Class Mom

by Laurie Gelman
First sentence: “I click Send on my laptop, sit back in my chair, and grimace.”
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Content: There are a dozen or so f-bombs as well as a lot of other mild swearing. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

I picked this one up because I wanted something light an funny, and everyone at work told me this was, well, light and funny. And the premise – an older mom who had a child later in life is class mom of her son’s kindergarten class with all the politics that accompanies that — sounded pretty amusing.

But the execution, was, for me, less than amusing. Sure, the class emails were supposed to be funny, and sometimes they got a smile from me, but that’s about it. But most of the book surrounded Jen Dixon’s (the class mom of the title) overly dramatic life. Parents are really this petty? (Admittedly, I’m kind of out of the parenting little kids game now.) And truthfully, Jen’s life was a little, well, boring. (Real life often is!) Granted, I finished the book, so it wasn’t awful, but in the end I was kind of like… meh. It was okay. Nothing horrible, but nothing spectacular either.

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Girl In Reverse

by Barbara Stuber
First sentence: “Say it, Lily.”
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Content: There’s some mild swearing and kissing. It’s probably a more complicated plot than the Middle Grade section warrants, so it’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Lillian Firestone is an adopted daughter of Chinese heritage. Which makes her a target in Kansas City in 1951, the height of the Korean War. She took the bullying and name-calling when she was younger, but now that she’s 16, she’s taking a stand. Sort of. She walked out of class and school one day, and that act started a domino chain of events that led to the discovery of her birth parents.

There’s art involved and a lot of Chinese culture as Lily goes on this journey.

(I’m tired. Can you tell?)

I wanted to like this book. I love the cover, I love the ideas, the conflict. But I could never connect with Lily. She drove. me. nuts. Completely. And so I started skimming, skipping ahead just to see what happens. And yeah, everything’s tied up in a nice little bow.

It had potential, and I’m sure some readers will really love the art and China elements. But I wasn’t really one of them.

Landry Park

by Bethany Hagen
First sentence: “Two hundred years ago, America found itself at a crossroads.”
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Review copy snagged from the ARC shelves at work.
Content: There’s some talk of violence, though it’s all offscreen; a few mild swear word; and an illusion to an affair. It’s in the YA section (6-8th grade) of the bookstore, but I’d have no problems giving it to a younger child if they were interested.

Madeline Landry has grown up in a luxurious world: she’s the only child of an elite family and surrounded with opulence. She’s not particularly happy: she has struggles with her father over her education. She wants to got to university; he (and his will, not to mention the law) wants her to stay home, get married, run the estate, and pop out an heir. But she’s not entirely unhappy either: she loves her family and her home and the life. That is, until David Dana — the un-landed son of a gentry — comes into her life. Then, the things that have been skirting around her life — the class issues, the environmental concerns, especially with the lowest class, the Rootless — come front and center. Not to mention that David’s pretty dreamy.

In many ways, Hagen is treading the same ground as every dystopian book before her. America falls to the Eastern Empire, only managing to hang on by a thread. In the aftermath, a class system is formed — not based on race, as Hagen is so careful to point out — based on money and influence. And at the bottom are the Rootless, who handle the nuclear charges the gentry’s energy — and much of the wealth, especially the Landry wealth — comes from. And they’re getting restless. Where Hagen’s dystopian diverges from the pack is in the focus: Madeline is one of the elite, not the underclass. And when she has her eyes opened, she stands to lose everything. And I respected that.

I also really loved the world Hagen built, even though she never really gave us an explanation why the women were corseted and shoved into ball gowns and paraded around like it was Victorian England. I’m sure I could come up with some hypotheses — fancy dresses are synonymous with wealth? the women are as shackled as the Rootless? — but they are just that. No matter: Hagen is tackling issues that aren’t (readily, I think) usually seen in dystopia. Also, she doesn’t have a Romeo & Juliet love story going on here: both Madeline and David are from the gentry, and have to come to terms with their increasingly dissenting opinions.

It’s not a perfect beginning, but it is an intriguing one. I’m going to be curious to see where the rest of this series goes.