Monday, August 9, 2010

The Not-So-Great Depression

When this book arrived from the publisher (Roaring Book Press) I thought it was going to be a silly, poorly-written, fluff of a teen book (sorry, Amy Goldman Koss). Okay, so it's definitely for girls, there is plenty of screaming & giggling, and it probably won't change your life or your view of the world, but it's read-aloud-portions-to-whoever-is-around funny (thank you, Amy Goldman Koss).

Ninth-grader Jacki's life is pretty charmed. Even though her parents divorced when she was 8, her older sister Brooke is leaving for college soon and her younger brother Mitch only thinks about food, sports, & his iPod, they are a happy family. Jacki has everything she needs - Emily, her best friend; a really cute boy named Adam B. to distract her; an organic baker father to bring her fresh baked goods; and a lovely home with a pool in L.A. The only thing she doesn't have in her life is a hamster (she's working on this) and a clear idea of what she wants to be when she grows up (unlike her sister).

Her history teacher keeps going on and on about a big recession but it never really hits home with Jacki until her mom loses her high-paying, high-stress job. A series of not-so-great events threaten to ruin what started out to be a pretty decent year. The only job offer her mom finds is in Casper, Wyoming, even if they don't move there they will probably have to sell their house, Jacki breaks her foot, and her sister's dreams of going to a fancy university out East are crushed by their family's tanking investments. They are forced to re-think what it is that makes them happy, both as a family and as individuals. As they start to formulate what the next year of their lives will look like the most profound statement of the story is made during a conversion among Jacki, Brooke, and their mom. I recount it here:

Brooke says, "It will be a year worth living."
I [Jackie] laugh, "All years are worth living."
Brooke shrugs and says, "Some are spent waiting to live."

While Jacki serves as narrator and the principle voice in the story, she didn't necessarily feel like the main character somehow. It felt much more like it was about her whole family, which was refreshing to me. It was very nice to read a book for high school girls that was light-hearted in tone even though it dealt with some real-life issues. Jacki is a somewhat self-centered airhead but what ninth-grade girl isn't at some point? This was fun reading!

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