Monday, January 30, 2012

Reasons to Be Happy by Katrina Kittle

Hannah Carlisle is your normal, everyday girl - except for the fact that her parents are both famous movie stars. But she still finds reasons to be happy, which she writes down whenever she thinks of a new one. Lately, though, Hannah's been having trouble finding new reasons, seeing as her mom is dying of cancer and Hannah feels that she wants to look "beautiful" for her mother before she dies. The stress of all that plus transferring to a new school for children of elite people (business executives, movie stars, etc.) is building up, and Hannah discovers a new outlet that helps her feel better: throwing up. Known as her "Secret Remedy" or "SR," Hannah begins to rely on it more and more, especially after her mother dies. Her world is falling apart around her with her mother dying, her not-so-friendly friends, and being sentenced to work in the school cafeteria after she's caught stealing cookies. The only people Hannah feels she can turn to - though hesitantly - are the school's social outcast Jasper and her Oscar-winning aunt. Aunt Izzy, recognizing Hannah's bulimia and her brother-in-law's return to alcohol, whisks Hannah off to Ghana with her to encourage Hannah to try to get her life back in order. The trip changes Hannah as she changes the lives of the people she meets. Slowly but surely, Hannah begins to find reasons to be happy once again.

There are few words to adequately describe how wonderful and poignantly written this book is. I can honestly say the book made me laugh, cry, and everything in between. Kittle weaves an excellent story while encompassing real problems real people face every single day. I could not put the book down and stayed up far past my bedtime reading it! (Don't tell my mom! ; ) ) Reasons to Be Happy is a refreshing read that puts a spin on the pressures of everyday society. It covers so many problems and carries the reader on Hannah's journey so perfectly that it became challenging at times to remember that the book is just a work of fiction.

As for content, I would recommend it for ages fifteen and up. Hannah's bulimia gets fairly graphic (even I felt queasy at a few points), the emotions penetrated and portrayed from her mother's death are for more mature teens, and her father's alcoholism can get a little rough for readers. Also, in one scene one boy tries to "feel up" Hannah at a pool party, though she quickly pushes him away. The book deals a lot with body image and being able to be comfortable with who you are and what you look like. There are very few, if any, swear words in Reasons to Be Happy.

Ms. Kittle has even inspired me to keep a little list of reasons to be happy, though the list is currently transcribed only in my head, not on paper!

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, there is help out there for you and you are not alone. There are many teen hotlines available, as well as talking to a trusted adult. The National Crisis Line for Anorexia and Bulimia phone number is 1.800.233.4357. The National Eating Disorder Hotline phone number is 1.800.248.3285. More information and hotlines can be found by a simple Google search or on the extensive disorders are serious diseases and can be fatal. The life you save could be one you love.

Happy readings!

On the Shelf: Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

As I Wake by Elizabeth Scott

As I Wake is a short novel by Elizabeth Scott about a society in which people can travel to other times and alternate societies. One young girl is haunted by memories of a past society she lived in and the young man she came to love. Ava, the main character, is surrounded by friends and family who are entirely different than she remembers and in a different environment. Before long, Morgan, the boy she loves, keeps appearing to her, if only for a few minutes. Ava must decipher the truth and what really happened to her and how she woke up in a hospital bed in this society so different from the one in which she remembered living.

This was a very confusing book. It opened with Ava waking up in a hospital bed with very little or no back story. Though some of it becomes clearer throughout the book, Scott never gives her readers a clear answer as to the rhyme and reason of this multiple-worlds-like society. I found it very frustrating, disjointed, and rather boring. However, Scott does deserve some credit as I simply had to know what happened at the end of the book so I did continue to read it.

Overall, it was a pretty depressing book with some twisted characters. The ending was especially unsatisfying, but I won't ruin it for you!

There were some scenes of violence, some other thematic elements, but very little or no cursing and no sexual content. I would probably say ages twelve and up could read this book based on maturity levels.

On the Shelf: Reasons to Be Happy by Katrina Kittle