This Place Has No Atmosphere By Paula Danziger

In the year 2057, zits and cliques are still around, but people live in malls, take classes in ESP, and get detention from robots!

Paula Danziger is best remembered for The Cat Ate My Gym Suit, a bright and funny book about serious issues typical of the 1970s (terrible dads, fatness, inspiring teachers who insist upon being addressed as “Ms.”), so I was surprised by both how lightweight the premise of this one was and the fact I had never heard of it.

The Plot: It’s a one-joke premise: Valley Girl on the moon. Continue reading

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Amy Moves In By Marilyn Sachs

“They’re laughing at me, those stupid girls. I hate them!” Amy decides.

I often point out how a good YA historical never fails to address the disease and death that lurk around every corner in the 19th century… but even books set in the 20th can tend to be unsentimental, taking a casual attitude towards physical violence and emotional cruelty. Lurking behind the innocuous cover (a Scholastic reissue) is another tale from Marilyn Sachs, about a childhood where everyone’s just looking for a fight.

The Plot: At least that was my takeaway, again. Sachs is the author of a number of interconnected novels set in a pre-Robert Moses South Bronx, including Veronica Ganz, in which a 13-year-old bad seed overcomes her psychopathic impulses to become a proper young lady (ok, a slight exaggeration). Continue reading

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Dawn Of Love #2: Wild Prairie Sky By Cheri Michaels

How could she fall in love… with a young man as wild as a mountain lion and as free as the prairie wind?

I’m a big fan of Scholastic’s Sunfire series- in which orphaned teenage girls have to choose between two suitors while dealing with historical disasters and occasionally-anachronistic feminist ideals, so I was all-in on this rival series from Archway/Pocketbooks, featuring some of the largest hoop skirts ever imagined on its covers.

And although I did not like this one as much as most of the Sunfires I’ve read, it still has a lot to recommend it.

The Plot: The reader joins the plot in progress, as 15-year-old Betsy Monroe and her older sister, Willa, guide their team of oxen and covered wagon west, three weeks after the death of their parents. Continue reading

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To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie By Ellen Conford

For Sylvie, movies weren’t just stories. They were a way out.

A few years ago I reviewed Conford’s And This Is Lauraand recalled it as pleasant, but largely unremarkable. So I was surprised to find Sylvie a much more sophisticated piece of work, with a sympathetic hard-luck heroine (who is infuriating nonetheless), an ambiguous ending (in which maybe she doesn’t learn all the obvious lessons) and a real eye for detail in a specific time and place.

The Plot: It is also pretty blunt about the situation 15 year old Sylvie Krail is in as the novel opens. Practically an orphan (she is rumored to have an alcoholic mother in an asylum near Rochester, NY), she is on her third foster home in the New York City suburbs, and it’s the third one that she’s had to fight off the lecherous advances of various “uncles”. So, in the spring of 1956, she’s been saving her babysitting money for three years, hatching an elaborate plan to escape to Hollywood where she will be “discovered”. Continue reading

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Kiss Me, Creep By Marian Woodruff

Is Richie really a creep- or is he someone Joy can love?

So, this seems as a good a time as any to talk about how this blog got its start: in the summer of 2011, I acquired a large lot of Wildfire romances, and posted the cover of Superflirt on Facebook, because… well, obviously.  That turned into a featured cover-of-the-day, highlighting the best and weirdest Wildfire, First Love and Sweet Dreams had to offer, which eventually turned in to a weekly review, which a year later turned into this blog.

In conclusion, it may take a while, but apparently I do eventually get around to fulfilling all reader requests. Sometimes it just takes, like, seven years.

The Plot: …Is extremely slight. High school seniors Joy Wilder and Richie Brennan have been like oil and water since their first meeting, when Joy and her family moved from Seattle to picturesque Piper’s Point. Continue reading

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Seventeen & In-Between By Barthe DeClements

At seventeen, things aren’t so simple anymore…

I got a number of requests for the final book in DeClements’s series featuring Elsie Edwards, as she evolves from gross 5th grade pariah to a beautiful but emotionally scarred high school student while dealing with a neglectful mother, bratty younger sister, absentee father, and newfound popularity with her male classmates picks up halfway through Elsie’s junior year of high school.

While the middle-reader Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade pretty much solved all of Elsie’s problems by putting her on a starvation diet (and successfully escaping from a kidnapping attempt….), DeClements added more nuance when telling the story from Elsie’s point of view in its YA sequel How Do You Lose Those Ninth Grade Blues? And like its predecessor, this one benefits greatly from Elsie’s point of view, as an imperfect heroine with no easy answers.

The Plot: While Elsie had successfully overcome some of her insecurities and established a relationship with hunky senior football player Craddoc Shaw, the astute reader might have already been thinking that Craddoc wasn’t all he was cracked up to be. Continue reading

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My Darling, My Hamburger By Paul Zindel

Senior year isn’t the end of high school- it’s the beginning of Life!

This week’s reader request comes from literally my oldest friend, who sent me an Instragam  screen shot with the caption HAVE YOU SEEN THIS????


(Also I am counting that as a “request”)

Background: I have a vague impression of Paul Zindel as an author whose YA work became extremely dated in the 20+ years between its publication and my becoming a YA myself: too aggressively zany, too much casual drinking, too many parents threatening to make you join the Army, too much wrestling with too many vague existential questions. There is also the fact that by the time I had gotten to my freshman year of high school, teachers of a certain age were embracing the fact that standards had relaxed enough that COOL and EDGY novels such as Zindel’s The Pigman were now allowed as part of the curriculum (Catcher in the Rye was another), without considering that anything being taught as part of the curriculum was automatically deeply uncool, and also I already read The Pigman when I was like 11, so I really lacked enthusiasm about Making A Poster To Illustrate The Themes…

Sorry, slipped into Annoying Autobiographical Pause-mode for a second.

(…but are we really cultivating and love and appreciation for literature by making us all pretend to have a TV talk show about Alienation?)

The Plot: Which despite all that, I actually do love Zindel’s work and his disaffected 1970s Staten Island teens- I still think about John and Lorraine every time I’m headed for the Goethals bridge and see the exit for Victory Boulevard. Continue reading

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