Posts Tagged ‘Coming of age’

Nantucket Blue

Leila Howland

NantucketBlue-HighResFor Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.
Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.
When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.
But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on–most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits–that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.
A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

When it comes to selecting my holiday reads I’m attracted to books that are uplifting, set in interesting and exotic locations with a strong romantic theme, and the guarantee that even if the sky remains overcast and grey during my “stay-cation” in Blighty, I will at least get to experience sun, sand and sea within the pages of a book.

The cover of Nantucket Blue alone ticked a lot of my essential summer boxes: blue sky? Check; golden sandy beach? Check; Romance? Check. Reading the synopsis, a girl taking her first steps towards independence and making her own way and the dangling carrot of “forbidden” love, cemented my desire to add Nantucket Blue to my summer reading list. Thanks to the lovely Shane at Itching For Books Blog Tours (visit here) I didn’t have to wait long to soak up some virtual vitamin D.

Cricket is beyond excited to be turning her back on her usual summer of dividing her time between her father’s new family,
her dowdy and depressed mother and the babysitting job from hell. Instead she intends to spend the summer with her best friend, Jules and vivacious second family, working a glamorous job by day and flirting with her long-term crush by night. However, all too quickly Crickets plans for an idyllic beach holiday with her best, dissolved like a sandcastle with the rising tide.

Devastated and bewildered by her first experience of bereavement, excluded from her second home and pushed out by her best friend, Cricket clings on to her summer plans and the overwhelming desire to be there for Jules. With a determined single-mindedness, which at times borders on thoughtlessness, Cricket takes matters in to her own hands and follows Jules out to Nantucket.

Within a few pages Leila Howland transported me effortlessly back to a carefree time of girlie plotting and planning, the end of school year excitement and the anticipation of weeks of hazy, care free summer days and fun filled summer nights. But then, like Cricket, my plans for a carefree summer (read) were turned on its head.

Where I was expecting a fluffy summer romance with an undercurrent of a young woman striking out on her own for the first time, what I discovered was a bitter sweet coming of age tale of a girl who learns that the true transition to adulthood isn’t just about physical distance and financial independence from your parents.

When we first meet Cricket she acts younger than her seventeen years, particularly in the way she approaches her relationships.
So much of her own identity is wrapped up with her friendship with Jules and the family she has adopted as her own, that she doesn’t know how to be without them.

She has a hopeful naivety, which is simultaneously cringe worthy and endearing. I winced as she put herself out there time and again, stumbling from one awkwardly ill thought-out situation to another, all the while knowing that the knocks she was receiving were important for her growth. I imagine I just experienced a glimpse ten year in to my future as a mother with teenagers.

While I quickly reconciled myself that Nantucket Blue wasn’t so much a summer romance, as a coming of age tale pivoted off of a young woman’s changing relationships, I loved the sweet romantic relationship which developed between Cricket and her “off limits” beau and I can’t help wish that we had spent more time getting to know them as a couple. However, of all of the changing relationships explored by Howland, my favorite was the new understanding which developed between Cricket and her mother, facilitated by her mother’s teenage diary of her own eventful summer in Nantucket.

Verdict: Blue skies, sandy beaches and bittersweet life lessons.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: May 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 304
Genre: Coming of age, Contemporary romance
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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Carnegie and Greenaway: Wonder

R. J. Palacio

Wonder cover artMy name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside.
But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?
Narrated by Auggie and the people are around him whose lives he touches forever, WONDER is an funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

Wonder is quite frankly an amazing book that well and truly deserves its place on the Carnegie Shortlist. I read the book in a night and needed copious amounts of tissues as I neared the end. It should be made clear however that this is not a sad book, instead it is one that highlights the better side of human nature. Although the darker side does raise its ugly head from time to time, this book shows how human kindness can overcome it. Yes there are parts that are quite corny and twee, but I was left with such a feeling of hope after finishing the book, so much so that the corniness didn’t really seem to matter.

Auggie is the main character in the book, even when we read from the point of view of other characters. Born with a severe facial deformity he has had a lot to overcome in his 10 years. Previously homeschooled his parents decide to that now is the time he should start at mainstream school. Auggie is apprehensive but decides to give it a go, it’s not like he isn’t used to the way that people look at him. Initially ostracized there are a couple of pockets of light in the dark. In the end, despite the wishes of a boy who is obviously scared of being different, Auggie gains the acceptance of his classmates by showing a incredible quiet strength.

Wonder is written from the perspective of a number of central characters, all people whose lives have been touched by Auggie. I did miss the perspective of Auggie’s parents but at the end of the day this is a book for pre teens not for adults and the characters that they would wish to hear from are all covered. All points of view were written in the first person, but I always knew whose voice I was hearing. I liked the way that this was done, I don’t think that the book would have had nearly as much impact has it all been written from Auggie’s point of view as a large part of the storyline was how he, as a person, affected the lives of those around him. I also think that the decision to write the book in the first person was a good one. It is a very emotive book about a very emotive subject, the first person narrative reinforced this as the reader feels an intense emotional connection to what is going on.

I also liked the fact that although this book focuses on the better side of human nature, the ‘good’ characters weren’t perfect. Via sometimes resents her brother for taking her parents attention away from her and whilst she loves her brother doesn’t always want the hassle that being seen with him brings, their parents disagree on Auggie starting school, Jack gives in to peer pressure and talks about Auggie behind his back and Auggie does feel anger and resentment at the lot that he has been given. Had these characters not had these little imperfections then Wonder would not have seemed as real and I don’t think it would have succeeded in putting across the message that we should all take time to look at who a person is as that is what counts.

I’m not sure that it will win Carnegie, I think it may be a little sentimental to actually win the prize. It has however been a welcome break from the heavy darkness that can be found in some of the other books on the shortlist. And although I don’t think it will win part of me wishes that it would.

Verdict: A beautifully written, emotional book that give me hope for the nature of human kindness.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Corgi Children’s
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Coming of age
Age: Middle grade/ Teen
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Carnegie and Greenaway Awards: The Weight Of Water

Sarah Crossan

weight of water cover artArmed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother’s heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat.

This is a book that is stunning in its simplicity. The writing, especially coming from a debut author is just exquisite. I originally bought this book for my school library as it was about a polish girl coming over to England and I work at a school with a large polish population. I thought it may be good for girls who had come over from Poland to relate to but really this book is so much more. I really didn’t know what to expect from this book. I’d already read ‘Breathe’ Sarah’s other book but not really realized that both were by the same author as the books are so incredibly different, both in subject matter and writing style. I’d enjoyed ‘Breathe’ but it hadn’t quite lived up to the hype for me, in contrast ‘The Weight of Water’ very definitely does.

This is a book written as poetry rather than prose. I’m one of those people who just doesn’t ‘get’ poetry and I normally avoid books like this like the plague, in fact the only time that I do read them is when they appear on the Carnegie Shortlist but this book was really a pleasant surprise. Telling the story of Kasienka, all from her point of view it covers, very sensitively, all sorts of issues that teens all over the world face. Family breakdown, isolation, bullying, first love and the building of new lives are all covered within the book. I did find the original premise a little unbelievable, that a mother would uproot their child from all that they knew to follow a man that had left without word with just a postmark to go on. But I think that may have been me reading the book as an adult rather than a child. I wanted to find out more about Kasienka’s parents, but that was not something that Kasienka would know and this was her story not theirs, that would be what a teen girl would have been interested in and rightly so.

Kasienka is a strong central protagonist. Whilst we get a look into others lives this is her story not theirs. This works really well in adding to the feeling of alienation and isolation within the book, a very common feeling for many teens. That Kasienka comes from a different country and doesn’t speak the language means that she finds understanding her peers very hard. These misunderstandings come from both language and cultural barriers, but again although they may be more pronounced in this case they work very well at showing the confusion of teens as they start to try to understand the world around them and their place within it.
‘The Weight of Water’ is an incredibly quick read, it only took me about 40 minutes to read, although running to over 200 pages the way the book is written mean that pages aren’t filled. Yet what amazed me was the depth and range of feelings that the book provoked in me in that time, just because it is a quick read does make it shallow or superficial in any way. It is quite the opposite and I think that this is why the choice to write the book in poetry format really works.

Verdict: A beautifully written coming of age story, told in a very strong, very believable voice.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Genre: Coming of age
Age: Young Adult
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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