Review: 12 Before 13

12-before-13Book: 12 Before 13 (2018)
Author: Lisa Greenwald
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: Arianna and Kaylan are best friends. They have a list of 12 items they want to tick off before Arianna’s bat mitzvah in November. However, the first item on the listKeep our friendship strongis proving to be one of the tougher challenges. Ari’s always texting her new friends from summer camp, and Kaylan’s drawn to other friends from school. Turning thirteen is not for the weary…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The list is a fun way to track the plot of this story about two friends who have their ups and downs. It’s nice to see them work things through. I also love how items on the list are trivial (like #5 Perfect our handstand) and some go much deeper (like #6 Help someone else shine).

2) I really enjoyed seeing Arianna’s journey as she starts to take a serious interest in her Jewish heritage as she preps for her bat mitzvah.

3) I like the subplot involving Ari’s dad. It’s nice (well, not really) how it affects the bat mitzvah plans. And how it corresponds to list item #10 Tell a boy how we really feel.

4) It’s nice how it all comes together at the end. Not super-surprising, but it all led to a satisfactory ending.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) One thing I don’t like in these types of books is when they spend too much time on what they call “the big P”. What interesting, though, is that Arianna seems to share my aversion! Kaylan and the lunch table can’t stop talking about it. (I can understand a book where this is plot-important. In this book, it really isn’t.)

2) I felt some of the dialogue and slang was a little too much. There was a lot of slang. And I do know some current 12 to 13-year-olds. They don’t really talk like this. (Are there kids who do?) Anyhow, I found it a little off-putting. But maybe that’s just me.

3) The models on the cover look older than 12 going on 13. Maybe it’s the lipstick?

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – Overall, this was a cute story about these two friends. Apparently this is a sequel to another book, which I haven’t read, but I didn’t seem to be missing too much. This one definitely works as a stand-alone.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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Review: Nerd Camp

camp-nerd.jpgBook: Nerd Camp (2011)
Author: Elissa Brent Weissman
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Gabe is a nerd and proud of it… that is, until he meets his new stepbrother, Zack. Now, in order to seem cool, he has to hide that part of him, including the fact that his sleepaway camp is really a nerd camp! So when he writes home, Gabe only highlights the things that don’t make him sound quite so nerdy. How’s Zack to know, right?

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I love how each chapter ends with Gabe’s list of “Things I Can Tell Zack” and “Things I Can’t Tell Zack”. These lists are all prefaced showing how Gabe is using the scientific method… “Problem: Am I a nerd who only has nerdy adventures? Hypothesis: No. Proof: (See list.)”

2) I like the friendship Gabe develops with the two boys at camp: Nikhil and Wesley. It was cute how the boys figure out an algorithm to predict when Color War will break (based on when it broke in past years). Yes, despite Gabe’s efforts not to be nerdy, he is indeed very nerdy!

3) Which brings me to Color War itself. This was a fun addition to the story. It brings in some activities that don’t involve a classroom full of nerds learning about rocket science. Like the Scavenger Hunt.

4) There’s a nice little celebrity cameo (from one of the nerdiest shows on the planet) that happens near the end. I won’t spoil it. It’s kind of fun, even if it’s unlikely.

5) The letters are a nice way to show how Gabe interacts differently with the different people back home… with his friends from school, his mom and dad, and of course with Zack.

6) The ending wraps things up quite nicely. I wasn’t really surprised as I figured the story would eventually lead to what does happen. (I won’t spoil it.)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The scenes with the lice! My head was itching the entire time!! Yuck.

2) The midnight canoe trip was a little disconcerting to my adult soul. It’s crazy how Gabe talks about Swallows and Amazons (one of my favourite books that contains a similar event!), but then, unlike how the Walkers and Blacketts get into big trouble with the grownups, Gabe doesn’t seem to learn any lesson from this dangerous activity. I didn’t really like that.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – A fun look into the struggles of being nerdy; worrying what others will think about it. As a nerd myself (I’m more of a history nerd), I definitely empathized with Gabe!


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Review: The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet

tragedy-girl-named-hamletBook: The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet (2010)
Author: Erin Dionne
Genre: Upper MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Hamlet Kennedy is facing a year of headaches and heartaches. Her genius (younger) sister is joining her at her middle school. Her Shakespearean parents don’t get her. On top of that, they have been invited to speak to her class about… you guessed it, Shakespeare. And then there’s the mystery of who is leaving origami pigs in her locker…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Can I just say how much I love this title?! It’s fun. Plus it gives a great sense of what the story is going to be about.

2) I liked the relationship between Hamlet and her sister, Dezzie. There’s a nice arc in how they relate to one another. There are moments where they fight, and yet they also care about one another. I love how they work together at the end of the story.

3) I also liked their dad… He’s not quite as crazy as the mother. While both are Shakespearean scholars, the dad is a little more down-to-earth.

4) The little twist with the origami pigs was cute. I liked how this part of the plot mirrors the romantic escapades and mix-ups of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I did have a little trouble suspending my disbelief to think that a family would name their daughter Hamlet. Desdemona makes sense. But Hamlet?! Why would you do that to your baby girl? Why?!

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – A fun contemporary read about sisters, school, and Shakespeare. And origami pigs 🙂


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Review: You Go First

You-go-firstBook: You Go First (2018)
Author: Erin Entrada Kelly
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: This is the story of two protagonists who are Scrabble partners online. Charlotte is dealing with a father in the hospital and Ben is dealing with the news that his parents are getting a divorce. On top of that, they’re both having trouble at school.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) This is a book about the masks we wear. Each of our two protagonists (Charlotte and Ben) have their own struggles that they hide from the world.  It’s an interesting topic explored in this book… how we know people, but really do not “know” them because none of us wants to go first with our story. Both kids (Charlotte and Ben) are facing some challenging stuff. But the answer is not in finding each other. The answer (given in the book) is finding a friend. A friend where you are. Of course, in real life this is harder than the book makes it out to be.

2) I like how this book takes on the topic of bullies… many different kinds of bullies; including former friends who betray you. This is Charlotte’s problem. And then there are the more classic bullies, the ones that Ben has to face. The answer (which I think is in fact very true) is in finding that one friend. Fortunately for both Ben and Charlotte, they do each find a good friend by the end of the book.

3) The online Scrabble component of the story was a fun connection between the two characters.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Ben and Charlotte never actually meet. By the end of the book, I wondered why she wrote about two kids that never meet and never really interact in any meaningful way. (Neither one of them “go first” in revealing the tough stuff that they’re dealing with.) Come to think of it, this could have been two different books in a series.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I rather liked this story. Would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a book dealing with how how kids deal with tough issues in their lives.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Quick Pick Reviews #1

Here are my Quick Pick books from the past few weeks or so…

Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

hqdefaultBook: Speechless
Author: Jennifer Mook-Sang

Basic Plot: An avid video-gamer, Jelly really wants to win his very own video game unit… And all he has to do is write the award-winning speech. But he’s got some tough competition from a classmate who doesn’t care about video games, but wants to win by any means possible.

My Thoughts: Jelly was a fun and likeable character. I like how he gets involved in the food bank and this becomes key to the speech-part of the plot (later on in the book). At times I thought Victoria a little over-the-top in her meanness, but the quick scene at the end with her parents was telling. A fun book about that dreaded time in school… giving speeches! (But, as an adult, I am forever grateful that I was forced to give those speeches. Because learning to speak in front of an audience is actually a life skill I use.) Bonus: I LOVE the cover of this book!


pagesbetweenusBook: The Pages Between Us
Authors: Lindsey Leavitt & Robin Mellom

Basic Plot: When two best friends find out that they don’t have any classes together, they decide to share a notebook to communicate with one another. However, their friendship is tested when suddenly when different priorities crop up.

My Thoughts: I loved the dynamic duo of this book… Olivia and Piper are both likeable girls and their devotion to each other is beautiful. I like how they navigate through the different school clubs! From LARPing to Lego Club and Chess Club. It’s fun to go back and forth between their separate viewpoints. (Although, at times I did find it a tiny bit confusing about which girl I was reading at any given point. Since, I’m assuming each author took a particular character as “her” character, it’s not like I can blame this on the author not being able to distinguish between two voices. I’m not sure what would have fixed this.) The lead up to the big “breakup” between the friends worked well, I thought. As did the resolution.


deadpossumsBook: Dead Possums Are Fair Game
Authors: Taryn Souders

Basic Plot: Ella is a control freak. That is going to give her some serious problems when her Aunt Willa comes to stay with her family and share her bedroom. On top of this, Ella has to deal with a MATH FAIR, and she hates math!

My Thoughts: This one certainly has a fun, clever title! I liked Ella, although I don’t quite understand her anxiety (losing control?) over sharing her room with her aunt. As a photographer/aunt myself, I understand Aunt Willa! (I find it interesting that she doesn’t do digital photography in this day and age.) I think Ella, like so many, don’t like math just because nobody is “supposed to like math” except maybe nerds. Ella, with help from the math fair and Aunt Willa, comes to realize that math isn’t all that bad!