Friday, October 28, 2011


The Geek Girl's Guide to Cheerleading

by Charity Tahmaseb & Darcy Vance

What starts out as a sort of social experiment to test the fairness of cheerleading tryouts leads geek girls Bethany and Moni into entirely new territory when they find themselves members of the squad.

There are crushes on popular boys that seem to be coming to fruition, some acceptance among the popular clique girls, but also clashes with the worst of them, an ex-friend who resents not only the new status of these two rising stars, but also the attention they are getting from those most crushable boys.

Add in that Moni seems determined never to go back, going over so far into the world of the clique that it comes between the two girls, and Bethany is not too sure how this will ever end well.

Things work out, mostly, of course - this is, after all, a nice light read, but it also raises a few issues along the way, and I quite like Bethany, the main character. I'd recommend it as a somewhat meater bit of chicklit, definitely.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011


Scott Pilgrim

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness
Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together

Scott Pilgrim vs The Universe

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour

by Bryan Lee O'Malley

This set of graphic novels set in Toronto follow Scott Pilgrim in his pursuit of becoming the boyfriend of Ramona Flowers and, as required, defeat her evil ex-boyfriends, all seven of them. Sounds strange? Well, yes, but it makes more sense when you realize that it is set up much like a video game, with each book as a level, and the defeat of each boyfriend an objective that earns Scott points toward his final goal. Better?

That framework also helps explain the crazy fight scene between Ramona and Knives Chau, who Scott first dates briefly, that is held, of all wonderful things, in the Toronto Reference Library. Seriously. It is a delight to Toronto readers that the city figures so prominently and recognizably, but it doesn't limit the readership, either. It's a bit nonsensical, a little rambling, and a whole lot of crazy, mixed-up fun with characters you mostly like, even in their douchey moments, and they do have them.

I like the drawing style, a fairly comic style that keeps the fight scenes jokey and the characters seeming fun even when they have their moments. Having read the series, I can see that Michael Cera might just be the most inspired choice to play Scott Pilgrim, as he was cast - it's sitting on my shelf waiting for a viewing now.

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by Jerry Spinelli

Like many high schools, things are pretty typical in Leo's high school. So when a strange hippie chick in a range of weird costumes shows up and starts singing to people in the cafeteria, cheering for the other team, and generally acting like all the unspoken norms and rules don't apply to her.

For a while, people aren't sure what to make of her. Eventually, they embrace her, and a wave of individualism sweeps through the school. Leo optimistically daydreams of a new dawn, until the tide begins to turn. When their sports team begins to win for the first time ever, people suddenly start to care that Stargirl, as she calls herself, cheers for the other players as much as she does for their own, and start to view her as a traitor. The shunning is complete and Leo, her boyfriend, gradually notices it and finds himself swayed, as well, beginning to be embarrassed by the very things that he once admired.

This book doesn't go for the happy ending, as a movie or an episode of Glee would, with everyone discovering her wonderful heart again at the end, though there is a glimmer of hope. Instead, it goes deeper, and Leo finds himself talking with a wise old friend of his about the nature of her and him and the stuff of stars and stargirls. There are lessons here, to be sure, but they are imparted with a sort of longing and a mystical feel that keeps them from being earnest or preachy. In the end, Leo looks back wistfully, and still full of more questions than answers.

Note: there is a followup as well, Love, Stargirl, that I will be adding to my to-read pile, as I am curious how a sequel to this would unfold.

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Does My Head Look Big in This?

by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Amal is a pretty average girl living in Australia, though she is pretty new at her snooty prep school, and it's a bit strange after being at a school that was rooted in the Muslim community for years. Despite wanting to blend in at McLean, she decides over the holidays to start wearing the hijab as a step farther into living her faith as a fuller part of her life. This is not met without resistance, let's just say...

Her parents, to begin with, are concerned about the opposition they fear she will encounter, and worry that it may hold her back because of how she will be perceived by others. Their worries aren't unfounded, and she does indeed encounter some nasty moments along the way. Her principal is not on board, to begin with, though her parents convince her to allow the addition to the school uniform.

Her own biggest worries come with her return to school and the dog-eat-dog social world of high school. For one thing, she is already a target of mean girl Tia and her friends. For another, she has a major crush on school cutie Adam. She has some rock-solid friends, but they do have some issues of their own that they are wrestling with, making Amal's struggles to fit in as an identifiably Muslim girl in a very white school only one of the issues that this book covers.

Amal is smart and sassy, and determined not to be defined or limited by people's perceptions. She sets out to inform the people who make clueless comments about the differences and similarities between Islam and other major religions, and to point out stereotypes and assumptions where they rear their ugly heads. She wins some people over this way - including Adam, who suddenly presents a new problem, when she realizes that what part of her wants, another part does not, for she is level-headed enough to remember that her religious beliefs about intimacy are more important to her than what her heart is telling her she wants with him.

In the end, the book sets out to expose and correct a lot of ignorant beliefs and assumptions, and does a fine job of it. The characters are likeable, and have the reader with them the whole way. And best of all, the author manages to make several good points, and make them strongly, without sacrificing any of the fun in this moving book about growing up Muslim in Australia to her message.

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