Monday, September 17, 2012


Solid (Solid #1) by Shelley Workinger (CreateSpace, 2010, 236pp.)

Seventeen-year-old Clio Kaid and about ninety-nine other teens have just received the shock of their lives: they are not ordinary kids at all, but the products of an top-secret government experiment that altered their genes before birth. After this rather embarrassing admission, the Army has invited the test subjects to a secret government training facility where they can explore their new-found super powers. Everything’s pretty hunky dory at first, but soon, things begin happening that lead Clio and her friends to suspect that the Powers That Be may have ulterior motives.

It’s an interesting premise, if not exactly a highly original one. The plot didn’t grip me as much as I had hoped, and the characters don’t undergo much development, partly because they don’t have enough to do. However, now that the setting and main characters have been established, I would still be interested in seeing what else this series has to offer. Recommended for Ages 13-Up.

Click on cover for image source.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How the Other Half Lives

Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite by Lianne Simon (Faie Miss, 2012, 246pp.)

Confessions chronicles two years in the life of Jamie, a teen born with Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis. She has one testis and one ovary and could easily pass as either male or female. But which is she, really? She was raised as a boy, despite the fact that she would rather play dress-up than football. Now that her older brother, Scott, has been killed in Vietnam, Jamie’s parents—and her father, especially—need for her to be a boy. Convinced that her cross-dressing is a phase she’ll outgrow (a phase which has lasted sixteen years, mind you), her father feels that Jamie will come to her senses once she experiences the joys of being a man. He agrees to consider letting her live as a woman only if she completes a list of “Things Boys Do,” a series of tasks that ranges from getting her hair cut short, to hunting and killing an animal, to learning to drink and smoke. Fortunately, Jamie can do most of those things--how hard can it be to get your hair cut?—but can she do these things as a man?

I found Jamie to be a refreshing protagonist. Far from being a rebellious youth, she’s actually very respectful of her parents, even though she comes to realize that if she doesn’t embrace her true self, she’ll be torn apart by misery. I also appreciate the fact that even though we never really get to know Jamie’s parents beyond their roles as the story’s antagonists, they are never reduced to mere stereotypes. My only complaint is that the supporting cast is not more fully developed. But it is Jamie’s story, after all.

For readers born with conditions similar to Jamie’s, Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite will certainly be a welcome addition to this neglected area of young adult fiction. For those born without such difficulties, it’s still an enlightening, eye-opening experience. Recommended for Ages 16-Up.

Click on cover for image source.

The Day that Music Died

Source: Publisher Website
Death of a Dreamer: The Assassination of John Lennon by Alison Marie Behnke (21st Century, 2012, 112pp.)
In six chapters and a little over 100 pages, Death of a Dreamer deals with a whirlwind of interrelated topics: tumultuous political climate of the 1960s, the life and death of the late great John Lennon, and Mark David Chapman, the man who would stalk and murder one of the era’s most influential musicians in cold blood.

Placing an age range for this book is problematic. Based on the picture-book layout, one could say that it’s targeted at children and young adults, especially since it goes out of its way to define terms like ASSASSINATE, GIG, and CAPITALISM. However, the process of plowing the chapter on capitalism’s battle against communism will definitely lose the attention of anyone in the 9 to 12 age range. It also covers more “adult” topics, such as Chapman’s depression and questionable mental state, and Lennon’s drug use and posing nude for Annie Leibowitz. The slow pace of these beginning chapters will require the reader to have the patience of a young reader who doesn’t mind wading through the slow parts. The ending, however, is quite dramatic. Like any Beatles fan, I actually found myself gripped and somewhat saddened by the book’s narration of Lennon’s final hours. An ambitious work for a semi-picture book of only 112 pages, it will be of particular interest for anyone who’s interested in, as I like to call it, the day that music died. Recommended for ages 12-18 who have an attention span that lasts longer than 10 seconds.