Book Reviews: Colombiano by Rusty Young, Abby in Wonderland by Sarah Mlynowski and Otherwise Known As Possum by Maria D. Laso @SarahMlynowski @Scholastic

Colombiano
Rusty Young
Havelock & Baker, August 2017
ISBN–AU 9780143781547
Havelock & Baker, February 2020
ISBN–US 978-0648445319
Trade Paperback

You can’t truly know what someone else is going through without walking in his shoes. Unless Mr. Young writes about it. In Colombiano, those of us fortunate enough to be far removed from any war zone, see exactly what living amid battles entails; in day-to-day life, as well the overall impact it has on absolutely everything.

Certainly, most people know that the Guerilla evoke evil with their aggressive cocaine manufacturing and distribution. The gross misunderstanding is that the Guerilla are fighting the army and law enforcement; not citizens. Leading to the false conclusion that, if folks go about their business, there’s no real reason for this pesky fighting to bother them. The carefully controlled propaganda supports this theory. Even having the place of worship utterly obliterated by “errant” fire is only an unfortunate consequence.

Pedro has listened to placates until he thought his head may explode. Papi made sure he contained, or at least properly channeled, his rage. There was Camila to consider. Rounding out the small group of people close to Pedro is the somewhat goofy, undeniably adorable, Pallilo. Pedro can push his anger aside for them.

Right up until the Guerilla descended on his father’s farm. In front of his disbelieving eyes, Papi is surrounded as accusations are hurled. The feisty fifteen-year-old cannot watch the depraved tirade and hold his tongue. Boldly, stupidly, Pedro demands an explanation. His father’s crime was revealed with a hint of glee. The farmer had the audacity to allow soldiers from the army to drink water from his well.

The resulting punishment is a defining, dividing moment for Pedro. There are men like Papi. Those who believed, as people of God, it was never right to deny a thirsty man a drink. And there are monsters masquerading as men—the Guerilla.

The situation that Pedro is forced to face is tragic. His retaliatory actions, atrocious. And yet…the author manages to demonstrate how a furious and yes, frightened, adolescent can morph into a ruthless mankiller—all the while reminding the reader that Pedro remains, essentially, a boy.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2019.

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Abby in Wonderland
Whatever After Special Edition #1
Sarah Mlynowski
Scholastic, Inc., October 2018
ISBN 978-0-545-74667-0
Trade Paperback

Sustaining a series is no simple task. Inserting a special edition story that is somehow as fresh and fun as the very first book seems insurmountable. Except to Ms. Mlynowski.

This fairy-tale-esque fantasy adds adventure and humor absolutely appropriate for younger readers, while maintaining a subtle, something-more; making it compelling and quirky enough for older audiences as well.

I enjoyed being the proverbial parrot-on-the-shoulder as four friends share a day off from school. Per usual, Penny’s parents are not around, but her house is huge and her nanny is happy to host. Penny has planned the entire day and she is not going to let a little cold air or a brisk breeze ruin the card game on the patio.

But when the wind whipped a card across the yard and into the neighboring golf-course, Abby abruptly abandoned the game to give chase. The other three follow until Frankie falls into a hole. Penny’s agenda is pushed aside. The girls have a real problem to solve.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2019.

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Otherwise Known As Possum
Maria D. Laso
Scholastic Press, August 2018
ISBN 978-0-545-93196-0
Trade Paperback

Possum, to me, is kind of a country Pippi Longstocking. Both young girls are wise to the ways of the world, if not properly educated. Tough, fiercely independent with lasting loyalty and a heart bigger than her small body should be able to hold, Possum is another exemplary young lady.

Certainly a smile-through-tears kind of story combining spunk, mischief and intuitive, undeniable kindness, I thoroughly enjoyed the bitter-sweet reflections from the late 20th century in this captivating Juvenile Fiction from Ms. Laso.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2018.

Book Review: Mean Girls by Micol Ostow

Mean Girls
Micol Ostow
Based on the Screenplay by Tina Fey
Scholastic Inc., September 2017
ISBN 978-1-338-08756-7
Hardcover

I’m not pleased to admit that I picked up Mean Girls with preconceived notions and possibly an internal sigh.  Yes, girls can be despicable, particularly during the terrible teens; and sure, for so many students, high school certainly sucks.  Both truly important topics, but how many ways can that be covered?

Well.

This book is based on a screenplay, a unique concept for me; mostly certainly nothing I’ve read yet.  Oh, and said screenplay was written by Ms. Tina Fey.  I am a fan.

Turns out, this tantalizing twist of transition is not the only tweak on a traditional tale.  There is, indeed, a new facet of this oft admired gem.  Some may say high school is like a jungle, but Cady could quickly squash that simile. Born, raised and home-schooled in Africa by her scientist-parents; the jungle, she understands.   However violent and messy it may appear, there are absolute rules.  Law of the land, yes; but clearly defined with potential consequences equally easy to assess.

Nothing is apparent or effortlessly understood in this American high school.   Well, sure the “no green ink” and absurd requirement to obtain permission to use the restroom; but absolutely absent is any advice about interaction among the species. Cady realizes, of course, that if she wants to fit in, she will need to observe and mimic.

But first, does she want to fit in?  If so, with which group?  Unsolicited answers are offered up, different questions are asked, and in no time, Cady is in the thick of things.  With the support of two obvious outcasts, she attempts to take on typical teen traits and immerse herself in the adolescent atmosphere.   Much like a jungle kitten on a muddy, slippery, slope; Cady is soon over her head and seemingly all alone.

Because Mean Girls plays out from pivoting point-of-views, the whole picture emerges as if puzzle pieces are studied, sorted then clicked into place, perfectly.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2017.