Monday, January 04, 2010

Welcome 2010!

Hello 2010! Wow. When I was a kid, the 2000s seemed like such a science-fictiony time period. When are we going to get our flying cars?

(BTW-are you saying "two thousand ten" or "twenty ten"? WTOP discussed this on the air; their director is making the broadcasters say "twenty ten" until it looks like a general consensus has been made on the usage.)

So, what were the last books I read in 2009? Two excellent biographies and a terrific YA novel. As I do with the children's chapter books and nonfiction, I choose my biography readings by selecting one book per shelf (in reverse alphabetical order). This allows me to browse and examine the collection with a very narrow focus. I may not finish the book (I'm much more lenient with not finishing a chapter book than I am with a nonfiction, since I can at least skim a nonfiction book if it's not totally grabbing me), but at least I have a familiarity with it.

When I found myself in the "L" biographies, I picked a book that I had not yet read cover to cover and a book about someone I've been wanting to know more about: Candace Fleming's astounding The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary and James Robertson's Robert E. Lee: Virginian Soldier, American Citizen. I read them at the same time, which provided a really interesting reading experience. Although they are children's biographies, they are substantial biographies for serious reading.

(This is why children's biographies and nonfiction are terrific for adult readers who are intimidated by the increasingly overstuffed biographies and histories on the general biography/history market, but want to improve their general knowledge of history, or any other nonfiction topic.)

Over the break, I also read a terrific YA novel, Big Fat Manifesto, by Susan Vaught, and I can't wait to read more from this author. Books about overweight teens are not new to YA literature, but we're starting to see books that feature the reality of these teens, in that the characters are not uniformly depressed, angry, and unpopular, but have real lives, real friends, and even (gasp) love interests.

Readers are immediately drawn to Jamie Carcaterra; she's funny, opinionated, loves her boyfriend, and is gunning for a big national high school journalism award. Her "Fat Girl" column in her high school newspaper chronicles her everyday ups and downs, including getting the cold shoulder (and snippy comments) at a local clothing store, her clueless physician's comments, and her everyday life with friends, family, and boyfriend.

Her boyfriend's decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery becomes a main focus of the column, in which Jamie openly describes her apprehension over the surgery, her boyfriend's post-surgery complications, and the various changes in her boyfriend's behavior.

Without hitting the reader over the head with an obvious message and agenda, Susan Vaught winningly and movingly (with much humor) not only describes the hardships and heartache that Jamie faces because of her condition, but also gives Jamie a real and otherwise ordinary life with friends, boys, and aspirations. Ideal for teen readers who want substance in a teen "chick lit" story.


Bibliovore said...

I read Big Fat Manifesto a few years and thought it was amazing. It struck too close to home for me to review but I loved it.

Jennifer Schultz said...

Hello Bibliovore! Thanks for commenting. It's one of those books that really stays with you. A realistic, honest voice.

Ms. Yingling said...

I want to read Erak's Ransom, but won't have it until August. Blast the budget! Did like Big Fat Manifesto, too.

Jennifer Schultz said...

Darn budget! I felt the same way when I looked at YALSA's latest best graphic novels list (I know that's not the real name-Great Graphic Novels>). I can't order all of them.