Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lucky, Gorgeous, Brilliant

I am looking forward to the Colorado Teen Literature Conference at the Tivoli on Saturday, April 2nd. In addition to Pete Hautman, the other guest author is Rachel Vail, whose latest books include her critically acclaimed Avery Sisters Trilogy. Lucky, Gorgeous and Brilliant are interconnected sister stories about three girls whose mother, a financial wizard, loses her job. Although their Dad still has his teaching job, the family must adjust to vastly reduced financial circumstances.

The first book, Lucky, introduces 14-year-old Phoebe Avery who has always taken for granted her family wealth and her popularity. When her executive mom loses her job, Phoebe must contemplate giving up her fabulous graduation party and the Vera Wang dress that she plans to wear. Phoebe's older sisters, Allison and Quinn, warn her to keep the family's crisis totally secret. However, her best friend and boyfriend are getting suspicious. Phoebe tries hard to act like nothing is wrong, but when her mother's credit cards are denied while buying Phoebe the Vera Wang dress and her father threatens to cancel her party, she freaks out. What will she do to keep up her reputation as a lucky girl?

Gorgeous, the second book in the trilogy, tells the story of the family’s financial crisis from the perspective of the middle sister Allison, who has always considered herself too plain to notice. One night she dreams she sells her cell phone to the devil in exchange for being gorgeous. She enters the next top teen modeling contest with surprising results. Her parents are not happy with the new Allison, and she also begins to wonder whether her hot new boyfriend and new friends like her only for her looks. To what lengths will she go to be on the cover of a magazine?

The final book in the Avery Sisters Trilogy is told from Quinn’s point of view. The oldest sister, a piano virtuoso who has always been the intelligent responsible one, decides if her mom isn’t perfect, she doesn’t have to be either. She begins to experiment with wild partying and drinking, but will it make her feel better? When she kisses Allison's boyfriend and then her piano teacher, she begins to wonder if she's gone too far. The book is the perfect ending to this inventive trilogy, which tells an addictive family saga from three points of view.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Big Crunch

The Colorado Teen Literature Conference takes place on April 2, 2011. In addition to preparing a workshop I'm presenting called "Connecting with Young Adult Literature - Using Essential Questions in the Classroom," I have also been reading books by Pete Hautman, who is a guest author. I loved No Limit (2005)and its sequel All In (2007), his poker series about a teenage boy who is a Texas Hole 'Em whiz kid. The main character Denn Doyle is sympathetic and well drawn, and I learned a lot about poker. Reading Pete's blog, I frequently laugh out loud and am looking forward to seeing him in person. His latest book The Big Crunch, which he characterizes as a vampire-free tale of two teens who fall in love, is another winner.

The Big Crunch chronicles a year-long romance between Wes and June, two ordinary teenage lovers, who struggle to maintain their relationship after June moves away. June has gone to 6 high schools in 4 years, so when she arrives in Minnesota she decides to avoid getting attached to anyone, because she knows her consultant dad will move them again soon. Then she literally runs into Wes at a convenience store, and a black eye later, they are in love. The story alternates between the two teens' point of view. June says their relationship was inevitable. "Some things just had to happen, like two trains heading toward each other on the same track. It wasn't like you could swerve to avoid the collision. It wasn't like you could stop." Wes, who has just extricated himself from a two year relationship, does not wanted to get involved with June but he can't help himself. When his best friend Jerry starts dating June, Wes finds himself jealous and picking fights with him. The Big Crunch, a scientific theory that suggests the universe will stop expanding one day and start to contract, is a great metaphor for Wes and June's developing relationship. After a series of encounters that are filled with sexual tension, they try to avoid each other but find their mutual attraction has "all the force of a black hole." They give into their feelings only to find that June's father is moving the family to Omaha.

June's parents usually demand that she cut all ties when they move, to the point of erasing her former friends' phone numbers from her cell phone. Wes and June surreptitiously try to maintain their relationship with texts and calls, but inevitably it becomes difficult. Wes, however, will not give up on their relationship and "borrows" a friend's parents' car to go see her. The few hours they spend together, before the police show up at her door, is enough to refuel their passion. What the two teens do to keep their love alive is heart warming. Hautman does a great job of creating characters we care about with dialogue that is clever and filled with humor. The book follows their relationship through the four seasons and I predict you will want to follow it, too.