Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Not-So-Great-Depression by Amy Goldman Koss

This is the first Amy Koss book I've read, although I've observed her other titles flying off the shelves often enough. Perky and voluble Jacki has an almost-perfect life; sure she wishes her just-about-to-graduate older sister was more fun to be around, she can't stand their "nanny" and she's pretty average in school. But she's got good friends and a nice life. Until her mom loses her job. Suddenly, everything is changing and her family and friends aren't the same anymore.

There aren't, as far as I know, any middle grade or young adult books out on the recent recession. There are books like Rachel Vail's Lucky that deal with financial disaster, but nothing more tied to contemporary events. So, a pretty timely book. Jacki is a fun character, always hoping for the best and I can see her fitting into the groups of other fourteen-year-old girls I know.

On the other hand, this book really irritated me. I found Jacki's constant upbeat attitude insanely irritating and her mother's refusal to face facts as well as her helplessness dealing with practical issues even more irritating. The thing is, the characters are very realistic. It's just that I didn't like them. I can't imagine having their casual approach to money and the kids' initial complaints and horror at being faced with, gasp, CHORES really bugged me. But yeah, very realistic. The thing is, based on my personal experiences and background I have more in common with their laid-off and invisible housekeeper, Hortensia, than to any of the characters in the story.

The only problem I had with the story, apart from my personal reactions, was the ending. It was a Jacqueline Wilson spun sugar ending, basically.

Jacki's mom gets a new job, granted it's at half the pay, but it's something she really loves to do. They all move into a nice apartment near Jacki's best friend, Jacki can't wait to transfer to public school, and her older sister Brooke decides to have an off year before college and her ballet teacher creates a foundation so she can teach poor kids to dance for free but get paid herself while she applies for financial aid so she can go to the college of her dreams the next year.

Um, yeah, realistic much? How about Jacki's mom gets a crappy job that she hates, but hey you've got to pay the bills. Brooke works at a fast-food restaurant trying to save money for classes at the local community college and they all move into a crappy apartment that smells like smoke, has a sleazy landlord, and the a/c doesn't work. Oh, and they can't afford a car so they have to use the bus.

Basically, in my opinion, Koss's ending is a pretty fairy tale that's not going to offer much comfort to kids from Jacki's educational and economic level whose parents have lost their jobs.

Verdict: But I've still ordered the book, because it is, for the most part, a good realistic story and there's nothing else really on this topic. Plus, girls like Koss and most of them will be perfectly satisfied with the fairy tale ending.

ISBN: 1596436131; Published May 2010 by Roaring Brook; ARC provided by publisher at ALA; Purchased for the library

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