Tag Archives: Juvenile Fiction

Book Review: Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern

Last January, when I’d just finished a few other books, I decided to look around for another young adult novel to read that’s about a subject I’m interested in. I stumbled upon Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern. The book sounded interesting enough, so I bought it and started reading. Due to some other interests demanding their time from me, I didn’t finish it till yesterday. This review may contain spoilers.

Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she’s going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that tells her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother. With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family’s genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she’ll live to be a healthy adult-including her dream career in ballet and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool and gets an audition for a dance scholarship across the country, Rose begins to question her carefully laid rules.

Review

Pretty early in the book, I found out who the boy from the similarly flawed genetic pool mentioned in the synopsis is. His mother and sisters have sickle cell disease, but he doesn’t carry “the gene”. There’s where McGovern puts a glaringly obvious medical inaccuracy in the book, that is, that sickle cell is a dominantly inherited disease. There is no mention of the boy’s father being a carrier of the disease and sickle cell is compared to recessive diseases at least once. For those who don’t know, sickle cell is a recessive disease, meaning you need two copies of the gene to get the disease. I happen to know because I once read that people who carry one copy of the gene don’t get sickle cell disease and have the added luck of not getting sick when infected with malaria. That’s why sickle cell is more common among Black people than among Whites or other races. Yes, I did look it up to be sure. This huge medical inaccuracy spoils the entire book for me. That’s probably me though, being autistic and having a special interest in medicne.

Now that we got this out of the way, I have to say the book is otherwise quite good. It is a little predictable at times, but there are still enough twists and turns for the book to remain interesting. The author goes into detail sometimes, which I like – but which is also why said medical inaccuracy annoys me. I love getting to know the main character really well. Rose is not just a girl whose mother has Huntington’s. She’s a true round character. I also got a glimpse into the world of Huntington’s (obviously), sickle cell, ballet, and as a added bonus, the California zephyr train ride. Love trains.

Book Details

Title: Rules for 50/50 Chances
Author: Kate McGovern
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: November 2015

Book Review: Believarexic by J.J. Johnson

I have published a few posts that were inspired by my reading of the book Believarexic by J.J. Johnson already. I didn’t share many opinions on the book itself though. Early this morning, I finished the book, so I’d like to post a review. This review contains some spoilers.

Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Jennifer has to force her family to admit she needs help for her eating disorder. But when her parents sign her into the Samuel Tuke Center,
she knows it’s a terrible mistake. The facility’s locked doors, cynical nurses, and punitive rules are a far cry from the peaceful, supportive environment
she’d imagined. In order to be discharged, Jennifer must make her way through the strict treatment program – as well as harrowing accusations, confusing half-truths, and startling insights. She is forced to examine her relationships, both inside and outside the hospital. She must relearn who to trust, and decide for herself
what “healthy” really means.

Punctuated by dark humor, gritty realism, and profound moments of self-discovery, Believarexic is a stereotype-defying exploration of belief and human connection.

Review

This book is an autobiographical novel. The author describes this quite poignantly at the end of the book as “true make-believe”. What this means is that the author did really get inpatient treatment for her eating disorder in 1988 and 1989, but the details and characters may’ve been changed or simplified. I haven’t yet checked the bonus material, so I cannot be sure whether some of the pretty intriguing events in the book did really happen. For instance, one of Jennifer’s fellow patients is signed out by her parents because they don’t believe the program is working. They decide instead to take her to an orthodontist to have her mouth wired shut. Even though this book takes place in the dark ages of the 1980s, I find it hard to believe such a procedure would be legal even then. I do still see the stark contrast between psychiatric treatment then versus now.

Sometimes, I find that characters have been oversimplified in terms of them being either good or bad. Dr. Prakash, Jennifer’s psychiatrist, is nice from the beginning to end, whereas nurse Sheryl aka Ratched is bitchy and controling throughout the book. Still, some characters make quite a transition through the book, and there are incredible twists and turns.

The book starts out a bit triggering with for example the hierarchy of eating disorders being quite extreme. Nonetheless, this book is clearly pro-recovery. At the end of the book, the author encourages people who even have an inkling of an idea that they might have an eating disorder to seek help. As may’ve become clear through some of my previous posts inspired by this book, Belieivarexic led me to some interesting insights.

Book Details

Title: Believarexic
Author: J.J. Johnson
PUlbisher: Peachtree Publishers (eBook by Open Road Media)
Publication Date: October 2015

For more information on the book and its author and for resources for people with eating disorders, go to Believarexic.com.

Book Review: Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton

Yay! I reached at least one of my goals for this month. I finished not just one, but two books I’d started reading earlier in the year. Already in January, before the book was published (or at least before the eBook was), I found out about Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton and decided I wanted to read it. Like with Girl in Glass, other things that seemed more interesting came in the way, so I didn’t finish the book till a few days ago.

Synopsis

Megan doesn’t speak. She hasn’t spoken in months. Pushing away the people she cares about is just a small price to pay. Because there are things locked inside Megan’s head – things that are screaming to
be heard – that she cannot, must not, let out. Then Jasmine starts at school: bubbly, beautiful, talkative Jasmine. And for reasons Megan can’t quite understand, life starts to look a bit brighter. Megan would love to speak again, and it seems like Jasmine might be the answer. But if she finds her voice, will she lose everything else?

My Review

This is a fascinating book and it doesn’t go as I’d expected it to go. When I first started reading this book, I thought it’d shed light on selective mutism, in which a peson (usually a child) is unable to speak because of severe social anxiety. Though technically Megan might meet the definition of selective mutism, much more is behind her silence than social anxiety. When reading the first few chapters, I was bored easily, because I had no way of making sense of the story. When I read on, however, this boredom turned into curiosity, then suspense and eventually I was completely captivated. The book has some fascinating twists and turns and some thrilling cliff-hanges, some almost literal. Once I got through the first few chapters, the story kept me thrilled until the very last page. That’s a rare occurrence with the type of fiction I usually read. With this book, Abbie Rushton tells a great story on friendship, love and crime. For those who, like me, are pretty faint-hearted, I’d like to disclose that the story ends on a good note. I can’t wait to read Rushton’s next book, which will be out in the spring of 2016.

Book Details

Title: Unspeakable
Author: Abbie Rushton
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publication Date: February 2015

Book Review: A Different Me by Deborah Blumenthal

A few weeks ago, I was given a promo code on Kobo for having been a customer for a year. I searched for interesting juvenile fiction, and came across A Different Me by Deborah Blumenthal (Albert Whitman & Company, 2014). The synopsis sounded interesting, so I decided to buy the book, and finished it within a week.

Synopsis

Allie Johnston’s secret wish since the day she was twelve is to have her nose done. But she hasn’t told anyone – not her parents, or even her best friend, Jen. But when she starts visiting a plastic surgery discussion board on the Web, she finds people who get her, for the first time in her life. Her new friends, including two girls her age with vastly different backgrounds who share her obsession with changing their faces—but for very different reasons. A sharply written, insightful book about learning to be happy with who we are.

My Review

For the most part, I liked this book. Most characters are really formed, though on the surface they may come across a bit superficial. That’s the whole point of the book I believe: even if a person may seem shallow, often you don’t see what’sinside of their minds unless you really attempt to get to know them. For example, Amber, the most goodlooking girl in the school, has a hidden life of pain that Allie doesn’t get to find out until she looks beyond Amber’s outward appearance.

The character of Allie herself seems to have deliberately been developed to seem a bit boring. Unlike Amber and some other characters, she doesn’t have much drama in her life. All she has is a screwed body image. This again serves the point of the book well: Allie may have a bump on her nose, but overall she has a pretty good life.

The book’s ending in terms of Allie’s nose surgery (which she ends up canceling at the last moment) is quite predictable. However, it’s not whether she has surgery that makes this book interesting, but the mental processes leading up to her decision. In this sense, I was more interested in learning about the other characters than I was in learning about Allie. After all, it’s the other characters who teach Allie that it’s not her looks that make her who she is.

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Book Review: The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla

Since I discovered that Adobe Digital Editions 2.0 is accessible with screen readers, I’ve downloaded a number of ebooks. Most were scientific books, with a few being memoris, and to be honest I until now hadn’t ifnished any. I usually bought my ebooks at Bol.com, the largest online media store in the Netherlands. However, when they switched to an inaccessible bookshelf format for downloading ebooks, I decided to try out Kobo. I also wanted to spread my wings in the reading departmnet, so I decided to check out some juvenile fiction, because I always used to like that better than adult fiction. In fiction, my taste is similar to that in memoirs: the book has to cover medicl, social or psychological issues. The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla seemed to meet that requirement. Besides, it cost only E3,-, so I wouldn’t have wasted a lot of money if it turned out to be crap. In the end, I’m not disappointed at all.

Synopsis

Two teens are forced to make some very grown-up decisions when one of them is diagnosed with terminal cancer, twisting them into an unpredictable nightmare. Best friends since toddlerhood, Samantha and Jesse grapple with the realization that they are actually in love. What now? Beautifully written while handling a very heavy topic, Castrovilla addresses the universal question: In a world where the worst can strike at any time, how can we ever feel safe?

Review

Reading the first page, I was not thrilled. Was middle grade fiction that simple, or was my English that advanced, it being my second language? Within pages, I had to change my mind on this, because it turned out I didn’t understand some of the more commonly used words – maybe my English isn’t that advanced after all. Even so, the book is quite readable.

The book isn’t too fast-paced, but it doesn’t ge tlong-winded either. I was able to guess pretty soon that Jesse wasn’t going to get a miracle cure fo rhis cancer, but other than that, the book was not predictable at all. I wondered at several points from halfway through the book on whether the end was coming up. I don’t mean this to say the book is boring, but there were several moments at which point Jesse could’ve died and the book would be over.

What I also liked about the book, was that I developed both sympathy for and disgust with almost all characters. For example, Gwen, Jesse’s mother, starts out as a bitch, and I genuinely thought that I’d hate her throughout the book. Gradually, however, I was led to understand her better and in the end, I liked her somewhat. The book is written from Samantha’s point of view, but I believe most characters in fact ar epretty formed.

The topic covered in this book is of course quite sad, but the book didn’t just make me feel sad. I alternated between feeling angry, sad, happy, surprised and a lot of other feelings. In the end, I was left with peace. That is exactly what this book aims to teach.

Book Details

Title: The Girl Next Door
Author: Selene Castrovilla
Publisher: ASD Publishing, Ltd.
Publication date: May 2013