Review Hacklet: Boy 21 by Matthew Quick ~ The Little Prince in Basketball Shoes

boy21_cover

The cover is weird before you read it but becomes perfect after you’re done

 

Summary: The book is narrated by Finley, a white Irish kid in a rough, mostly black town close to Philly. He lives for basketball, even though as point guard, he’s a role player and doesn’t get the big scores. He’s a quiet, reserved kid, just trying to keep his head down so he doesn’t get mixed up with either the Irish or black drug dealers or gangs. At the start of his Senior year, his coach puts him in charge of a new kid, Russ, who’s moved to town to live with his grandparents after his parents were murdered. Russ was a highly recruited basketball star out in California, but after his parents’ murder he’s become withdrawn and eccentric, calling himself Boy21 and claiming to be from outer space. Boy21 ominously believes he will soon return to space and rejoin his parents.

Finley accepts Boy21’s eccentricities and heeds his coach’s command to help him and convince him to play basketball again, even though it might mean that Finley would lose his spot on the team to the much more talented Russ. The book is really all about Finley trying to walk many thin lines without making a dangerous error: helping Boy21 without fearing the possible competition; being friends with a black guy while living in the Irish part of town; balancing dating his longterm girlfriend Erin with dedicating himself fully to basketball; staying on the good side of the gangsters and mobsters without being pulled into that life. These razor-edged tightrope walks and the shortness if the book makes this a gripping, tense read.

1 heart  I loved this book from the beginning, but then got mad at it and then got un-mad at it and then I loved it again. I was mad because I was feeling clever about 40% of the way in, when I made the connection between the character Boy21 and the Little Prince, but then about 60% of the way through the book, one of the characters referenced The Little Prince and I felt less clever, and just a bit anxious about Boy21’s detached claims that he would soon be leaving planet Earth for the cosmos. I was also worried the book would end up being a blatant adaptation of Saint-Expury’s work. I started waiting for the metaphorical snake. But it soon became clear that the author was only giving the slightest homage to The Little Prince, and the story went in its own odd direction. So in the end, I got to feel clever again for noticing the connection and gratified by the story’s surprise ending.

I loved the eccentricities of Boy21 and how Finley easily takes them in stride, and loved seeing their friendship develop. There was a lot at stake, both in the present of the narrative and because of the brutal back stories of the characters that you find out later. I loved the unpredictable nature of the story, and the quirks of all the characters. Some people seemed turned off by the “weird” hard-to-classify nature of this book, but that’s exactly what made me love it.

1 scissorsThe only thing I couldn’t quite buy was that Finley and Erin had been dating for years, and were Seniors, but seemed to not have proceeded past making out and holding hands. It’s not that I think this was bad, it just seemed a little unrealistic that two fit, athletic teens who love each other wouldn’t be having a more intimate relationship. In some ways, I think it was a fine choice to not have that be a distracting element to the story, but it was just a little difficult to believe and made me wonder why Quick made this choice. We know that Finley is repressing a lot of emotions, but is this supposed to part of it? Or was Quick trying to make a point about how Erin and Finley were best friends first, and that their friendship was the most important element of their relationship? I actually did feel taken out of the story a little by what I perceived as something so unrealistic.

 

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Review Hacklet: Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres ~ A harrowing teenage memoir

Jesusland_cover

Sister & Brother…..before the &h1t hit the fan

Verdict/Summary: Being a teenager is hard enough, but Julia and David Scheeres really had it rough. Readers will empathize with seventeen year old Julia’s honest voice as she remembers her strict upbringing in rural Indiana, her horribly dysfunctional childhood, her traumatic introduction to sex, her conflict between wanting to fit in at school and her desire to defend her beloved adopted black brother David from racial taunts, and her stubbornness of spirit after being sent to a totalitarian religious reform school in the Dominican Republic.

1 heartIt’s really hard to put this one down because you want to know if Julia and David turn out OK. Continue reading

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: 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: Ask the Passengers – by AS King ~ Ask yourself “Why haven’t I read this amazing book yet?”

Wait, I set it up so I can only give 5 hearts?

Wait, I set it up so I can only give 5 hearts?

No Hacking Needed <3

No Hacking Needed ❤

I’ve come out of retirement (aka working full time and not having a summer vacation to read and blog) to post about this lovely, wonderful book. I’m going to make this one short and sweet, but more reading and posting to come in the next two weeks…yay!!!

Verdict: Pure love.

Perfect for: Fans of AS King’s other books.Fans of philosophy and gray areas. Fans of love (not in the romance novel sense but in the sense of Love. L-O-V-E. And how it is a human essential.) Fans of books that know how to handle family and friend dynamics in a realistic way. People who are teens. People who used to be teens.

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