If you'd like to see my recent four-plus- and five-star recommendations, visit Robin ReadsnWrites.
* I didn't make it beyond the first 20 pages.
** I made it to the end, but I either skimmed or skipped large sections.
*** I might have skipped/skimmed, but I liked it and might read it again.
**** I read at least 95% of the book and it was good -- probably will be reread.
***** I read every word, and I loved it! A favorite and definite reread.
Audition, by Stasia Ward Kehoe *** This was pretty good, but as with Bunheads, I started losing interest and ended up skimming after about half the book. Some things I liked: the free verse; the vulnerability of the MC; Julio. The plot is somewhat similar to Central Stage, but it does vary, after a bit (yay). I did have to wonder what was wrong with Rem -- seriously, why would any 20-something guy be interested in a teenage girl (who doesn't even look like a 'woman' because of her training)? That always makes me pause a bit...but the intensity of the ballet world and the aspects which make it so foreign to the rest of us were here, as well, and I like how intriguing that is. One thing I especially liked here -- Sara wondered why her parents would just let her go. I found that to be pretty realistic. The story: Sara leaves home on scholarship to attend Jersey Ballet. Soon she's thrown into the ballet world, with all its competitions, weird diets, strange interpersonal relationships, etc. When she falls for an older dancer (and he seems to like her too), she has to decide where to go from there -- and she has to deal with her loneliness and isolation from her parents, as well, while choosing whether to return for another year or to go back home. (YA contemporary verse, released 10/11, publisher: Viking)
Shut Out, by Jody Keplinger ****+ This was very good. I really liked the language (though graphic, at times) because it wasn't over the top (for me), and yet it definitely sounded authentic. I loved how the girls actually began talking about their sexual experiences, and how they discovered that sex really is something which was beyond most of them. [When I was teaching, I had a 16-year old student who insisted that she not only loved sex, it actually 'felt fantastic' every single time. And she was telling the other girls this, as well -- I finally stepped in and talked to her about it because I didn't like the message she was trying to send to the other girls. She admitted (after a ton of resistance) that she really only liked sex because of the power it gave her over the guy.] I loved how the book hints at the fact that sex is more than just the act -- it's an intimacy that very few (if any?) teens are really capable of (as I think it needs that underlying commitment and dedication to the other person), and because of that, it will be extremely rare for teens to truly understand it. I also loved that some of the girls were able to speak up and admit they weren't ready for all that -- I just liked the whole idea of frank conversation! Another realistic aspect (imo): Randy kept saying he 'loved' Lissa, and she admits she was 'in love' with him too...and yet, their actions spoke quite differently. Very authentic teen (and no, I'm not saying teens don't know what love is -- but it's definitely true that teens, and even some adults, confuse sexual intimacy -- or even affection -- for love). The story: Lissa is tired of her school's inner rivalry, soccer players versus football players. When her boyfriend Randy admits he was part of a group who led to the injury of a soccer player, Lissa decides she's had enough. She gets the other girlfriends together (from both groups), and they agree to have a sex strike. Soon, though, the strike brings up many other issues about intimacy, affection, what sex really is and means -- and loyalty between boyfriends and girlfriends. Lissa doesn't know what to do as things start getting out of hand and Randy humiliates her in front of everyone -- and Cash, a hot soccer player, seems to be the friend (and more?) Lissa's always wanted. Lissa has to figure out what the strike is really all about -- and how to truly end it and the rivalry. (YA contemporary, released 9/11, publisher: Poppy)