Monday, April 30, 2012

A World Without Boundaries

Source: Author Website
Jersey Girl by Beth Ann Bauman (Wendy Lamb Books, 2012, 208pp.)

Angel, a teenager living on the Jersey Shore with her mother and two half siblings, has a pretty nice life. Her mother rents houses to vacationers, so they’re never short of money, and since her mother is more like her BFF than a parent, Angel is pretty much free to do as she pleases: sex, alcohol, partying on a school night. But underneath Angel’s breezy teenage veneer there’s a sense of loneliness and confusion. Without authority figures to set healthy boundaries in the lives of young people, does it become easier or harder for a teen to define her sense of self? Jersey Angel is an insightful book, full of wisdom about being young and not knowing what to do with your life. Recommended for Ages 16-Up for mature situations and rambunctious teenage behavior.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tess, Terrorists, and the Tiara

Source: Goodreads
Tess, Terrorists, and the Tiara by Terry Baldwin (Middleton Books, 2012, 135pp.)

Fifty years ago, Tess’s grandmother became the last winner of the Miss Land of the Free pageant. Today, Grandma’s health is declining due to Alzheimer’s. Deciding to make the most of her remaining years of cognizance, Grandma decides to give her diamond tiarathe one she was crowned withto her granddaughter. The problem is, she has two: Tess, 13, and Brianna, 16. In order to make the decision fair, she and Grandpa invite the sisters to participate in a contest during their summer visit. Whoever earns enough “Helpful Points” before school starts will win the tiara.

Poor Tess thinks her chances of winning are dismal. Her pretty older sister is smart and competent, while Tess, on the other hand, has been described by friends and family as sweet but scatter-brained, constantly distracted by an over-active imagination. Here is where the story incorporates not only “Tess” and the “Tiara,” but “Terrorists” as well. After reading an article in National Geographic about the frightening, misogynist nature of Muslim extremists, Tess notices one of the neighbors clad head-to-toe in a dark cloak, and recognizes it from the article as a burka. Putting two and two together, Tess fears that the neighbors are terrorists who are targeting her grandmother—Miss Land of the Free herself!

Baldwin’s short novel isn’t not so much about a girl encountering a different culture or religion as it is a cautionary tale about judging people at face value. It’s certainly a nice message to teach children. However, I feel that the story would have been better served if it had shown Tess exploring another culture’s traditions and values than simply act as an exercise in tolerance. Recommended for Ages 9-13.

This review can also be found on my Children's Review Site here.