All posts tagged adolescence

Banned Books 2019 – SEPTEMBER READ – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Published October 28, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before – and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Collins delivers equal parts suspense and philosophy, adventure and romance, in this searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the ninth banned book in our series for 2019! Apologies for the late posting of this review, life has been quite hectic for both of us recently. As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

First published: 2008

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2010 (source)

Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: It’s strange to think that it’s been over ten years since The Hunger Games was first published. I still count it as a relatively recent release but it’s crazy to see how the time has flown and how much has changed in the world since it first came out. The Hunger Games is an interesting one when it comes to banning books. One on hand, you can see why some people might have a problem with it – the theme of multiple teenagers fighting to the death in an arena with one survivor might not be to everyone’s taste. I have to agree that there is violence and of course, quite a few nasty deaths but when it was challenged in 2010 I don’t think this was anything remarkable or unique from what readers could find elsewhere, especially with the advent of the internet and social media.

CHRISSI: I can’t believe it’s been so long since it was released! This is one of those books where I can sort of understand why it’s banned. However, this book was never marketed as a child’s book. It’s in the Young Adult genre and I’m pretty sure that most young adults can deal with the content in The Hunger Games and much more besides. Sometimes real life can feel just as scary (although hopefully nowhere near as violent!)

How about now?

BETH: For the most part, I don’t think there’s any need to challenge The Hunger Games for the reasons that it is sexually explicit or unsuited to the age group. Firstly, Katniss lies down with Peeta (to keep warm I hasten to add!) and has a bit of a kiss and a cuddle. I really don’t see anything terrible about that. Particularly as this IS a young adult novel and a large proportion of that audience hanker after a bit of romance and a sympathetic male lead. Whilst we’re on the topic of young adult fiction I don’t see why it’s inappropriate for the age group. I agree the story is incredibly brutal and horrific in points but when are we going to stop wrapping kids in cotton wool and shielding them from all the bad stuff in the world? No, The Hunger Games isn’t a part of real life (thank goodness!) but that’s precisely my point. It’s a fantastical world that we can escape from whenever we like – we just have to put down the book or never pick it up in the first place. No one is forcing anyone to read it, it’s personal choice. It may be unsuitable for younger readers, that’s true but that’s exactly why it’s labelled as YOUNG ADULT FICTION.

CHRISSI: I think there are far more violent games, stories and films on the internet. Yes, the subject matter is intense and it’s not exactly ‘nice’. Yet I can guarantee that every young adult that reads this book will know it’s not real life and will be able to handle a bit of escapism. I mean, come on! In my opinion, although it’s not fluffy content and it is tough and violent, it’s fiction and people know that!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I loved The Hunger Games when I first read it and I still love it every time I crack it open again. It’s not just a tale about fighting, violence and terrible deaths. It’s a coming of age story about loyalty, love, friendship, family and justice and the lengths someone will go to in order to protect everything they hold dear. It looks at a regime that has frightening echoes of things happening right now across our own world and it’s about real people who go above and beyond in the bravery to try and survive. I’ll always be a fan.

CHRISSI: I really enjoy this book every time I revisit it. I love the story line and think the characters are awesome. It’s a story I can take something from each time. I’d highly recommend it, if you haven’t had the chance to read it yet.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):


COMING UP IN OCTOBER ON BANNED BOOKS: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 JANUARY READ – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Published January 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.

But none of them can believe Margaret doesn’t have religion, and that she isn’t going to the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own very special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything—family, friends, even Moose Freed, her secret crush.

Margaret is funny and real, and her thoughts and feelings are oh-so-relatable—you’ll feel like she’s talking right to you, sharing her secrets with a friend.

What did I think?:

Where on earth do I start with this book? First of all, if you’re new here at bibliobeth hello, welcome and thank you so much for reading! Just to let you know I have two main gods author wise in my reading life. Well, to be fair I do have quite a few but if we’re comparing them to Zeus and Hera of Mount Olympus (the top dogs, for all you non-Greek mythology fans), Stephen King would be my Zeus and Judy Blume would be my Hera.

Chrissi and I read her middle grade book, Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing last year for our Kid-Lit 2018 challenge and I had such a delicious nostalgia trip that when the time came to pick our list for this year, I gently persuaded her we should pick another Blume. She didn’t need too much persuasion as she is my beloved sister after all, but I swear I could hear her roll her eyes via text message!

Now, it’s always a worry when you pick a childhood favourite and read it as an adult that it won’t live up to expectations and with Judy Blume, she has her OWN gigantic shoes to fill so I have to admit, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t love it as much. However, I had nothing to fear, it was such a wonderful trip down memory lane and made me remember everything I originally loved about it as a young adolescent.

Judy Blume, author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Of course, reading this book as an adult was quite a different reading experience in general. When I first read this as an innocent young girl, I identified so strongly with Margaret. During the tumultuous time of puberty when your hormones are going haywire and you perhaps don’t have access to the best or most accurate sex education, Blume and her character Margaret were absolute godsends to me. I learned brand new information that I hadn’t been taught either at school or at home yet and for the most part, I got the desperately needed answers to feed my curiosity about boys, bras and periods.

One of the things that I admire most about Blume as an author though is the way she taps perfectly into the minds of pre-adolescent/adolescent girls, gives them an important voice and reassures them that all the things they are thinking and experiencing are positively normal and nothing to be afraid of. Her honesty and sensitivity in forming a narrative that has spoken to millions of young people across the globe is refreshing and for this reason, she will always remain such a crucial part of my childhood.

Hera, Queen Of The Gods aka Judy Blume??

Re-entering the world of Margaret as an adult was such a strangely rewarding experience, coming back to it with all the adult knowledge and life experience that I now have. At some points it was lovely, other times odd and frankly, a few times embarrassing to remember my teenage self and how I felt about things whilst growing up and becoming a woman. I remember vividly taking on board a certain “exercise” that Margaret and her friends used to do (complete with the infamous rhyme) in desperation that it would take effect and make me grow up that little bit faster! Cringe. Additionally, I also appreciated how Blume explores other avenues in the narrative, like female friendships, the importance of a strong, supportive family and one of the major elements of the story – a crisis of faith. She isn’t afraid as an author to explore those subjects that others might shy away from to give teenagers the answers they crave or indeed, to let them know that it’s okay to be unsure and indecisive about other things.

The fiction of Judy Blume will always have a special place in my heart and I’m sure will prove relevant to generations further down the line than myself who are struggling with difficult issues and want to know they are not unusual or alone. I’m already considering which Blume I can coax Chrissi to put on our list next year? I don’t want to ever get off this nostalgia train!

For Chrissi’s fantastic review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):



Banned Books 2018 – DECEMBER READ – Flashcards Of My Life by Charise Merigle Harper

Published December 31, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When Emily receives a pack of note cards labeled “Flashcards of My Life” as an unexpected birthday present, she uses them as inspiration to journal and to untangle her knotted life. Includes illustrations by the author.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the final banned book in our series for 2018! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book.

Flashcards Of My Life by Charise Mericle Harper.

First published: 2006

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)

Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I amuse myself sometimes. For me, it feels like 2006, when this book was first published was relatively recently. It’s hard to believe it was twelve years ago now! I don’t believe our attitudes were much different back in 2006 from what they are now so as always, I don’t agree with any of the reasons why this book was challenged. Once more, they actually make me roll my eyes. Sexually explicit – I mean, come on! This book is written from the perspective of a young, naive adolescent girl talking about everything that teenage girls tend to talk about…friends, boys, kissing and in no way, shape or form was there anything remotely risque about what she was discussing in her journals.

CHRISSI: 2006… I was at university. I worked with children at the time and whilst they were younger than this book is aimed at, they certainly weren’t as naive as some people believe children are. Children and young teens do talk about boys, kissing etc. etc. There is absolutely nothing wrong with anything in this book. It is perfectly natural and it felt really realistic to what a young teen/young adult would write. This book is far from sexually explicit. Come on. Stop underestimating the younger generation!

How about now?

BETH: Definitely not. Unsuited to age group? Well, what age group is this aimed at? Middle grade to young adult? If that’s the case, no it’s not unsuitable. It’s normal teenage ponderings that are perfectly innocent and natural. In fact, I’d worry if a book like this was challenged/banned because I think teenagers need to read a book like this to make them realise that what they’re going through is perfectly ordinary.

CHRISSI: The only reason this book would be unsuitable to its age group is if it’s age group was 8 years old or younger. I don’t think it is. I imagine this book is aimed at tweens to young adults. It’s certainly not worth banning- especially 12 years later.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Personally, I found myself skim reading parts of this book. At this point in my life, I’m certainly not the intended audience and because of this, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have hoped. I can obviously sympathise with all the feelings that Emily went through as of course, I went through them myself and I’m sure this book will resonate with thousands of other girls across the world.

CHRISSI: It was one of those ‘meh’ books for me. I know I’m not the intended audience, so it’s not necessarily going to grip me. I do think there is much better material out there. I did really like the flashcard idea though. I thought that was great and probably would’ve enjoyed the book more if it was just the flashcards. The stories in-between fell a little flat for me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes- I personally didn’t enjoy it but I know those that it’s intended for would get more out of it.

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Coming up tomorrow: Banned Books 2019 – The Titles Are Revealed!

Girls On Fire – Robin Wasserman

Published January 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

This is not a story of bad things happening to bad girls. I say this because I know you, Dex, and I know how you think. I’m going to tell you a story, and this time, it will be the truth.

Hannah Dexter is a nobody, ridiculed at school by golden girl Nikki Drummond and bored at home. But in their junior year of high school, Nikki’s boyfriend walks into the woods and shoots himself. In the wake of the suicide, Hannah finds herself befriending new girl Lacey and soon the pair are inseparable, bonded by their shared hatred of Nikki. Lacey transforms good girl Hannah into Dex, a Doc Marten and Kurt Cobain fan, who is up for any challenge Lacey throws at her. The two girls bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live; unconcerned by the mounting discomfort that their lust for chaos and rebellion causes the inhabitants of their parochial small town, they think they are invulnerable.

But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it’s a secret that will change everything . . .

Starting – and ending – with tragedy, Girls on Fire stands alongside The Virgin Suicides in its brilliant portrayal of female adolescence, but with a power and assurance all its own.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Little, Brown publishers for sending me a copy of this extraordinary novel, Robin Wasserman’s first adult read, in exchange for an honest review. I had already read some reviews of this book prior to going in, obviously nothing with spoilers of course but I do like do get a certain flavour of what I’m about to read before I begin. So, I was prepared for it to be quite disturbing and fairly powerful but what I wasn’t prepared for is the emotions that it elicited from me. Oh my goodness, Robin Wasserman describes the frenzy of female adolescence in such an unsettling way – especially the intense nature of female friendships that are formed at that time. I remember myself being engaged in a few friendships like this (which ended up being disastrous) and recall all those occasionally bitter feelings when things don’t turn out quite the way you want it to and you feel you’ve lost a piece of your soul along the way.

Girls On Fire follows an impassioned female friendship in the 90’s between two teenage girls, Hannah Dexter (who becomes Dex) when she bonds with new girl Lacey over their hatred of Queen Bee and notorious mean girl of the school, Nikki. Lacey changes quiet, good girl Hannah into a bit of a rebel in the way she dresses, her general attitude to herself and others and the way she behaves both in private and in public. They listen to Kurt Cobain together, tell each other (some of) their deepest secrets and get into a bit of trouble, all the while swearing to have each others backs forever. Alongside all this is the tragedy of Nikki’s boyfriend, Craig who was found dead in the nearby forest as a suspected suicide from a shotgun. Once all the dots are connected and certain secrets are unearthed, the fire and fury that are unleashed are incredibly dangerous for all parties concerned and reveals why adolescence can be one of the most vicious and frightening things you can go through, if you choose to go down the wrong path.

They had all been girls, once upon a time. If they were afraid now, of their girls, it was only because they remembered what it was like. Girls grew up; girls grew wild. Girls didn’t know themselves and the sharp-toothed needs breeding within, and it was a mother’s job not to let them.

This novel certainly packed a punch and I was overwhelmed by both the way the plot unfolded, piece by piece and how well we got to know our characters in the end. It is a tough read and certainly has very adult themes like suicide, satanism, drugs, sex, bullying so please be aware of that if you plan to read this and are sensitive to these subjects. For me, this was a gritty, no holds barred look at the terrible things that can happen in a person’s life if they are exposed to the wrong people or brought up in a certain way. A lot of our characters make stupid, awful mistakes but it’s quite hard to think of any of them as inherently evil….although, saying that, some things do come incredibly close to that barrier! It was quite a visceral reading experience for me as I was reminded of a couple of toxic friendships I’ve had in the past and it took me right back to certain awful decisions I made in a desperate need to please that girl who had become the most important person in my life at that time. Sad, but true and Robin Wasserman captures that horrible teenage angst, trauma of growing up and the ton of hormones flying left, right and centre to tell a fascinating story that I’m still thinking about quite a while after finishing it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):



Banned Books 2017 – DECEMBER READ – The Agony Of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Published December 25, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Life, Alice McKinley feels, is just one big embarrassment. Here she is, about to be a teenager and she doesn’t know how. It’s worse for her than for anyone else, she believes, because she has no role model. Her mother has been dead for years. Help and advice can only come from her father, manager of a music store, and her nineteen-year-old brother, who is a slob. What do they know about being a teen age girl? What she needs, Alice decides, is a gorgeous woman who does everything right, as a roadmap, so to speak. If only she finds herself, when school begins, in the classroom of the beautiful sixth-grade teacher, Miss Cole, her troubles will be over. Unfortunately, she draws the homely, pear-shaped Mrs. Plotkin. One of Mrs. Plotkin’s first assignments is for each member of the class to keep a journal of their thoughts and feelings. Alice calls hers “The Agony of Alice, ” and in it she records all the embarrassing things that happen to her.

Through the school year, Alice has lots to record. She also comes to know the lovely Miss Cole, as well as Mrs. Plotkin. And she meets an aunt and a female cousin whom she has not really known before. Out of all this, to her amazement, comes a role model — one that she would never have accepted before she made a few very important discoveries on her own, things no roadmap could have shown her. Alice moves on, ready to be a wise teenager.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the twelfth and final banned book of 2017! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book.

The Agony Of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

First published: 1985

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2006 (source)

Reasons: offensive language and sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: This is one of the older releases on our Banned Books list for this year (not quite as old as me but nearly there!) and comes with a fantastic vintage eighties cover that did bring a smile to my face. On reading the synopsis and seeing the front cover, I was intrigued as to why this book might be challenged/banned. I think I’ve mentioned before that I deliberately try to avoid seeing the reasons until after I’ve finished the book. Probably so that I can get even more outraged at them but that’s besides the point. I finished The Agony Of Alice at a bit of a loss to understand what problems people could have had with this story and on reading the reasons why I have to admit I’m at even more of a loss.

CHRISSI: This book is older than me! 😉 It was a really interesting one to look at, especially because it made the challenged list in 2006. I was really intrigued to see why this book could be banned. Quite often I can see why a book may have come into some trouble, but I’m completely stumped with this one. I have no idea why it was challenged. Genuinely. I didn’t find anything offensive about the language and as for sexually explicit? Pah!

How about now?

BETH: This book was first published in 1985 and you might think that some attitudes have relaxed over thirty or so years? However….this book was put on the challenged/banned list in 2006, just over ten years ago so that doesn’t really make very much sense. More importantly, I see no reason at all why this book stirred up so many obviously negative feelings towards it. Offensive language? Sexuality explicit? Give me a break. This book is a story of a normal (sometimes slightly annoying) young girl on the cusp of puberty going through normal emotions and struggling with daily life without a mother figure to support her on the journey. If sexually explicit means sharing an innocent first kiss on a piece of cardboard whilst playing a game of Tarzan oh my goodness please ban every single book in the world because they are all bound to have an offensive scene like this! The only way I can get my head round this is that on the list, it says the series of Alice books has been questioned and perhaps further books in the series, as she becomes a teenager have more explicit material in them that has ruffled a few feathers? I’ll just be over here in the corner, rolling my eyes.

CHRISSI: As before, I don’t really understand. I really am at a loss. There are a lot more explicit pieces of literature out there and nothing that happens in this book would be offensive to our modern day young ‘uns. It’s about a girl who is just about to go through puberty. It’s normal. I don’t see why it was challenged. I really, really don’t. I think it’s so dangerous to challenge books such as this!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  I can’t lie, it wasn’t the best book in the world for me but I’m obviously not the target age range. I swayed backwards and forwards over Alice as a character but loved the relationships she ended up developing. It’s a quick, easy read and a good introduction to adolescence for those children teetering on the edge of being a teenager. I also enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t a conventional family set up and the author explored what it was like for Alice to be in a family without a mother.

CHRISSI: It’s an okay read, but I didn’t connect with it very much. Baring in mind, I’m not the target audience I think others might really enjoy it. Alice annoyed me a little as a character and I don’t think I’ll be continuing her story, but many others will and have done!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!


Thank you so much to everyone who has read and enjoyed our Banned Books posts in 2017, we’ve really enjoyed doing them. Join us again on January 2nd 2018 when we’ll be revealing our Banned Books list for 2018! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Banned Books 2017 – OCTOBER READ – ttyl by Lauren Myracle

Published October 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Audacious author Lauren Myracle accomplishes something of a literary miracle in her second young-adult novel, ttyl (Internet instant messaging shorthand for “talk to you later”), as she crafts an epistolary novel entirely out of IM transcripts between three high-school girls.

Far from being precious, the format proves perfect for accurately capturing the sweet histrionics and intimate intricacies of teenage girls. Grownups (and even teenage boys) might feel as if they’ve intercepted a raw feed from Girl Secret Headquarters, as the book’s three protagonists–identified by their screen names “SnowAngel,” “zoegirl,” and “mad maddie”–tough their way through a rough-and-tumble time in high school. Conversations range from the predictable (clothes, the delicate high-school popularity ecosystem, boys, boys in French class, boys in Old Navy commercials, etc.) to the the jarringly explicit (the girls discuss female ejaculation: “some girls really do, tho. i read it in our bodies, ourselves”) and the unintentionally hilarious (Maddie’s IM reduction of the Christian poem “Footprints”–“oh, no, my son. no, no, no. i was carrying u, don’t u c?”).

But Myracle’s triumph in ttyl comes in leveraging the language-stretching idiom of e-mail, text messaging, and IM. Reaching to express themselves, the girls communicate almost as much through punctuation and syntactical quirks as with words: “SnowAngel: ‘cuz–drumroll, please–ROB TYLER is in my french class!!! *breathes deeply, with hand to throbbing bosom* on friday we have to do “une dialogue” together. i get to ask for a bite of his hot dog.'”

Myracle already proved her command of teenage girl-ness with Kissing Kate, but the self-imposed convention of ttyl allows a subtlety that is even more brilliant. Parents might like reading the book just to quantify how out of touch they are, but teens will love the winning, satisfyingly dramatic tale of this tumultuous trio.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the ninth banned book of 2017! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. If you would like to read along with us, here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

NOVEMBER – The Color Of Earth – Kim Dong Hwa

DECEMBER – The Agony Of Alice – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

But back to this month….

ttyl by Lauren Myracle

First published: 2004

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2011 (source)

Reasons: offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: If you’ve been following our Banned Books series for a while now, you might remember that I don’t see any reason for a book to be banned outright. Handled delicately in certain situations – yes, of course but banned? Never! Then there’s the other books that pop up on our list where I can see no reason on earth why they should be banned/challenged and ttyl is one of those cases. I don’t remember there being much offensive language to be honest, but if there was it wasn’t overly offensive to me if I didn’t even notice it. Certainly, it’s no worse than what teenagers would hear on a daily basis – at school, on the streets, on the television…need I go on? And excuse me, we are challenging a book for having a religious viewpoint now?! I’m not particularly religious myself but I quite enjoy reading about different religions (especially if it’s done in a non preachy type way) so I could never accept this as a reason for preventing access to a book.

CHRISSI: I don’t agree with any of the reasons for this book being challenged at all. To me, it just read like a realistic conversation between three teenage girls. Challenging it doesn’t sit well with me because it’s completely sending the wrong message. Why should normal teenage conversation be censored? It’s not a surprise to me that teenagers discuss sex and swear a little. As for the religious viewpoint, that’s ridiculous. Religion isn’t a strong topic within this book!

How about now?

BETH: It’s been thirteen years since ttyl was first published and I don’t think attitudes have changed extraordinarily in that time. When I first came to this book I thought the reasons for challenging it would be entirely different and I was surprised to read what they were. I guess because this book is written as a series of messages between a group of friends and a small portion of it is written in “text-speak” or acronyms like ttyl (talk to you later), I assumed that the main complaint would be that it encourages poor communication between teenagers! Imagine my surprise when instead they quote sexual explicitness and inappropriate for age group reasons! I don’t believe that you’re going to find anything in this book that is shocking or not what normal, healthy fifteen year old girls talk about with their close friends.

CHRISSI: No. This book should not be challenged in my opinion. Like Beth, I could understand if there was a problem with communication/text speak as that’s something that does annoy me (not enough to challenge the book!). I actually wondered if it might be about internet safety and that something terrible might have happened (even then those books have a place, an educative place!) but no… it was normal teenagers speaking about normal things in their lives as they grow up.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  I have to say, I approached this book with slight trepidation – I wasn’t sure I would enjoy an entire novel written in message format and I definitely wasn’t the target audience for this book! It’s not really for me, to be honest but I can see why teenage girls would love it and I really appreciate the strong female friendships that the author wrote about which are so important in the turbulent time of adolescence.

CHRISSI: I wasn’t a fan of this book. It took me a while to get through and I found it a little bit tedious in places. Remember though, I’m not the target audience for this book. I can totally see why teenagers would enjoy this book though. I love that the characters have such strong friendships. So whilst it wasn’t for me, I’m sure others would love it!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes! (to teenagers)

Join us again on the last Monday of November when we will be talking about The Color Of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa.

Short Stories Challenge – The Mean Time by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Published February 19, 2016 by bibliobeth

17614701 (1)

What’s The Mean Time all about?:

It’s a hot summer’s day and twelve-year-old Peanut and her cousins are being driven into town on the back of a trailer drawn by Uncle Toby in his tractor. It’s Peanut’s ‘mean time’ age and she’s about to do something she’ll regret…

What did I think?:

As regular readers of my blog may already know, I’m a big fan of Karin Slaughter’s novels but I’m definitely starting to enjoy her short fiction just as much. The two stories in this bundle I bought for my Kindle are as different as night and day and after the brutality that was Necessary Women, I was expecting more of the same when it came round to reading The Mean Time. Perhaps it is the way the author begins the story – our heroine, Peanuts, is in a truck connected to our Uncle Toby’s tractor with her cousins and he is taking them all to the local shop to get some sweets. Before her current age of twelve, Peanuts always assumed that her uncle enjoyed playing with the kids and it is only become apparent that he is “mentally slow,” something that is a huge deal for her at an age when even the slightest difference can make a huge difference to how she is perceived by others.

Peanuts is already having quite a hard time comparing her life to that of her cousins (her father’s family) who are clearly poor but work hard (usually physically) for every penny of their money. She admits that her and her sisters have never wanted for anything as their father never wished for them to have as poor an upbringing as he himself had so they are quite literally spoilt rotten. Visiting their poorer relations who can’t understand why her father would want to make more money than that required to live on and who seem to have a different notion of what hard work actually is is an eye-opener for her as she gets older and notices/desires the opinions of others a lot more.

The author describes Uncle Toby’s mouth as having a tooth missing which could lead to him having a somewhat “sinister,” appearance to those who did not know him. Immediately I thought I was going to be taken down this dark and twisty pathway Karin Slaughter does so well and with the previous story still very fresh in my memory, I don’t think you could blame me! However, this was categorically NOT the case and the story that unravelled was quite different. The climax is an altercation in the shop between Peanuts and Uncle Toby that she bitterly regrets as soon as it has happens but unfortunately can never take it back. The following quote, which I loved, sums up the story beautifully in better words than I can ever write:

“This was a time in my life when I keenly searched for disapproval or agreement in the eyes of strangers. I was halfway into my twelfth year, a walking box of hate and hormones. This was my mean time, and the approval of someone who did not know me mattered much more than the opinions of those who knew me best.”

The Mean Time stands on its own as a great piece of short fiction and perhaps I shouldn’t compare it too much to the story it was bunched with. Both are brilliant in very different ways and I believe it shows the versatility of Karin Slaughter as an author perfectly. This narrative took me right back to my own adolescence when I desperately needed the approval of others and said/did things I instantly regretted. The author managed to capture the essence of what it is to be a teenage girl wonderfully and although I was slightly surprised by the ending I now think it bitter-sweet and simply how it should have been. I’m hoping that even though it is a slight departure from the fiction the author usually writes, fans will enjoy it just as much.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: Duet by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales



Short Stories Challenge – The Smoothest Way Is Full Of Stones by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Published June 14, 2015 by bibliobeth


What’s The Smoothest Way Is Full Of Stones all about?:

This is a story about two young girls trying to survive the perils of divorce, death and religion whilst experiencing the first pangs of sexual awakening.

What did I think?:

I have really enjoyed the themes explored by Julie Orringer in this short story collection so far and The Smoothest Way Is Full Of Stones is another of those tales with multiple themes as two girls stand on the brink of womanhood and begin to discover the adult world with all of its promise and confusion. Our narrator is a young girl called Rebecca who is sent to stay with her Aunt after a family tragedy. It is a whole different world for Rebecca who has always been close to her cousin Erica, but after her Aunt divorced then re-married and became Orthodox Jewish her cousin is now known as Esther, Esty for short. There are a whole lot of new rules and regulations to abide by whilst living with the family yet Rebecca enjoys praying and singing, dressing and acting appropriately and preparing for the Jewish festivals such as Shabbos as something novel, exciting and perhaps something to believe in.

When we first meet Rebecca and Esty they are swimming in the lake fully clothed and thoroughly enjoying themselves until they see a young boy familiar to Esty hiding something under the porch steps. After he is gone the intrigued girls rush to see what it is that he is so desperate to hide and are completely shocked to find a book: Essence of Persimmon: Eastern Sexual Secrets for Western Lives. After a quick flick through Esty pronounces it a sin and says they should hide the book where no-one can find it suggesting the top of the closet at home and completely ignore the boy, Dovid Frankel at the Shabbos celebration due to be held later on that evening. Later on, Rebecca finds herself caught in an exciting and intimate moment with Dovid at the party after a talk about religion and their own beliefs yet is certain he would not be touching her if she were an Orthodox girl like her cousin.

Later on, Esty is incensed about Rebecca and Dovid (we kind of sense that she has a bit of a crush on him herself) and refuses to speak to her cousin. She does however, take the opportunity to hide in the closet and have another look through the book, the same one that she described as “an abomination,” earlier in the day. The rest of the story explores the girls relationship and we sense that through the discovery of the book it has changed from pure and innocent fun to a more adult and competitive relationship where the ultimate goal is who can get the boy. It is obvious that both girls are struggling, Esty with her enforced new religion and new “Uncle,” and Rebecca with grief from what has happened to her family, worry over what her family may now be like and confusion over religion and her own beliefs. Throw in the discovery of sex, boys and what it means to both now very different girls and its no surprise that they’re having difficulties!

This was a really interesting little story and like the stories that I’ve read in What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander, it was nice to learn a bit more about the Jewish faith. What I love about Julie Orringer though is how real she makes every character, especially her adolescent girls. When I’m reading characters like Rebecca or Esty, it’s almost like I’ve been plonked right back down into adolescence myself and I remember so acutely how things felt and the struggles that you go through. The link back to Rebecca’s family was also nice to read about and I actually felt quite worried about how this fictional family was going to cope after their tragedy – definitely the sign of a good writer! The author manages to explore so many themes in this story (and collection) especially religion in this particular tale without ever coming across as preachy which is great for a reader like me as I’m always interested to learn about other beliefs, just don’t give me a sermon! Luckily, Julie Orringer pulls this off beautifully and delivers another brilliant short story.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


NEXT SHORT STORY: Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night