Estelle: The Stalker Chronicles by Carley Moore

The Stalker Chronicles by Carley Moore (website | twitter)
Upcoming Release Date: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 240
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format read: ARC paperback received at ALA (Thank you!)

Summary: Cammie isn’t the best at talking to guys. In fact, she has a reputation at school for being stalker. A label she is desperately trying to leave in the past. When the mysterious yet cute Toby arrives in town, she believes he is her chance to be “normal” when it comes to pursuing guys. Even with the help of her best friend, she realizes escaping her talent for observation might be harder than she thought… especially when life keeps throwing her some unexpected curveballs.

These days it is uncanny how easy it is to keep track of people. With Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, we are constantly keeping tabs on people we know (or knew). (Don’t lie. You know you do it.) But in the case of the internet, the success of your stalking depends on the person — how much they update, what they choose to share, etc. The old fashioned way though… that’s different story. It takes a little more effort, some thought.

And Cammie, the main character of The Stalker Chronicles, is pretty talented and relentless when it comes to that old-fashioned way of doing things. It’s not because she wants to hurt anyone or publicize someone’s private life or anything. Deep down, she really wants people to like her.  She really wants to know things about people. So she takes a leap and in the past, landed on her face. So many times that she is sweetly known as the “stalker” in school. She can’t seem to get people to forget all she has done (photos, notes, phone calls, trash cans, etc.) and at the same time, can’t stop doing it. It’s like an addiction.

Then new boy Toby shows up. Finally! Someone who may not know the total truth about her. And she makes him a challenge for herself. Can she get him to like her without overdoing it like she’s done in the past? But when he starts missing school and ya know she walks in the boy’s restroom to find him (ha), she discovers Toby may have his own secret past and Cammie sort of reverts back into her stalking ways.

I liked Cammie as a character a lot. In ways, the books reminded me of Various Positions (review to come) and not in the overly sexualized way. But in the way that author Carley Moore gave us a glimpse into the inner workings of a young girl, the crevices no one cares to admit because it’s too shameful. With Cammie, there is nothing left unspoken. She is blatantly honest. Matter of fact. You are able to establish a relationship with her, experience her mistakes, and root for her along the way.

Family also plays a HUGE part in this story. While Cammie is dealing with her own demons, her parents’ marriage is beginning to deteriorate and we see how Cammie’s stalking plays a part in how she deals with this shift in her household. In a lot of the young adult books I’ve read, parents are already divorced and the process of separation rarely takes centerstage. I thought this element of TSC was very strong and true to life. I also enjoyed Cammie’s relationship with her brother. I like siblings who are different but nice. (Cammie and her brother are only a year apart but their age difference seems much larger… you’ll see.)

There are many funny and cringe-worthy moments in The Stalker Chronicles. In the end, it’s the portrait of a girl who wears her self-consciousness on her sleeve. While she displays a certain awareness of all that goes on with kids her age, she does act younger than a typical sophomore in high school. Her immaturity is due to lack of experience and the lack of experience is due to her tendency to blurt out whatever pops into her head and her desire for people to like her and accept her. Who can’t relate to those feelings? I know that I certainly can.

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Estelle: Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 304
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format I read it in: Paperback copy from ALA (Thank you!)
Why I was interested in it: Boy narrator, baseball!

Summary: Peter’s dreams of being a big-time pitcher on the high school baseball team are cut short when an elbow injury stops him from playing baseball ever again. Even though he has photography to fall back on, he is still unable to come to grips with his new reality (and be honest with his best friend and teammate about it). Not to mention Gramps, his favorite relative (and the person who taught him to love photography), seems not to be himself lately and there’s that girl in class he can’t seem to stop thinking about…

Before I even say anything, I’m going to tell you to buy Curveball. Remember I said that.

Confession: I have a huge crush on Peter. He’s an athlete, he’s creative, he cares about his family, he says silly things, and he’s hilarious. It might be because I’ve been reading some dark books recently but Peter is like a breath of fresh air in a stale, stale environment. And I thought that would be hard to maintain as the author because of the serious themes that weave themselves in and out of the chapters, but no. Curveball manages to be funny, smart, adorable, heartbreaking, and real all at the same time. Remember what I said in the first sentence? (Reminder: Buy this book.)

This book is about the struggle to be honest with yourself about what’s happening in your life. This is the truth of many of these characters. Peter, of course, with his unusable pitching arm. But then there is best friend, A.J. (who is a real trip) and even Gramps (who I keep picturing as Carl in Up). The book may sound male heavy but it’s not drowning in testosterone either. It was easily relatable and I liked I was able to see into a male’s psyche as he went through such a rough identity crisis. I think Peter took the whole thing in stride though. His arm, that is. When Gramps starts to show signs of his age and declining memory, their bond is so apparent; it reminded me a lot of my grandmother and I.

Then there’s Angelika. She is not like any girl I’ve read about lately. She’s sarcastic and sassy but sweet and flirty. Their first encounter in the earlier chapters had me laughing out loud in the bookstore. (Yes I was the loudest one around.) I also liked how the book didn’t make their romance centerstage. It was gradual and given room to breathe. Much more realistic when Peter is going through so many other things at the same time.

Honestly, the whole time I read this… I was thinking how much I wanted Magan to read it too. There’s a lot of photography jargon thrown around and it made me feel really excited about pictures and I’m curious what a professional like Magan would think. (Gramps was also a wedding photographer.) Photography is such an important outlet for Peter. It gives him something to fall back on when baseball doesn’t exactly work out, it serves as a connection between him and his grandfather, and also helps him find his way to Angelika and a few other realizations along the way.

The writing is clean and concise but is still able to garner a ton of emotion. Curveball is the perfect blend of seriousness and humor, as well as able to balance the family, friendship, and romance storylines very well. For such a fast paced novel, readers are able to get a great gauge on these relationships and really connect with the characters. This is the first book I’ve read by Sonnenblick and I am anxious to give him another try.


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