Friday, August 7, 2015

From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess

Olivia has always considered herself average:  average smart, average height, even her skin is an average brown.  The only things about her that aren't average are her ability to draw, and the fact that she's basically an orphan.  Her mother died when she was a baby, and she's never really met her father.  She's talked to him on the phone, and she writes letters all the time, but his job makes it difficult for them to meet in person.

But Olivia is not average, and the truth comes out when the school bully starts taunting her one day about being a princess.  Olivia knows it isn't true and tries to fight back, but maybe she's wrong.  The truth comes out when none other than Mia Thermopolis shows up at Olivia's middle school and explains that Olivia is actually her half sister!

This explains a lot.  Her mother wanted her to have a normal life, so her father, the crown prince of Genovia, had to keep his distance, and her aunt and uncle raised her alongside her horrible cousins.  But all her worries could be over because Olivia really is destined for an extraordinary life!

This is the first book in a new series by Meg Cabot, and all your favorite characters from The Princess Diaries are here in supporting roles.  My only complaint is this book is pretty much all set up.  I guess we have to wait for book two for Olivia's adventures to begin.

The Fourteenth Goldfish

Sixth grade isn't going so well for Ellie.  Her best friend is now obsessed with volleyball and has less time for Ellie, but Ellie has yet to find the thing she is passionate about.  She's not artistic like her divorced parents.  Her mother is a former actor turned school counselor, and her father still makes his living as a professional actor. They've tried to make Ellie into an actor, but it just isn't her thing.

Her world is in for a crazy turn when her mother comes home late one night with an odd 13 year old boy named Melvin who turns out to be her long lost grandfather.  Melvin has been working on the cure to aging his entire life, and he's finally found success with some odd consequences.  No one believes he's the real Melvin; he's just a kid.  Now that he's a kid again, the law thinks Melvin needs supervision, and all the conflict Ellie's artistic mother has had with her scientist father come home to roost.  Now Melvin is the same bossy and stubborn old man he was before but in the body of a kind of cute teenager!

As Ellie begins helping Melvin recover his formula, she discovers something about herself.  Ellie loves science, too!  Is the world ready for the cure to aging?  Read Jennifer L. Holm's new book to find out!  I really enjoyed this one--fun and thoughtful!

The Swap

Ellie is about to start 7th grade, but what should be an exciting new start is hampered by her former best friend Sassy.  Ellie and Sassy have been best friends forever, but suddenly Sassy has turned her mean girls ways on Ellie.  Ellie isn't ready to let go, but every day with Sassy is a painful examination of all her flaws.

Sassy is obsessed "The Prince" Jack Malloy who seems to have everything.  He's popular, cute, and a great athlete, but no one knows the secret anxiety Jack feels every day.  Since his mother died, his father has been less a father and more a drill sergeant.  Nothing Jack does is good enough, and any show of emotion is weakness.

Things come to a head for Ellie and Jack on the first day of school when they end up in the nurse's office together as a result of separate altercations.  There's a strange new nurse who mutters something about switching places and standing up for yourself, and the next thing you know POOF! Jack and Ellie have switched bodies!

What follows is a weekend filled with hilarious and embarrassing situations as Ellie and Jack learn to navigate each other's lives.  Jack enjoys some nurturing time with Ellie's mom, and Ellie learns she's stronger than she ever thought from Jack's crazy and supportive older brothers.  The two form an odd sort of friendship, but it's not until they learn some gumption that they will get their own lives back.

I picked up this book because it's been very popular in the library, and now that I've read it, I know why!  This book is hilarious and heartfelt.  I love the way Megan Shull allows her two protagonists to see themselves through the eyes of someone else.  I wish we could all see our problems and our strengths from a distance like Ellie and Jack.  I highly recommend this book!  Just be aware that some of the hilarity arises from gentle references to normal parts of puberty.