Jan 20, 2013

Don't Stop Now

Don't Stop Now by Julie Halpern
Published: 6-7-2011 by Feiwel and Friends

On the first day of Lillian’s summer-before-college, she gets a message on her cell from her sort-of friend, Penny. Not only has Penny faked her own kidnapping, but Lil is the only one who figures it out. She knows that Penny’s home life has been rough, and that her boyfriend may be abusive. Soon, Penny’s family, the local police, and even the FBI are grilling Lil, and she decides to head out to Oregon, where Penny has mentioned an acquaintance. And who better to road-trip across the country with than Lil’s BFF, Josh. But here’s the thing: Lil loves Josh. And Josh doesn’t want to “ruin” their amazing friendship.
Josh has a car and his dad’s credit card. Lil has her cellphone and a hunch about where Penny is hiding. There’s something else she needs to find: Are she and Josh meant to be together?

This book wasn't what I thought it was going to be. It was a lot more about Lil's relationship with Josh than it was about Penny. I think it was a little confused about what it was going to be about. The cover's tagline (Friend or Boyfriend?) describes it perfectly, while the blurb above makes it sound much different. 

  • vagueness - I appreciated how the author left it up to the reader to decide if Penny was really abused by her boyfriend. If her parents really did ignore her. Signs definitely point to yes in both cases, but things in life aren't black and white. 
  • Lil - I felt that Lil was easy to relate to for numerous reasons. She just graduated high school and is worried about the future, she's crushing on her closest guy friend, and she's willing to go to all lengths to make sure her friend is safe. 
  • tourist traps - The places that Lil and Josh stop at along their road trip are so off-the-wall crazy. They're interesting pieces of our weird country - things like the Corn Palace and the House on the Rock - collections of things that someone thought were worth building shrines to. 

  • Penny - Penny is an unreliable source of information. She's talked about frequently, yet seen rarely, making her a sort of dark cloud hanging over Lil and Josh. Penny's reaction to Lil driving for days just to make sure she's alright is way too casual. Penny has no concept of what friendship is, or of how big a deal running away and faking a kidnapping is. 
  • Josh - Sure, Josh would be a great friend to go on a road trip with - he's entertaining and has daddy issues that result in a bottomless credit card. But Josh doesn't seem like good boyfriend material. He's a loyal friend to Lil, but he's sometimes clueless and other times purposefully ignorant of Lil's feelings. I felt like he toyed with her emotions constantly. He would kiss her forehead or tell her she looked sexy but not want to be more than friends. I still can't decide if he was being clueless or if he was being a jerk. If he was confused about his own feelings toward her, that would have been fine if he'd just told her that. 

  • We drive until my eyes close, until the tape flips again, until we finally come to a stop, in a town Josh tells me in a dreamy whisper is called Wall, and I float behind him as he holds my hand and leads me to a bed that's not mine and I fall asleep.        - Lil  pg. 112
  • Josh starts, "So I had this idea while I was driving last night..."  My interest peaked, I'm certain he's about to finally reveal his undying devotion to me. Or at least that he'd like to make out some time. But instead he says, "Tambourines, man. Gotta get some tambourines."   Logically.    - Lil  pg. 147

3 robots
Mostly about Lil's desire to be more than friends with her BFF Josh, but the road trip brings all the highlights

If you're interested in weird tourist spots in the USA, I really like this book:

Acquired: bought

Jan 13, 2013

Get Well Soon

Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern
Published: 10-2-2007 by Feiwel and Friends

Anna Bloom is depressed—so depressed that her parents have committed her to a mental hospital with a bunch of other messed-up teens. Here, she meets a roommate with a secret (and a plastic baby), a doctor who focuses way too much on her weight, and a cute, shy boy who just might like her. But wait! Being trapped in a loony bin isn’t supposed to be about making friends, losing weight, and having a crush, is it?

I've always been pretty interested in reading Young Adult books about mental health. The first book I read that addressed a mental health disorder as part of the story was Deb Caletti's The Nature of Jade. In Get Well Soon, Anna's depression isn't just a part of the story - it's the reason for the entire plot. The story is loosely based on the author's own experience in a mental health hospital, yet this book manages to be funny as well as raw.

  • Anna - She's easy to empathize with, and her outlook on all the weird things going on in the mental hospital is unique and funny. It's easy to understand her anger and confusion with her parents, her fear about readjusting to "the real world", and the hope she finds when she makes friends with her fellow "inmates". 
  • the other patients - Everyone was interesting to read about. In the mental hospital, the teens' issues range from pregnancy to suicide to Satan worship. Each of Anna's friends has their own personal problems to work through while they're there. It was great to hear all of their opinions on life and the hospital. 
  • plot - Anna has to deal with ridiculous hospital stuff, like giving other people Appreciations, moving up to Level 3, and sticking out 2 fingers for permission to talk. There are rules that make no sense and forced interactions with other people during group therapy. Overall, the balance between Anna's personal life - finding love and hope - and her depression - working with her therapist and avoiding panic attacks - is perfect. 
  • Justin - I loved the mystery of Justin's past, and Anna noticing the small things about him. They're obsession with music and the way it factors into Justin's story was something I really enjoyed. There's no insta-love here, it's a slow romance that I thought was wonderful.

  • parents / real life - I think Anna let her parents off the hook pretty easy considering they dropped her in a mental hospital. How do you reconnect with your parents after all that? I would be interested in reading about Anna readjusting to her home life and going back to school. She and her new friends all seemed pretty worried about how things were going to be for them when they leave.

  • It was Sean's turn to choose TV stations (why is it always his turn?), and he puts on "Full House" again. I don't get it: Is there a "Full House" channel that only mental hospitals subscribe to? Who else would?        - pg. 121
  • People sent me get well soon cards while I was in a mental hospital. There were fluffy little bunnies, floaty rainbows, and even a religious card. I could understand that Hallmark probably doesn't make "Get Sane Soon" cards, but still. Was I not well before? Am I well now? Who decides?    - pg. 190

5 robots
Honest and funny, full of unique characters and deep thoughts about life in general

Acquired: bought