February 27th, 2007

reading

So Not the Drama by Paula Chase

Making the transition from middle school to high school is never easy. Four life-long friends are about to take that step together: Mina, the girl who is genuinely nice to everyone and can't wait to be in high school; JZ, the jock and ladies' man; Lizzie, the hopeful actress; and Michael, whose secret ambitions aren't even known to his best friends.

A great deal of the book deals with Mina's sociology class, where a project forces the students to confront their prejudices head-on and and discuss family matters, racial identity, social status, and more. As the girls in her group visit each other's homes, they realize how vastly different their neighborhoods and backgrounds are, and that first impressions can be deceiving. While some books would make them all become buddy-buddy after this experiment, that is not necessarily the case here.

This is only one example of what makes Paula Chase's YA debut so realistic. Another would be Lizzie's awkwardness around the school's leading actress, who is prone to giving backhanded compliments. As four freshman start being pulled in different directions, tempers flare. Fights between friends can be worse that those with enemies. Lizzie and Mina find themselves at odds, as do Michael and JZ.

Unlike other clique-y books, which may emphasize the negative connotation of the word 'clique' to mean 'exclusivity,' DEL RIO BAY HIGH CLIQUE simply refers to the core group of friends. Also unlike similarly-titled stories, SO NOT THE DRAMA is a multi-layered story. High school is a vast ocean, and it's easy to get caught up in the current. It's just as easy to get caught up in this book. Urban, gritty, contemporary, and thoughtful.

Please give this review a positive vote!

Read my interview with Paula Chase!
Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, knowing

Interview: Paula Chase

SO NOT THE DRAMA, the first Del Rio Bay Clique novel written by Paula Chase, tackles the tough transition from middle school to high school. It also addresses racial tensions, arguments between long-time friends, and the division of social classes both at school and in vastly different neighborhoods. ( Read my full-length review. )

Paula chatted with me about prejudice, drama, and writing.

How much of this story was inspired by your own experiences? Those of your kids?

This is 99% fiction as far as Mina's life compared to mine. And even though I have a feeling DRB High may be similar to my daughter's middle school, I wrote it three years before she was in middle school.

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SO NOT THE DRAMA is now available. Learn more at Paula's website and LJ.

Lucy Woodward, happy

Runaround by Helen Hemphill

Set in the 1960s, RUNAROUND is the story of Sassy, an aptly-named young girl growing up in Kentucky. Sassy's got a tendency to speak her mind, especially when fighting with her beautiful older sister Lula, and she will kick and scream if she doesn't get her way. Even though she's an opinionated spitfire, she'll never admit how lonely she feels.

"I just want to know about boys! I don't have a mama to talk to! How else am I going to find out things if nobody tells me?"

Sassy wants to know what love truly is, but who can she talk to about boys? Her mama passed away when she was just a baby, and she hasn't any close friends. The two adults in her life are her daddy, who is hard-working but sometimes gruff, and Miss Dallas, who looks after the girls while their father is working. She sets her eye on Boon, a boy closer to her sister's age, determined to make him her boyfriend. After all, he did smile and tell her:

"You got a good heart, Sassy girl."

Geared towards ages 8 and up, RUNAROUND by Helen Hemphill will draw readers in from page one. I could see Sassy running around that little town of hers as clear as day. She reminded me a great deal of Addie, the leading little lady from the novel Addie Pray, better known as the film Paper Moon. Sassy's spunk may get her in trouble with Daddy, but it also will win the hearts of readers. What an absolutely adorable story!

Read my interview with the author.
Lucy Woodward, happy

Interview: Helen Hemphill

Runaround, a new novel for young readers, introduces readers to an eleven-year-old girl named Sassy. ( Read my entire book review. ) And Sassy she is! I spoke to Helen Hemphill about her sophomore effort, sibling rivalry, and growing up in the South.

What inspired this little Southern spitfire?

Sassy's personality reflects some of the spunk of my 86-year-old mother and the romanticism of my sister Sherry. My mom was a bit of a hellion as a child, so our family mythology is filled with stories about her beating up boys, smarting off to adults, and instigating swashbuckling adventures in the neighborhood. Collapse )

This spring, you'll be speaking at many public libraries and conferences in Texas, South Carolina, and Tennessee. How can teachers and librarians arrange to have you speak at their schools and libraries?

I live in both Nashville and Austin, and will be out and about this spring visiting with students, teachers, and librarians. Working with young writers is one of my greatest joys. I do workshops and other writing programs as part of my school visits and as part of my work with the Tennessee Arts Commission. If someone would like me to come to their school or library, the easiest way to begin the conversation is to check out my web site at www.helenhemphill.com and then email me at readermail@helenhemphill.com

Note from Little Willow: I urge kids and adults to get involved with their local public libraries. Whether it is reading a book at Storytime to younger kids, assisting at the library book sale, or reshelving books, you can make a positive, personal impact at the library! Ask a librarian how you can help!

Read my 2008 interview with Helen Hemphill.