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Book Review: White Lines by Jennifer Banash

“What’s up, kitty cat?” Marla has a big, booming voice, and it bounces off the tiles and reverberates through my head. I walk over with a smile as she reaches to enfold me in her fleshy arms, practically cutting off my circulation with her cleavage. 

“Taking a break?”

“You got it,” I say as she releases me. I walk over to the stalls and lock myself inside and sit on the closed toilet lid. Taking a break. Is that what I’m doing? Because I don’t know anymore. As I reach into the plastic bag with my pinky, scooping a bit of white powder under my fingernail and holding it to one nostril, inhaling deeply, my eyes close and I try to ignore the sinking sensation in my stomach that lets me know I’ve gone too far. There was a time, I think, when drugs added to the night more than they took away. When you were happy just to be here, in this crazy, fractured world, dancing all night beneath the lights, sweat breaking on your skin like holy water.

I remember that feeling of bliss, and there’s a twinge in my gut now where it used to reside, especially since I know I’ve been faking it in the past few months. Tears well up in my eyes, and my mouth fills with bitterness as the drug works its way into my system. I repeat the process on the other side, breathing in hard, then rub the excess over my gums. The taste in my mouth is slightly unfamiliar, like dirt, but weirdly soapy at the same time, and as I begin to wonder why, the room beings to quickly slide away from me. There’s something . . . missing in me… I hear myself murmur, the words slow and thickened.


A lush, elongated feeling lengthens my muscles as I fall to the floor, my body useless and limp, my bones hijacked. I reach out for the door, my hands scrabbling at the lock, my body moving forward into empty space, fingers scratching at the metal as the room swirls away in a cyclone of red and black.

My Thoughts: 

Abused by her mother and forgotten by her father, 17 year old Cat has been taking care of herself for a long time. Set in the 1980’s, she lives alone in the East Village, and she plays at attending school but lives for being one of the party throwers at the clubs- controlling the who gets in and out of the club, throwing parties, and the rush of drugs that makes everything that much more. When Jullian transfers into her school, she finally thinks that she might have a way out of the black hole she’s fallen into, but can she escape the lure of partying and drugs, especially when her boss is pulling the strings?

I found White Lines entirely realistic; Banash captured Cat’s voice and actions completely realistically and it echos in what teens feel today. Told with sporadic flashbacks of what abuse Cat suffered at the hands of her mother (mental, emotional, and physical, along the lines of Mommie, Dearest) readers can’t help but be drawn into Cat’s story. Her relationship with Jullian tears your heart, as well as with so-called “friends” Giovanni and Alexi, all of whom have deep problems of their own. Recommend to pair with biographies like Zoo Station or Tweak, or fiction books like Beneath a Meth Moon, the Crank series by Ellen Hopkins, or Smack by Melvin Burgess. 3.5 out of 5 stars. As of July 28, Goodreads has White Lines 3.59 stars.  

Reel Thoughts: Stealing from the Past to Make the Future (Good or Bad)

There’s a host of sayings going around that there are no original ideas; everything has been done before, it’s just the spin. Hollywood and the movie industry definitely takes this view- a ton of movies that come through are taken from idea that have already come from either television or older movies that they feel the current target audience (18-35) wouldn’t be familiar with. However, that doesn’t mean that they work with teens. The ones below are covered under Movie Licensing USA and have been taken from sources originated in the 80’s. Do you use them in your programming? Share in the comments!


Was the REAL American hero and KNOWING was half the battle, especially with a PSA after each episode. However, the newer movies have more explosions and rewrote all the love interests…
GI Joe: Rise of Cobra came out in 2009
while GI Joe Retaliation came out in 2013 (DVD due to be released at the end of July)
and my teens seem to love both.

Another huge 80’s cartoon making a comeback has been Transformers…  from epic cartoon battles…

to live action and CGI, it has killed at the box office. I geek over the fact that they’ve gotten a lot of the original voice actors for the Transformers, even if I have real issues with the way women are portrayed in the films. And a fourth one is on the books for June 2014, with Mark Walhberg  as the lead (you go, Marky Mark).

But not all of the 80’s remakes have been cartoons.  Take for example:
RED DAWN. Made in 1984, The Wolverines took on Russia when they invaded and saved the good old USA. (Didn’t remember that Baby and Johnny Castle had a movie BEFORE Dirty Dancing, didja?) Now, in 2012, movie makers traded Russia for China and we got
RED DAWN. With Peeta. And a very shorn Thor. I haven’t seen this one, but my teens are clamoring for it, so I bet it’ll be on our fall rotation.
I am excited to see CARRIE.
 I love the original with Sissy Spacek, and have high hopes for the new one with Chloe Moretz.


These we can just look at the pictures and not talk about.




And there are more remakes coming. According to IMDB.com, there are remakes coming for The Highlander (which may be delayed since Ryan Reynolds just dropped out of the title role), Scarface, Dirty Dancing (not just the bad sequels),Escape from New York, and others. These can be good, bad or inbetween, but sometimes I really just want something that I don’t need to compare it to.

The 80s as Historical Fiction (A review of Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell)

I will never forget the day I was driving in the car, listening to the radio when the DJ declared it was a flashback weekend – and then he started playing a song from the 80s.  Suddenly, the music I grew up listening to was considered the “oldies”.  It’s possible that I have even heard myself say, “Music today just isn’t any good”.  Maybe.  (You can also go retro with your programming.  Find out more here.)

The music of the 80s is what brings Eleanor and Park together.  That and some comic books.  In fact, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a love letter to the 80s, music, comic books and all things geekery.  It is brilliant, touching, and not what I was expecting. 

Two misfits. One extraordinary love. – from the inside cover

E&P first came on to my radar when I asked earlier in the year if anyone knew of any upcoming light, contemporary romances.  I was working on a book order and noticed that everything was dark, dark, dark, dark.  And not all of my teens like dark.  So several people responded with Eleanor and Park.  But, there are a couple of things you should know.

1) Eleanor and Park may be a love story, and a beautiful one, but it is not contemporary.  It is set in the 1980s, which might make it technically qualify as historical fiction.  But it definitely has a relatability that transcends time.  Teens might not know what it means to have to worry about the batteries running down on their walkmen’s or what it means to make a mix tape, but they have still shared headphones and they can create playlists to share with the freak sitting next to them on the bus.

2)  Eleanor and Park may be a love story, and it is a brilliant one, but it is definitely not light.  Eleanor has a very dark home life.  She is living in abject poverty.  Her stepfather is abusive and that abuse seems to be escalating.

But instead of talking about what Eleanor and Park isn’t, let’s talk about what it is.  E&P is one of the most organic love stories I have ever read.  The first time Eleanor steps onto the bus, Park is just trying to keep his head down and avoid being noticed by the school bullies.  He knows that to offer her a seat would be the death of him, but he sees her struggling and does so.  They sit side by side for weeks without saying a word, until Park realizes that she is reading his comic books over his shoulder.  Soon they are sharing comic books.  Then talking. Then kissing.  Rowell captures every aspect of a budding relationship perfectly: the ackwardness, the sparks, the longing just to be near that person.

“Bono met his wife in high school,” Park says.
“So did Jerry Lee Lewis,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be,” she says, “we’re sixteen.”
“What about Romeo and Juliet?”
“Shallow, confused, then dead.”
”I love you,” Park says.
“Wherefore art thou,” Eleanor answers.
“I’m not kidding,” he says.
“You should be.”
– from Eleanor and Park

Rowell also does a really amazing job of character and family development.  Park’s family is simply awesome.  They are a multicultural family struggling with poverty and stereotypes.  Park himself is half Korean.  Everything about Park’s family is done so well.  And when the moments matter, they rise to the ocassion.  Loved this aspect of the story.

Eleanor’s family is so much harder to read because her home life sucks and way too many teens are living in these types of homes.  They walk around on egg shells, fearful of the next wrong step and what the consequences will be.  Simply heartbreaking.

“You’re my favorite person of all time.” – from Eleanor and Park

This is simply a really amazing book.  Read it.  What more can I say.  5 out of 5 stars.  I did have one issue with it, and you can read about that here if you would like.  Next up for Rainbow Rowell – Fangirl, coming in September 2013. 

For more books set in the 80s (or professing a love to the 80s), check out:

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Way to Go by Tom Ryan
The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jessica Rothenberg
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

They have a nice discussion and booklist over at Stacked.  So tell us, what would you put on your #80smixtape?  And what are your favorite books set in the 1980s?