Wearing skirts she's made out of Mylar balloons or potato sacks, shirts she's sewed out of torn umbrellas or her absentee dad's abandoned clothing, narrator Kristi marches to her alternative high school, prepared to take on a world that hates her-she's pretty sure of it, given that she can read minds. Ryan, far outstripping the level of plotting and characterizations in her debut, Shadow Falls, turns in an exceptional second novel. Although Kristi is hostile to her mother, classmates and teachers, and genuinely nasty to total strangers, she makes herself vulnerable to readers. She is also consistently funny in a cynical, teenage way: "I live in a suburb of a suburb. I'm surrounded by the offspring of professional people who attend parent-teacher meetings and volunteer on Election Day." Events cast doubt Kristi's mind-reading skills, but given the author's solid portraiture, readers will nevertheless want to trust Kristi, even before she learns to trust herself. Ryan works in both a romance and a divorce, and reverses Kristi's instinctive satirizing of people who care about her-and does it all with an abundance of wit. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Vibesby Amy Kathleen Ryan
Nothing is beyond Kristi Carmichael’s disdain—her hippie high school, her friend Jacob, her workaholic mom. Yet for all her attitude and her mind-reading abilities, Kristi has a vulnerable side. She can hear the thoughts of her fellow students, calling her fat and gross. She’s hot for Gusty Peterson, one of the most popular guys in school, but of… See more details below
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Nothing is beyond Kristi Carmichael’s disdain—her hippie high school, her friend Jacob, her workaholic mom. Yet for all her attitude and her mind-reading abilities, Kristi has a vulnerable side. She can hear the thoughts of her fellow students, calling her fat and gross. She’s hot for Gusty Peterson, one of the most popular guys in school, but of course, she’s sure he thinks she is disgusting. And she’s still mad at her father, who walked out on them two years ago. Soon, a school project brings her together with Gusty, her father comes home and drops a bombshell, and a friend comes out of the closet, and suddenly she is left doubting that she can read people at all.
Bitingly funny but ultimately poignant and positive, this YA novel is completely on the mark.
Kristi is an outcast at her progressive high school. She's a nonconformist who makes her own clothes out of found objects and deliberately alienates the people around her. She describes herself as ugly and as a bitch. She also happens to have the ability to read minds. The negative thoughts she perceives from others cause her to reinforce the wall she has built around herself. She shut herself off from the world when her father left two years earlier, and hasn't trusted anyone since. She deliberately antagonizes her mother and plays cruel tricks on strangers. When a new student named Mallory starts at her school, Kristi comes to see herself reflected in his problems and finds that she doesn't want to be the angry outcast forever. As she opens up more to the people around her, she finds that she is not as perceptive about their opinions as she had thought, including those of her childhood crush, Gusty. Ryan's novel offers a fresh and funny teen voice. Kristi's sarcastic observations on her family and peers make this book a quick read. Many teens will relate to her feelings of isolation and the defensiveness it causes. If the book has one weakness, though, it is that the circumstances that allow Kristi to heal and open up happen a little too conveniently to be believable. Her seemingly deep emotional and self-esteem problems are resolved too quickly and easily. Still, this book will find an audience with girls looking for a strong heroine.-Stephanie L. Petruso, Anne Arundel County Public Library, Odenton, MD
"If you ever thought reading people’s minds would make it easier to understand other people, Amy Kathleen Ryan is here to tell you that you’re dead wrong. Funny, fresh, and heartfelt, Vibes zigs when you expect it to zag, and will have you laughing out loud."—Barry Lyga, author of The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and Boy Toy
" . . . the surprising details make this a worthwhile addition to a teen romance collection . . . Kristi's eccentric habit of crafting her wardrobe from found objects, the content of her psychic visions, and the mismanagement of the relationships in her life add personality, and the result is a sweet, undemanding, yet consistently entertaining read with a good deal of insight into the way slightly off-center teenage girls construct their manic inner worlds."--The Bulletin
"Ryan's novel humorously explores the mind of a teenager grappling with issues of self-esteem, creativity, and self-worth. Teens will identify with Kristi and care about what she's going through."--KLIATT
Read an Excerpt
It isn’t easy being able to read minds. People think up some pretty nasty sewage. Like the other day—I’m walking home from school when I come across an old guy walking his smelly Doberman. He’s definitely a candidate for this year’s Stodgiest American Award. Black suit coat, gray pants, white stuff in the corners of his mouth. He takes one look at my thick legs in their fishnets and my skirt that I made out of Mylar birthday balloons and my tank top that barely contains my ginormous boobs and finally the eyeliner I cake over my eyes because it makes me look dangerous, and he thinks: Ugly bitch.
Well, it’s true. I’m a bitch. And I’m ugly.
I could shed a lot of light on human nature if people knew that I read minds. Scientists would study me. I’d be in some lab strapped to a table and they’d put a huge machine around my head to measure my brain waves, and they’d nod to one another and say, “Fascinating. Fascinating.” And they’d all have really big pores and very white skin, because scientists never go outside. That’s why I don’t talk to anyone except for my Aunt Ann about my powers. The last thing I need is researchers sticking needles into my brain. If you’re wishing you were psychic, too, believe me, you do NOT want to know what people are thinking. People are mean, nasty, selfish slobs, and 99 percent of the time their brain vibes hurt your feelings and you have to go around trying not to remember that Gusty Peterson, the cutest guy in school, looked at you yesterday and thought, Sick.
I don’t like Gusty Peterson anyway. He always wears baseball caps backwards and extra-big jeans, and he tries to walk with a loose, tough- guy swagger that makes him look dumb. He’s a jerk-off. Too bad he also happens to be so gorgeous that when you look at his perfect tanned face and blond curls your eyes water. That’s one more thing I can tell you about human nature: beautiful people are the last ones you want to befriend. Beautiful people float through life thinking that it’s perfectly natural for others to gaze at them adoringly, and open doors for them, and defer to their opinion about whether or not the streamers for the prom should droop in the middle. Doesn’t anyone understand that beautiful people are stupid? That’s why nature made them beautiful, so they’d have some chance of surviving in the wild. And how do they survive? They use people and then they drop people, and they float away on the currents of their own gorgeousness to the next poor girl who thinks that being friends with a beautiful person will somehow make her beautiful, too. I’ve got news for you: hanging around beautiful people just makes you uglier by comparison.
I learned all this from my ex–best friend, Hildie Peterson—Gusty’s sister. She is one of the most gorgeous people in the whole world. She’s skinny and petite. Her eyes are slanty like a cat’s and her hair is light blond and glossy, so when you first see it you think that color can’t be natural, but then when you get closer you realize that it’s totally natural and you feel even worse about your mousy brown. She has never had a pimple in her entire life, and she’s been doing gymnastics since she was four years old, so she glides like a swan. She’s practically a freak, she’s so beautiful. I used to like her, when she didn’t understand how pretty she was. That was until we hit high school, and suddenly the entire lacrosse team was asking her out. They loved her so much, they practically carried her on their shoulders through the hallways of the school. Did Hildie ever look back at me—her big-breasted, psychic, slightly freaky friend—as she drifted into the stratosphere of popularity? Would you?
Meet the Author
Amy Kathleen Ryan reads huge numbers of books and magazines but has not had success in reading minds, though not for lack of trying. She always knew she wanted to write, and thus earned an M.A. in English literature and graduated from the New School Creative Writing for Children Program. She now lives with her family in Colorado. This is her second novel.
Amy Kathleen Ryan earned an M.A. in English literature and graduated from the New School Creative Writing for Children Program. She now lives with her family in Colorado.
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