Monday, February 22, 2021

FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA by Crystal Maldonado for #IMWAYR (It's Monday! What are you reading?)

(My attempt at a #bookstagram on Instagram! Find me there, @joannerossfritz)

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado (February 2021, Holiday House, for ages 12 and up)

What a warm and delightful read! 

An empowering novel for fat girls everywhere and brown girls everywhere, but also for all of us, because we're all human. And we all need to learn to cut ourselves some slack. 

Charlie (short for Charlotte) Vega, is a high school student, and a Latina in a mostly-white Connecticut town. She's smart and funny, loves fashion, and loves to write. 

She's also fat. 

Her best friend, Amelia, is thin and popular and could date anyone she wants. But Charlie has never dated anyone. The opening line drew me right in: "I imagine being kissed about a hundred times a day." 

Can Charlie learn not to compare herself to Amelia? Can she learn to get along with her mom, who used to be fat and then lost a lot of weight, and is always lecturing Charlie? 

Will Charlie ever have a boyfriend?

After a disastrous high school dance that Charlie was sort-of but not really invited to by handsome Cal (who really wanted Charlie to bring Amelia along!), Charlie is depressed about ever finding love. And then Brian, a nice guy in her Art class, starts talking to her. Could there be something there? 

First-person, present-tense narration gives this novel immediacy and warmth and liveliness. The diverse cast is refreshing. The voice is perfect -- Charlie's desires and worries come across as highly authentic. Reading this book is a lot like being back in high school. 

I got so caught up in Charlie's world I didn't want it to end. The last chapter brought tears to my eyes. (And the last line is gorgeous!) You will love this novel!

(Of course, I may not be totally impartial. Crystal is not only one of my fellow 21ders, but also a fellow Holiday House debut author, along with Kate Albus, author of A PLACE TO HANG THE MOON!)

#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts. Visit their blogs to see all the participants. You can also follow the hashtag on Twitter!

Monday, February 15, 2021

AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY by Cliff Burke, for #IMWAYR (It's Monday! What are you reading?)


An Occasionally Happy Family by Cliff Burke (May 18, 2021, HMH, for ages 8 to 12)

This is one of the funniest books I've read from The21ders, my debut group of MG and YA authors. But there's also a touching undercurrent of sadness running through it. 

Heartfelt doesn't begin to describe it.

Thirteen-year-old Theo's mom died two years ago, and he and his dad and his fifteen-year-old sister, Laura, still haven't really talked about it. Then Dad informs the siblings they're going on a road trip to go camping in the hottest park in Texas during the hottest part of the summer, with a promised surprise at the end. Neither Theo nor Laura want to go on this trip and would prefer to spend all their time in air conditioning and on their phones. 

What follows is hilarious, as one disaster after another befalls the family, from a broken cooler that turns their lunch to mush, to a vlogging teen hiker who tries to include Laura in his vlogs, to a bear in their campsite, to a naked elderly couple in the Hot Springs. But what you'll love most about this book is the spot-on dialog between the siblings and their father. Judicious use of dialog tags, and a finely-tuned ear for the way kids really speak makes this dialog sound like a real family squabbling and teasing each other. Plenty of snark. And I never lost track of who was speaking.

When Dad's "surprise" turns out to be a new girlfriend, Theo and Laura react as any grieving kids would. Long before the end, you'll fall in love with this family, and your heart will ache for them to finally talk about their feelings.

A winner in my book!

You can pre-order AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY from Bookshop!

Other pre-order info and more on Cliff Burke's website

#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor TextsVisit their blogs to see all the participants.