Hollywood Daughters #3: Encore By Joan Lowery Nixon

Erin Jenkins, teen star, feels closer to her show-biz parents than to her real ones, who don’t approve of her television career…

Background: The first volume of the Hollywood Daughters series dealt with former child star Abby “Cookie” Baynes and her struggle to break from her Shirley Temple-like image and get away from her domineering stage mother in the early 1940s. After the tragic death of her father and a number of personal setbacks, Abby finally gets her big break and joins a USO tour with fake-Bob Hope. Renaming herself Abby Grant, she seems to have a bright future as a comedienne.

The second book in the trilogy focused on Abby’s daughter, Cassie, who has zero aspirations of following in her mother’s footsteps and instead pursues a career as a photojournalist and a romance with a USC film student in the late 1960s…

The Plot: And now we arrive at the present day (ok, the present day of 1990) and focus on Abby’s granddaughter, Erin, who has a co-starring role on a bland-sounding TV sitcom, The Family Next Door. Continue reading

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Phoenix Rising By Karen Hesse

You can’t see radiation or smell it or feel it. Could a mask stop it so easily?

A few years ago I noted that teen romances with a nuclear power plant meltdown-theme represented a small subset of the genre; I imagine rarer still are nuclear power plant meltdown teen romances by Newbery Medal-wining authors that seem to be inspired in equal parts by The Diary of Anne Frank and Lurlene McDaniel’s dead-boyfriend epics.

The Plot: Narrated by 13 year old Nyle Sumner, the novel opens a week after a catastrophic reactor meltdown at the Cookshire nuclear power plant in southern Vermont (loosely based on the now-decommissioned Vermont Yankee and Yankee-Rowe plants on the Vermont-Massachusetts border).  Far north near Quebec border, the Sumner family farm has escaped the immediate effects of the radiation that have left much of New England uninhabitable. Continue reading

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Looking On By Betty Miles

There has to more to her life than just looking on…

This week’s book strikes me as a sort that isn’t written any more: a coming-of-age story in which not much really happens. In this case the most dramatic thing that happens to our 14 year old protagonist is (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT) that she gets a haircut.

Background: Author Betty Miles work was previously featured here in the form of her unabashedly feminist manifesto/middle reader The Real Me, in which the 12 year old heroine fights for the concrete goals of paper routes and tennis classes for her female classmates.

The Plot: Things are decidedly vaguer for 14 year old Rosalie Hudnecker.

While superficially, the plot is extremely similar to Nothing Ever Happens Here (bored teenage girl becomes obsessed with observing young married neighbors), the upstate New York setting, the long-fled father, embittered working mother, and absent older siblings made me have to continually remind myself that this was not a Norma Fox Mazer book. Seriously, I had to keep flipping to front cover and double-check the author. Continue reading

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Night of the Twisters By Ivy Ruckman

Tornado Alert!
Tornado Alert!

Left in charge of your baby brother while your parents are out for evening when a tornado blows down your house and now it is up to you and your BFF to escape from the rubble and find and rescue your friends and family members? Maybe even drive a police cruiser when the officer is injured? Will you have to live at K-Mart forever? SIGN ME UP!

I first read Ruckman’s story when it was serialized in Cricket magazine in the mid-1980s, a point in my life where escaping from a tornado in my grandmother’s basement was an appealing fantasy, at least until an older cousin informed me that tornadoes were extremely rare in western New York. Killjoy.

So, I was surprised and delighted to find the story just as griping and suspenseful as I remembered it.

The Plot:  The book opens with an epigraph in the form of an Associated Press dispatch from June 4, 1980, reporting that seven tornadoes had touched down overnight in Grand Island, Nebraska, killing at least five people and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses.

The story is told from the point of view of 12 year old Dan Hatch, who on the morning of June 3rd has typical 12 year old problems on his mind, including resentment of his baby brother, Ryan, for taking up all of his parents’ time and energy, a crush on his friend Arthur Darlington’s older sister, and his mother insisting that Dan and Arthur spend the summer taking arts & crafts classes with his Aunt Goldie. Continue reading

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A Brief Update

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Thank you to everyone that sent in or responded to a request for the the Name That Book feature! I have enabled comments on that page (thanks for your patience!) and added a few requests that I received via e-mail, so check them out!

New review next week!

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Mid-Winter Break and New Feature!

We will return with new reviews the week of March 6, 2017!

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In the meantime, check out out new Name That Book! feature, where you can share dimly-remembered details of juvenile and YA book and ask for help in locating an actual title and author!

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Love Is One Of The Choices By Norma Klein

Maggie and Caroline: Two young women who must suddenly come to terms with their lives…

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If Norma Klein’s work pushes the envelope farther than her contemporaries when it comes to dealing with social issues, than Love is One of the Choices is the Norma Kleiniest. Published three years after Judy Blume’s Forever, it deals with the same themes, but manages to pull off the feat of making Blume’s book look quaintly old-fashioned and romantic in its depiction of love and sex.

Progressive and problematic, outdated and forward-thinking, Love is One of the Choices is a bundle of contradictions that I dare you to put down once you start. Continue reading

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