Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Fairy tale meets the half pipe: Beauty and Bernice

Beauty and Bernice, by Nancy Viau, (Sept. 2018, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764355806

Ages 8-12

I continue my quest to read down my TBR and feature great backlist for your readers advisory and your booklists. This time out, I’ve got another Nancy Viau book, Beauty and Bernice. Twelve-year-old Bernice Baransky is a skater girl. She’s a grunge-loving whiz on a skateboard, on the verge of middle school, and she’s got a crush on fellow skater Wyatt – not that she can do anything other than nod when he calls her “Dude”. Enter Odelia, a new transplant to the neighborhood, who appears dressed in princess gowns and decides to make Bernice her new best friend and project. She’s determined to teach Bernice her guide to the “Social Graces”, with lessons on hygiene, posture, and manners, and Bernice reluctantly goes along for the ride, teaching Odelia that she can let loose a little, herself. Both spend a summer learning about one another while volunteering with Smile Academy, a summer camp for children with Down syndrome. A kind story that brings a little everyday magic to realistic fiction, this has some surprises that will make readers smile. The subplot with the girls volunteering – and encouraging their friends to help – with the Smile Academy gives nice depth to the characters and allows for Bernice’s character growth.  If you have skater fans, sell the detailed discussions on skateboarding.

Posted in Humor, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Sunblock, towel, umbrella, and The Taming of the Drew: your beach bag is set

tamingThe Taming of the Drew, by Stephanie Kate Strohm (Apr. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-5107-0215-8

Recommended for ages 13+

Cass is a tough cookie high school grad from New Jersey who’s landed her first paid acting job with a Shakespeare company up in Vermont. She’s playing Kate – the shrew – in the company’s production of The Taming of the Shrew, and she’ll be living with her fellow actors all summer long. The one problem? Drew, a fellow actor who’s playing Petruchio, Kate’s suitor. He’s unbearable, as Cass found out when the two got into a fender bender on the way up to the theater. UGH. Together, Cass and her two roommates decide to “tame the Drew” ala Shakespeare; playing pranks on him to tame him, much like Petruchio does to Kate in the play. As the summer progresses, Cass finds herself in a romance with a bad boy skater at the training camp next door, even as she spends more and more time hanging out with Drew.

This is a fun, light, beach read with a bit of messy romance, a generous helping of Shakespeare, some wacky theater company exercises, and a fun group of characters. Theatre fans will love the peek into the camaraderie of a small production company; romance readers will enjoy the comedy of errors and the slow burn romance, and beach readers will love the light-hearted, fun story.

Some of the characters are a little on the stereotypical side: we have the slightly flamboyant theater teen; the crunchy granola girl who’s versed in protest theater; the skater dudes that speak a language all their own, complete with drinking tricks that could have come straight from the set of MTV’s Jackass; and the whole “I hate him, but I’m in love with him by the end of the book” plot. We don’t get much of an explanation as to why Drew is so insufferable at the beginning of the story, and there’s not a lot of diversity to be found, but overall, it’s a fun ride that you’ll have no trouble diving into.

Schedule a showing of the ’90s teen movies Ten Things I Hate About You (also based on The Taming of the Shrew), Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 update of Romeo + Juliet, toss in a little Clueless (it’s based on Jane Austen’s Emma, but has the whole comedic romance down pat), and talk about modern interpretations of classics in drama and literature.