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February 6, 2012 - Amy Phelps
I'm more of a fan of "escapist" novels - books of strange realities, happily ever afters and the like. There has been plenty of more realistic fiction that people have given accolades to, books that deal with grim and gritty real world problems that I will probably never read simply because they are not my cup of tea.
But on occasion, I do find some books while they might be all about the traumas the main characters suffer and whether or not they will be able to overcome them, the writing is great enough to pull me into the story. And here are a few:
"The File on Angelyn Stark" by Catherine Atkins (Knopf, $16.99) - The story of a troubled teen whose conditional friends, one-thing-on-his-mind boyfriend and uncaring mother lead her to the one person who shows the least bit of interest in her life - a young teacher named Mr. Rossi. When their relationship is questioned, it leads Angelyn to question a lot of things that have gone on in her past and finally speak up about them. Angelyn isn't exactly a nice character - there are many times she is a bully and equally many times when she is bullied, but she is somehow always empathetic, maybe because there is a definite lack of people who care about her well-being in her life.
"The Sharp Time" by Mary O'Connell (Delacorte Press, $17.99) - Sandinista is still dealing with her single mother's death and the fact that at the age of 18, she is an orphan and on her own, without even friends to turn to. When a nasty teacher who has been bullying a special needs girl in her math class turns her ire on Sandinista, she up and leaves school one day, not really planning on returning but hoping that one caring teacher will notice that she is gone. She takes a job at a fun vintage clothing store and befriends her coworker, Bradley, who has his own problems. But even as she finds solace with Bradley surrounded by pretty things, her mind can't let go of her hateful teacher and leads Sandinista to many revenge fantasies, but is she going to act on them? Or will someone from school finally reach out to Sandinista? The writing-style is very different in this book and could easily pull someone out of the story, but once you get into it's lyrical, stream-of-concsiousness style, Sandinista's story of a teacher bully and a girl who just wants one phone call from someone who cares will draw you in.
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