Author: Alison Umminger
Published: June 7, 2016
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
She was looking for a place to land.
Anna is a fifteen-year-old girl slouching toward adulthood, and she’s had it with her life at home. So Anna “borrows” her stepmom’s credit card and runs away to Los Angeles, where her half-sister takes her in. But LA isn’t quite the glamorous escape Anna had imagined.
As Anna spends her days on TV and movie sets, she engrosses herself in a project researching the murderous Manson girls—and although the violence in her own life isn’t the kind that leaves physical scars, she begins to notice the parallels between herself and the lost girls of LA, and of America, past and present.
In Anna’s singular voice, we glimpse not only a picture of life on the B-list in LA, but also a clear-eyed reflection on being young, vulnerable, lost, and female in America—in short, on the B-list of life. Alison Umminger writes about girls, sex, violence, and which people society deems worthy of caring about, which ones it doesn’t, in a way not often seen in YA fiction.
Normally I find the protagonists of coming of age stories to be shallow, immature, and downright obnoxious! Not so in American Girls. Anna captured the “regularness” that many of these characters, especially girls, lack. Her life is turned upside down and her reaction to it all, yes, is dramatic, but understandable. I liked her, I understood why she did the things that she did, and I sympathized with her. Especially when she was talking about not trying to cause trouble or to hurt people but it ends up happening anyway. This book accomplished what so many other failed at, a regular person dealing with regular things all while being likable and relatable. Throwing in the Manson girls and working through some philosophical questions raised by the murders and their aftermaths, which is the main reason I read it, and you get a true to life, heartfelt story about growing up in a topsy-turvy world.
Author: Alan Gratz
Published: August 25, 2015
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
Live by the code. Die by the code?
Kamran Smith has it all. He’s the star of the football team, dates the most popular girl in school, and can’t wait to enlist in the Army like his big brother, Darius. Although Kamran’s family hails from Iran, Kamran has always felt 100% American. Accepted.
And then everything implodes.
Darius is accused of being a terrorist. Kamran refuses to believe it. But Darius has been filmed making threats against his country, hinting at an upcoming deadly attack. Suddenly, everyone in Kamran’s life turns against him and his family.
Kamran knows it’s up to him to clear his brother’s name. In a race against time, Kamran must piece together a series of clues and codes that will lead him to Darius—and the truth.
But is it a truth Kamran is ready to face? And is he putting his own life at risk?
I really loved Gratz’s other books and I was so excited when Ivan got me Code of Honor for Christmas. I was a little worried when I started reading that it was going to get too political, but it got better very quickly. There were some subtle political jabs that I didn’t appreciate, which is why I gave this book 4 stars. But I can tell that Gratz really appreciates our Armed Forces and Kamran’s love of America was a wonderful thing to read. Patriotism was set up as an admirable thing in a world where love of America is politically incorrect. Kamran became the everyman when talking about stereotyping and unfair views of certain groups of people. Unfortunately, stereotyping is not just an Arab problem, or Muslim problem. And I related to Kamran because of that. I’m a Southerner, born and raised, and of course that make me uneducated and racist.
The story was exciting and original and I couldn’t put the book down! I liked the characters a lot! Micky Hagan was the perfect person to drop into Kamran’s life and kept the book from falling into a lecture about islamophobia. I liked how Gratz brought in the IRA to make the problems universal.
Overall, this is another book that I would put on history teachers’ bookshelves. It’s an interesting look into the inner workings of counter-terrorism and teaches healthy empathy. It also deals with issues facing our soldiers on a daily basis. PTSD, training, discipline, honor, bravery, brotherhood . . . Gratz did a great job of highlighting the greatness of our military men and women and I really loved that! I absolutely recommend this to those looking for an exciting read and to all teenagers.