More likely to confuse than to provoke thought.

OTHERWISE

From the Gravel Road series

In a near-future United States, unisex gender presentation becomes mandated by law.

In short free-verse lines with occasional rhyme, a narrator of unspecified gender explains that Pennsylvania has just become the final U.S. state to pass this legislation, and “in 30 days / this will be our law: / No Gender Specified.” Under the new law, everyone must shave their heads, wear body-shaping suits, take voice-altering medication and avoid asking names of other people. When the narrator, who takes the name Spark (unisex names are, apparently, acceptable), meets Whistler at a campground, the teens are instantly drawn to each other. Descriptions of the pair’s desire for each other are moving, but basic plot questions remain confusingly unanswered: If the law is not yet in effect, why can’t Whistler know Spark’s gender? How does the government plan to enforce its ban on love and sex for young people? In light of young people’s increasing awareness of transgender experiences, the idea put forth here that knowing the shape of someone’s physical body reveals the person’s true gender feels both dated and simplistic. And with no discussion of how sexual orientation works in a unisex world, the book feels oddly out of step with readers’ current reality, in which social and legal acceptance of same-sex marriage is becoming the norm.

More likely to confuse than to provoke thought. (Dystopian romance/verse. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62250-891-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Saddleback Educational Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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A missed opportunity for Blossom to connect with the millennial generation.

GIRLING UP

HOW TO BE STRONG, SMART AND SPECTACULAR

The Blossom and Big Bang Theory star and neuroscientist covers the basics of what it means to be an adolescent girl.

Readers learn how the body looks and works during puberty, with detailed illustrations of different breast sizes/types and diagrams of male and female genitalia. Also covered are the benefits of healthy food choices and finding ways to cope with stress. Many chapters offer diagrams that attempt to show how the brain and body affect learning, hormonal changes, and stress levels, along with illustrations featuring diverse body types, yoga poses for cramps, and other spot images. There are also anecdotal insights aplenty from Bialik, who left her childhood acting career to pursue neuroscience before returning to acting, along with guided self-reflections and a smattering of helpful resources. The fact is, however, there’s little information in this book that most young adolescents don’t already have instant access to on the internet. The overall attitude is cis- and heterocentric. Although Bialik briefly mentions gender presentation and fluidity, the reaffirming messages she doles out mostly cater to boy-girl relationships and gender-conforming teens, as seen in her sections on dating and practicing safe sex. Though many illustrations depict darker-skinned teens, the text avoids discussion of issues of race and diversity. These elisions let her audience down.

A missed opportunity for Blossom to connect with the millennial generation. (Nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54860-4

Page Count: 194

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2017

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A fascinating and unusual slice-of-life work whose humor will best be appreciated by younger teens.

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POPULAR

VINTAGE WISDOM FOR A MODERN GEEK

An interesting and earnest memoir of a social experiment conducted by a contemporary eighth-grader who follows the advice in a popularity guide written for 1950s-era teens and blogged the experience for one school year.

Van Wagenen is the oldest child in her loving, quirky family. A talented writer, she’s funny, thoughtful and self-effacing. She is also, as she describes it, part of the “Social Outcast group, the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be there.” Over the year, she discovers a great deal, most notably that despite its sounding a bit pat, popularity is “about who you are, and how you treat others.” Teens will readily identify with her candid descriptions of social dynamics at her middle school. Many of the scenarios that arise from her adherence to the suggestions in Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide are effectively played to comic effect, such as wearing a girdle or pearls and white gloves. Vignettes about her life, including her grief over the death of a beloved teacher, her horror at hearing the news of a boy killed at a nearby school after he brings in a pellet gun and her excitement over speaking to Betty Cornell by telephone, provide balance.

A fascinating and unusual slice-of-life work whose humor will best be appreciated by younger teens. (Memoir. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-525-42681-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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