teen and middle school realism
Bauer's serious-yet-bouncy writing has a style that suits summer. Most of the time. But this sequel to the acclaimed Rules of the Road
is just a sequel. Bauer sadly rewarms the plot from the last half of the earlier book, pitting Mrs. Gladstone and her honorable shoe sales team against the corporate mega-giant takeover, engineered by, again, her son. So the crime, criminal, and motive are all familiar. New aspects such as criminal-turned-salesman Tanner and Jenna's budding romance are underplayed, and Bauer's stalwart belief that anyone can be reformed is unconvincing. Sadly, though I've adored Bauer's work and hope to again, I'd say pass on this one. Just re-read Rules of the Road and you'll be happier.
The Kind of Friends We Used to Be by Frances O'Roark
This, however, is stunning. Gleaned from the BCCB Blue Ribbons list, O'Roark's novel deftly handles the aftermath of two seventh-grade former best friends who discover that they have grown apart. The alternating narration gives the reader the best of both worlds, showing the friends' fragmented social circles and demonstrating how their world views have come to be out of sync. With Kate's new guitar playing and Marilyn's new cheerleading, O'Roark could characterize the divide them in stereotypical terms, but she does anything but stereotype as she explores the nuances of Marilyn's wish to be liked amidst her parents' bickering and divorce and Kate's growing sense of music and poetry, tempered by her crush on a hot 8th grade guitar-playing boy. The ending is phenomenal in terms of structure; the narration suddenly encompasses more perspectives, each of them in staccato bursts, like the ending of a great fireworks show. It won't take long to read this one (I read it on my kindle so I can't give a page count), and it's very worth it.