Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dear Toni is quick read by Canadian author, Cyndi Sand-Eveland. The diary-style writing of our main character is highlighted with “doodles” and ink illustrations to engage the reader in the life of 6th grader Gene Tucks. Gene, (named after an Uncle, despite being a girl) is a nomadic middle schooler whose only goals are making the field hockey team and having a best friend at her new school. Both goals are accomplished, but new best friend, Winnifred, (Winn) soon leaves the area to live with her Uncle and ailing mother. Gene finds solace in the landlord’s St. Bernard puppies she and Winn took care of daily.
The book never gives the reader a true climax, but rather a rolling internal dialogue from Gene’s point of view. Toni is actually the diary Gene writes in every day, giving the audience a sense that “Toni” is really Gene’s best friend. The characters could have been more fully developed, but overall the tone and style are perfect for reluctant readers who are dealing with middle school angst and concerns.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Lennie Walker is grieving. Her older sister, Bailey, died suddenly of a heart condition and Lennie is suffering in isolation. She's shut out everyone important in her life; her grandma, her uncle and her best friend, Sarah. Her only outlet is the poems that she writes on scraps of paper and scatters around town. Not even her formerly beloved clarinet playing produces relief. Then she connects with Thoby, Bailey's boyfriend. Though she finds strange comfort in him she can't deny her feelings for the new boy in school. Joe Fontaine is French, gorgeous and a musician, like her. She doesn't want to abandon Thoby, but how can she resist Joe?

The Sky is Everywhere is written in an endearing contemporary style, yet it is disjointed and I didn't enjoy it. The author tosses almost every cliche of young adult fiction into the pot, mixes it up and produces a tedious and frustrating plot. Her 17-year-old characters sound like 40-year-olds and her adult characters are juvenile. Her dialogue is similar to that of TV shows like Glee and Gossip Girl. It is undeniably clever, but it gets old. This works well for a teen audience, but from an adult perspective it's too forced. I also didn't care for the foul language and frank crudity of some scenes. I read this novel for the Printz challenge. I don't think it will win.