New York City girl goes to small-town Texas. Comedy and romance ensue.
When Jordan’s crazy uncle Jacob is arrested in China for smuggling Bibles, her divinity-professor father decides to fill in at his church for the summer, dragging Jordan and her corporate-lawyer mother along with him. The town of Ashworth has the usual collection of quirky eccentrics: supertalented Latino youth-group leader and chef; little-old-lady bookkeeper and gambler; perky, blonde, hedgehog-toting wannabe superstar; hot, brooding boy librarian and bottle-washer; redneck bad boy; etc. While her father inflicts his university-level theology lectures (complete with PowerPoint) on his brother’s flock every week and her mother goes Stepford after losing her biggest client, Jordan slowly succumbs to the charms of Ashworth, particularly those of Knox, the brooding boy with tragedy in his past. While Osteen’s debut breaks no new ground in the plot department and at times struggles with characterization and language, it nevertheless has its fair share of good one-liners. As Jordan’s father lectures her about the proper use of “y’all,” she reflects that “now, rather than hanging out in Greenwich Village, I had to concern myself with incorrect country bumpkin grammar.”
These comic turns of phrase and the novel’s palpable warmth should win it some fans, particularly among readers who like their romance on the sweet, not steamy side
. (Fiction. 12-16)
A low-wattage collection of original stories and poems, as unmemorable as it is unappealingly titled.
The collection was inspired by a perceived paucity of short science fiction for teen readers, and its production costs were covered by a Kickstarter campaign. The editors gather a dozen poems and 21 stories from a stable of contributors who, after headliners Jack McDevitt and Nancy Holder, will be largely unknown even to widely read fans of the genre. The tales place their characters aboard spacecraft or space stations, on other worlds or in future dystopias, but only rarely do the writers capture a credibly adolescent voice or sensibility. Standouts in this department are the Heinlein-esque “The Stars Beneath Our Feet,” by Stephen D. Covey & Sandra McDonald, about a first date/joyride in space gone wrong, and Camille Alexa’s portrait of a teen traumatized by a cyberspace assault (“Over It”). Along with a few attempts to craft futuristic slang, only Lavie Tidhar’s fragmentary tale of Tel Aviv invaded by successive waves of aliens, doppelgangers, zombies and carnivorous plants (“The Myriad Dangers”) effectively lightens the overall earnest tone. Aside from fictional aliens and modified humans, occasional references to dark skin (“Out of the Silent Sea,” Dale Lucas) are the only signs of ethnic diversity. Most of the free-verse poetry makes only oblique, at best, references to science-fictional themes.
A change of pace from the teeming swarms of fantasy and paranormal romance but too underpowered to achieve escape velocity.
(Science fiction/short stories. 12-14)
A child of Japanese immigrants looks back on her World War II–era experiences in internment camps and afterward.
Changing names and inventing details to fill in the gaps between memories, Arakawa, in character as Shizuye, begins with her 1932 birth on a Murphy bed in San Francisco, takes her narrative through multiple moves that become forced ones in the wake of Pearl Harbor, then concludes with a temporary postwar settlement in Denver and final journey back to the West Coast. Despite the fictive fill, her account is spotty and episodic, more hindered than helped in its course by such details as painstaking descriptions of the route between one home and the local playground or tedious tallies of the comings and goings of briefly known schoolmates. As much a personal story as testament to a historical outrage, her recollections mingle references to domestic strife, pre-adolescent bed-wetting, and suicidal impulses following the internment with incidents of being jeered as a “Jap” on the way home from school, encounters with neighborhood “racial covenants,” and other manifestations of prejudice—not to mention repeated forcible removals to hastily constructed camps in California and, later, Arkansas. Occasional mentions of “Caucasian” visitors or a friend’s “dark skin” serve as reminders that most of the figures here are Asian or Asian-American.
These are experiences that need to be remembered, though Arakawa’s are not as compellingly related as other novels or personal accounts of the travesty.
(Historical fiction. 12-16)