Saturday, February 5, 2011


JJ Johnson
Peachtree Publishers
Pub Date: 04/01/2011
ISBN: 9781561455782
Genre: Children's, Literature & Fiction, Parenting & Families, Teens & YA

"What happens when a girl, homeschooled by her counterculture mother, decides to spend her senior year in public school? First friendship, first love—and first encounters with the complexities of authority and responsibility."

Description:   JJ Johnson does a great job of using few words to convey a lot of information.  The setting is clear right from the start: a small town in upstate New York. And there's no question about the atmosphere inside the high school the main character, Evie, attends. On the down side, a few things were mildly repetitious taking a little from the story. Score: (6/10)

Narrative:  After the first chapter, which was a little choppy, this turned out to be one of my favorite pieces of this novel.  Evie has a lot of inner dialogue regarding events that have transpired.  In many cases, this can lead to long, drawn out pieces of narrative.  But not in this book! I loved being inside Evie's head as she learned.  Knowing how she was growing from her mistakes and the viewpoints of others was so interesting.

The story itself, about Evie's experiences in public school after years of homeschooling, moved along at a quick pace, never once lending itself to slowing.  The challenges were believablestrategically placed and did not feel contrived.  Sure, maybe a "normal" senior in high school couldn't rattle the whole population to seriously consider democracy in public schools, but Evie is different-hence the title of the book. We--women and girls--need more protagonists like her!  Score (8/10)
Dialogue:  I was fascinated with the verbal exchange in this book.  All conversations led somewhere without boring me.  Facts were revealed.  Action happened.  But most of all, I felt as if I was in the room with the characters while they were speaking.  And you know what?  Many of the confusions that come with conversation were well played out in this novel.  Teens are not dumb, though developmentally they're egocentric.  JJ Johnson did such a great job of showing this, especially through Evie's thoughtful inner dialogue.  Score: (8/10)

Characterization:  Each character had unique traits that overcame stereotypes within Evie's head.  Characters were not predictable and left me guessing.  I loved the way JJ Johnson implied  facts without telling the reader exactly what to think.  To some readers, this ambiguity may be confusing or frustrating, but it's exactly what I want out of a book. 

I particularly liked the leadership role of the principal, Mr. Folger (I wonder if his name paid tribute to coffee?) and the free spirited grounded feeling portrayed by Martha.  Even the teens, Jacinda and Rajas, were unique without being overdone.  Score: (8/10)

Resolution:  The ending of this story was very well executed.  All loose ends were tied up but not forced.  Each piece of the puzzle fell into place, but not too neatly. (Gift wrapped endings make me CRAZY!)  The end satiated me and left me wondering if there was going to be more.  Is there room for a sequel?  Yes.  Am I desperate for one? No.  Of course, being the cynic I am, I'd prefer a little more mess at the end, but that's me.  Overall, though, I liked the ending.  Score: (8/10)

Final Thoughts:  I would recommend this book to readers looking for a strong protagonist and role model in a realistic setting.  The story clearly depicts what can happen when one person challenges the status quo.  And, for me, it leads into the question of sexism.  If Evie had been a boy, would the results have been different?  Hmmm, interesting topic for book club, I think.

Anyway, this book is a quick read with many themes I think teens and many adults can relate to.  I don't feel it's preachy or condescending but has a valid point worth taking in.

For an interesting, realistic read, I'd rate this book an overall score of 3 and 1/2 stars out of 5. Why not 4, even though I liked it?  Mostly because a few insignificant, repeated ideas--namely the ankle injury/pain, and the word lightning used a few too many times.  But generally, it's a good read if you're looking for an interesting YA novel.

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