Saturday, May 9, 2009

Born Confused by Tanuia Desai Hidier

Dimple Lala just wants to be a normal American teen, but her traditional Indian family keeps putting a glitch into her ideal. Dimple wants desperately to be like her best friend, Gwyn, who is blonde and thin- very much Dimple's idea of the American girl. Gwyn, however, is trying to find her own identity and loves the traditional culture and look of Dimple's family. Just when Dimple is beginning to succeed at pulling away from her family's traditions, being Indian becomes cool. Gwyn suddenly wants to borrow Dimple's traditional clothing and accessories, and Dimple's parents find a "suitable boy" for her to meet. Dimple loves her family, and does not want to hurt them, so she puts up with meeting the suitable boy, Karsh. Karsh comes to meet Dimple and her family with his family. He does not meet Dimple's expectation for the American boy she want to be with someday. Karsh is very Indian, down to his appropriate clothes. Dimple dismisses him as a nerdy guy she would not be interested in. She soon changes her mind when she finds out that Karsh, like Dimple, has another side to him. Karsh turns out to be one of the hottest Indian DJ's in New York City. This artistic side appeals to Dimple as she herself is an artist. Dimple wants to be a photographer. She finds that she likes Karsh after all. However, Dimple has already told her friend, Gwyn, that she would have nothing to do with Karsh, and Gwyn thinks Karsh is up for grabs. What should Dimple do? Tell Gwyn that, sorry, she wants to go after Karsh after all? or let Gwyn pursue Karsh? Making matters more complicated, Gwyn and Karsh seem to be hitting it off. Suddenly, Gwyn is acting like the good Indian girl that Dimple's parents wish she would be. Dimple always wanted to just be American, but maybe it's not so bad to mix the two cultures after all. Dimple is conflicted about betraying her true self, but first she needs to figure out what her true self is. Is she purely American, Indian, or a mixture of the two?

I loved this book and was almost sad to finish it. Although she is confused about herself, Dimple stable character contrasts greatly with Gwyn's self destructiveness. The story has a great lesson in discovering that people are not always as they seem and that a person does not have to claim one single identity to "fit in" or please others. Nothing is simple in this story, and, in the end, the characters learn that is okay. The author's writing will pull you into Dimple's life, and you will find yourself rooting for her in whatever she wants to do. Hidier is very good at portraying the angst and desires that go along with being a teen.

Book; 13+; ISBN 9780439510110; New York: Scholastic Press, 2003

Friday, May 8, 2009

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Miles has never been popular- actually, he doesn't even have friends at his public high school. This makes it easy for him to decide to go to Culver Creek Boarding School. There, Miles hopes to begin anew and find some of the adventure that eluded him back home. His parents are not too sure about sending him off to boarding school but end up agreeing to let Miles go. At his new school, Miles soon makes friends with his new roommate, Chip (aka the Colonel), and Alaska, a beautiful (Miles calls her hot) enigma of a girl, and others. The small group of friends bond over smoking, drinking, and playing pranks on the Weekday Warriors, rich kids who go home to their wealthy families on the weekends.

Miles, who gets nicknamed Pudge because he's skinny, finds himself falling for Alaska, who has a boyfriend. The problem, besides the fact that she has a boyfriend, is that Alaska is pretty messed up. She happy one minute, upset and yelling the next. Miles cannot figure her out. Alaska just wants to be buddies, but Miles keeps looking too much into her behavior to see if she might like him back. When tragedy strikes, Miles and his friends must learn to come to terms with the shocking loss and figure out what they mean to each other or risk losing each other as friends. Major themes in the story are love, friendship, loss, and forgiveness.

This book is a quick read, but because it does take a very serious turn, I do not recommend it for a light summer vacation book- unless you are tired of summery books and are ready for something more substantial. The story does not quite make it to a romance, but the elements are there. Friendship is the more important theme here. It is well written, and the author knows how to keep his reader hooked. You will find yourself reading "just one more chapter" a couple of times before turning your lights out at night. I recommend this book for both guys and girls.

Book; 14+; ISBN 9780142412213; New York: Speak (from Penguin Group), 2005

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Beastly by Alex Flinn

What if the tale of Beauty and the Beast happened in todays world? How would people react to the Beast? Would Beast be more or less likely to get his Beauty? That is the story Flinn tells in Beastly. Kyle Kingsbury, one of the most popular guys at his exclusive private school, plays a mean prank on a not-so-popular girl in his class. The prank backfires as she is a witch- a real witch that is- and turns Kyle into the Beast. Kyle soon learns what the people he used to ridicule went through, and then some. The few people who see Kyle are terrified, and Kyle's own father, a famous news anchorman on TV, is so embarassed about his son that he sends Kyle away to live by himself in the family's vacation home. The once popular Kyle suddenly finds himself to be an outcast.

The witch gives Kyle two years to find someone who will look past his beastliness and fall in love with him. The story becomes a little predictable here. Kyle blackmails a girl from his school to be his prisoner in his home. But how can he not only get her to look past his ugliness but to also get her past the fact that he is holding her captive? Of course, Kyle finds himself falling for the girl. Kyle never becomes the scary and mean beast like in the Disney version, which might make it easier for him to get the girl.

Of course we know the ending throughout the story, but Flinn still manages to keep her readers on their toes. Maybe she won't stick to the usual story after all! In spite of the fact that this is a well known story, this retelling is perfect for young adults and adults who are tired of the children's version. It is also fun to read the story in a modern setting. Kyle is not so isolated as he has Internet access and is in an online support group for people who are going through changing from one thing to another (one is a mermaid who wishes to become human- gee, I wonder who that could be?). It's a quick read and lots of fun. I recommend this for guys and girls (it's told from Kyle's point of view).

Book; 13+; ISBN 9780060874186; New York: Harper Teen, 2007

Trigger by Susan Vaught

How would it be to wake up in a hospital with brain damage and no memory of how you got there? Would you be able to believe it if you were told you shot yourself in the head in an attempt to commit suicide? That is the world Jersey lives in. He has spent almost a year in the hospital and rehabilitation center recovering and learning how to live with his brain injury and a battered body as a result of the injury. Now, Jersey is going home and will also have to learn how to live with family and friends who don't quite know how to react and deal with his suicide attempt. Jersey will also begin to explore the reason why he tried to kill himself. He was once athletic and popular, but now Jersey can barely get his body to do want his brain tries to tell it to do and his friends are mostly angry at him. He finds that people tend to either be too sympathetic to his ordeal or overly angry. His memories come back to him in quick flashbacks that he must try to put together into one cohesive memory. He has trouble speaking, and sometimes has trouble not speaking as he tends to spout of whatever is on his mind thanks to the brain injury.

The story is about Jersey's attempt to find himself, even when some do not want to tell him the whole story he needs in order to do so. While the reading level is not very difficult, the story can be difficult at times because of the serious subject matter. At times it can be hard to follow as the story is told in Jersey's voice, as it is with his brain injury. That can sometimes make it difficult to stay with the story. However, the book is worthwhile and will leave you with plenty to think about. You might want to share it with family and friends so you can discuss it.

Book; 14+; ISBN 9781582349206; New York : Bloomsbury, 2006

Rumors ( A Luxe Novel) by Anna Godbersen

High society New York, socialites on the verge of getting everything they want, and all those delicious, frothy dresses and society events- what's more to love in historical chick lit? Rumors, the sequel to The Luxe, delivers all of this and more. If you have not read The Luxe, you should stop reading this review now as it will spoil what happens in the first book of the series.

Elizabeth Holland has pulled off the trick of the year by faking her death and running off to be with her love, Will, in California. Only her sister, Diana, and her best friend and rival, Penelope, know Elizabeth's secret. Well, at least until Diana spills the beans to her maid who in turn tells her sister, Lina, who is in love with Will too. Penelope on the other hand, is happy to have Elizabeth out of the picture as this puts her in a prime position to get her hands on Elizabeth's former fiancee, Henry Schoonmaker, who Penelope sees as her ticket into the old money society her newly wealthy family has been having trouble breaking into. But there's a little problem there too, for Diana and Henry are secretly in love and are just waiting for the proper amount of time of mourning to go by after the supposed death of Elizabeth. Got it all?

This topsy-turvy novel is not so hard to follow as it may seem, and Godbersen will keep you glued to the end. The story is a juicy, guilty read with just enough historical fact to make you feel not too guilty. If you liked The Luxe, you will enjoy this story too as it follows the same format. But, don't expect a neatly wrapped up ending here as there is more of the series to come.

Book; 13+; ISBN 9780061345692; New York : HarperCollins Publishers, 2008