Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dead to Me, by Mary McCoy

Dead to Me

I just finished Dead to Me, by Mary McCoy on Netgalley. It's due to be published on March 3, 2015.

The publisher lists as ages 12+, but I think that's far too young for this book - I would put it more along the lines of 14+ as it includes lots of mature content: drug use, mild pornography, abuse, and lots of language. I'm not sure that I would house this book in my classroom because it would be inappropriate for the majority of my students.

HOWEVER, I did enjoy reading Dead to Me, which follows the story of Alice, a 16 year old growing up in the shadow of Hollywood's glitz and glam. Alice's father has always been involved in showbiz, and she grew up watching her parents try desperately to catapult her older sister, Annie, into the family business. Alice, though, was never quite talented or pretty enough. So it was a huge surprise to Alice when her sister disappeared mysteriously 4 years before the novel's beginning. Alice had kind of given up hopes of finding Annie, until she received a mysterious summons and indication that her sister was hospitalized and had nearly died.

After reuniting with her now-comatose sister, Alice vows to figure out the truth about what happened to Annie. This leads her on a sort of wild-goose chase through the very seediest sections of LA, introducing her to dangerous and untrustworthy characters at every turn. Alice is even introduced to drugs, a mildly pornographic photography ring, and the like. She constantly questions who she can and cannot trust.

In the end, things work out as well as they can. I found myself kind of skimming the last third of the book - it just didn't hold my attention and I knew it wasn't something I'd be recommending to my students.

Also Try: Belle Epoque, by Elizabeth Ross; Strings Attached, by Judy Blundell

Monday, February 9, 2015

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina, by Rodman Philbrick

As I've mentioned before, I love a good story about Hurricane Katrina. I love a story about Hurricane Katrina EVEN MORE when I see that it's written by Rodman Philbrick. I've been able to get even the most reluctant of readers hooked into Philbrick's characters and novels, so I knew this one would be good.

Zane and the HurricaneZane and the Hurricane has an interesting twist in that Zane is accidentally in New Orleans when Katrina hits. He's visiting a relative he barely knows and has never been to the city before. When the mandatory evacuation notice is announced, he and his great-grandmother attempt to leave the city, but he's left behind when he chooses to follow his canine companion. Zane weathers the storm in his great-grandmother's house, alone except for his dog. Shortly after, he's picked up by some passers-by in a canoe. These aren't Red Cross workers or anything, they're just a man and a girl who were left behind as well. Zane comes to learn that they are acquainted with some unsavory characters, and he's put into some extremely dangerous situations. However, it all works out in the end.

What I love the most about the story is the way the "ugly" parts of Katrina's aftermath are captured, but not dwelled upon. For instance, the trio find themselves near a wealthy section of town. They're hoping to use a phone or bathroom, but instead are accosted by a group of helicopter-borne vigilantes, who are paid to protect the prestigious homes from looters. Zane and his friends are far from looters, but the whole city is suspicious, especially of African Americans.

That's another part of the story that's so interesting - Zane is half white and half black, at a time when racial tensions in the city were heightened. This is constantly brought to light as he struggles to survive in the wake of the hurricane. Additionally, during his time in New Orleans, Zane learns things about his family and his family's past (his father is dead) that he never knew and that help him understand where he's from.

Also Try: Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes; St. Louis Armstrong Beach, by Brenda Woods; Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick