Dramarama by E. Lockhart

Book Info
Dramarama by E. Lockhart
© 2007 Hyperion Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0786838158

Plot Summary
In the “razzle dazzle deprived” small town of Brenton, Ohio, Sarah was just a tall girl with a big nose who loved dancing and was obsessed with musical theater. Deep inside of Sarah is a star waiting to be born, or as she calls it, “a lurking bigness.” This star is Sadye – a diva who is full of charm, talent and charisma just waiting to be set loose on the stage! When the flyer for Wildewood Academy Summer Drama Camp auditions went up, Sarah knew this could be her ticket out of Brenton where Sadye could be fully unleashed. Sadye is admitted to Wildewood along with her gay best friend Demi – who has a heaping amount of bigness himself – and together they embark on a journey that could determine their future. But when Demi steals shows and hearts while Sadye struggles along, the strength of their friendship is also put to the test. Will Wildewood Academy set them on the path towards Broadway Stardom? Will they overcome the stress on their friendship? Or will they learn that life is not just a cabaret?

Critical Evaluation
This book was a well written, enjoyable read. The characters were realistic, and the situations that took place were very believable, all while weaving in important themes and messages. With a personal background in music and performing arts, I was able to relate to the book and found it rather enjoyable. While I didn’t get every single one, I was able to at least understand most of the references to plays, musicals and Broadway performers. That said I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself the “norm” and can definitely see how someone with little to no interest or knowledge of musical theater would struggle with this book, but would highly recommend this to big fans of the television show “Glee.” Some may also find issue with the mentions of underage drinking, and that the book also has a strong LGBT factor since the best friend of the main character is gay. People who are uncomfortable with the homosexual themes or innuendo might shy away from this book. Ultimately providing a positive LGBT message, the book illustrates the struggles of Demi as an African American, gay teen in a small town where homosexuality is largely unaccepted, and how at home he feels at drama camp where he can be himself in all his “fabulosity.” The book claims to focus on the relationship between Sarah/Sadye and Demi, and how attending the Summer Drama Camp puts their relationship in jeopardy, but I felt that much more of the focus was on the development of Sadye on her own from what she was able to learn from her fellow classmates.

Reader’s Annotation
How do you get from a small town high school to the Broadway Stage? For Demi and Sadye, Wildewood Academy Summer Drama Camp is their best bet and you can expect their summer will be chock full of drama — both on and off the stage.

Information about the Author
From the author’s website:

My books have been translated into 10 foreign languages. Or maybe more. I have a doctorate in English Literature from Columbia University and have taught composition, literature and creative writing courses at Columbia, Barnard and NYU. I have given guest lectures on writing for children at places which include Hamline University, VT College, Hofstra University and Kindling Words.

Twenty-one things you don’t know about me, even if you’ve read through this whole website:

1. I have wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old.
2. I wrote two novels in third grade.
3. I was the fastest typist in my 8th-grade typing class. We learned on manual typewriters.
4. Now I write everything on computer, sometimes with my eyes closed.
5. Favorite lipsticks: Bobbi Brown Cherry. Clinique Black Honey.
6. Movie star crush: Daniel Craig.
7. First car: a white 1964 Volvo with a push-button starter.
8. I make a lot of home movies. You can see the book-related ones here.
9. I am a vegetarian and for a number of years ate a vegan diet (no animal products whatsoever) because I object to the way animals are treated in the meat and dairy industries. I will probably go back to eating vegan again someday, but for now:
10. My favorite ice cream is Häagen Dazs dolce de leche.
11. I swam with sting-rays once.
12. I like wax museums.
13. I used to like roller coasters, but now I’m scared of them. Even so:
14. I love amusement parks. My favorite ride of all time is Pirates of the Caribbean.
15. I used to cry after my fiction writing class in college, because the criticism was so harsh.
16. The teacher of that class was so bored by my work he admitted to me he didn’t even read the final drafts of my stories.
17. I have never kept a journal for more than a couple days. I like to write for an audience, even if it’s only an imaginary one.
18. My advice to aspiring writers: read, read, read. Read the great novelists, especially. Try Great Expectations. Pride and Prejudice. Jane Eyre.
19. More (contradictory!) advice: follow your reading bliss. Gnaw your way through the local library’s sci-fi or romance collection, if that’s what does it for you.
20. I am difficult to recognize. Despite a large and unusual tattoo, people often forget they’ve met me, or tell me I look very different from the last time they saw me.
21. I used to not reveal my first name, just to be mysterious, but then I had to change my website URL.  I couldn’t have e-lockhart or elockhart because they were taken or infected by spambots; emilylockhart was the best address available, so now everyone knows.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, Chick Lit, LGBT

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Sadye’s penchant for recording her and her friends for posterity gets her in trouble when her roommate listens to the tape where Sadye is saying mean things about her. How would you feel if you happened upon something mean a friend said about you? Would you be able to forgive them?

Demi feels like he has to make himself invisible at his high school as a gay black teen in a small town. Should he not be able to be himself?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues

  • Positive LBGT themes and occasional homosexual innuendo.

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
I came across this book while browsing the downloadable audiobooks available from my library. As a musical lover and musician myself, I was drawn to the concept of the book and decided to read it for inclusion it in my blog project. While I found the book to be slightly cheesy at times, I’m glad to have read it and am sure I will encounter situations to use this book as a reading suggestion.

The Fight (Drama High #1) by L. Divine

Book Info
Drama High #1: The Fight by L. Divine
©2006 Dafina, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0758216335

Plot Summary
Jayd Jackson is a sixteen-year-old, proud resident of the stereotypically gang affiliated and drive-by shooting ridden Compton, CA. Jayd and about 30 other black teens from her neighborhood are bussed into LA every day to the predominantly white and wealthy South Bay High, aka Drama High. Jayd was dating basketball hottie, KJ, until he dumped her because she refused to give it up to him. With higher hopes of scoring, KJ started dating Trecee, resulting in a situation to make Drama High live up to its name. Motivated by Jayd’s former best friend Misty, Trecee challenges Jayd to a fight in order to prove that KJ is out of bounds. Jayd certainly isn’t looking for a fight and could do without the drama, and now she will discover who’s got her back and finds comfort in some unlikely places, specifically her nice classmate, Jeremy.

Critical Evaluation
Urban lit is a genre that is growing in popularity. I personally want to be able to enjoy and appreciate all genres, and while I can appreciate urban lit as a genre, understand its appeal and the role it plays at getting certain demographics to read, I have a hard time actually enjoying it from the books I have encountered thus far. I hoped The Fight would shine some new light on this genre for me, but as I read the book, I found myself unable to take it at all seriously and it seemed more like a literary version of cheesy and overly dramatic reality television similar to “Jersey Shore.” The series is called “Drama High,” and there is absolutely no shortage of drama. In fact, I found the drama to be exaggerated and overdone. I can see how it might appeal to a teen, but as an adult reading this book, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. I also tend to be very aware of blatant repetition and found myself distracted and annoyed by the author’s repeated use of the euphemism “give up the cookies” for having sex. It was admirable and moral for Jayd to be strong willed against sexual pressure before she is ready, but the slang made it feel kitschy and laughable.

Reader’s Annotation
As one of 30 black students bussed in to a predominantly white and wealthy high school, it’s no surprise that Jayd’s life is full of drama, and it gets even more so when basketball hottie, KJ, dumps her because she won’t give it up. KJ’s new girlfriend decides to challenge Jayd to a fight, to rightfully defend what’s now hers, but Jayd just wants things to be calm and drama-free. Can Jayd escape the drama of Drama High?

Information about the Author
In April of 2001, L. Divine began work on her series of books for young adults appropriately titled “Drama High.”  As a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, L. Divine noticed a rapid decline of literacy among youth.  Her motivation for writing for teenagers was to create material that would simply inspire them to read for pleasure.

When not writing, L. Divine guest lectures and holds workshops for writers and young adults. She is also involved in community activities and serves as a writing expert on various panels. L. Divine served as a Visiting Scholar in the Center for the Study of Women at UCLA and continues to be an active member of academia, researching issues in African Diaspora and Women’s Studies.

L. Divine was raised in Compton, California and has lived all over Los Angeles, as well as in Jamaica, West Indies. She now resides in Atlanta with her young daughter and son.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Urban Lit, Chick Lit, Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties
Sociology

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss the impacts of sexual and peer pressure.

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues
N/A

Why Included?
I included this book to add variety to my selection and also to take another shot at the genre urban lit. This series was something I often had to order when I worked as a book buyer for a company that served public and school libraries nationwide.

The Queen Geek Social Club by Laura Preble

Book Info
The Queen Geek Social Club by Laura Preble
©2006 Berkeley Jam Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0425211649

Plot Summary
With a mad-scientist for a father and a Jetsons-esque robot named Euphoria for a nanny, life certainly wasn’t normal for San Diego teen Shelby Chapelle, but it was good. She was perfectly happy not being the most popular person in school and though she mostly kept to herself, she still managed to keep an active dating life. Since the death of her mother just three years before, she was missing the companionship of a good female friend, until the freakishly tall and tattooed new girl Becca Gallagher came to town from edgy Los Angeles. Shelby and Becca became fast friends, uniting in their atypical geekdom and they figured why stop there? There must be more of their kind out there! And so the “Queen Geek Social Club” was formed, and thus Shelby and Becca are transformed from wall flowers to social butterflies while finding their way through the twists and turns of high school.

Reader’s Annotation
Shelby is a self proclaimed geek, and perfectly content being a geek army of one, but when the edgy new girl Becca moves to town, Shelby’s no longer alone. The two form the “Queen Geek Social” club, and set out to find more of their kind and shake things up as they find their way through high school.

Critical Evaluation
While being a nerd is increasingly becoming considered more and more “cool” by society’s standards, they are still rather underrepresented as heroes, heroines and in romance as the wooer or the one being wooed. As a self-proclaimed nerd myself, I always wanted to see a romance novel where nerds are the main characters in contrast to the typical muscled men and buxom blondes. While The Queen Geek Social Club isn’t exactly what I had in mind, I was really excited by the premise and what it would mean for nerdy teen girls. Though, after reading the book I was left feeling that the “geeks” weren’t quite geeky enough. The main character Shelby has a scientist for a father and a robot for a friend, but I found her and Becca to be much more on the girly side. Even still, this novel taps a niche market that is still relatively untapped and I thoroughly enjoyed it and welcome further contributions by Laura Preble.

Information about the Author
Laura Preble is a journalist, singer, teacher, and writer from San Diego, California. Her first novel in the series, Queen Geek Social Club, is in its second printing and Queen Geeks in Love marks the second book in the series. A third, Prom Queen Geeks, was published this year. She has written one other young adult novel, Lica’s Angel. Preble is the winner of a 2005 Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize, and has won numerous awards for her journalistic writing and teaching.

She has held many jobs in her life. They include the following: pool cleaner, text book repair person, office assistant for the French department at Ohio State, babysitter, retail Indonesian clothing sales clerk, library assistant, maker of big structures using refrigerator boxes, publicity director for a theatre company, curriculum writer, software writer, journalist, columnist, playwright, singer, and high school teacher.

She is married to Chris Klich, an accomplished and very talented jazz woodwind player and college professor. They have two sons, Austin (13) and Noel (almost 4).

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, Chick Lit, Nerd Lit

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss the relationship between Shelby and Euphoria.

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues

  • Mild sexuality.

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.

Why Included?
I met this local San Diego author at an author event at my library and was intrigued by the premise of her series. I thought it would be good for adding variety within the chick lit genre.

That’s What’s Up by Paula Chase

Book Info
That’s What’s Up by Paula Chase
©2008 Kensington Publishing Group, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0758225825

Plot Summary
It’s Spring at Del Rio Bay High in Maryland, and Mina Mooney is finally dating her crush Brian. She was also accepted to be a member of the varsity cheer squad which has subsequently launched her into the esteemed Upper Circle in social status. For Mina, things seem like they couldn’t be better; Extreme Nationals cheer competition is coming up and she is feeling relief from the truce offered by her long time enemy, Jessica. Unfortunately for Mina, the relief won’t last for long since the truce is part of a bigger plan that Jessica has at play. This Spring Break has a lot in store for Mina and the clique sisters including boys, backstabbing and betrayal.

Reader’s Annotation
Spring Break is approaching in Del Rio Bay and things couldn’t seem more perfect for Mina Mooney. She got the boy, a spot on the varsity cheer squad and has climbed the social ladder into the Upper Circle. But is it really everything she thought it would be?

Critical Evaluation
The third book in the Del Rio Bay Clique novels keeps the drama alive in this urban chick lit series. Chase has a good mastery of teenage vernacular, utilizing believable slang and conversational style with her urban styled characters. She also continues to do a great job of developing the friendships and bonds between the core group of friends, however I found myself getting bored and even annoyed with the novel’s main character Mina. Chase somewhat redeemed herself through the backstabbing Jessica who will make the reader’s blood boil with her cruel and conniving ways. It’s difficult to be overly critical of this style of literature, since I don’t really think it’s supposed to be taken very seriously and I liken it to eating candy or reading celebrity gossip: a guilty pleasure. It also serves the purpose of appealing to a niche that might not otherwise be keen to get into reading.

Information about the Author
Paula Chase Hyman lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters. A former competitive cheer coach, her writing has appeared in Girls’ Life, Sweet 16, and Upscale magazine. She’s a founding member of The Brown Bookshelf, a national initiative dedicated to spotlighting African American children’s lit authors flying under the radar.

She doesn’t mind being known as a Jane of all trades, Queen of none. But a single theme has followed throughout her career in communications—keeping her finger on the pulse of teen culture. From starting her own mentoring group at Annapolis Senior High School in ’94 to coaching her Green Hornet cheerleaders to Grand Champion (ahem, twice), Chase-Hyman refuses to squash her inner teen diva. Luckily, her long memory for all things young led to a career writing young adult novels.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Realistic Fiction, Chick Lit, Urban Lit

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Mina always seems to attract drama. Could she have done anything different to avoid it in this story?

Why do you think Jessica is so cruel? Can people be intrinsically evil or mean?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues
N/A

Why Included?
I used to work for a bookseller, and was always curious about these books I would order with titles like “Shortie Like Mine” and “Who You Wit?” I hadn’t really been exposed to urban lit before that, and was always curious to see what these books were all about.