June 10th, 2008


A La Carte by Tanita S. Davis

Lainey, at age seventeen, is an innovative cook. When she whips up tasty treats in the kitchen at home or the restaurant where her mother works, she is content. She scribbles her recipes in a notebook and dreams of having her own cooking program on television. She shares her creations with her classmates and her mom's co-workers. Judging from their reactions, she definitely has a future in culinary arts.

Sadly, her best friend Sim does not share her determination nor her direction. Laine and Simeon were once extremely close, but in recent months, he has been skipping classes and hanging out with different people. Now, whenever he does talk to Laine, it's usually to ask for her science notes. He acts as though everything is okay, but she can tell something's up. Sim sinks deeper and deeper into trouble until he leaves his home, his school, and his town completely. Only knowing part of his plans, Lainey is unsure how much she should tell her mother and Sim's parents.

Lainey is a great leading character. Full of questions and opinions, she is simultaneously looking forward to her future and appreciative of her past. She is proud of her abilities and her chosen career. Handwritten recipes appear through the book, complete with cross-outs, rings of condensation, and smudges, looking as though they were torn out of Lainey's notebooks. I love that she's a vegetarian, and that she tries to make her recipes both as healthy and as tasty as possible. The cooking sequences will make readers hungry, and the overlying mystery/worry about Sim will compel readers to keep on reading.

Congratulations, Tanita!

Related Booklist: Cooking Up a Storm
Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, knowing

Fact of Life #31 by Denise Vega

Fact of Life #31 is a story about mothers and daughters. It's about midwives and classmates. It's about yoga and art. It's about crushes and feeling crushed. It's about breaking apart and coming back together. In her second novel, Denise Vega delivers a thoughtful, realistic story about friendships, families, firsts, and fresh starts.

High school junior Kat describes her mother, Abra, as "the best home birth midwife in the Rocky Mountain region." Kat works in her mother's office as a receptionist, where she loves setting up playlists for the births and has a great connection with expectant parents, but finds herself uncomfortable and embarrassed during actual births. Her mom embarrasses her as well, but for different reasons. Though Kat respects what her mother is and what she does, she doesn't want her classmates to know about it. The only person who knows of Abra's profession is Kat's best friend, Christy, who has a nose for news and a fondness for funky hats.

Kat is a self-motivated girl with a busy schedule. In addition to working for her mom, she's also training for an upcoming triathlon. At home, Kat checks in with her nine-year-old sister Lucy, chats with her dad, and paints murals when the mood strikes her. At school, she does yoga in the hallway in order to center herself. She starts seeing her long-time crush Manny and is more than a little startled to see someone she knows walk into her workplace.

Abra gives Kat an old notebook from when she was a doula, first studying midwifery. Kat starts to fill a new notebook with her own "facts," such as "Fact of Life #87: People often believe what they want to believe." When she and Abra start clashing more and more often, Kat wants to stop working at the office altogether. An unexpected fight with Christy and ups-and-downs with Manny leave Kat wondering who she is supposed to believe and if she can ever make things right.

Just what is Fact of Life #31? You'll have to read the book to find out!

Read my interview with Denise Vega.

Read my review of Rock On: A Story of Guitars, Gigs, Girls, and a Brother (Not Necessarily in That Order) by Denise Vega.
Lucy Woodward, happy

Interview: Denise Vega

Denise Vega is the mother of three school-aged kids. She recently gave birth to a fantastic novel for teens called Fact of Life #31. She's making a burrito for her next book, and her previous release, Click Here (to Find Out How I Survived Seventh Grade), is a great pick for middle school readers. We spoke of random numbers, diaries, blogs, internet safety, and character names.

Fact of Life #31 includes mothers, daughters, midwives, yoga poses, paintings, and more. What's been one of your favorite Mother's Day experiences, either as a mom or a kid?

My best experience was as a mom. One of my sisters had this great idea of an outdoor picnic so we got food from a local Italian restaurant and went up to a park in the foothills with my mom and my aunt, who lives nearby but whose own kids are all in other places -- we did some hiking, too, and it was fantastic! Food and nature -- it doesn't get much better than that.

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Visit Denise at her website and her MySpace page.

Read my review of Fact of Life #31 by Denise Vega.

Read my review of Rock On: A Story of Guitars, Gigs, Girls, and a Brother (Not Necessarily in That Order) by Denise Vega.