“It’s a Mall World After All” by Janette Rallison

“It’s a Mall World After All” by Janette Rallison is a humorous novel about a teenage girl and how her job at the local mall ends up changing her life.
Charlotte works in a department store at the local mall.  She sprays customers with free perfume samples and tries to get them to buy the latest popular perfume.  It’s not exactly a glamorous job, but it is a way to make money.  In addition, her spot right near the department store door is a great lookout point to watch for cute boys. But then one day Charlotte sees her best friend’s boyfriend Bryant flirting with a another girl.
Charlotte is sure that Bryant is cheating on her friend Brianna.  But when Charlotte breaks the news to Brianna there is an unexpected result.  Brianna seems willing trust Bryant and his friend Colton over Charlotte’s testimony!
Brianna seems to think that Charlotte is just being vengeful and trying to break up Bryant’s relationship with Brianna.  Many of the other girls and boys at Charlotte’s school think that Charlotte is stuck-up, and for good reason.  Charlotte seems to have held a grudge against all the boys at her school.
Years ago they teased her with spiders and called her Charlotte the spider after reading Charlotte’s Web.  Ever since Charlotte has held them in derision, even though most of the boys don’t even remember the teasing.
Bryant’s friend Colton tells Charlotte that Bryant would never cheat on Brianna.  He assures Charlotte that Bryant had a good reason for talking to that girl at the mall.  But Charlotte still thinks that something sounds fishy.  But is is just her own paranoid thoughts or is something going on?
“It’s a Mall World After All” is a fairly decent book, although it does have a few flaws.  First of all the title is rather corny, and not completely relevant as malls don’t play a particularly important role in most of the story.
In addition the back and forth interactions of Charlotte and her friends get frustrating after a while.  Although it is obvious that Charlotte likes Colton and that Colton is interested in Charlotte they seem to spend most of their time irritated at each other.  Even Charlotte’s attitude, with a giant chip on her shoulder, and an apparent lifelong grudge toward Bryant because he left a spider in her desk years ago, is ridiculous.  It reaches a point where the reader just wants to reach in through the pages of the book, slap Charlotte upside the head and tell her “Get over yourself!”
“It’s a Mall World After All” by Janette Rallison is a decent book, and well-written despite the slightly frustrating plot everything turns out satisfying in the end.  It will appeal to teenage readers interested in a realistic fiction romance story.
Inkweaver Review Rating:

Inkweaver Review 2010-11-09T08:06:00-06:00

“Zen and the Art of Faking It” by Jordan Sonnenblick

“Zen and the Art of Faking It” by Jordan Sonnenblick is a realistic fiction novel about a boy who invents a better personality for himself so that he can be popular at his new school.
San Lee has a lot of experience with blending in.  His family moves quite regularly, and at each school San Lee gets a chance to build a new identity so that he can blend in with the pack.  In California he was a skater.  In Houston he was a rich preppy kid.  In Germany he was a pretend-jock.  But now San Lee is in a new place: a small town in Pennsylvania.  And he is also facing a new situation: his family is no longer rich.  His father is now in jail, busted for embezzling funds and cheating people in numerous states.
Now San Lee no longer has the funds to outfit himself in cool clothes and join one of the traditional school packs.  The government took everything his family owned and they are still in debt while they pay off what San Lee’s father stole.  San Lee doesn’t even have any sneakers, just a pair of sandals.  And in the cold winter air of Pennsylvania going without sandals or a coat isn’t exactly comfortable.  But even worse than that, it also means that San Lee can’t fit in to any of the other’s children’s groups.
So when San Lee inadvertently acquires the nickname Buddha Boy he decides to run with it.  If he can’t fit in then he better do his best to stick out.  San Lee decides to use his Asian genetics, his sketchy knowledge of Zen Buddhism, and a good bit of shear luck to carve out a custom place for himself.
Little does San Lee know just how far things will go.  Before long he has attracted Woody, a charming girl with long hair, alluring gray eyes and a love for playing guitar.  When San Lee and Woody are assigned to work together on a class project on world religion it seems natural to Woody that they cover Zen Buddhism.  Of course, this prompts San Lee to do a lot of unintended research to maintain his “religious” appearance.
Before long San Lee will have to overcome his life long fear of bugs to prove that he accepts the Zen monk’s policy of respecting all animals, even insects.  And he will also start “meditating” each morning on the cold rock just out front of the middle school.
But things get worse.  The local basketball team adopts San Lee as their unofficial mascot after a group of middle school teens become convinced that San Lee might be a reincarnated mystic, perhaps Buddha himself.  San Lee is starting to think things have gone too far, especially since Zen Buddhism means that he must repudiate “earthly desires”, and that means he can’t date Woody, who he has a secret crush on.
Jordan Sonnenblick has created a humorous and charming novel.  “Zen and the Art of Faking It” is fun to read, while at the same time teaching important lessons about honesty.  The plot has a perfect ending which stresses the importance of telling the truth, especially to a girl that you love.
But educational aspect aside, “Zen and the Art of Faking It” is a great, recreational read.  I’m sure that San Lee’s escapades will be enjoyed by many readers.
I definitely recommend “Zen and the Art of Faking It” by Jordan Sonnenblick to all middle grade and older teen readers.
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Inkweaver Review 2010-11-09T08:02:00-06:00

“The Fruit Bowl Project” by Sarah Durkee

“The Fruit Bowl Project” by Sarah Durkee is an unusual book about a class writing project motivated by a famous rock star.

When the kids in Ms. Vallis’ eighth grade writer’s workshop learn that rock superstar Nick Thompson is come to speak with them they are thrilled. Suddenly writing seems a lot more exciting.

When the day finally comes and Nick Thompson actually walks in the classroom door it seems too good to be true. Of course the kids have a lot of questions about Nick’s music career and other subjects, and Nick answers them. But then he guides the kids back to the subject at hand: writing.

According to Nick Thompson the songs he writes are like a bowl of fruit. Just like a million artists could all paint that bowl of fruit from a different perspective, even a simple subject can be covered in an infinite number of ways through the power of writing.

Nick challenges the class to write a story in any style that they want. The plot is simple: a boy drops his pencil while taking a test in school. As he picks up the pencil he bumps a girl’s arm and the girl is very angry at him because he joggled her arm. The girl accuses the boy of dropping his pencil so that he could bend over and cheat by looking at her test. Later that day the boy tells his friend a joke that is so funny it makes him spew milk out of his nose all over his lunch. Both boys throw away their lunches.

The plot seems boring and totally simple. The children are incredulous. Is this the best that Nick Thompson can come up with? But then Nick Thompson tells them the point of the project. You can make any subject interesting. You just have to choose a unique perspective, just like the artists that are all painting an image of the same bowl of fruit but from different angles.

So the children of Ms. Vallis’ class embark on the Fruit Bowl Project, a project that will have exciting and fantastic results.

I really enjoyed “The Fruit Bowl Project” by Sarah Durkee. The book’s introduction is fairly short. Readers don’t get much of a chance to meet and bond with the characters. However, in the large view the point of “The Fruit Bowl Project” is not the characters, the students who will be the writers. Rather the focus is on their written work.

More than half of “The Fruit Bowl Project” is devoted to the finished product: a volume of forty-nine different pieces written about the same event. Among the eclectic results are raps, poems, sonnets, monologues, screen plays and musicals, newspaper articles, fairy tales, interviews, cross-examinations and horror stories.

Sarah Durkee must have had fun writing “The Fruit Bowl Project” and it comes through in her writing. The idea of portraying one simple event in so many different ways is simply genius and very inspiring as well.

I highly recommend that all young readers or aspiring writers experience “The Fruit Bowl Project” by Sarah Durkee.

Inkweaver Review Rating:
Inkweaver Review 2010-11-09T08:00:00-06:00