Monday, November 3, 2014

Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopez

Chia is looking forward to a great summer before she begins eighth grade.  She expects to travel to the beach with her family and it seems like her mom is planning the same thing when she comes home with nine new bikinis.  But it turns out that her mom has purchased the bikinis to wear for each of the next nine days before she has a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer.  The family takes a trip to a church where people make promesas to God to ask for His help in healing a loved one.  Chia's brilliant little sister promises to clean the bathroom, a hated chore.  Chia doesn't know what she can promise to do but finally settles on taking part in a 5k to raise funds for breast cancer research, promising to find 500 sponsors. 

This book reads like a somewhat light school story but it has depth to it, particularly at the end where Chia finally makes it to the 5k.  The effect the cancer has on Chia's life feels totally true to how an eighth grader would deal with such a blow both in terms of her reaction and the rest of the family.  It sounds very heavy but the story overall never sinks into "problem" book or drama but just deftly integrates a heavy topic into a teen book. 

Starbird Murphy and the World Outside by Karen Finneyfrock

Starbird has lived all of her 16 years on the Free Family Farm.  She is a true believer in everything EARTH has told the Family even though he has been gone for a few years.  One of EARTH's rules is that everyone receives a Calling and Starbird is waiting for hers to arrive.  When one of the Family's members arrives from Seattle looking for a waitress for the Family's café, others in the commune are certain it is Starbird's Calling.  Starbird herself is not so sure but a shock makes her want to leave the farm and for the first time in her life she is in the world outside.  Even though she is living in the Family's house in Seattle and working at their café, life is very different for Starbird.  She has to go to school and she has to handle money at the café, something EARTH has forbidden.  She also finds herself among a lot of non-believers who have some interesting things to tell her about her Family and EARTH.

I often start my summaries and reviews by looking at other reviews to remind myself about some of the details of the book.  One such review says that this is a "hilarious" story.  I would whole-heartedly disagree with that assessment of this book because I didn't find it funny nor do I think it's meant to be (but the author is free to write to dispute that point with me).  I point this out not to disparage the book, but only because I hate it when books or movies are sold as something they are not which I think does them a disservice. 

So with that out of the way, let me say that I really, really liked this book. It did one of the things I like most about a book - made me think about it after I had finished it.  In fact, I had only planned to read to page 200 at one sitting but upon arriving there, decided to read to page 276 so that I'd only have another 100 pages to read the next day.  When getting to 276 I was so absorbed by the re-introduction of two missing characters that I had to keep going and I finished the book that night.  I liked that Starbird's commune was not filled with evil people even though it was a cult.  I'm not saying her upbringing was ideal, but it was easier to see why she felt such a bond with everyone.  Even the long absent EARTH was not the villain he would've been in other cult stories.  The depth of characters as well as Starbird's growth and questioning kept me enthralled.