Saturday, June 26, 2010

Kid Konnection - Summer YA Books

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a (hopefully) regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. Today, I'd like to share with you two Young Adult books that I think are just perfect for summer reading.

Summary: Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road--diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself. -- Simon & Schuster

If you are looking for a terrific YA book that's guaranteed to capture your heart, then look no further than AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR by Morgan Matson. I thought the cover was kind of cute, and I liked that it included bits and pieces from Amy and Roger's trip (kind of like scrapbook memorabilia), but I honestly had no idea how much I would enjoy this book. It was so good and I think many, many teens (and adults) are going to love AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR!

I realize that AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR probably isn't geared towards me at all. (It's actually recommended for 12 year old and up, but I think I might wait until my daughter is a little closer to 14 before giving it to her.) However, I couldn't put this book down and even read it one day. It was everything I hope for when I read a book, and by that I mean any book -- even adult ones. It had great characters, an entertaining story line, good writing, and lots of humor. And to top it off, I was deeply affected while reading it -- I found myself tearing up quite a few times.

AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR tells the story of Amy, a 17 year old girl whose father has just died unexpectedly. Her family is torn apart when her twin brother enters a rehab facility and her mother moves across the country to start a new job. Amy is forced to stay by herself in the family home until she finishes her junior year in high school -- how hard would that be? And then, she is asked to drive across the country to bring her mom's car to her. The problem (well one of the problems) is that Amy won't drive so her mother asks a guy -- a very cute and hot one -- to drive Amy to her new home. This book tells the story of Amy and Roger's cross-country adventure!

There are just so many good things about this book that I hardly know where to start...

In quite a few ways, AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR was a coming-of-age story for Amy (and even for Roger); and I just love coming-of-age stories. What started as a pretty specific trip with pretty specific stop and start times as set by Amy's mother, ended up being a huge adventure for Roger and Amy. Rather than following the most direct route across country, they began creating their own route based on their own wishes. As a result, throughout their trip, they encountered many people and places that forever changed their lives.

I absolutely loved the character of Amy and my heart totally went out to her. She was in so much pain after her father's death, and rather than sharing it with her loved ones and friends, she turned away from everyone and internalized her feelings. When the book begins, she was so lonely and almost suffocating in her grief. I could almost feel her pain! Throughout the course of the book (and of course the cross-country trip), Amy learns not about what the United States has to offer, but she also learns a great deal about herself and her family.

I also thought the way the author incorporated little bits and pieces from the trip, like receipts and playlists, was such a treat. I'm not sure the book "needed" them to be terrific, but it was just the icing on the cake. It added a very cute, and very real, dimension to their trip. I especially enjoyed seeing Roger's, and eventually Amy's, playlists because they added some additional insight into their characters.

Finally, I thought Ms. Matson did a terrific job of taking the reader on the road trip with Roger and Amy. I felt as if I were riding in the car alongside them (especially on the Loneliest Road in America), and I liked seeing the sites through their eyes. While I'm definitely not adventurous (or even a patient car rider for that matter), I can definitely see the appeal of setting off on a trip with no agenda and just following my gut. I really feel as if Amy and Roger's experience made them stronger individuals!

As you can see, I just loved AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR and I highly recommend it!

Summary: Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer -- they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along. -- Simon & Schuster

THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY by Jenny Han is one of those books that I can't wait to hand to my daughter because I know she will love it. The recommended age range is seventh grade and up, and that's only a year away for Booking Daughter. Plus, I actually think THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY is perfect for the younger YA age range because it's just so sweet!

THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY really is an ideal summer book. It takes place over an entire summer at Cousins Beach, and it tells the story of Belly, a 15 year old girl who is on the cusp of womanhood. Each and every summer, Belly visits the shore with her mother, her brother, and long-time family friends. For years, Belly was the only girl and she often times felt left out when it came to her brother, and friends Conrad and Jeremiah. However this summer, Belly realizes that these two boys who have been like brothers to her might actually be something more!

In so many ways, THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY is also a coming-of-age story. Granted, it took place over a summer so it was kind of a short time period; however, Belly really went through many changes and definitely grew up. During these three short months, Belly had a few crushes, went on a first date, coped with her parents' divorce, and accepted that there aren't always happy endings -- even during a magical summer at the beach.

I absolutely loved the character of Belly and I could relate to many of her conflicted feelings about growing up. One one hand, she was still incredibly naive about certain things, but on the other hand, she was discovering boys and all of those strange feelings that come with it! I loved how well Ms. Han captured the spirit of a teenager, and I thought Belly's voice was incredibly authentic.

While this book was filled with many of the themes that I loved reading about as a young girl -- friendships, crushes, falling in love, and the beach to name a few, it also dealt with some pretty serious issues. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but Belly's summer was filled with lots of ups and downs. Belly was actually forced to see some of the very unfortunate parts of life -- ones that you hope your child never has to experience.

THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY was a great summer read and one that I highly recommend. It was awarded an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, so I know I'm not alone in my appreciation of this novel. I really loved the character of Belly and I'm so glad that Ms. Han wrote a sequel to THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY because I kind of feel like I was left wanting more after I finished this book. It's called IT'S NOT SUMMER WITHOUT YOU and deals with more changes that are in store for Belly. Needless to say, I'm just dying to read it!

A little aside....Last fall, Booking Daughter and I had the privilege to meet Ms. Han at the Kidlit Festival hosted by Aaron's Books. She is positively adorable and so much fun. In fact, Booking Daughter immediately fell for her when they started talking about The Baby-sitter's Club over pizza. When I was in New York a few weeks ago for BEA, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ms. Han was participating in a panel that I was attending at a Borders bookstore. She read a few pages from her new book and talked about some her favorite summer reads as well as her progress on her next book. After the panel was over, I went up to her and re-introduced myself. I'm not so sure she remembered me, but she definitely remembered Booking Daughter!

I'd like to add that both of these books would be marvelous choices for a teen book club or even a Mother-Daughter book club. There are lots of terrific topics/issues to discuss.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me copies of these books.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


Beth F said...

These both look good, but I especially like the sound of the first one -- I think it'd be a treat to read.

bermudaonion said...

Both books sound good, but I really want to read The Summer I Turned Pretty after seeing Jenny Han on that panel - she was adorable!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

These sound really good - I just love YA books! I think it takes a lot of talent for an adult author to speak in a teen voice, and also to pack so much into a short format. Thanks for the heads up on these!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I think my daughter would like both of these, if I could ever get her away from vampires. I may throw them in her path and see what she does.

Beth Kephart said...

sounds pretty wonderful (the epic detour) and I like imagining you laughing and crying while you read.

how did I manage to miss you in DC?