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Jenna's Truth

A deeply affecting, valuable story and educational tool.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
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A debut YA novella about cyberbullying by journalist and short story writer King.

Like many teenagers, Jenna Wilson yearns to be accepted by the popular crowd at her school, Willoughby High in Australia. She naively believes that Renee, a friend from her swim team, can help her get to know Tina Scaruffi, Renee’s uber-popular cousin. When Tina and her comrade, Krissy, inexplicably begin paying attention to Jenna, she’s baffled but flattered; she also immediately starts ignoring her own lifelong friend, Alyssa. All the kids at school seem to suddenly notice Jenna, who revels in no longer feeling invisible. An invitation to a party seems like the ultimate sign of acceptance; at that event, she tries to ease her nervousness by accepting the disgusting drinks that Krissy keep pushing on her. The predictably disastrous results are only made worse when Tina and Krissy take revealing photographs of an intoxicated, half-dressed Jenna and post them all over social media. When Jenna finally has the nerve to return to school, she discovers that everyone thinks of her as “Slag Bitch,” and she longs to return to her previous invisibility. As Tina and Krissy’s bullying continues, Jenna thinks about ending the torture the only way she knows how—by drowning herself. Inspired by the real-life story of the late Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, this story puts a human face on cyberbullying, something many teens may have already learned about in school. The novella also includes supplemental lists of resources, study questions, and curriculum tie-ins for Australians. Without being preachy, the story reinforces the importance of seeking assistance, as Jenna is rescued, in more ways than one, by a favorite teacher. King crafts characters to whom readers can relate by showing not just Jenna’s unimaginable pain, but also Alyssa’s pangs of rejection as well as Jenna’s parents’ indescribable anguish. Although the Australian slang and references may prove difficult for young American readers, the Down Under setting adds an element of cool.

A deeply affecting, valuable story and educational tool.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9945690-1-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Aulexic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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The Sassy Divas

A swift fable about navigating the perils of middle school.

A bossy middle school fashionista feels threatened by the new girl in Saii’s YA novel.

Vanessa Pocker and her friends Chelsea, Adrienne and Katie are the richest of the rich in their Santa Monica, Calif., middle school, and they comprise the Sassy Divas. Vanessa leads the pack and dictates whom the divas are allowed to talk to, what they’re allowed to wear and how they conduct themselves in public. Vanessa is so domineering that it’s a miracle she has any friends at all. Had Saii endowed her with an ounce of kindness, the loyalty of her minions might be more understandable. Vanessa’s militant nature finally alienates Katie, the diva who is too much of a bookworm, according to Vanessa. Katie befriends Flo, who’s on the Sassy Diva “do not speak to” list (Flo had once refused to hold Vanessa’s purse). Excommunicated from the Sassy Divas, Katie befriends the new girl at the school, Quinn. This infuriates Vanessa, and she declares war. A power play ensues among the adversarial lip-glossed sets, with Vanessa, Chelsea and Adrienne on one side and Katie, Quinn and Flo on the other. Vanessa turns to guy friend Ryan, who offers the only voice of reason when he admonishes her for obsessing over trivialities, such as revenge and makeovers, when there are starving children in the world. He seems to be nothing more than Vanessa’s sounding board, and it’s unclear what he gets out of the relationship. At least Vanessa buys clothes and makeup for her divas, on occasion. Mired in trendy youngster lingo, Saii’s tale accurately depicts girls’ power plays and the alienation that can result from simply owning jeans without a designer label. Fashion, gossip, popularity and shopping define these characters, and any threat of competition is cause for war. Vanessa’s parents rarely make appearances, except for a poignant scene when Vanessa’s mother engages her daughter in a heart-to-heart about her selfish behavior. It’s a relief to finally hear the mother speak and lead the story to an ending marked with humor and depth. Saii’s literary chops are inconsistently displayed and improve toward the conclusion. Although the average middle school girl may not wear Jimmy Choos or form private elitist groups, young readers might find themselves curious about these affluent trendsetters. At least Vanessa learns her lesson, which raises the novel a notch above teenybopper fluff.

A swift fable about navigating the perils of middle school.

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 9781937675080

Page Count: 155

Publisher: Lekha Publishers

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2013

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Starved

An intriguing, if not always emotionally engaging, story of a serious teen problem.

Somers’ debut young-adult novel follows a teenage boy from sickness to tenuous health as he battles an eating disorder and the problems that helped create it.

Nathan is a typical teen with typical problems, including an unhappy family life and romantic disappointment, but he’s got an unhealthy “solution” for dealing with them: starving and purging himself. His descent into bulimia and anorexia occurs quite quickly; it starts with Nathan taking short bike rides to get away from his domineering father and alcoholic mother, and soon he’s inducing vomiting; not long afterward, he’s admitted to an eating-disorder program, at which point the book seems to find its center. Nathan is the only boy in his unit, a fact that his status-obsessed parents find it hard to understand; in fact, as the book makes clear, boys make up 10 percent of those who suffer from eating disorders. Somers’ novel never falls into “after-school special” territory, but it has a clear message. Nathan is depicted as a smart, cynical teenager, but his trials are sometimes more informative than heart-wrenching. The short chapters, complete with bad teenage poetry, keep the story moving, and Nathan’s dad, mom and nurse all get at least one chance to tell their side of the story. But although these multiple points of view are interesting, they may distract readers from Nathan’s personal trials. Also, the novel sometimes gets bogged down in eating-disorder program protocol; for example, a plan to interrupt Nathan’s family therapy takes two pages of emails, rather than a line or two of dialogue.

An intriguing, if not always emotionally engaging, story of a serious teen problem.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0988367203

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Rundy Hill Press LLC

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2013

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