Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reading Roundup: Fiction for the Younger Set

Last month, I told you about an awesome new children's series called The Penderwicks about four sisters, their widowed father, and their adventures and hijinks. I loved the first in the series and said it's just the kind of series I'm always looking for, because it's lighthearted and fun and perfectly representative of childhood. I'm trying to drag this series out since, so far, it only consists of three books, but I couldn't resist picking up the second in the series, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, when I saw it waiting on the shelf.

This installment of the Penderwicks brings the girls back to their own home on Gardam Street and back to the routine of a new school year. But things are not all routine; Mr. Penderwick, goaded by his sister, has started dating again, much to the girls' chagrin. Seeing how unhappy and uncomfortable their father is navigating the dating world, the girls institute the Save-Daddy Plan.

While certainly still enjoyable, I found the second in the series a lot more predictable in the first, particularly because a major plot point depends on the fact that the intended reading audience is most likely under the age of eleven. Most adult booknerds will quickly pick up on the literary clue and realize how the story is going to end. That being said, I still love the daily adventures of the Penderwicks, and I'm going to have to seriously resist picking up the next in the series, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, on my next library visit.


Deb Caletti's Wild Roses is a book that's been sitting on my shelf to be read since last year's BEA and BBC. To be honest, I don't read much YA fiction, because...well, I am beyond those years. I don't need stories to connect to as an angsty teen; I don't need to look back on stories of adolescence with fond memories as I like to do with JUV fiction; and mostly, I just don't want to read about teenage issues that seem so imperative when you're a teen but that I'd just roll my eyes at now. Go ahead...call me a cynical, jaded ADULT. However, I've been on a kick where I'm trying to read the books that have been sitting on my shelves forever, so I finally picked it up.

Cassie is seventeen and has a stressful home life; her divorced mother remarried Dino Cavalli, a prodigy composer and musician, but also...an emotional time bomb. The talented Ian Waters enters Cassie's life as he begins lessons under Dino's tutelage, and Cassie—big surprise—falls in love.

As far as YA fiction goes, I think Wild Roses hits the mark. It deals with teen issues like relationships, family drama, divorce, depression, responsibility, and that big scary "future" with grace—never in your face, never over the top, never too much. There are many things for teens to relate to in this story, whether it be situationally or emotionally. I did have some issues—the basis of a relationship between Cassie's mom and the emotionally abusive Dino seemed unrealistic to me; the fact that more time was spent on chronicling Dino's decline than delving into the depths of Cassie's thoughts; that the teenage first romantic encounter is the be-all, end-all love story. Maybe my reaction is just influenced by my own teen experiences, because while Wild Roses may stand out to its intended audience, it was just a typical YA novel to me.

No comments: