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The True Meaning of Cleavage by Mariah Fredericks

January 6th, 2007 (01:40 pm)
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Current Mood: okay
Current Song: Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany's

Adjusting to high school is typically difficult. There's so much to deal with: a new campus, new classes, new teachers, more homework, higher expectations, not to mention new classmates that could become your friends or your enemies. Much of this is true about middle school as well, but the stakes can definitely be raised in high school.

THE TRUE MEANING OF CLEAVAGE by Mariah Fredericks truly captures the freshman year of high school. I wrote the following review when it was released, and I think just as highly of the book now as I did then.

When I first saw the spine of this book, the title struck me as a little shocking. I was struck again upon looking at the cover and seeing the photographed girl wearing a necklace which was the twin of my own. The combined shocks made me immediately read the summary, which sounded like a typical coming-of-age story: Sari and Jess have been best friends for years, but upon entering ninth grade, Jess (the self-proclaimed sci-fi geek) feels like she is losing Sari (the prettier one).

However, this book is anything but typical. It is phenomenal. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down. The work is much deeper than the title implies.

Jess is an artist and prefers sketching characters from her favorite comic book; Sari is far more into the high school scene, with status and popularity, and she falls very hard for a senior boy who is already in a committed relationship. This is no crush - this is an obsession, and the reader will truly worry about Sari as she lowers her standards and does things for a boy who is using her. Being a person who loves books set in the voice of the 'third wheel,' the person observing from afar, I found this book more powerful coming from Jess' point of view and applaud the author for choosing that writing style.

The book takes place over an entire school year, September through June, yet it moves along quickly and quite well. After reading the book, I realized that the title was chosen not only to make people pick up the book, but to signify the space between - in this case, the space between the girls.

Highly recommended, especially for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson, Sarah Dessen, Carol Plum-Ucci and Cecil Castellucci.

Also check out her middle school trilogy In the Cards.


Posted by: Jeannine Garsee (onegrapeshy)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 07:03 am (UTC)

I JUST picked this book up, but haven't started it yet. Right now it's piled in with the nine 9 other YA's I SOOO want to read in the Very Near Future! Hopefully it'll be NEXT.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)

It's fantastic. Of course, now I'm curious as to the contents of that pile.

Posted by: Jeannine Garsee (onegrapeshy)
Posted at: January 9th, 2007 05:56 am (UTC)

I will be posting it. I haven't blogged in 3 days because I've been nuts over here. But it's a FUN pile!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 9th, 2007 02:25 pm (UTC)


Posted by: alixwrites (alixwrites)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 10:52 am (UTC)

*Love* TRUE MEANING OF CLEAVAGE. Should have won awards. Jess's story has happened to so many of us, so it was great that the author could make it fresh and interesting.

Her new book, CRUNCH TIME, is good too.

How did you feel about the *ending* of CLEAVAGE?

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)

Agreed, on all counts.

I liked Crunch Time and Head Games.

I liked it. It was nice to see them come back together, to have Sari ask after the picture, and to know Jess would now complete it. Not every friendship can be repaired, but it was believable that theirs could be - that at least there's hope for some of us. I also really loved that it took place over a full school year.

Posted by: alixwrites (alixwrites)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)

I wasn't sure about the ending. It was the only bump for me. Part of me wanted Jess to say, "You know what, Sari? If you can ditch me so easily, I can find other friends too." Maybe it's partly because my own daughter (several years younger) got dumped by a friend around the same time, and she gave her soooo many more chances before she finally said, "Enough."

However, I get enough reader mail to know that most teens really like happy endings, so I guess I can understand that one.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 07:06 pm (UTC)

When it comes down to it, stories that focus on the on-and-off back-and-forth of a relationship - romantic or platonic, friends or people dating - typically end with either dissolution or reunion. If the two people are decent, I like if there's still some semblance of friendship between them.

I _greatly_ liked that the next-to-last scene was Jess going to the movies, and planning to go again.

Though Danny and David's names were a little close.

Posted by: alixwrites (alixwrites)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 07:17 pm (UTC)

Yes! I loved that she was making other friends too, so she wouldn't be so dependent on Sari if this happened again. As far as the other thing, I've learned that books, like people, can't be perfect. Actually, being a writer sort of ruins reading for you that way. It makes you look for the flaws.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC)

Knowing that Jess would be okay was very important. I appreciate it when stories "allow" characters to have multiple friends in different places. We aren't all living in the land of Friends or Saved by the Bell. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a core group of friends.

Posted by: alixwrites (alixwrites)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 07:55 pm (UTC)

Quite so. I think the big, happy group of friends is actually a myth (I was in my 30's before I had such a group. Actually, I have two such groups right now -- writers and non). So setting that up as the "norm" for teens is setting them up for failure. As a kid and in college, I always had two or three good friends, plus other B-list friends, but I felt like I should be part of a crowd, that that was the ideal.

I *loved* THE GIRLS by Amy Goldman Koss because it was really about this very idea -- that "group-think" is a recipe for disaster. Have you read that? That would be another good title for your list.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 08:12 pm (UTC)

I love that book! I have it on many of my booklists, and I give it to every kid, parent, and librarian who asks about The Clique. "Read this instead," I say.

Posted by: alixwrites (alixwrites)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 08:25 pm (UTC)

How does that go over (if they wanted The Clique instead, I mean)?

The Girls is a book I wish I'd written. Sort of Queen Bees and Wannabees as fiction.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 08:33 pm (UTC)

Well, to regular customers who trust my recommendations, I'll say, "instead," while to those I don't know as well, I'll say, "also." :)

Have you read Amandine by Adele Griffin?

Posted by: alixwrites (alixwrites)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 08:42 pm (UTC)

Yes! That one's a little less realistic, a little more Hand That Rocks the Cradle but I really liked it. I have a section on my website where I list readalikes for all my books, and Amandine is the first book listed as a readalike for Breaking Point. I call it "the girl version of Breaking Point." They came out a few months apart too.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)

Very nice timing.

Posted by: queen_of_ocd (queen_of_ocd)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 06:16 pm (UTC)

I love that book.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
Without a Trace

Good taste.

Posted by: Claire Hennessy (iliketea)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 07:58 pm (UTC)

I must reread that soon... :)

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 7th, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC)


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