I'm kind of confused about this book. The tag line on the front says "Get your goth on." The description on the back calls Philippa, the main character, a "goth girl." And yet on page two Philippa explicitly states that she is, in fact, NOT a goth girl, and later in the book says that she wears black because it's easy and doesn't show dirt. Therefore the use of the word "goth" on the cover is inaccurate and unnecessary; I think you could have written a compelling blurb for the back cover without using a word that the main character herself insists does not describe her.
So I started off reading this with a bit of a negative viewpoint. That cleared up pretty quickly because McClymer's writing drew me in, as did the plot: two weird twins advertise for their own nanny, who must love black, and Philippa applies for and is given the job. She spends the summer in their cliffside mansion, crushing on the hot gardener and trying to figure out how to inject a little fun into the twins' lives - they are lonely, far too old for their age (10) and all but ignored by their businessman father. Philippa is dealing with her father's remarriage, and she and the twins bond over the loss of their mothers, and together seem to be figuring out how to let a little color back into life.
The plot moves nicely along until the end, where several chapters seem to be lost. The end rushes into itself and really makes very little sense. It's like a whole bunch of pages got lost at the printer. I ended my reading feeling more negatively than I did when I started it, which is a shame, because McClymer really can write. I just wish she'd written some more at the end so the story wrapped up satisfactorily.
It's a good time, book-wise, to be a tween.
I read the galley of THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOOK CLUB within the first few days after it arrived in our shop. I remember that the Simon galleys arrived late that season and we had less than a week to evaluate them for initial purchase.
As soon as I started TMDBC I knew it would be perfect for us, and it was. We sold...oh, a bajillion copies. We book talked it at schools. We featured it at book fairs. We sold it to girls, their mothers, their grandmothers, their aunts. We urged people to read it together. I don't think there was a tween girl who walked into our shop who left without a copy. (Except there must have been, because then we sold a bajillion of the paperback.)
I was a little wary when I heard a sequel was coming out, as I often am. I DID NOT WANT there to be a sequel to THE PENDERWICKS. (Until I read it, and then, oh yes, I wanted it.) Sometimes I just want a story to end. I want the characters to stay the ages they are. I don't want the sequels to outgrow the girls.
(And I'm a little afraid of that happening here; in this new book the girls are now in 7th grade, and if they're in 8th grade in the next book...well, then it really needs to end there. Please? Don't age the series any further than that. Please? Don't de-tween it!)
My copy of this book arrived in the mail yesterday. I thought about waiting, as I often do with sequels, in favor of a newer series...but curiosity got the better of me, and I cracked it open this morning. And finished it this evening.
It was really nice to be with Jess, Emma, Cassidy and Megan again. As I stated before, in this book the girls are now in 7th grade and, of course, things are changing for them. Boys are becoming more interesting - to everyone but Cassidy, who sees them as nothing more than hockey and baseball teammates and doesn't understand her friends' growing fascination with the opposite sex. She also doesn't understand her mother's fascination with the opposite sex - her father's only been gone a couple of years; how can her tall, beautiful, ex-model mother be thinking of replacing him with a short bald accountant?
Megan's fascination with clothes and ambition to become a designer is only growing, something her three friends don't really understand. Who DOES understand is her former BFF Becca Chadwick - but snobby, snotty, loudmouthed, popular Becca is loathed by Emma, Jess, and Cassidy. (For good reason, a lot of the time, Megan has to admit - but it's hard to let a best friend go forever.)
Jess's parents finally break down and tell her that they may have to sell their beloved Half Moon Farm. And Emma? Emma's begun to realize that her baby fat isn't going to come off by itself, and that silent crushes can never be anything but crushes.
In the middle of all this turmoil, their mothers reconvene the Mother-Daughter Book Club they started last year. This year, however, the unthinkable happens: Becca Chadwick and her mother are invited to take part. How can Jess, Emma and Cassidy enjoy this place of refuge when their enemy is now in their midst, mocking not only the club itself but this year's book selection, Anne of Green Gables? How can Megan be friends with her book buddies and her old BFF without alienating anyone? Can the farm be saved? Will Cassidy's mom marry the bald accountant?
Oh, the delicious, nuanced drama.
Frederick never lets her characters descend into hysteria. She obviously remembers what it was like to be a middle-school girl, because she's drawn four very distinct ones here (five if you count Becca). I always knew who was talking without looking at the chapter headings. I love that they're not incredibly similar - several of these friendships were initially forced on them in the first novel, when their mothers (always close) decided that the book club would be the Best. Idea. Ever. The girls aren't incredibly similar, and neither are their mothers, but they're friends anyway, seeing enough in one another to bond over and appreciating what they can learn from their differences.
The friendships aren't perfect, though, because middle-school girls aren't perfect. Frederick doesn't make the mistake of painting rosy pictures of girls skipping hand in hand, off to save the day for one another. They fight and they snap and they hurt and they gossip and they screw up and they apologize awkwardly and they misunderstand, just like everyone does. But at the end of the day, they are a haven for one another, and it's that simple fact that had me closing this worthy sequel with a smile on my face.
Purchase at Powell's or find your local independent bookstore.
There's going to end up being a bit of a rant in this review, so I want to preface it by saying: I enjoy Buckingham's writing very much. I loved DEMONKEEPER, his first book, and sold a lot of it when I was a bookseller. I was very much looking forward to reading GOBLINS! and did ultimately enjoy it, but I have a major problem with it that I'm going to have to rant about in a minute. But first, here's the plot.
Sam lives waaaaaay up north in Washington State, right near the Canadian border. There is absolutely nothing to do in his tiny town, so at 12, he's already becoming something of a juvenile delinquent. Right now he's sitting in the local jail because he couldn't resist swiping some fireworks out of a truck parked at the Stop-n-Sip, and of course, Officer Myrmidon - the town's only policeman - caught him immediately.
On the way to the police station, Myrmidon had pulled over a Camaro that ended up being driven by his son PJ, on his way up from California for a visit. And then he'd gotten a call that some cavers were missing, so he'd taken off to help and left PJ and Sam alone.
Big mistake, of course.
The police motion-detector that's set up at the US-Canadian border goes off, and PJ decides that he and Sam should go and check it out - in his dad's police cruiser. On the way they run over what they initially think is a person, until they get it into the back of the cruiser:
Thick, black fur covered its entire body--it was not wearing a fur coat. Its hands were leathery, like those of a gorilla, and its fingers were tipped with long, yellow claws. It pushed its face up against the glass and stared back at Sam and PJ with huge yellow eyes. Two long tusks jutted up from its lower jaw. It was definitely not human.
Soon they meet two mysterious people and learn that the creature comes from a land beneath the Earth. After the creature is dispatched with and the people return to whence they came, PJ realizes Sam is gone. He quickly figures out that Sam followed the UnderEarth people, finds the entrance that goes underground, and reluctantly enters it himself. Soon both boys are caught up in a war between the UnderEarth humans and the Goblins who desperately want to take over everything that the humans control and possess all their power. Unfortunately PJ and Sam, each in his own way, makes everything UnderEarth a lot worse - but maybe, in the end, they'll help make it a lot better.
There's a lot of humor in this book and PJ and Sam are both likable characters. A lot of the Goblin stuff is hilarious. The plot moves quickly and the end, while drawing to a satisfying conclusion, clearly paves the path for a sequel. I think this could be a pretty successful middle-grade series.
Here's my problem, and the rant.
This book is listed as being for ages 8-12. So why, then, does PJ say things like No friggin' way, backwards-ass, my friggin' gravestone and I don't mean to bitch? Does a third-grader really need to read that? Or a fourth-grader? The language adds absolutely nothing to the story. Nothing. Yeah, PJ is 17. But this isn't a YA novel. And it's not a novel with a character who needs these words to show readers who he is. The book isn't full of this language - the phrases cited above are it. So why bother? If I were handselling this book to an elementary school librarian, I would have to tell her about the language and you know what? She wouldn't buy it.
I am finding this over and over and over - stuff just shoved into a book that doesn't need to be there - that does absolutely nothing to advance the story or define the characters - that should have been removed during the editing process. I'm thinking of YA novels that'll be squeaky clean until 3/4 of the way through when suddenly everyone gets drunk for no reason. I'm thinking of The Underneath by Kathi Appelt, which is getting tons of Newbery buzz and which is one of the most age-inappropriate (for how it is leveled and covered) books I have ever read. (That, incidentally, will be an entire post, but I read the galley awhile ago and need to get a copy so I can quote specifics.)
In my perfect world, Buckingham's editors would remove those four words before printing the book in paperback and make sure that the sequels don't contain anything like them. The humor in Goblins! counteracts the scary parts quite nicely, and it would make a good read-aloud. It's a book I would have been happy to have in the shop where I worked, because you always need books for boys that have freaky creatures in them.
But the whole reading experience was marred for me by those age-inappropriate words - they jarred me right out of the story. I really, really wish they weren't there.
That's my one-word review of Bonechiller.
(Probably you could have figured that out yourself, right? I mean, it's pretty much all right there in the title.)
Danny and his dad move around a lot, trying to escape their memories of Danny's mother, who's gone now. This time they've ended up in Harvest Cove - "tucked away in the Big Empty that makes up most of Canada...Turn off Highway 11, north of Barrie, then follow the road as it goes from paved to gravel to dirt. If you're looking for somewhere to hide, this is it." It's winter, and the town is empty (it's a summer cottage town), and cold, and dark. Danny's accumulated a small group of rebellious friends and they're spending their time doing things that skate the edge of legality.
One night, on his way home, Danny is attacked by a creature that is like nothing he's ever seen before. It can't be real...can it? Inuit legends and town rumor point to an old, old evil that's never been confirmed. Danny's pretty sure he's just confirmed it. But can he get anyone to believe him? And even if they do, what can anyone do about it?
This book is, again, really creepy. McNamee really knows how to chill your blood - his writing is really suspenseful and he's got a way of making you feel like you're really inside the main character's head. I read this one before bed and ended up being really sorry - in a good way!
Older content: not much. The characters like to use the insult "you're a pussy," and the expression "cop a feel" is used more than once, but no one actually cops a feel and the language doesn't get any worse. There's some kissing, but nothing more than that. There's definitely some violence, but it's not very graphic. I was really impressed that this book managed to be as scary as it did without having a lot of graphic violence.
Publisher: Random House
Pub date: September 9, 2008