Review Hacklet: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell ~ Love with high stakes

Q: Could this cover be more perfect?  A: No. No, it could not.

Q: Could this cover be more perfect?
A: No. No, it could not.

Verdict: An 80’s-nostalgic love story between two outcasts that can be easily appreciated by teens (and older) today. It has Romeo and Juliet undertones and references, but manages to avoid cliché or senseless tragedy.

Perfect for: Readers who love tales of romance between relateable, realistic characters; Aficionados of alternative 80s music and 80s comic books.

Summary: Set in Omaha in 1986, Eleanor, a new student at her high school, is instantly deemed to be a mockable outcast due to her unruly mop of red hair, “fat” body, “weird” clothes, and her redneck stepdad and rundown house. Park is socially in limbo: his dad is a strapping white guy veteran with generations of roots in the area, but his mom is from Korea; usually Park is tolerated or ignored by his classmates, but other times he becomes the target of teasing because of his Asian features.  Park tries his best to exist under the social radar, but when Eleanor ends up as his school bus seatmate, he fears that he will be associated with her and therefore be teased as relentlessly as she is. Over the weeks, however, Park’s empathy for Eleanor begins to outweigh his fears and he begins to make small gestures of friendship.  Eventually the two find that they have more in common with each other than anyone else they know. But can they let a relationship develop in the hostile social environment of their high school? And can Eleanor risk the wrath of her controlling, alcoholic stepdad?

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Review: All You Never Wanted by Adele Griffin ~ Sister/Sister Part TWO

Lying to Others vs Lying to Yourself

Lying to Others vs Lying to Yourself

Some redeeming elements; major hacking needed

Some redeeming elements; major hacking needed

Apparently it’s “YA Books about Younger Sisters Who Lie and Older Sisters with Psychological Problems Triggered by Strange Incidents” week here at LitHacker Central. First The Opposite of Hallelujah, now All You Never Wanted.

Verdict: This book seems to explore the different ways that lying to others and lying to yourself can be damaging. While this book has some strong writing and explores some interesting psychological issues, there are too many aspects that seem rather unrealistic, and the ending is somewhat abrupt. If you’re going to choose just ONE unstable older sister/lying younger sister book this week, choose The Opposite of Hallelujah instead.

Perfect for: People who like psychological fiction or somewhat unreliable narrators.

Summary: Thea and her older sister Alex are now living in a too-extravagant house (nicknamed “Camelot” by Thea) in tony Greenwich, Connecticut after their mom marries a rich man. Before this marriage, the girls and their divorced mother were barely getting by in their tiny apartment but they had each other and were pretty close. Now their mom seems to be always flying somewhere with her new husband – for vacations or charity events – and the girls are often left alone to adjust to their new reality. Told alternately in a forceful first person (Thea) and distancing third person (Alex), we learn that these sisters have dealt with the changes in their lives in very different ways. Formerly nerdy Thea has decided that conspicuous consumption and outrageous but borderline believable lies will make her interesting and popular. Meanwhile, Alex, who has always been somewhat of a golden girl, seems to be in the midst of a nervous breakdown that is getting progressively worse – for a specific reason that is revealed later in the novel. Continue reading

Review: The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab ~ Sister/Sister Part ONE

I really want to make a "Sister Act" pun but this book deserves better

I really want to make a “Sister Act” pun but this book deserves better

Only one element needs hacking

Only one element needs hacking

  Verdict: How many teen novels can you think of that explore the spiritual concept of “grace”? Or indeed address matters of spirituality at all without seeming, well, preachy? The Opposite of Hallelujah is unique in that it takes a teen’s spiritual development as seriously as it tackles issues about a teen’s romantic and family relationships. This is not a perfect book, but it thematically is a refreshing one to read.

Perfect for: Thoughtful readers who want realistic fiction with a unique perspective and plot. Readers who like reading about family relationships as much as they like reading about dating.

SummaryEleventh grader Caro is a dedicated student who, after a rocky time in middle school, finally has established a good reputation, good friends, and is even starting to party and date some boys. But she feels that her whole world is threatened when she learns that her 27 year old sister, Hannah, is returning to live with her family.  Caro barely remembers her sister, because eight years ago, Hannah entered a reclusive convent many miles away.   Continue reading

Review: Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins ~ A PG Look at Child Soldiers in Burma

I wish the publisher had been brave enough to show Burmese children on the cover instead of "whitewashing" them into shadows

I wish the publisher had been brave enough to show Burmese children on the cover instead of “white-washing” them into shadows

Only one element needs hacking

Only one element needs hacking

Verdict: This look into the life of child soldiers in Burma (aka Myanmar) without all the gritty, traumatizing realities of war makes this book appropriate for younger readers (age 10 and up). As it is fiction, the book is more an allegory about keeping one’s humanity in an inhumane situation than it is an accurate portrayal of child soldiers. It’s a simple yet rewarding story. Recommended.

Perfect for: Younger YA readers or readers curious about the life of child soldiers, or about other cultures.

Summary: The first section of the book is narrated by Chiko, a bookish fifteen-year-old boy who lives in a major city.  His father, a doctor and scholar, has been in prison for some time for being a suspected enemy of the state for owning English books. Lured downtown by an advertisement that claims the government is recruiting people for teacher-training, Chiko is captured by the army and brought to the jungle to be trained as a soldier. Continue reading

Review Hacklet: Getting over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald ~ a fluffy antidote to hipster lit

She's covering her face for the shame of crushing on a pretentious hipster

She’s covering her face for the shame of crushing on a pretentious hipster

Verdict: An entertaining read. It’s like a palate-cleansing sorbet: it’s not the main course but especially if you’ve been reading more demanding books, it will lighten you up for the next challenge.

Perfect for: Fans of Sarah Dessen’s romances who want something more funny and even more light and frothy.

Summary: Sadie has been in love with her friend Garrett for, like, ever. But while he is away at camp, Sadie has an epiphany: she’s been wasting her life following Garrett around like a lost puppy. So she begins a program of detoxing herself of her crush in preparation for his return, with varying successes. Meanwhile, without Garrett around, Sadie makes some new friends and even resuscitates her friendship with her former BFF and neighbor, Kayla.

1 heart This book pulled a fast one on me! At first I was like, why does Sadie have the hots for Garrett? He’s such a pretentious hipster and she’s acting like one too. Am I supposed to like these people? But then Sadie has her epiphany and as she detoxes she starts to see Garrett for who he is, ie someone who would make Sadie feel embarrassed to watch Bring It On and Clueless (for shame!). When Sadie finally pulls out her copies of these DVDs I cheered. And chuckled. I thought McDonald did a great job showing how a crush can give you such tunnel-vision about a person and how easy it is to lose your own bearings when you like someone. It was nice to see Sadie struggling with how to show an interest in a guy with keeping her own identity.

I also loved seeing Sadie reconnect with her old friend Kayla, whom she abandoned as being “too regular people” when she fell in with Garrett. After just seeing all of Freaks and Geeks for the first time, it made me think of Lindsay and Millie and how awesome it was when Lindsay finally rediscovers what a good friend Millie is. The book also made me think about how Lindsay finally realizes that she doesn’t have a crush on sometimes-poseur Daniel.

1 scissors I mean, whatever, it was predictable and fluffy. It was in First Person Present Tense (*sigh*)(boo). I guess the only thing that really bothered me was that Sadie’s mom seemed a little bit two-dimensional. But I don’t think it really matters. This is a popsicle book, perfect for summer.  Garrett Delaney wouldnever want to read a book like this, which is recommendation enough 🙂