Read ROOM ON LORELEI STREET, a book nominated by my pal Susan Geye for Quick Picks 2006. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, one that kept me guessing and had my heart in my throat in the last couple of chapters. When your mother is an alcoholic, escape is a necessary evil. That room for lease on Lorelei Street might be a stretch financially, but for Zoe, it is a safe haven, a place to rest and recover from the harshness of reality. This is not a book for the squeamish, something that works, I think, to make this book frighteningly realistic. You root for Zoe and applaud Opal, the landlady of the oasis on Lorelei Street.
Julie Anne Peters proves her mettle once again in FAR FROM XANADU. Last year's LUNA was a National Book Award finalist. DEFINE NORMAL and KEEPING YOU A SECRET were also fabulous reads. Xanadu is the new kid in school and Mike is immediately enchanted with her. Trouble is Mike is, in reality, Mary Elizabeth, and Xanadu is more attracted to boys. However, the two do become friends. Mike needs her friends: her father committed suicide two years ago, her mother is morbidly obese and never leaves the confines of her home, and her brother seems more interested in fixing cars than the leaking roof. Mike takes on her father's old job as plumber, juggles her feelings for Xanadu, and comes to realize that her athletic talent may take her away from her miseries. Peters manages to deal with some inflammatory issues without this novel ever becoming a simple problem novel. Paired with ROOM ON LORELEI STREET, this might be a 1-2 punch for readers.
TALK by Kathe Koja is a slim novel that ranges from different points of view as it tells the story of Kit and Lindsay, the two leads in the new school play. Kit is a closeted gay, Lindsay is a spoiled rich girl who falls for him. This might have the workings of a real soap opera for teens in less capable hands. Koja, though, pulls off this story in part by providing us insights into Kit and Lindsay in first person reflections between chapters.
Finally, in THE BOY FROM THE BASEMENT, readers will get the familiar story of abused kid from a totally new perspective. The "boy" is locked in the basement by his father who tells him that one day he might be permitted to return to the rest of the house if her learns how to behave properly. Each night, his mother secretly unlocks the basement door so the boy can come into the kitchen and sneak some food. He urinates and defecates outside in the back yard. One night, the back door blows shut and the boy is trapped outside. He runs until he can go no farther. Charlie awakens in a hospital. He is placed in foster care where he begins to understand that he has done absolutely nothing to deserve the abuse his father heaped upon him. Charlie's slow road to recovery is heart-breaking and life-affirming at the same time.
HARRY POTTER drops tomorrow. In the meantime, we are all listening to Ric Riordan's THE LIGHTNING THIEF. All three of the girls are enchanted so far by this story of another half-blood, Percy Jackson. Percy deals with Minotaurs, furies, and other mythological demons as he fights to survive. Camp Half Blood just might give him the tools he needs to save himself and humanity. The kids are chuckling in recognition when Dionysus and other familiar beings enter the story. What a great way to teach mythology!
Okay, back to reading. Check in soon to see what happens once I am on the road again.