ARC Review: “Stealing Parker” by Miranda Kenneally

Stealing Parker (Hundred Oaks #2) by Miranda Kenneally

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Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?

3 1/2 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for this eARC! This book is now available.

Total disclaimer: I never read Catching Jordan. I really wanted too, but I just never did. However, I was not immune to all the hype surrounding the book, and it’s sequel. So when Stealing Parker showed up on NetGalley, there is no denying how hard I pounced on it.

I was really disappointed with what I got.

I expected a story about a girl who turns into a little bit of a slut to show that she isn’t gay, like her mom turned out to be. That much is in the blurb. (Okay, the last part isn’t explicit, but I guessed. That’s not even a spoiler, because it’s right in the first chapter.) There was definetly that in this book. However, Kenneally tries to fit SO MUCH ELSE in here that nearly every plot and subplot got lost. Let me try and give you a run down without spoiling things. This book included:

1. Discussion about gayness (from Parker’s mom and a friend)

2. How the Christian church deals with gays, people associated with gays, and also “sluts”

3. Student/teacher relationships

4. Drug problems

5. Losing your best friends/being bullied

6. How other people’s opinions of you affect you

7. Mother/daughter issues

8. Father/daughter issues

9. Sibling issues

10. Absentee mother issues

11. Asberger’s Syndrome

12. Figuring out who you really are and want to be

I could probably go on, but I think you see the point. I mean, Asberger’s Syndrome? It’s a big issue, yes, so it doesn’t deserve to be mentioned for five seconds for no particular reason. Some of those, like Asberger’s and the drug problems, don’t relate to Parker directly, but were squashed into the back as even more subplot lines. There were also multiple gay plot lines, but the one relating to Parker’s friend basically only exists to complicate Parker’s relationship to her “true love.” When issues that are very, very big just get marginalized, I get pretty annoyed. I really just didn’t understand why there was so much in this book, when any one of the issues mentioned above could be a book BY THEMSELVES. All the points Kenneally was trying to make–and all were good!–just got lost in the jumble.

I think my other major problem with this book was the student/teacher relationship. It made me feel icky throughout the whole book, which I think was the point. I mean, obviously I wasn’t supposed to feel GOOD about it. (I’m looking at you, Pretty Little Liars.) Still, the way it was handled in the end also confused me. Everyone kept saying it was the teacher’s fault, as if he had forced her into the relationship. Personally, I found that the wrong way to handle that. There isn’t really a right way, I know, but Parker totally had a LOUD voice in how that relationship went down, and it wasn’t right for everyone to say she was coerced into the whole thing.

Basically, I think the problem with this book was that Kenneally overreached herself. There was a really cute love story in here, but it got covered up and pushed around by a lot of other big issues. There were way too many stories in here for one book, so we never got to see the full potential of any one of them. I appreciated each and every one of the messages, but you can’t here them clearly if dozens are shouting at once. Still, I look forward to finally checking out Catching Jordan (who does make several cameos in this book!).

Stealing Parker will be followed by more companion books, Things I Can’t Forget and Racing Savannah, in 2013.

ARC Review: “Dear Teen Me” edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally

Dear Teen Me – An Anthology edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally

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Dear Teen Me includes advice from over 70 YA authors (including Lauren Oliver, Ellen Hopkins, and Nancy Holder, to name a few) to their teenage selves. The letters cover a wide range of topics, including physical abuse, body issues, bullying, friendship, love, and enough insecurities to fill an auditorium. So pick a page, and find out which of your favorite authors had a really bad first kiss? Who found true love at 18? Who wishes he’d had more fun in high school instead of studying so hard? Some authors write diary entries, some write letters, and a few graphic novelists turn their stories into visual art. And whether you hang out with the theater kids, the band geeks, the bad boys, the loners, the class presidents, the delinquents, the jocks, or the nerds, you’ll find friends–and a lot of familiar faces–in the course of Dear Teen Me.

Thank you to Zest Books for this ARC! This book will be released October 30th, 2012

 

You may notice that this book has no rating. Certainly it will have to have one on Amazon, Goodreads and the like because they demand it, but Dear Teen Me is, to me, a book that transcends ratings.

What is a rating, anyways? It is a mark of sometimes good technical storytelling, other times it is because of a person’s simple like or dislike of a book. With Dear Teen Me, the former aspect especially holds no place.

Dear Teen Me is not a story. It is a conglomeration of personal, nonfiction stories about the teen years of dozens of YA authors. The concepts of “good technical storytelling” do not apply. The content is just not that kind.

I don’t know what I thought when I requested an ARC of this book. Whatever it was, I only know that the book exceeded my expectations. I was certainly expecting a great deal of “Were you an outsider in high school, because it’s okay to be weird!” and I got that, but not one of these stories was cheesy. Not one was a cliché of an adult trying to empower a teenager. The topics that these authors went over ranged from self-harm and eating disorders to coming out and dealing with abusive parents—and everything in between. Yes, every story had a happy ending and a moral, but you never felt like you were being told. All of the letters—though in some more than others—I felt as if I was intruding on someone’s most personal journal entry, and the that raw emotion on display was not for my eyes.

Dear Teen Me was not a book that I may have picked up of my own volition, simply because I am tired of books where “former teens” share their inspiring stories and tell you how to learn from them. I don’t want to hear inspirational “rah rah” stories meant to make me feel better about myself because it’s okay to be a broody teenager. The authors who contributed here seemed to understand that. No one is lecturing. No one is pretending that wounds leave no scars. No one is shying away from topics sometimes adults and teens alike are afraid of discussing. No one is censoring a thing.

And why would they? They’re writing these for themselves. For their mistakes. For their pain. They just happen to be gracious enough to allow them to be read by others.