George: Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee Review

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5star-2

I can confidently say that this book is near perfect.

George is a very simple, straightforward story about a 4th grader who was assigned male at birth but knows in her heart she’s a girl. She comes out to her friends and family after declaring that she wants to play Charlotte in her school’s rendition of Charlotte’s Web. [And lemme just take a moment to say that the idea of a group of 9-year-olds acting out Charlotte’s Web on stage makes me so happy.] George’s character shines, as does her best friend’s, her best friend’s dad, her mother, her brother…really, all of the characters are well-developed. And the series of events are realistic. It’s not too sad or sappy, but it might make you cry a little, and cheer a little bit more.

I’d recommend this little gem to everyone- as a lesson in acceptance, to inspire confidence, and/or just for a good read.

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Book Review: The Nest by Kenneth Oppel

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5star-2

If you loved Coraline, you will love The Nest. In many ways they’re very similar, but I think they’re just different enough that I wouldn’t call The Nest a ripoff. I’d say it’s emotionally deeper and sadder than Coraline, cuz minor spoiler: [because instead of a kid who agrees to let a creepy female creature replace her parents, this book is about a boy agrees to replace his baby brother.]

Steven’s baby brother was born with a rare cogenital birth defect. The doctors aren’t sure how long he will live, but they know he’ll need heart surgery, and will probably develop with disabilities. The first part of the book is heartbreaking. Steven (who like Coraline, is around 12-years-old), explains how he’s overheard his parents crying, and that he’s somewhat envious of his younger sister who really doesn’t know what’s going on. Then we gradually get to know more about Steven’s personal struggles, and about the wasp nest that’s growing on the side of their house.

There’s a lot of scary magical stuff in The Nest, and I love that you can make a good argument for it all being a figment Steven’s imagination, as well as a good argument for it being real.

Honestly, this is middle grade horror at it’s best. I’m so happy to give it 5 stars.

Book Review: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

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2-stars

(minor spoilers ahead) (also if this was your favorite book as a kid, this review might make you a little angry)

I had some fun with this book. But in the same way I had fun with say, Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin.

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It’s kind of hilariously awful.

Stargirl (aka Susan, she gives herself a new name whenever she feels like it, as you do) is pretty much this:

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Yes, I know Stargirl isn’t a film, and I know it was written a few years before film critic Nathan Rabin coined the term… but come on—Stargirl is the quintessential weird girl who fascinates a boy and then helps him believe in himself. *tear*

And just because the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl didn’t exist before 2004, doesn’t mean the concept wasn’t around (Audrey Hepburn was the original), or that MPDGs exist only in movies (we’ve got Lux in The Virgin Suicides, Sam in Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Alaska in Looking for Alaska just to name a few). I’m not against the trope entirely. The problem isn’t that the trope exists, the problem is that it’s overused. When it’s done well I can let it slide, but Stargirl is missing one important half of the Manic Pixie equation. The guy she’s supposed to be changing for the better has no personality. He’s an empty shell, along with all the other characters. They are so mind-numbingly normal. So all we’ve got is Stargirl acting weird in a vacuum, and that’s how a book that attempts to be inspiring turns out hilariously bad.

Here’s some of the crap Stargirl gets up to:
-She plays the ukulele (guitar is too mainstream)
-As a cheerleader, she cheers for both her school’s team and the other school’s team
-She brings her pet rat to school (wish I was making this up)
-She performs random acts of kindness, which would be sweet if she didn’t go as far as stalking people to find out what they need in life. She even went to a funeral of a guy she didn’t know, only to get thrown out by one of his family members.
-At prom, she shows up in an amazing dress, wows everyone, and get people to do The Bunny Hop. I can’t even…

[Bigger spoiler in the next paragraph]:

And then at the end she just disappears. Moves out of town for whatever reason. And like a decade later the main guy is still obsessed with her. He recalls a time in college when he and the retired teacher he and Stargirl used to visit a lot go to Stargirl’s favorite spot and pay respect to her as if she was a god.

That’s creepy. It’s weird enough that the guy is still hung up on his 11th grade crush, but it’s even weirder that the old man was so enamored by this young girl. It was even implied that going back to Stargirl’s favorite spot was the old man’s dying wish. Wtf?

In Conclusion: If I read this when I was 10 I probably would have liked it. I can see why a lot of 10, 11, 12-year-olds would really like it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving this to a 10-year-old to read, as long as you explain to them that while it’s good to admire people who are unique, at the end of the day no one is super-extraordinary. We’re all people. Other than that, it’ll just give kids unrealistic expectations about high school, which they get on The Disney Channel all the time anyway. I wouldn’t say Stargirl is worthwhile to read as an adult. Unless you read it outloud to a buddy while you’re both drunk. That sounds like fun.