The Disappeared - Kim Echlin
This absorbing novel recounts the life of Anne, who as a teen falls in love with a Cambodian musician at a cafe in Montreal. Anne is a motherless child with a distant father who longs for connection the way plants ache for the sun. Serey helps fill that void until he feels he must return home to search for his family after the fall of the Pol Pot regime.
Years later, Anne makes her own trip to Cambodia after seeing - or believing she sees - Serey in the background of a TV news program. Her connections and losses offer a window to the losses suffered under and following the Khmer Rouge brutality.
Through it all, Echlin uses an economy of words that creates an abundance of emotion. Her decision to use the first-person narration for Anne, so that every reference to "you," is understood as Serey, also creates an intimacy that underscores the loss of humanity in that terrible time.
It's amazing to be both shocked and moved from such work. There are no happy endings to this story, except for the story of survival. And that may be the point of all love, after all.
The Princess Diaries - Meg Cabot
CutgeGirl is a huge fan of this light-hearted teen story, so on a recent stopover at the library, I gave it a chance.
Mia is a typical American teen living in New York: struggling with algebra, wistfully wishing to be one of the popular kids and trying to learn how to assert herself. Then, she finds out she's actually royalty, to be the sole heir to the throne over a small European nation.
Our klutzy girl must become an elegant princess through lessons with a nasty grandmother, all the while still trying to find her place in the world on her own terms.
What's refreshing is, there is no major moral lesson that thumps you over the head. Mia is who is she, and you get to listen in to her journals on the fun, breezy read.
Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life - James Patterson
This author who has had more New York Times bestsellers than anyone else, I suspect, is about to hit again.
Rafe K. is entering the sixth grade looking for a way to survive that horror known once as junior high and now as middle school. His conclusion: make a concerted effort to break every rule in the school's handbook.
Meant to be funny, Rafe's story is also surprisingly touching in points. Meant to be for younger children, some darker elements might be too much. Meant to be clever, some of the side notes try to hard.
But this is, after all, James Patterson. With so few young adult books for boys, there will be a demand for Rafe and whatever else Patterson can cook up.