Hearts & Other Body Parts
Scholastic Press, April 2017
Fast-paced and fabulously fun, Hearts & Other Body Parts is a freaky fusion of folklore that completely rocks my socks. Fantasy, science-fiction and a bit of magic combine to capture, then carry you along the remarkable ride. With the emphasis on “science”, some of this fiction feels frighteningly plausible.
The three sisters that center the story are quintessential siblings in the best ways possible. Unique enough for interesting exchanges, their common ground allows them to create a formidable front when needed. Norman, the new kid (whose full name is spectacularly perfect) is a gentle giant—in the most literal sense—but, his size is the least shocking attribute of his appearance.
Generally, students in small town schools divide into two groups when a new kid arrives: instant fans seeking something different or rowdy ruffians refusing change. Not so when Norman enters the picture. All eyes focus on him, the same expression on every face. Mouths hang open in wonder, revulsion and fear. When Esme joins Norman at the lunch table on his first day, he knew things would be different here; but even his peculiar past could not have prepared him for what was coming.
Zack erases Norman’s new-kid status and creates a fandom in the student body. Girls surround Zack like fog, floating on his every word. Intelligent as well as wise, Norman is not captivated by Zack’s charms; instead he is suspicious. Reports of missing girls convince Norman that Esme and her sisters, who have absolutely abandoned him to hover around Zack, are in imminent danger. Norman can’t face Zack alone, but the bullies that once taunted him may not be much back-up…..even with the reluctant aid of a demon cat.
Reviewed by jv poore, March 2017.
P.S. I Like You
Point, August 2016
This is such a sweet story—not so your teeth hurt–it’s perfectly sweet. First and foremost: I love the Abbott family. I want to dive into their home and be submersed in the fresh, awesome, oddness. Each quirky, yet quintessential, sibling provides poignant texture, interacting individually and collectively with Lily. Her competition-loving, compassionate parents are perfectly embarrassing and absolutely adorable. Also, there is a rescued “pet” rabbit.
I adore Lily. She’s who I wanted to be as a teenager. Her most awkward teen-aged moment is exponentially cooler than any of mine. It is effortless to relate to, empathize with and understand her. She is “learning lessons” that I learned, but sometimes forget. The reminders are welcome and appreciated.
There is also the something-different-that-I-totally-dig-aspect: putting a pencil to your desktop, jotting a note or song lyric to maintain sanity and/or a state of semi-awareness during class, only to be stunned when another student responds in kind. I remember trading notes via the top of my desk with an anonymous person in my 8th grade Literature class (sorry, Mr. Leach). So, no surprise, I’m stupidly delighted and charmed to find a book basing a pretty groovy relationship on such a simple start. Particularly impressive, Ms. West presents a spot-on, classic-yet-credible, way of communicating without feeling the need to mute or explain away today’s textmania.
This was a one-sitting-read that I really enjoyed. The mini-mystery to determine who Lily’s pen pal is warranted a close look and careful consideration of the characters. Although cute and quick, this isn’t the cotton candy of reading—there is a Mean Girl and her role is not gratuitous and the importance of being a good friend cannot be overstated. My copy is going to my 13-year-old niece and I’m sure I’ll donate another copy to my Middle Grader’s classroom library. I really like this book for the Middle-Grade reader looking for a love story.
Reviewed by jv poore, October 2016.