I just went through my last week or two of reading on Goodreads, having lacked the energy to put my thoughts into coherent words. Well, who knows if I did put them into coherent words, but words they are. And since I’m feeling lazy, I’ll copy and paste. Here are the Mock Printz titles that I haven’t already talked about.

Your Own, Sylvia: I tend to be skeptical of novels-in-verse, or in this case, biography-in-verse, but I’m not sure why since I always end up enjoying them. Well, saying I enjoyed this would be a bit of a stretch, but it was a fascinating read and easy to get swept up in. I came out the other side feeling incredibly sane and healthy and happy, but thinking a bit about what makes people turn out the way they do and how writing intersects with life. There’s a great section at the end on the author’s process of writing the poems and researching Plath’s life, and throughout the book footnotes give context for each poem and round out the portrait of the poet. This would be a great choice for fans of Plath, for young adults fascinated with darker writing and poetry, and for those of us who are interested in how a story like this can be pieced together.

Tasting the Sky: In a beautifully written and simple story, Barakat tells her memories and impressions of growing up in Palestine. Two chapters set in 1981, when she was a teen, book-end the story of her early childhood, her family’s time in Jordan as refugees, their return home, and their struggle to keep together their way of life. References and recommended reading are included at the end. Although most of the story occurs when she was quite young, the book seems appropriate for middle school and up.

Thirteen Reasons Why: While the audio version was excellently done, and perfectly suited to a story half-told in audio tapes, this was one of those stories where I talked back to the characters. A lot. And not in a good way. However, this was a huge hit with the teen in my discussion group at the Mock Printz, and a hit with several other people, too. Clay was an interesting character, waiting on pins and needles as he listens to the tapes classmate Hannah made before her suicide, pointing fingers at various students who pushed her to her decision. Why is his name on the tapes? What did he do to Hannah?

However, with each revelation, Clay’s shock and anger felt disproportionate to the situation. From Hannah’s point of view, it’s easy to see how each little insult or rumor in high school could add up to the anger and desire for retaliation that she felt. But at the same time, I couldn’t help thinking that things like that happen to ALL of us – we’re all insulted and humiliated at some point. So why does that drive some people to suicide and some of us just get thick skins? I felt like Hannah’s character needed another note or dimension to convince me that she wouldn’t given up on trying to alter her reputation or actually befriend people. From her voice on the tapes, I didn’t quite buy that she was suicidal.

One detail that bugged me was that Hannah mentions, on one of the tapes, that she made a dramatic change in her hairstyle, and no one said anything, and that such dramatic changes in appearance are supposed to be one of the warning signs of a suicidal impulse. That may very well be – but are we supposed to go out thinking that any time a friend gets a haircut, she might be suicidal? Really?

Red Glass: I expected this to be one of those books that’s trying too hard to be ‘multicultural,’ where the experience of Mexican culture opens a character’s eyes and she finds herself blah blah blah. I was more than pleasantly surprised when I found myself in a story where the ‘multicultural’ details felt natural and necessary, where another culture is not seen as some idealized thing, but as a flawed yet beautiful world.

The story fits the classic form of hero going on a voyage, but in this case our hero, Sophie, starts out as a fearful and slightly fragile sixteen year old who undergoes a believable transformation into a more capable and strong person as she’s forced to actually encounter real threats rather than just worry about what might happen. The supporting characters all live and breathe – the great-aunt Dika, in particular, is marvelous – and even the characters who appear for only a few pages are fully-formed. Each setting is vivid, the language is lovely, and the ways in which the characters change felt true, both to life and themselves. Sophie never came out of her shell too quickly, and the plot never felt like a formula. Good for thoughtful middle-schoolers and up.

My Mother the Cheerleader: Even hearing its praises sung at the Mock Printz didn’t convince me that I liked this book. The premise is great – a white girl in New Orleans in 1960, whose mother is one of the ‘cheerleaders’ protesting Ruby Bridges being sent to her daughter’s school. Louise and her mother are interesting characters, but a lot of aspects of the story and the supporting characters felt formulaic. Historical details often felt like they were added for their own sake rather than because they contributed to the story. The subplot about Morgan’s brother didn’t seem moored to the rest of the story. Louise is that combination of smart and ignorant that could work, but it didn’t for me. By about half-way through, I just wanted it to be over. A lot of potential here, but it ended up falling flat.

And all of my Mock Printz reviews are on my mock-printz shelf at Goodreads.

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