Life As We Knew It

by Susan Beth Pfeffer | 360 pgs, published 2006

Alert: super enjoyable book!

This is written in journal format by a teenage girl. It’s predicted that a meteor will hit the moon one evening, leaving a visible crater; it turns out that the meteor is much bigger or denser than expected, so the moon is knocked out of its usual orbit. Imagine all the effects that will have.

The writing here is really great, but what I liked most was how well thought-out the plot was. 72-hour kits and emergency preparedness, anyone?

One note. I wanted to immediately go out and tell everyone to read this book. Then I thought, maybe it’s a little different because it has a teenage girl narrating. So, you know, it has teenage girl stuff. Then I questioned why it mattered; I probably wouldn’t have had an issue with recommending a similar book narrated by a teenage boy. It turned into a dilemma and would have prompted some self-examination except I was too lazy to bother.

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The Secret of Lost Things

by Sheridan Hay | 354 pgs, published 2007

A Tasmanian girl comes to New York and works in a huge, well-known used bookstore. Her boss is an albino with failing eyesight. There’s an under-the-table attempt to sell – maybe? – an unpublished (maybe) Herman Melville manuscript. The author spent a lot of time creating unique characters, but at some point, you need an average person in your book. Right?

The narration is fine, but then there’s this scene. It’s weird. Weird is too subtle a term for it. What’s beyond “bizarre”? The narrator is so passive, and it’s never more irritating (or bizarre) than in this one scene.

If you’re really intrigued by my vague description, I guess I could understand that. I finished the book feeling slightly creeped out, and just odd. And not really like I’d read something I enjoyed.

So…I wouldn’t recommend it, because it was “meh” at best, and why waste time on books like that?

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The Unwanteds

by Lisa McMann | 400 pgs, published 2011

I was so excited to read this book. As a general rule, I don’t care for twins as main characters, because it seems like such an easy plot device. But here it sounded fascinating: in a society where you are classified as Wanted or Unwanted at age 13, twin brothers are split up. Alex is Unwanted and he knows this means he will be sent to a death farm. And die.

I’m sorry for all the spoilers that are about to follow…

When Alex and the other Unwanted 13-year-olds get to the death farm, it turns out to be an illusion. It’s magically a place called [insert fantasy place name here], a school/haven for the creatively-minded Unwanteds. You see, what makes a person Unwanted is failure to follow the society’s rules, like no drawing, singing, dancing, acting, and so on. In the X-Men school of [fantasy place name], the kids learn how to let their creativity develop, and then how to use it as a weapon so they can defend themselves against the Wanteds if necessary. (Remember that the Wanteds think the Unwanteds have all been shipped off to die in a pit of boiling tar or something.)

Also, there was a weird romance in there. Awkward teenage crushes. Really awkward.

So the book ended up seeming like a PSA for creativity. Let your child be themselves! Don’t force them to think like everyone else!

I’m all for creativity, and I hope my kids can think in a variety of ways, including the ways that will be most useful to society. And hopefully earn money and stuff because let’s face it, unless you produce every item you need to consume, you’ll need money.

…Ahem. I got sidetracked there. Not a huge fan of this book, that’s what I was trying to get at.

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