Lauren and Cheesy: a Love Story

51qxunmoamlThe Bridge from Me to You, by Lisa Schroeder (2014)

Opening line: “The house smells like / apple pie thanks to the / burning candle on the mantel.”

Lauren is new to the small town of Willow. She’s recently moved in with her aunt, uncle, and three young cousins, leaving a mom and baby brother back in Portland, for reasons she’s keeping close to her chest, reasons that make her sad, anxious, and a little bit angry. Colby is Willow’s golden boy, star football player about to start his senior season accompanied by his best friend in the world, Benny. Colby’s got a secret too; despite being really good at football, and despite his father’s dreams for him to get a football scholarship, Colby feels done with football. He wants to go to college to learn to build bridges, not score touchdowns. Both Lauren and Colby are feeling trapped.

When they meet at the local Jiffy Mart over a bag of Bugles, they seem to offer each other a breath of fresh air. Colby might be Lauren’s bridge out, and Lauren might be Colby’s. Things are suddenly looking up for them both. Until Benny’s accident, that is. One night, Colby’s best friend Benny is in a motorcycle accident, landing him in a coma, and Colby in the hospital waiting room, not knowing if Benny will ever recover.

I feel like I could just keep going with plot summary, because there’s no real good place to stop. Just picture the most recent sappy Nicholas Sparks movie, and you’ve probably got a good idea. I couldn’t hardly believe that one of the main characters is Colby, because this book was cheeeeesy. I think it’ll be one that my students will easily devour though, because there’s not much more you want as a thirteen year old than a perfect romance to cure all your problems. Which is basically how this one goes. The writing is equally as cheesy as the plot, probably not helped by the fact that all of Lauren’s chapters are written in verse, which the author took advantage of in a terrible sort of way. I usually love verse novels, but found this one trying way too hard.

Eh, not great literature here, folks. But not a terrible way to spend an afternoon.

1 star

 

 

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Go ahead, judge this one by it’s cover.

Lost in the Sun, by Lisa Graff (2015)

Opening line: “When we were real little kids, Mom used to take Aaron and Doug and me to Sal’s Pizzeria for dinner almost every Tuesday, which is when they had their Family Night Special.”

First of all. How gorgeous is this cover? I’m in love with the colors and design. Nice work Andrew Bannecker.

Second of all. The story. Lovely. Heartbreaking. Uplifting. All the good things go into this story. Trent is starting 6th grade, which is hard enough for any kid. But six months ago Trent joined a pick up game of hockey, hit a puck into another kid’s chest (a kid who evidently had a heart condition), and that kid died. While a complete accident, Trent has not been able to forgive himself, and he’s pretty sure no one else has forgiven him either. His former friends are shunning him, his new teachers hate him, and worst of all, his father thinks he’s a waste of space (or so it seems to Trent). It doesn’t help that anytime he picks up a baseball or a basketball or any other piece of sporting equipment, his hands get clammy and he can’t breathe.

Then he meets Fallon Little, the girl with the horrible scar across her face, one that came either from a frisbee hitting her in the noggin, or a lightning bolt striking her, or being attacked by a soulless beast while scuba diving. Depends on which story she’s telling that day. Fallon is unlike anyone Trent has met before, and as much as he tries to dislike her strangeness, he can’t help but notice they way she laughs with her whole body and the way her smile tucks into the edge of her scar. And as much as Fallon jokes away her scar with extravagant storytelling, something happened there, something she doesn’t like to talk about.

This story is packed with wonderful characters and honest emotions, a nearly perfect middle grade novel.

2 stars

Interestingly, it’s a companion novel to Umbrella Summer, which is from the point of view of the younger sister of Jared, this kid killed by the hockey puck. She plays an important role in Trent’s story too, so I’m sure seeing the story from her eyes would be interesting as well. Cover’s not nearly as good though. 🙂

Dreaming of My Secret Agent Lover Man

Weetzie Bat, by Francesca Lia Block (1989)

What a strange book this is.

Another one on my long list for YA Lit, Weetzie Bat is one of the weirdest books I’ve encountered in a long time. And yet, I really liked it. I mean, take this pulled quote, for instance:

“In between kisses My Secret Agent Lover Man made films of Weetzie putting her hands and feet into the movie-star prints at Graumann’s, serving French toast at Duke’s, dressing up in Fifi’s gowns, rollerskating down the Venice boardwalk with Slinkster Dog pulling her along, Weetzie having a pow-wow and taking bubble baths. Sometimes he filmed her surfing with Dirk and Duck, or doing a reggae dance with Ping while Valentine and Rapahel played drums.”

And this is what the whole book is like. All 109 pages of it.

The story starts with Weetzie Bat (daughter to Charlie and Brandy-Lynn Bat) and her gay best friend Dirk palling around late 1980s Los Angeles, drinking lemonade and swinging rubber chickens out of windows while driving down the street. Sometimes they hang out with Dirk’s grandmother Fifi, who lives in a house that I picture as the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel. Pink and sugary.

I tagged this as a fantasy story, but really it’s only slightly fantasy. And actually, it would be better categorized as “fairy-taley”, if that were a category. Right before Fifi dies, she gives Weetzie a “golden thing” that produces a genie when Weetzie tries to polish it. The genie gives Weetzie three wishes: “a Duck for Dirk, My Secret Agent Lover Man for me, and a beautiful little house for us to live in happily ever after.” And so it happens. Exactly as she wishes for. Dirk soon falls in love with a guy named Duck, and Weetzie snags a fella named My Secret Agent Lover Man. And Fifi leaves them her house in her will. Together, all four of them (with a couple more additions), live and love in Fifi’s old house in L.A.

Block addresses a combination of issues through her unique characters, in a time when many of these things were still left unsaid, including homosexuality, blended families, divorce, drugs, and AIDS. And actually, she addresses all these without actually writing any of those words. They are dealt with, confronted, but not the central focus. Like we all face in life, Weetzie and her strange family deal with some really tough stuff, but instead of dwelling on that, they “choose to plug into the love current instead.” Basically, Block agrees with the Beatles. All you need is love.

Charming and strange, in all the right ways (think The Little Prince).

2.5 stars