8/24/2010

Every Little Thing in the World by Nina De Gramont: Young Adult Book Review

Every Little Thing in the World
Nina De Gramont
Atheneum
Realistic; Young Adult
March 2010

Before she can decide what to do about her newly discovered pregnancy, sixteen-year-old Sydney is punished for "borrowing" a car and shipped out, along with best friend, Natalia, to a wilderness camp for the next six weeks. (BWI description)

Sydney’s not a “bad girl,” but an average, sixteen-year-old teen who accidentally gets pregnant after dating a boy a handful of times. She can’t believe it happened. She’d listened to her teachers in the sex-education classes at her private school. She and her long-time boyfriend had always taken precautions. It’s only after they break up that she forgets to be careful, resulting in the pregnancy that threatens to change her life forever. She’s sure that her parents wouldn’t understand, and in the beginning, they wouldn’t. So she puts off telling them. It takes until the end to resolve the issue of the pregnancy, and to tell her mother, if not her father, about what happened. Most of the book takes place during a month spent at a wilderness adventure camp in Canada, where Sydney’s dad has sent her after her mother can no longer handle her acting out.


In the ongoing conversation about whether abortion is or isn’t murder, and whether a pregnant teen should have the baby and keep it, or give it up for adoption, Ms. DeGramont does a thorough job of examining the possible repercussions of each choice, while writing a thoroughly entertaining, and though-provoking, novel.

Not everyone would make the choice Sydney and her mother believe is the only right one in this situation. But it’s right for their values, which enables DeGramont to shade the meaning and the attitudes into those that are upbeat and convincing.

8/17/2010

Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott: Young Adult Book Review

Something, Maybe

Elizabeth Scott
Simon Pulse
Realistic
March 2010

Seventeen-year-old Hannah does everything she can to avoid being noticed due to the scandalous occupations of her parents, but she might have to make an effort to change that after she develops a crush on two guys at her part-time job. (BWI description)

This was a slight, but enjoyable, book, a quick read. If you’ve ever read any Elizabeth Scott’s novels, you know she is very talented. Living Dead Girl was one of the most disturbing books of 2008. By contrast, Something, Maybe is a more simple story of a girl who wants one guy, but discovers that a better one was always there, just waiting for her to notice.


What makes the book unusual is seventeen-year-old Hannah’s embarrassing, infamous parents. Her mother earns her living as an erotic web-chat hostess, and her father was fashioned after Hugh Hefner. Jackson (the Hefner-type character) was in his 50’s when he had a two-year relationship with Candy, Hannah’s nineteen-year-old mother, impregnated her, promptly dumped her, and would never have claimed his child, were it not for a paternity suit. Unfortunately, Candy refused to take any child support from wealthy Jackson, thus Candy and Hannah only scrape by from payday to payday. Candy is portrayed as reasonably likeable—she’s not overly vain, and she tries to be a good mother, though spending all of her time strutting around in scant, sexy undies in front of a webcam. That she wouldn’t accept any financial support from Jackson made her seem very stupid to me.

Though not ordinary parents, Scott rendered them realistically and, in fact, they are the most interesting aspect of the story. In a bid to improve his image, Jackson, who is now in his seventies, sends for Hannah. While spending time with him, she gets an eyeful about his lifestyle.

When not feeling embarrassed by her overly libidinous parents, Hannah works at the call center for a drive-in burger restaurant. Josh, the gorgeous poet and activist that she pines for, is totally unattainable. Finn, an awkward but nice, guy-next-door type, is constantly doing what he can to get her to notice him … until, one day, she finally does.

Hannah is a likeable girl. Instead of making her too cynical, which Scott could’ve done, she rightly gives her a cheeky quality that is entirely appropriate, given her parents. Irreverence is always easier to take than unrelenting cynicism. Scott’s dialogue catches the way teens talk, and what they talk about, superbly.

8/12/2010

A Small White Scar by K.A. Nuzum: Young Adult Book Review

A Small White Scar
K.A. Nuzum
HarperCollins
2006
Young Adult: Historical; Realistic; Rural

Fifteen-year-old Will Bennon leaves his family and begins life as a cowboy, but his twin brother with mental disabilities follows him and joins the journey. (BWI description)

Nominated for four awards. Recipient of Booklist Editor's Choice Award: 2006.


When I first bought this book for the library, back in 2006, I thought it sounded somewhat intriguing, but also like the plot of so many Westerns I’ve seen in my lifetime. Also, I live in the country, and am surrounded by cowboys and country women. I am a country woman. We’re different in the rural west; we truly are. We have true grit.

I was worried that the book had been written by someone who might never have been on a horse. Someone with absolutely no idea what country life is really all about. You get my drift. So I passed on it, until I came across it again recently, and decided to give it a try. I need not have worried. Nuzum understands country living. She understands the human heart, and she is a truly wonderful writer.


Since his mother died seven long years ago, it’s been fifteen-year-old Will’s job to look after his twin brother, who has Down’s Syndrome. It’s 1940. They live on a ranch in Colorado, and that’s what his dad needs and expects of Will. But Will wants to be a man. He wants to do a man’s job, not look after his retarded brother. He's getting awfully tired of having Denny follow him everywhere, and so he decides to run away. He plans to join a rodeo. To be sure, he feels guilty about it. But he’s also angry, and it feels like a solution to him. But then, on the day Will runs away, Denny follows him on horseback. Will does everything he can to convince Denny to go home, but like something you just can't get rid of, Denny stubbornly refuses. Despite all, Will loves Denny and feels protective toward him. The two ride on. They run into predictable obstacles, such as rattlesnakes and raging rivers. Eventually, Will joins a rodeo. In the end, Denny confronts his father and they work out some solutions.

From the plot description, the book sounds like so many books you’ve read or heard about, or TV Westerns. But it is completely realistic. The setting is vividly drawn. There is no sentimentality or toxic nostalgia, and none of the didacticism that you might expect to find in in a book with a plot description like this, and especially one written for youth.

The quality of the writing is everything. It rises to the top like thick cream in a jug of fresh milk.

8/11/2010

Wheat Harvest 2010


Wheat harvest is in full, dusty, and glorious swing.
I love the sound of combines as they travel down a road. I think it's the sound of the hydrostat, (whatever that is). I need my husband to help me with this post. The header bounces along. Combines remind me of ginormous grasshoppers--don't ask me why--they don't jump!

The tires stand almost as tall as me (5'4"). To get inside the cab, you have to climb a pull-down ladder with about 10 steps. In the fields, they are incredibly maneuverable. We used to run green combines (John Deere), but for the past couple of decades we've been running red (Case).


View from inside the cab. Wheat is gushing out of the arm into a waiting truck. From the truck, it's taken, in our case, to on-site grain bins. After harvest is over, we empty the bins, one semi-load at a time, and haul it 25 miles to Almota, along the Snake River. From Almota, it's put on barges. The barges follow the Snake until it meets the Columbia, and then it gets unloaded in Portland. Our soft white wheat markets are mostly in Japan and China.



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