Blue Plate Special [NOOK Book]

Overview

Doomed loves, failed families, nixed dreamssomeone else's leftovers are heaped on our plates the day we come into this world.

Big Macs and pop tunes mask the emptiness as Madeline watches her mom drink away their welfare checks. Until the day Tad, a quirky McDonald's counter boy, asks Madeline out for a date, and she gets her first taste of normal. But with a life thats ...
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Blue Plate Special

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Overview

Doomed loves, failed families, nixed dreamssomeone else's leftovers are heaped on our plates the day we come into this world.

Big Macs and pop tunes mask the emptiness as Madeline watches her mom drink away their welfare checks. Until the day Tad, a quirky McDonald's counter boy, asks Madeline out for a date, and she gets her first taste of normal. But with a life thats anything but, how long can normal really last?

Hanging with Jeremy, avoiding Mam, sticking Do Not Disturb Post-its on her heart, Desiree's mission is simple: party hard, graduate well, maybe, get out of town. But after Desiree accepts half a meatball grinder, a cold drink, and a ride from her mother's boyfriend one rainy afternoon, nothing is ever simple again.

Too many AP classes. Workaholic mom. Dad in prison. Still, Ariel's sultry new boyfriend, Shane, manages to make even the worst days delicious. But when an unexpected phone call forces a trip to visit a sick grandmother she's never met, revealing her family's dark past, Ariel struggles to find the courage to make the right choice for her own future.

As three girls from three different decades lives converge, they discover they are connected ways they could never imagine. Each of them finds strength that brings her closer to healing a painful past, and faith that there is a happier future.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kwasney’s evocative story shifts between the lives of three struggling 15-year-old girls being raised by single mothers in small New York cities. Madeline, living in 1977 Elmira, N.Y., is overweight, depressed and overburdened: “I will always be stuck here. In this spot. In this body. I will never be a spirit. Or anything other than what I am,” she thinks. Her life consists of babysitting her alcoholic mother, until she meets sensitive Tad and begins to hope for a life with a stable family. In 1993, Desiree, whose story is told in free verse, is raped by her mother’s boyfriend, Larry, becomes pregnant and flees with her boyfriend, Jeremy, who believes he is the father. And in present-day Poughkeepsie, overachieving Ariel’s ambitions and friendships are stifled by her controlling boyfriend. Ultimately the girls’ stories converge as they cope with the hands they’ve been dealt (“We all inherit someone else’s leftovers,” Ariel muses) and attempt to build better lives. Kwasney’s (Itch) protagonists are distinctive and empathetic, her narratives meticulously structured and realistic, exposing the unpredictability—and sometimes unfairness—that life can bring. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Naomi Williamson
In alternating chapters, three teenage girls tell their story. Madeline is an overweight, insecure sixteen year old during 1977; Desiree, at sixteen in 1993, is dealing with a mother who is strung out on medication, a stepfather who is looking at Desiree inappropriately, and a boyfriend who truly cares about her; Ariel is living in 2009, dealing with a father who is in prison for murder and with a mother who is doing her best to be the kind of role model she herself would have liked to have had. As the stories of these girls unfold, an unusual twist becomes evident—this is the story of one family, told through the story of the three generations of women who deal with the need for forgiveness. Kwasney does an excellent job of creating individual voices for each of the characters that allows the reader to understand just how they are each dealing, and often not dealing, with the highs and lows of their lives. Reviewer: Naomi Williamson
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Three generations are portrayed in this compelling novel about complicated relationships between mothers and daughters. Overweight Madeline, growing up in the 1970s, has taken care of her alcoholic mother for as long as she can remember. Food is her crutch, until she meets Tad, who changes her life. But a tragic accident leaves her pregnant and alone. Desiree, growing up in the 1990s, tells her story in free verse. Her mother's boyfriend rapes her in the backseat of his truck. After a falling out with her mother, the pregnant teen runs away. Ariel's story begins in 2009. Her father is in jail; she lives with her workaholic mother who offers little guidance, allowing Ariel to make her own decisions. But, as her relationship with her boyfriend becomes more troubling, Ariel realizes just how much she misses and needs her mother's support. As the stories develop, readers begin to see clues as to the relationships among the teens. Of the three stories, Ariel's is the weakest compared to the palpable emotions conveyed in Madeline's and Desiree's stories. But, it's Ariel's insight ("We all inherit someone's leftovers") that gets to the crux of the book. Life lessons abound in this grim look at how decisions can have lasting effects. Short, alternating chapters among the teens and authentic voices make this a good choice for reluctant readers.—Kelley Siegrist, Farmington Community Library, MI
Kirkus Reviews
Three young women spanning three generations become intimately connected as their mothers' mistakes affect their lives. Growing up with a self-centered, single-parent, alcoholic mother, obese Madeline copes by indulging her insatiable hunger and being ultra-responsible. Desiree avoids her overly critical, negligent mother, who's stoned on headache pills and glued to soap operas, by hanging out with her boyfriend. Ariel's father is incarcerated for murder and her possessive boyfriend stalks her, but her mother is loving and supportive. Madeline's life changes when her boyfriend dies, leaving her pregnant, Desiree's, when she's raped and impregnated and Ariel's, when she meets her maternal grandmother, and all three lives are pulled together in an epiphany of discovery, forgiveness and healing. From 1977 through 2009, Madeline, Desiree and Ariel tell their stories in alternating present-tense voices evoking the tone of their respective generations (Desiree in all-lower-case free verse). While Kwasney effectively develops her characters into multidimensional personalities, convincing in their strengths and weakness, the coincidental plot feels contrived. Despite intergenerational differences, however, all three learn to make the most of the lives they inherit. (Fiction. 14 & up)
From the Publisher
BOOKLIST
"...[A] moving novel narrated in alternating voices....a larger tale of love, abuse, understanding, and forgiveness. The women aren't all likable, but they are authentic, and each story explores single motherhood, body obsession, and the search for meaningful love. Each woman's hard-fought journey towards self-respect makes for difficult yet compelling reading."

LIBRARY MEDIA CONNECTION, STARRED REVIEW
This book is impossible to put down and would be especially appreciated by older teen girls. It would also make a great discussion book for a mother and daughter to share.

KIRKUS REVIEWS
"...Kwasney effectively develops her characters into multidimensional personalities, convincing in their strengths and weakness..."

VOYA
The overall picture is of hope and affirmation, and readers will applaud these flawed but resilient women.

TEENREADS.COM
"the kind of novel that mothers should give to their daughters or, even better, read and discuss together.

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"Short, alternating chapters among the teens and authentic voices make this a good choice for reluctant readers."

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"Kwasney's protagonists are distinctive and empathetic, her narratives meticulously structured and realistic, exposing the unpredictability—and sometimes unfairness—that life can bring."

VOYA - Kathleen Beck
Madeline copes with a weight problem and an alcoholic mother; Desiree is raped by her mother's lover; Ariel juggles AP classes and a possessive boyfriend—three women, three distinctive voices, and, the reader gradually realizes, three generations of the same family. "What the daughter does, the mother did," a Jewish proverb dryly observes at the beginning of Kwasney's novel. Abuse, abortion, alcoholism, unwed motherhood, sex, and salty language are all part of this story. But despite the problems, it is not a gloomy book. Madeline finds love, however brief, with a boy she meets at MacDonald's; Desiree works hard to get an education and raise her daughter; and Ariel develops the strength to claim her own space. When Ariel's grandmother, hospitalized for breast cancer surgery, reaches out to her daughter, a complicated, tentative reconciliation begins. The interwoven first-person, present-tense narratives (Desiree's in blank verse) portray fully realized characters. The males are equally convincing, creepily so in the case of Desiree's attacker. Occasionally a character's voice is not consistent, but it is a minor quibble. The author weakens her story somewhat by relying on coincidence—the drunken driver of the car that runs over Madeline's boyfriend is her mother, and Desiree's mentor turns out to be Madeline's long-lost high school friend. There is a gentle pro-life slant. The overall picture is of hope and affirmation, and readers will applaud these flawed but resilient women. Reviewer: Kathleen Beck
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452104119
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
  • Publication date: 10/21/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 464,882
  • Age range: 14 - 18 Years
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Michelle D. Kwasney has written two middle grade novels: Baby Blue, named a Booksense Pick and New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, and Itch, released in 2007. Michelle lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she writes and teaches art. Visit her at michelledkwasney.com to learn more.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
Rating Distribution

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(15)

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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

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    1977. Elmira, New York: All Madeline wants to do is forget her life. She'd give anything to be like the popular cheerleaders at her high school. But she isn't. She's fat and homely. Her mother is a drunk. Music is the only thing that keeps her sane and food is the only thing that helps her forget how how empty she feels and how starved she is for just a little bit of affection. Living on Welfare, Madeline tries to keep her head down, hide her savings and look toward graduating and getting the heck away from her mother. At least until a counter boy at McDonald's looks at her, really looks at her, the way no one, not even her own mother, ever has.

    1993. Johnson City, New York: Desiree doesn't really have plans for her future. She'll probably graduate high school and then maybe she'll move in with her boyfriend Jeremy. They can live next door to Carol Ann and Eric and everything will be chill. Beyond that the future is hazy. Except for one thing: Desiree knows she'll be the best mom ever. She won't be a jerk like her own mother. She won't have a boyfriend like her mom's who keeps leering at her and trying to get her alone. Des won't let anything happen to her little girl. Not like what happened to her.

    2009. Poughkeepsie, New York: Ariel is pretty ordinary. Good grades, lots of AP classes and getting ready for the college crunch in her senior year. Sure her dad is in prison for murder and her mom works really hard. But those aren't things she talks about. Still, none of that matters because Shane didn't notice any of the other, prettier, girls at school. He noticed her. And yes it's a lot of work remembering to wear clothes he'll like and make time for him and keep him happy. But he's worth it, isn't he? At least, Ariel thinks he is. When her mother announces a sudden trip to see the sick grandmother Ariel has never met things suddenly start to seem a lot different not just with Shane but with her whole family in Blue Plate Special (2009) by Michelle D. Kwasney.

    Blue Plate Special alternates each chapter between the three narrators (Madeline, Desiree and Ariel). Each heroine has her own unique voice and the characters all really stand out as individual people. Madeline and Ariel have their own distinct style of narration while Desiree's sections are written in verse. All of the girls' stories are compelling and poignant. The entire book is very well-written and Kwasney is clearly a very talented writer with a bright future.

    That said, Blue Plate Special was a very hard book to read. It was extremely depressing partly because these are characters with hard, painful lives but also because a lot of their tragedies cannot be undone and, by the time the story is being told, redemption might be too far off to grab. The air of desperation that hangs around all of the characters was also a little hard to take. Parts of the story felt heavy handed, especially in Ariel's sections, but the whole book was hard to take because it was so sad which may have played a part there as well.

    Blue Plate Special is a good, literary book. It's well-written and has a strong plot with context, subtext, emotion and a lot of substance. It's the kind of young adult book one might easily recommend to a person who looks down their nose at young adult literature for being somehow less than when compared to "adult" literature.

    Possible Pairings: Sleepless by Cyn Balog, How to (un)Cage a Girl by Francesca Lia Block, The Secret Life of Prince C

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Three different girls. Three different generations. One really g

    Three different girls. Three different generations. One really good book.

    Blue Plate Special starts off by introducing you to three girls: Madeline in 1977, Desiree in 1993, and Ariel in 2009. All three teenage girls are in problematic situations, but it isn’t clear right away how their stories are related to each other. As the book progresses, it becomes clear just how interwoven these girls’ lives really are.

    Two of the three stories are written in prose (Madeline and Ariel) and one is written in verse (Desiree). Each of the girls has a distinctive voice. While their stories are similar (each is about a mother and daughter, love, mistakes, forgiveness), each is unique in their own way.

    This book really surprised me. It was hard to put down and I could have easily devoured it in one night rather than a day and a half.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2013

    Loved it!

    This book was excellently written and interwined three generations beautifully!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2013

    Excellent twist!

    The book is very enjoyable - it flows nicely and the twist about 2/3 of the way through is a doozy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Great book

    Great book with interesting characters. I couldn't put it down. I really enjoyed reading it ans will definitely be reading more from this author soon!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2013

    Hidy

    Whats your email

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2013

    Amazing

    No other words to describe it but incredible. Couldnt put it down. Absolutely loved how all the eras intertwine together. Read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2013

    If you like the movie precious or for colored girls you will like this

    This is a very good easy read. The plot is a little predictable and anticlimatic but still a very good book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2013

    Idiott know what to do...

    *Smacks you both with fish!!!*

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2013

    Love, love, LOVE this book!!!

    Couldn't put it down. Contrary to what a few reviewers have said, it is an easy read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2012

    Amw A

    Amazing book.

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  • Posted February 11, 2012

    great book

    There are different stories going on and somehow the stories all interact with eachother. Loved the book picked at a starbucks spur of the moment type think really enjoyed reading it

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Best Book I have EVER read!!!!!

    I do not normally read, but I could not put this book down!! It is AMAZING!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2013

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    Posted July 9, 2013

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    Posted June 28, 2013

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    Posted August 7, 2013

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    Posted October 23, 2014

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    Posted October 30, 2012

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