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Book Review: The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

Publisher’s description

summer of jordiSeventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby’s been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win the coveted paid job at the end of the internship.

But really, nothing this summer is going as planned. She also unwittingly becomes friends with Jax, a lacrosseplaying bro-type who wants her help finding the best burger in Los Angeles, and she’s struggling to prove to her mother—the city’s celebrity health nut—that she’s perfectly content with who she is.

Just as Abby starts to feel like she’s no longer the sidekick in her own life, Jordi’s photography surprisingly puts her in the spotlight. Instead of feeling like she’s landed a starring role, Abby feels betrayed. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image others have of her?

 

Amanda’s thoughts

If you are not reading Amy Spalding’s books, you are totally missing out. Her dialogue is A+ and I always want to be best friends with all of her characters. This book was no exception.

 

17-year-old Abby has always viewed herself as the quirky, funny sidekick in her own life—the one who watches cool things happen to other people and is there for advice and clever one-liners. Because of this view of herself, she kind of can’t believe it when Mexican American Jordi Perez, who is cute, cultured, serious, and seems to have it all together, reciprocates her crush. Both girls get a summer internship together at Lemonberry, a faux vintage clothing store. Abby runs a fashion blog and Jordi takes excellent photographs. Though they’ve gone to high school together, they don’t really know each other—in fact, Abby can’t even remember Jordi’s name at first. It’s a summer full of unexpected things for Abby, who also ends up becoming best buds with Jax, a lacrosse-playing friend of her best friend’s boyfriend (Jax is convinced this makes them friends-in-law, so of course they should hang out). Jax ropes Abby into eating and rating burgers all summer as part of his dad’s new Yelp-like app. Jax is a gem of a character—funny, supportive, and so much more than the cliche that it seems like he may be. While Abby has a cool internship, a rad girlfriend, and great friends (including some unexpected new ones), it’s not all roses. Abby repeatedly mentions that she’s fat. When she says something about being fat and Jax starts to say she’s not, she points out to him that she is, which isn’t bad, but “acting like fat’s an insult is.” She’s cool with her body and her weight, for the most part, though she is a little self-conscious especially when she and Jordi start making out (a not-so-unusual feeling for anyone). Though she runs a fashion blog, she never posts pictures of herself on it. She’s particularly self-conscious about pictures of herself, not because she doesn’t like to look at them, but because she would like to avoid all of the fat-hating comments from people who may view them. It just seems easier and safer to not put herself out there. Then there’s the issue of her mother, a food blogger, who seems to constantly view Abby as a disappointment. Abby is pretty sure her mother would prefer her to be straight and thin, things she more or less says outright to her. But despite the feeling of being a disappointment to her mother, things are mostly going great… until they aren’t.

 

This book has a super wide appeal—it’s an excellent romance full of joy and happiness. Abby’s zest for fashion is contagious—my own closet is full of mostly black and extremely boring, but I loved reading about Abby’s outfits and the clothes at the shop. Though there is a fight and some fallout/heartbreak, this is a feel-good book with tons of charm, humor, and heart. This funny, sweet, summer read was the perfect thing to spend a blizzardy day off of work reading. 

 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781510727663
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication date: 04/03/2018

Book Review: Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

Publisher’s description

girl-out-of-waterFans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen will fall in love this contemporary debut about finding yourself-and finding love-in unexpected places.

Ocean breeze in her hair and sand between her toes, Anise can’t wait to spend the summer before her senior year surfing and hanging out on the beach with friends. Santa Cruz is more than her home-it’s her heart. But when her aunt, a single mother, is in a serious car accident, Anise must say goodbye to California to help care for her three young cousins.

Landlocked Nebraska is the last place Anise wants to be. Sure, she loves her family, but it’s hard to put her past behind her when she’s living in the childhood house of the mother who abandoned her. And with every Instagram post, her friends back home feel further away.

Then she meets Lincoln, a charismatic, one-armed skater who challenges her to swap her surfboard for a skateboard. Because sometimes the only way to find your footing is to let go.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

This is an excellent book to add to your summer reading lists or summer reading displays you may be making.

 

Anise is not thrilled to be leaving behind her large group of close friends in Santa Cruz to spend the summer helping care for her cousins in Nebraska. Many of her friends will be heading off to college in the fall, so it’s their last real summer together. But Anise loves her family and knows how much her aunt, recently in a car accident, needs the help, so she quickly gets over her attitude and immerses herself in her new, temporary life. Her cousins include busy 9-year-old twin boys and a somewhat secretive and moody nearly 13-year-old girl. For Anise, an only child whose mom bailed a long time ago, it’s a much different pace of life than she’s used to. Prior to this, she had never left California and can’t understand why anyone would want to. Why are her friends going away to college when life at home is so idyllic? Nebraska has a high potential to suck: there’s no ocean for surfing, Anise is away from her friends, and she’ll be spending the summer in the house her absent mother grew up in. But before long, she meets the instantly warm and chatty Lincoln, a skateboarder who loves adventure. He convinces Anise to start skating and they hang out a lot. Despite having kissed her best friend, Eric, the night before leaving CA, it’s instantly obvious that Anise and Lincoln will have a thing. While Anise still feels it’s hard to be away from her friends and all the action back home, she becomes pretty crappy at communicating with her friends now that she’s spending so much time with Lincoln. Lincoln has moved around a lot and wants to travel the world, something Anise just can’t understand, stubbornly clinging to the idea that Santa Cruz is the only place for her. But the summer away isn’t all skating and kissing. Anise grapples with her feelings about her mother’s (repeated) abandonment and eventually starts to worry if she’s somehow like her and if maybe her life is a reaction to her mother’s inability to stay in one place. When she and Lincoln road trip back to Santa Cruz, she also discovers that friendship (and communication) is more complicated than she thought.

 

This is a quick, relatively light read. I found the middle 80%, where she’s in Nebraska and discovering new people, experiences, and feelings to be much more engaging than her time at home with her friends. Anise is a little self-centered and oblivious, but that’s certainly nothing to hold against a teenager (or a person, period). While there are certainly more serious topics that come up in the story, they’re not particularly explored much in depth, resulting in what feels like just a nice, quick summer read—some summer adventure, new experiences, and romance that seems time-limited. Silverman’s debut has wide appeal and will be an easy one to recommend this summer to fans of contemporary YA. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9781492646860

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Publication date: 05/02/2017

Sunday Reflections: Please Don’t Ask Me How My Summer (or My Childhood) Was! A reflection on assignments and writing prompts

sundayreflections1She came to the Teen MakerSpace every day. Until she didn’t.

Just a few weeks before school we learned that she had been sent to another state to live with extended family because both of her parents were now in jail.

2.3% of U.S. youth under the age of 18 have a parent in prison. That translates to over 2 in every 100 youth, or 1,706,600 youth overall. (source: http://blog.tpronline.org/?p=227)

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By the time he reached Kindergarten, he has already been placed in a couple of different foster homes. He doesn’t have any pictures of when he was a baby. And we can only hope that he doesn’t remember the broken bones and cigarette burns that led to him being taken from his biological home.

On any given day, there are over 415,000 children in foster care. These children will remain in state care for an average of two years. (Source: http://www.childrensrights.org/newsroom/fact-sheets/foster-care/)

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One of my best friends is the parent to children adopted from foster care. She is one of the many families I know that have fostered or fostered to adopt children. And she recently pointed out an issue that I had never thought about, even though I have advocated right here for more representation of teens in foster homes in YA literature. You see, two of the most popular assignments, especially for back to school, is the “tell me about your summer” or “tell me about your family assignment”. For many kids and teens, this is a loaded question. It’s dangerous. It’s complex. It’s not territory that they want to dive into publicly.

Bring in a baby picture? I can’t, none exist.

Tell you about my childhood? I spent years in and out of foster homes, living out of a plastic bag and recovering from broken bones or sexual abuse.

Tell you about my summer? I spent the summer visiting my mom and dad in jail until I was sent to live here.

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I spent the summer between my 3rd and 4th grade year sleeping weekends on the floor of a single bedroom apartment while my parents navigated a divorce and tried to go from a two-income home to a single-income home. It would take many years before we were financially stable again. That summer, like many of the summers that would come after that one, quite frankly sucked. Want to know what we did? We cried a lot. We fought a lot. We tried to ignore our hunger a lot. We survived. But barely.

So here’s what I propose: we need to rethink the assignments that we give our kids in school. We need to acknowledge that many of our kids are suffering in ways that we can’t imagine and not make their school grades dependent on them sharing that suffering with us or publicly because many times they are not ready.

The number of children and teens that I know that come from stable and supportive homes is remarkably low. So why are we still asking them to share their family histories, their birth stories, or how their summer went? Possibly out of habit. Possibly out of denial. Often from a place of privilege or idealization. But the truth is, these are irresponsible assignments and writing prompts in a world where approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce, where 1 in 4 adults struggles with mental illness, where 1 in 4 people are the victims of sexual abuse, and where hundreds of thousands of kids are being placed into foster homes.

So it’s time to rethink the assignments and writing prompts that we give our kids. If you still see value in asking about birth stories or summer or childhood memories, then please give your students choices so that they don’t have to share that information if they don’t want to. Instead of one writing prompt give four or five.

Or ask your students to share who they are in more meaningful ways if your goal is getting to know you. Instead of asking about birth and early childhood, ask them about their favorites: favorite foods, favorite colors, favorite songs, books or movies.

We need to rethink the information we are asking our children and teens to share. We need to recognize that many of them are dealing with and trying to process trauma and that they should be allowed to do that in their own time and in their own way. We need to actively avoid scenarios in the classroom that might somehow out information that they don’t want or are not yet ready to share.

So before you ask children and teens to share childhood stories or pictures about their childhood or summer, please consider that many of the children and teens sitting in your classroom don’t have good stories to share right now and ask a different question instead.