Wednesday, July 4, 2012
My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari
On top of the usual angst of a new step-parent, June has to deal with how she feels about Eva and her mom being together permanently, her longing for a father, and the unpleasant reactions of some of the people in her small town, including her best friend Tina's family. To make things even more complicated, June is starting to wonder how she really feels about Luke and her mom and Eva are fighting about how to deal with the negative publicity.
I thought the author did an excellent job of putting all the events into perspective from June's point of view; she's got a lot going on and her emotions are all over the place. She's upset and scared by the negative reactions, but sometimes she feels angry that her mom has put her into this position. She doesn't really like Eva, but she wants her mom to be happy. She's confused by her feelings for Luke and hurt that her friends don't always back her family up. She's embarrassed by the people who want to define her - and her mom - by their lifestyle, both negatively and positively.
In the end, June has grown up a lot over the summer, learning more about herself and her friends. She understands a little more how hard it is to stand up to people, she's willing to make allowances for people and compromise, and she's gained new self-confidence.
The dramatic endings - June saves Tina's little brother's life with Eva's help and wins a baking competition against 46 other adults - are rather unrealistic, but kids like dramatic endings and at least Gennari didn't stereotype the town's reactions to the events.
Sort of pre-verdict:
Am I going to think about community reaction to this book? Well, yeah. We're a public library and we serve the public - that means that the bulk of what I'm going to buy is going to be what the public wants to read. I can think "this is an important topic and we should have a book on it" but that doesn't matter if nobody ever checks the book out. I originally purchased this book for the library not because it was about a girl with two moms, but because A. Julia Denos created the cover, making it a sure winner and B. I can always use more books about baking. While our small town is pretty conservative, I've never had problems with any books we've purchased. A few suggestions to move books to a different area (completely merited - Piers Anthony is NOT always appropriate for teens!) and one problem with a magazine subscription in the four years I've been here. Of course you never know how people will react, but our parents generally seem to be comfortable with the idea that we're a public library and it's up to them to decide what their kids read. I appreciated that the description delineates the plot clearly so we won't have any shocked parents saying they didn't know what it was about. I won't booktalk it unless I know the parent and child well enough to know if they'll be offended, but I think it will easily go out on it's own.
Verdict: Even if they aren't in this situation themselves or know someone who is, kids can relate to the emotions about a step-parent and growing up. I loved the descriptions of Lake Champlain and I am WILDLY ENTHUSIASTIC about the very manageable length of this middle grade title. Not preachy, well-written, attractive cover, and a story kids will enjoy. I'd say it's a winner. Recommended!
ISBN: 9780547577395; Published 2012 by Houghton Mifflin; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library