Jan Miller's senior year isn't quite the climax she'd have hoped: she's worrying about her big butt while her best friend, Rebecca, is named as a New York "It Girl" by Chic magazine; she's struggling through college applications without any real idea of where she wants to go or what she has to offer; her plans to lust after Tom Richmond have been put on hold by the return of old and suddenly adorable acquaintance Josh Gardner. Since Jan babysits for Josh's half-sister, this gives her plenty of chances to encounter Josh in his natural habitatbut also to hear about his girlfriend back in Seattle, to become the object of his weedy cousin's desires, and basically to get her nose rubbed in the fact that he's not interested in her. There are slight shadows of more serious matters (largely due to Rebecca and her interest in a young lawyer, who thinks she's in college), but mostly this is a frothy and witty romance in the classic mode, with misunderstandings and uncertainty keeping the couple apart until the final revelation and embrace (here it's at a New Year's Eve party, where Jan is, of course, looking her most beautiful in a surprise find of a vintage dress). Jan's narration is bubbly yet wry, erupting occasionally into sardonic scripted exchanges of how life might have been, and her rueful observations about her disaster-prone love life ("Whoever said honesty is the best policy obviously didn't have much experience with dating") will elicit eye-rolling agreement as well as laughter from many readers. Despite the Manhattan sophistication of the setting and the girls, this is actually a pretty warm and sweet book, with a deep sense of security underlying Jan's hyperbolically expressed concerns, a solid and silly family behind her, and a generous helping of hope and excitement about the future. Princess Diaries fans looking for glittery Manhattan romance aimed at slightly older readers will consider this the It Book.
Readers will find Kantor's debut novel about the misadventures of an awkward, self-deprecating high school senior predictable but fun. Jan Miller named after artist Jan van Eyck (pronounced "Yahn") is obsessed with the size of her bottom, can't think of what to write in her college application essays and is unsure if Josh, her crush who recently moved from Seattle to New York City, has a girlfriend back home. In contrast, her confident best friend, Rebecca, was just named one of New York's "It Girls" by Chic magazine, gets accepted to Brown and is secretly dating a law student who worked at her dad's firm (and who thinks she's much older). Readers will easily identify with Jan, who attracts the wrong boys, occasionally gets tongue-tied around Josh, and has an active fantasy life (imaginary romantic scenes, in which Josh admits his love, dot the narrative). It's easy to guess how Jan and Josh's will-they/won't-they relationship will ultimately turn out and what will happen to Rebecca and her older man. But Jan's sense of humor, and her rapport with both Josh (at one point Jan and Josh get into a comical conversation about words they hate, including "moist" and "slacks") and Rebecca ("I knew [Rebecca] would be really supportive... but how embarrassing is the recap of a daylong he said/she said when the person you're talking to is shopping for virginity-losing lingerie?") will keep the pages turning. Plus, the novel offers a motivating message to girls about feeling free to make the first move. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Admittedly, Jan Miller's "romantic fantasies are more soap opera than Shakespeare," but her senior year seems to be turning into a tragedy. It is not enough that her best friend has been named an "It Girl" by a fashion magazine and is having an adult relationship with a recent college grad while the fashion-challenged Jan gains the unwanted attention of romantically clumsy Tom and the interest of "Horrible Harry the Harvard Hopeful." Instead of attracting Josh, the new student in their New York high school, she seems to be doing everything guaranteed to drive him away. And then there are those dreadful college applications and essays to worry about. Just when life seems to be going terribly wrong, things become ecstatically right when a vintage dress and a surprise confrontation with Josh at her parent's New Year's party turn Jan's fantasy into reality. Kantor uses humor and vivid description to capture all the insecurities and angst of senior year. Jan's romantic encounter with Tom in a dark bedroom at a high school party is more hilarious than sexual. Anyone who has struggled with a college entrance essay will be delighted by Jan's offbeat ideas. Although the characters are seniors in high school, expect younger readers to relish the crazy situations that Jan gets into and her amusing commentary on her life. Readers who enjoy the work of Meg Cabot and Louise Rennison will find Kantor's book filled with the same wry wit that has made those authors so popular. VOYA Codes 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Hyperion, 256p., Ages 12 to 18.
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2004: Kantor is a teacher and this is her first novel. Her strengths are understanding the lives of smart YAs as they are preparing to leave high school: college applications, friendships, quarrels with parents, academic struggles, and romances. The friends are Jan (pronounced Yawn, because her father is an art historian who named her after Jan van Eyck) and Rebecca (who is named an It Girl by a national magazine). Much of this novel consists of their endless conversations dissecting each little thing that has happened in their lives. Rebecca is more sophisticated and even manages to deceive a law student into thinking she is actually a college senior (instead of a high school senior)??their relationship is hot and heavy and full of lies, of course, until he sees her name in that very same national magazine. Jan is much less sophisticated, but certainly very intelligent. Much of the plot narrows down to Jan's crush on Josh and how misunderstandings and awkwardness keep getting into the way of their romance. The YA characters go to a private school in Manhattan. They attend parties where everyone drinks, where there are views of the NY skyline from people's terraces, and people get home in cabs??in other words, exotic to 99 percent of American teenagers. For witty repartee, for angst over wardrobes, and for entertaining reading, this is a good choice. KLIATT Codes: JSRecommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Hyperion, 247p., Ages 12 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-Jan Miller is a fresh, funny, and real teen seeking her first romance during her senior year in high school. Her parents are New York intellectuals who seem only vaguely aware of what is going on with their children. Jan obsesses about the college applications she has not yet begun; the size of her butt; and Josh, who has returned after many years in Seattle with his father to live with his mother. Most of this melodrama is shared with her friend Rebecca, who is gorgeous, rich, and sophisticated; has recently been named an "It Girl" in a teen magazine; and has considerably more sexual experience than Jan, who has absolutely none. The teen's daydreams about her romantic life are theatrical scenarios with dialogue, stage directions, and curtain closings, an entertaining gimmick that harks back to the first real interaction she and Josh have, during a Romeo and Juliet reading in English class. Clumsy and self-deprecating, witty and smart, Jan struggles with her feelings and her nerves, and comes through a winner on the very last page. Lots of fun, lots of truth, very satisfying.-Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
In this light read, high-school senior Jan spends much of her narrative obsessing about Josh, her new "crush," and about the largeness of her butt (which looks relatively small in the cover photo) and clothes that will minimize it. Although funny at first, the numerous awkward scenes with Josh and other boys soon start to pall. Meanwhile, Jan, who attends a private school, deals with college applications to prestigious schools and admissions visits. In an unconvincing subplot, Jan's best friend, Rebecca, who was named one of New York's "It Girls" by a girls' magazine, is planning to lose her virginity with a law student who thinks Rebecca's a college senior. With its lack of character development or compelling plot, this will only find an audience among undemanding fans of "chick lit." (Fiction. YA)