truthful. The relationship between Serena and a boy in her Spanish class is cute and sweet; one of the highlights of the story.
Picky Picky: Serena's father is unreliable for school pickup, so Serena must either pick up her younger brother from school or ask friends to pick him up. This is unrealistic for the majority of schools; most schools will not release a child to a non-custodial parent unless there is a note from a parent or guardian. Simply calling a teacher, as Serena does, will not fly, especially if the person picking up the kid is an unrelated minor (she gets her friends to pick him up).
Overall: A good "issues driven" novel that manages to balance the darker parts of the story with fun moments. Highly recommended for YA collections.
Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.
Almira is valiantly struggling through her first real Ramadan. Last year's fasting attempt was a disaster, so she's trying extra hard to make it through the long month. A crush on a (non-Muslim) boy and the sudden arrival of a sophisticated mean girl (Muslim) only complicates matters.
What I liked: It's been interesting watching and reading the trickle of YA books written by Muslim authors and featuring Muslim characters. Wearing hijab (head covering) is a significant concern in books like Does My Head Look Big in This?, but Bestest.Ramadan.Ever is primarily focused on Almira's experience while fasting for Ramadan, which doesn't largely figure in other YA novels with Muslim characters. Almira realistically struggles with wanting to fit in with the other kids at her Miami high school; although her parents are not faithful mosque goers, they are still socially conservative and expect Almira to be as well. Almira will resonate with many teen girl readers, even if they aren't Muslim.
Picky Picky: The grandfather seems a bit over the top in his remarks, but that's a minor complaint. The mean girl story line was a bit predictable, but the lessons drawn from it are good ones to remember.
Overall: A terrific addition to multicultural YA collections. Definitely recommended!
Posted by Jennifer Schultz at Tuesday, September 13, 2011