I'm halfway through marking student work - have finished commenting on 25 lots of Chapter Ones and short stories, with another 25 or so to go next week. At this time of year, it's hard for students because they have several major assignments (usually writing that needs reworking after workshopping) to hand in. They oughta try it at my end! Anyway, I am still reading - helps to maintain sanity, especially the serial murder crime fiction. Only kidding. Kind of.
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac - Gabrielle Zevin
Naomi falls down some steps at school and hits her head, resulting in memory loss covering the last 4 years. She remembers up to about seventh grade. She doesn't remember her parents' divorce, or how to drive a car, or how to speak French. She ends up in a relationship with a guy with mental issues of his own.
I had to trust that the author had done her homework on amnesia, although at times I doubted she'd got it entirely correct. However, it's an interesting story, not overly predictable, with other layers of meaning in photography (what are you really seeing?) and secrets. The main character is very real, and the way she deals with her problems is typically frustrating as she makes the kinds of mistakes we probably all would.
Pip: the story of Olive - Kim Kane
This is an Australian novel - I wasn't sure what age it was aimed at. The main character (and her imaginary sister) is in Year 7, but at times she felt about ten years old. On the other hand, the language used is quite sophisticated and I wondered if any Grade 5 and 6 kids would persevere with it, as the story doesn't have that much action.
Olive has a workaholic mother and a missing father. She goes to a private school and loses her best friend (only friend) to another girl. As a result, she finds instead that she has a twin sister - apparently imaginary although she just appears. I got the sense that the sister was meant to be like an alter-ego, inspiring Olive to do things, like look for her long-gone father, that she wouldn't otherwise attempt. There are lots of nice moments in the story but it fell a bit flat for me.
Lock and Key - Sarah Dessen
I've been a long-time fan of Sarah Dessen books and this one didn't disappoint (although it's not my favourite). Ruby has been alone with her alcoholic mother for about ten years, since her older sister left. When Mom takes off, Ruby tries to continue on her own but the landlord finds out and she ends up living with her sister, Cora, and her husband, Jamie. Over the back fence is Nate, a popular boy at the new upmarket school Ruby is forced to attend. She has a lot of resentment going on - why did Cora leave and never contact her again? why can't she go to her old school? why can't everyone just leave her alone?
As always, Dessen's story is about relationships. Nice Nate is leading a not-so-nice life. Harriet who makes jewellery and is her family's black sheep is even more of an expert than Ruby at keeping everyone at arms-length. Ruby's only friend at the new school becomes so grudgingly. None of the interaction between the characters is easy, but it continues to grow and change throughout the whole story, so that you end up feeling very satisfied, even though not everything has a happy ending. We read to find out about life and relationships more than anything - how other people manage it - and this book shows the gradual breaking down of Ruby's defences in a believable, engaging way.