Tag Archives: Teen Realist Fiction

Halfway to Good – Kristen Murphy
Book Reviews
September 14, 2009 posted by Nikki

Halfway to Good – Kristen Murphy

It’s the first day of Term One, and Luke and Anna are on opposite sides of the student-teacher divide. School is the last thing Luke feels like – how can he feel halfway to good when his father is sick, his mother is sad and his older brother is painfully present?

Anna’s life still revolves around love, friendship and homework, but she’s a graduate teacher now. Can she cope with a bullying co-worker, a persistent ex-boyfriend and a class of unforgiving Year Elevens, and still find time to help Luke?

Luke is one depressed teenager, but if you ask me, he’s got pretty good reasons to be so down. His dad is sick – really sick – and life at their place just isn’t as peachy as it used to be. But that’s not where it stops. Luke has other problems, too, he just can’t figure out what they are. He’s got this awesome girlfriend, but he doesn’t want to be with her anymore. Why? No one knows – not even Luke. He’s got these awesome friends, but he keeps shutting them out. Why? No one knows – not even Luke.

Anna is graduate teacher, fresh out of university. Of course she’s worried about her first full time teaching position, but she never anticipated as many stumbling blocks as she encounters. For absolutely no reason at all, one of Anna’s superiors takes an instant disliking to her and does everything she can to ensure Anna’s first year on the job is anything but easy. Luckily for Anna, she’s got a wicked mentor assigned to her, who becomes more like a best friend than a colleague.

Then there’s the whole thing with Anna’s ex-boyfriend. He left town – and her – a while ago, but now he’s back. He’s back, and he wants Anna back too. Anna’s head screams run but he heart… well her heart tells her to stay. What does one do, when presented with such a scenario, especially when he hurt her so badly before?

Luke and Anna’s worlds collide when Luke walks into English at the beginning of the year. She’s his teacher, but by the end of the novel, they’ll mean more to each other than simply student and teacher. In a bizarre twist of fate, Anna’s sister is marrying Luke’s brother. Being intimately linked like that is weird for them at first, especially Luke, but as he gets to know Anna more, he stops thinking of her as his teacher and starts thinking of her as someone he could grow to trust, someone he could grow to care about.

Halfway to Good is narrated through both character’s perspectives. The advantage that this novel has over singularly narrated novels is that the dual narration concept leaves nothing to the imagination. Readers don’t need to assume anything because both stories are sprawled on the pages for all to see. It’s fantastic to see how Luke and Anna impact on each other’s lives, and I loved not having to draw my own conclusions for once. Interestingly, because Anna is older than Luke, her perspective provides a different kind of slant to the story, adds a certain depth that is sometimes lacking in regular YA fiction. I still think that teenage readers will be able to relate to Anna, though. She’s only a first year teacher and her thinking patterns aren’t too ancient that the kids wont get where she’s coming from.

Halfway too Good is a solid read, and one that enthusiasts of general, contemporary young adult fiction will love. I fell in love with both Luke and Anna, and I wanted so badly to help heal their aching souls. Narrated through both a male and a female perspective, this is one of those universal novels that I reckon both boys and gals will get into. Can’t get much better than that.

Rating: : ★★★★☆

Book Reviews
August 7, 2009 posted by Nikki

Twenty Boy Summer – Sarah Ockler

When the love of Anna’s life and recently acquired boyfriend dies tragically in a car accident, she isn’t sure how she’s supposed to go on with her life. The only problem is, she can’t really grieve the way she wants to because no one knows that they were an item, especially not her best friend who also happens to be his sister. Anna never told Frankie because he wanted to be the one that broke the news. Now he’s gone, she’s doing everything possible to protect their secret and respect his wishes.

Then Frankie’s parents invite Anna to come along on their annual family holiday to California in place of their beloved (and dead) son and brother. Not really wanting to let Frankie down, Anna accepts. But she’s nervous. Zanzibar Bay was Matt’s favorite place on earth. How will Anna cope being so close to something he loved so much, without him?

Then Frankie decides that this summer is going to be all about boys. A different boy each day, making it their twenty boy summer. For someone like Frankie, twenty boys in twenty days sounds fabulous, but for someone like Anna, there is only one boy. There has only ever been one boy, and the way she’s feeling right now, there won’t ever be another one, either. Being the good friend she is, though, Anna goes along with Frankie’s game, and she becomes very good at pretending she’s participating in Frankie’s little challenge, when really she’s just watching on.

But then they meet Sam and Jake and Anna realises that maybe she’d like to play the game after all. Not for twenty boys, because that’s totally uncharacteristic for a girl like her, but Sam is special enough that maybe she could play for one boy.

Things are running along smashingly until Frankie finds Anna’s journal, and all the letters she wrote to Matt, all the details of their private affair. And Frankie is livid. The girls have the showdown of their lives and they realise that the one thing they had in common might just be the very same thing that tears them apart.

I have to say, I really didn’t like Frankie. She’s shallow, ignorant, selfish and just plain annoying. I had real trouble understanding why someone like Anna – who is none of the aforementioned things – is friends with someone like Frankie. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Frankie isn’t a complex character, but I couldn’t bring myself to care about her enough to try and decode her mysteries. Anna, however, was a joy to get to know. I loved her flashbacks to her time with Matt and I could really feel her love and adoration for him. And when she met Sam, I really felt her conflict. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be scared of loving someone new for fear of forgetting the past, especially when the past is all you have left of someone.

Twenty Boy Summer is Sarah Ockler’s first novel and it has a very Sarah Dessen feel to it, which is a compliment of the highest kind. I can’t wait to see what she produces next.

Rating:: ★★★★☆