Friday, April 20, 2012

Recent Reads

The death of a parent (or parents) in children's and young adult literature is nothing new, but my two recent reads have dealt with this sensitive subject in poignant and memorable ways.

The Boy on Cinnamon Street

Save for the uncharacteristic cover, I thought that The Romeo and Juliet Code was a fine and remarkable novel (I had issues with a significant plot point, however).  Fans will be pleased to know that The Boy on Cinnamon Street is, in my opinion, an even greater achievement. Ever since Louise's mother died, life has been turned on its head for the thirteen year old girl.  Moving in with her grandparents, giving up gymnastics, having to deal with people who don't know the right thing to say (or what to say at all), and her repressed memory of the circumstances surrounding her mother's death have taken quite a toll on Louise.  School's not the same, her friends aren't the same, and her grandparents are emotionally devastated as well.  There are flashes of normalcy for a seventh grader, though: a secret admirer makes things interesting, and her two best friends are truly awesome.  The circumstances of Louise's mother's death are slowly revealed when Louise unlocks her memory; writing about repressed memory requires careful knowledge, of which Stone, unfortunately has, as she suffered circumstances similar to Louise.  Despite the grave subject matter, this is a genuinely sweet novel (and quite funny at times) with a hopeful ending, as Louise slowly begins to rebuild her life (the revelation of her secret admirer is worth the price of the book). 

DJ Rising

Life's pretty tough for seventeen year old Marley: his father died several years ago, his mother is a heroin addict, and he dreads making oral reports at his fancy pants private school, which he attends on scholarship.  Practicing his dj skills keeps him sane; his skills catch the attention of a club owner, earning him a weekly slot dj'ing for the Wednesday early evening crowd.  Although some elements of the story are a wee bit predictable (namely the grouchy and reluctant mentor), they pale in comparison to this truly engrossing and inventive debut novel.  The skill and expertise required of a DJ is impressively conveyed through nerve wracking scenes; quite the eyeopener! I'm eagerly anticipating Maia's future work.

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