Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Booklog: Harmless, The Bermudez Triangle, Kissing Kate

Harmless, by Dana Reinhardt

Anna, Emma and Maria were out where they weren't supposed to be, when one of them got a call from her parents. Where was she? Why weren't they where they were supposed to be? To keep themselves from getting in trouble, they concoct a lie, a story of a foiled rape attempt. They never expect how far their lie will go, and how much it will spiral out of their control. Before they know it, their harmless little lie has taken on a life of its own, and their lives have changed more than they ever expected.

This is a powerful, thought-provoking story, told from the POVs of the three girls in alternating chapters. Each of the three are unique, well-defined characters who change and grow believably as events progress. From quiet, dorky Anna to tomboyish Emma to sexy, cool Mariah, none of the girls stay a stereotype for long. This is a fascinating look at a lie spiralled out of control, at the way one thoughtless decision can have catastrophic consequences. It's tight and compelling and will keep you turning pages to the inevitable end.


The Bermudez Triangle
, by Maureen Johnson

Nina, Avery and Mel have been best friends all of their lives. And now, for the first time, as Nina heads off to precollege camp in the summer after their junior year, they are going to be apart. But how much could happen in ten weeks? As it turns out, plenty. Nina falls in love with Steve, the eco-warrior down the hall. And while she is away, Mel has her first kiss, too - with Avery.

This book is not as good as the other Maureen Johnson books. As you may know, I consider Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes to be possibly the best teen novel ever, so I was kind of dissapointed in this book. The premise seemed a little Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants to me, but unlike those girls, we never really see how the girls mesh as friends. Even though they talk a lot about how close they are, and how much they care about each other, it's hard to see. The bond between them feels more - well, fictional - than actual. It's not a bad book. Mel's struggle to come to grips with her homosexuality, as well as Avery's to understand whether she's homosexual, bi, or just in love with her best friend are compelling. But Nina's relationship with Steve is predictable. And the book drags, and ends on a vague, undefined note that left me feeling vaguely unfulfilled.


Kissing Kate, by Lauren Myracle

Lissa and Kate have been best friends for the last four years, but all that changes when, while drunk at a party, Kate kisses Lissa - and Lissa kisses Kate back. Now, there is an awkward tension and silence between them, the kiss hanging heavy and unmentioned over their friendship. While Kate keeps trying to pretend it never happens, Lissa is struggling to understand what the kiss meant to her - and what it means for her relationship with Kate. As Kate pushes her further and further away, Lissa must turn to a new unlikely friend to help herself sort out what she really feels and what she really wants.

First of all, I hate books where the protagonist claims that their ex-best friend isn't talking to them anymore since they had a fight, but it's patently obvious that the protag themselves is the one avoiding the best friend. Especially when Lissa is waiting desperately for Kate to call her, so they can talk after a week of awkward silence, even though Kate told her straight up "we need to talk - please call me." This is an awkward book that had the potential to be so much more. The relationship between Lissa and her younger sister Beth is beautiful, and I wish it had been explored more, along with their family dynamic (the girls are raised by their bachelor uncle; their parents were killed in a plane crash.) Lissa just shuts Kate out, while Kate keeps trying to work things out - yet Lissa repeatedly blames Kate for their distance. And even though the narrative keeps insisting that Lissa and Kate were insperable for so long, we don't even understand thier friendship during Lissa's frequent flashbacks. Kate is such a one-dimensional character that it's hard to understand how Lissa could feel so strongly about her. And towards the conclusion, Kate's denial of her newfound sexuality and desperate attempts to cling to the platonic friendship they once had is painted as cowardice - which strikes me as unfair. Just because Lissa can deal with her newfound sexuality so easily doesn't mean that Kate should - and how can it be wrong for Kate to miss her friendship.

This book ends so abruptly that I was left trying to remember if I had finished it only a couple of hours after I had.

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