Mara Valentine, who is headed to Yale, is vying with her ex-boyfriend for valedictorian. Enter wild relative V, a junior, who moves in with Mara's family. "There are some hilarious moments here," according to PW. Ages 14-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Brainiacs Mara and Travis had been their high school's "it" couple, but after having been dumped online for greener pastures, Mara faces both pain and empty hours. For assuagement and distraction, she single-mindedly pursues academic and personal perfection, but her intense, rigorous choices ironically heighten her focus on Travis's actions while separating her from friends and normal lifestyle. Accepted early by Yale, Mara's remaining goal is to trample Travis for valedictorian. Her focus is interrupted when her older vagabond sister, Aimee, flits to Costa Rica, and Aimee's daughter V, who is a year younger than Mara, arrives. V is Mara's polar opposite, but her promiscuous, wild-child ways are also derived from pain and resentment, albeit toward Aimee and their peripatetic lifestyle. Initially the girls clash, but as their relationship deepens, each assumes the other's persona. Mara eases up on studying, dumps her vegan diet, reconnects with friends, and begins a mature, sexual relationship. V straightens up, gives a show-stopping performance in the school play, and prepares for the SATs. Both girls-especially V-change lifestyles too quickly, but each begins settling into her true personality. The ending feels implausible as Mara, having earned valedictorian, decides to skip graduation. V persuades her to attend, but thoughtful and conscientious Mara's action seems as unlikely as V's refusal to consider Mara's absence. Racily narrated by likeable Mara, this fast-paced coming-of-age story is charged with sarcasm, angst, honesty, and hope. Many teen girls will recognize parts of themselves within its pages. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broadgeneral YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Candlewick, 256p., Ages 15 to 18.
Lisa A. Hazlett
Mara Valentine has it together; she is a straight-A senior, a vegan, and a perfectionist. She is in a duel-to-the-final-GPA race with her ex-boyfriend for the coveted valedictorian spot, has been accepted at Yale, and is ready to leave home and high school in glory. "The first thing V did upon arriving in Brockport was fool around with my ex-boyfriend," a reference to Vivienne Vail Valentine, Mara's niece through an estranged older sister, who comes to spend a semester of her junior year with the family. That first tantalizing line in the novel spells the end of Mara's rigid control of her life as she narrates her own tale of learning more than school offers and growing up in ways she never imagined. V has spent her life without supervision; her flirting, flaunting, and flippant attitude drive Mara batty. A potential new romance with her hunky boss and doubts about her vegetarianism add to the chaos in a breezy, humorous, and revealing novel, as Mara finally gets a clue and comes to grips with the real world. 2004, Candlewick Press, 228 pp., Ages young adult.
Mara Valentine is a straight-A high school senior with early acceptance to Yale who tries to walk the straight and narrow in everything she doesincluding dating and eating. Enter her slutty, boyfriend-stealing, pot-smoking sixteen-year-old niece known simply as V. Vivienne Vail Valentine is moving in to spend the school year because her single mother, Mara's 35-year-old sister, is off to pursue her own immature dreams. Trouble begins almost as soon as V gets off the plane. Not a first book for author Carolyn Mackler, she exhibits a grasp of the demeanor and language of many of today's teens as well as their propensity for use of the "F" word. The latter makes the storyline more believable, but certainly not more commendable. Written in the first person, the dialogue is delivered in a quick paced, gum-chewing manner. The story lightly explores Mara's maturation process as she takes a look at the person she is becoming and chooses to make changes for the better. Thankfully, V eventually learns to make a few right choices as well. The book may be a popular easy read for many young girls looking for a mildly entertaining treatment of today's challenges of growing up. 2004, Candlewick Press, Ages 12 to 14.
Gr 8 Up-Overachieving high school senior Mara Valentine's drive stems from the belief that she is her parents' "Only Hope"; her 35-year-old sister has achieved nothing but having a daughter, V, who is only a year younger than Mara and appears to be a "nicotine-addicted nympho." Sport for Mara is competing with her ex-boyfriend for class valedictorian; she has been accepted early decision to Yale. Mara is a sharp, interesting narrator, but she has alienated most of her friends with her rigid, single-minded attitudes. Her life is thrown into chaos when V comes to live with the family, and provides multiple shades of gray in Mara's black-and-white world. She makes out with Mara's ex on the first day of school and constantly makes cutting, but frighteningly accurate, comments about the limitations of her aunt's life plans. In the midst of this chaos, while working part-time at a local cafe, Mara falls in love with her 22-year-old boss who hasn't gone to college and is forced to reassess the goals that V has already called into question. The romance is believable, as is the tension between Mara and V, although both situations resolve smoothly and somewhat quickly. This is a fast, often humorous read with some meat but no bite (although Mara does lose her virginity)-just the universal theme of growing up and figuring out what's important. This title will have strong appeal for teens grappling with these same questions.-Karyn N. Silverman, New York Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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