Book Review: Lemonade Mouth

I may not have been the brightest bulb in my family, but you don’t have to be a genius to know that it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.

Look, we all know I read Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes because it was turned into a Disney Channel movie. I might have waited a little longer to read the book if not for the fact that Hughes’s website says an age appropriate version of the book is being released. WELL. I had to know what in the original book is not appropriate for middle schoolers post haste. So to the library I went.

What I Liked

– The premise for this book is fantastic. Five freshmen wind up in detention and then find out they make beautiful music together. Is it fate? Coincidence? And how do these five teens who are trying to avoid attention deal with being in a band that attracts attention?

– Five really great and interesting characters, all with distinct reasons for staying in the band. BONUS: Ethnically and racially diverse as well. Charlie is Latino and Mo is Indian.

– Alternating narratives/points of view.

– I also like the overall message of effecting change with small acts. Oh, and of course how music can bring people together.

– I wish I could hear the music the band plays because it sounds so interesting/different. A ukulele married with a trumpet and congos and classical bass? WHAT. Let me hear some of that.

What I Didn’t Like

– This book is SO BORING. I just so completely didn’t engage with the characters or care about their lives. I mean, there was good stuff in here! An illicit romance, unrequited love, imprisoned dad, hottie/lust object of a stepmom, fish out of water, absent parents, overbearing parents, a dead twin, overachievers, overnight popularity, etc. AND YET. I just wanted the book to either (a) be interesting or (b) be over.

– As far as I can tell, the only bit that may need to be changed is Wen’s whole embarrassing deal of getting a boner on the first day of school. Because, of course, no middle schooler can relate to that. I don’t even know.

In conclusion: I hope the tween appropriate version is more interesting.

Support Your Local Library: 25/30; YA Challenge: 21/20; Page to Screen: 3/5; POC Challenge: 15/15

Q&A with author Ernessa T. Carter

As a participant in the book tour for Ernessa T. Carter’s 32 Candles (see my review here), I got an opportunity to ask her some questions about the role hair plays in her book as well as a little bit about her own hair care routine as well as her natural hair journey.

Author Ernessa T. Carter rocking a fly TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro for the uninitiated).

Davidia, the main character in 32 Candles, wears an Afro much to the chagrin of her boss, Nicky. Why did you decide to have Davie wear and maintain natural hair? What do you want readers to learn from her? Also, how does Davie feel about her hair?

At the time I was writing 32 CANDLES, I had super-long locs, which were starting to get on my nerves. My hair was too long and I was gathering the courage to cut it. At the time I would have given anything to keep my length and just wear it in large Afro. But that wasn’t in the cards, so Davie got to rock the bodacious Afro. The truth is I was living vicariously through her. Still, I love that one of Davie’s worse features (her hair) eventually becomes one of her best with proper care.

As far as I can remember, Davie and Mama Jane are the only two characters with natural hair. Any particular reason for this choice?

Well, the majority of African-American women aren’t natural. It wasn’t a deliberate choice to make all the other female characters have relaxed hair. On the contrary, I think Davie’s the only person in the novel, who made a super-conscious decision to wear her hair the way she does.

I love your hair in all of the photos I’ve seen of you. Would you mind sharing your hair routine? Favorite products?

Oh, the hair routine seems to change every other month, since I big chopped again last fall. But right now I shampoo once a week with Giovanni’s TeaTree and condition/detangle with Hello Hydration. Then I put in some Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Cream and kind of do this shingling/twisting action with EcoStyler Olive Oil gel. But it’s almost long enough to do a twist out soon, so I’m looking forward to that.

How are you wearing your hair right now?

Right now, I’m on vacation in Hawaii, so it’s been two weeks of wash-and-gos after daily activity in the ocean. I just co-wash every day with Hello Hydration, scrunch in some fantasia IC gel and finish it off with Moroccan Oil. Easy-peezy.

Let’s talk a little bit about your natural hair journey. Did you always wear your natural hair? If not, what made you decide to return to your roots (so to speak)?  How did you transition?

I’ve actually been natural since I was seventeen. It’s been a long journey from a TWA to 12yo locks and back to a small fro: I wrote all about it here:

I know from reading your blog that you have a little girl. How do you make hair time special for your daughter?

Dude, I totally don’t make hair time special with my two-year-old daughter. Usually it’s me spritzing her hair and throwing in some product before styling it into two puffs. It doesn’t take me more than five minutes. I’m looking forward to when she’s older and we can actually spend some quality doing her hair. Meanwhile she’s a squirming toddler, and I’m a busy mother, so five minutes is all we get.

What’s your favorite way to style her hair? What’s her favorite hairstyle?

I think the two puffs I usually put her in are super-cute, but if it were up to her no-style would be her favorite style. She loves messing with her hair, just jamming her fingers into her hair — and mine! I can’t tell you how many times she’s messed up a fresh style. It’s hard out here for a natural mom.

Finally, any favorite resources for natural haircare?

I’m a huge CURLYNIKKI.COM fan. And I’ve had to stop watching natural hair care videos on YouTube, because I’ve lost literal hours watching other women walk me through their hair routines.

It was really great talking about the natural hair component of the book. Thanks for the fresh take.

And thank you, Ernessa, for taking the time out to answer my questions!

You can read more from Ernessa at her blog Fierce and Nerdy, and, of course, in her book 32 Candles.

Book Tour Review: 32 Candles

“[A Molly Ringwald Ending is] a perfect ending. It’s when somehow, against all odds, people manage to surmount all issues of class, status, and personality to get together at the end of a story.” I thought about that definition, and then realized for the first time: “It’s basically impossible. I’ve never seen that kind of ending happen in real life. I mean not ever.”

When I was invited to participate in the book tour for 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter, I was super excited. Not only is it my first book tour, but I’ve heard great things about the book, and, of course, that meant I had no excuse to put off reading it any longer.

32 Candles follows narrator Davie Jones from a Mississippi adolescent who is obsessed with Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald movies, and the John Hughes oeuvre to a Los Angeles adult who has to confront her past and realize what a happy ending really is.

What I Liked

– Davie. She’s a great character: good willed, strong natured, and incredibly flawed. The pain and rejection she experiences influences so much of who she is, but I love that she’s not a sadsack character. She’s full of life and, more importantly, funny.  She’s also a little crazy. But, hey, aren’t we all?

– Nicky. Oh gosh, I just love Nicky. He’s so fully realized, and I just have such a clear picture of him in my mind. I keep trying to figure out what it means that I’m so drawn to these kinds of anal, control freak characters, but I figure it’s because they’re so amazing.

– I love that Carter manages to take a look at Hollywood fantasy (my argument is always that realistic teen fiction always has an element of fantasy) and shows how detrimental clinging to these kinds of false narratives can be while at the same time showing they can be empowering. I mean, yes, maybe you won’t get the guy or the perfect ending, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go after what you want.

–  I love that it takes Davie thirty-two years to come of age. It makes sense. Her growth is stunted by trauma and her mentality kind of gets stuck at sixteen. (Through Nicky, Carter calls attention to that fact in a great scene.) While I love, love YA fic, most of us don’t really come of age/mature by eighteen, so I dig that Carter recognizes this in her novel. Davie is still emotionally sixteen.

– I really, really enjoyed the way Davie came into her own.

– I found the book delightfully unpredictable. I mean, obvs, she is going to run into the people from her childhood again (why else spend so much time talking about them?), but a few twists kept me guessing. I’m a hard reader to surprise, so that’s always pleasant for me.

– I love, love the cover. So great.

– This book is a ridiculously engaging read. And considering the fact that once I signed on for the book tour, it became required reading, that’s saying a lot. I read it practically in one sitting. (Okay, over the course of a weekend. When I had other things I should have been doing.)

What I Didn’t Like

– I wanted some (most) of the relationships to be developed more. Everyone’s purpose in Davie’s life is clear, and it makes sense that a lot of the relationships are shallow, but there was still a lot of room for development in pretty much every relationship, especially the friendships.

– Some major revelations are glossed over, which makes me wonder why they were included. They don’t really seem to have an effect on Davie, and, if that’s the case, why does the reader need to know?

In conclusion:  I found this to be a fun summer read, perfect for the pool or beach.

I received this book for free from the publisher to review. Check out Ernessa T. Carter’s blog posts at Fierce and Nerdy and stay tuned for a Q&A with the author!

Quirky Brown: 5/3; POC: 14/15

Book Review: Spanking Shakespeare

Mr. Parke returns our writing. He writes on my paper that humor is wonderful, but I am using it as a defense mechanism to avoid confronting myself in a more substantive and honest way. He says I need to spend time reflecting on who I am and why I always cast myself as the victim in my life’s story. He sounds a lot like my mother. She’s been pushing me for years to see a therapist.

Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner is the story of Shakespeare Shapiro, a kid who has a hard life because his name is Shakespeare. I mean, really. Isn’t that enough?

What I Liked

– This book is wickedly funny and smart. Shakespeare is one of those kids who thinks his life is so horrible, but he is really well-loved and has great, though embarrassing, parents. Wizner’s narration makes it really obvious that Shakespeare is able to find the humor in his life, but that he really doesn’t have for real problems. Part of that is done through the introduction of Charlotte.

– Shakespeare’s parents are fantastic. Not just because they name their kids Shakespeare and Gandhi, but because they, too,  are wickedly funny and clever.

– Great characters all around, actually.

– It’s no secret that I’m a great big lit nerd, so I found all of the literary references awesome. One of the girls Shakespeare has a crush on is a pretentious girl named Celeste, so he writes her a (funny) poem about all of these great authors, and they spend time talking about books and literature, and he’s all, “Is this how literary people flirt?”

– I appreciate the vulgarity of the novel. Call me easy to please but any time masturbation is referred to as “mass spermicide,” I’m going to laugh.

– The situations in Shakespeare’s memoir are really funny and engaging.

What I Didn’t Like

– Unfortunately, the cleverness of the novel wears thin after a while. I thought the beginning was really engaging, but, by the middle, I wanted Wizner to get on with it. As the breakout quote says, Shakespeare needs to grow, but it takes FORever for him to do so. That said, I did like the end of the novel.

– I seriously feel like I read this book before. Maybe I read part of it and got bored by it? I had the weirdest sense of reading déjà vu after I hit the middle of the book. If I have read it and don’t remember it, that’s definitely not good.

– Really, this was a bathroom book. Which is kind of appropriate given Neil’s fascination with bathrooms. (Neil is Shakespeare’s best friend.)

In conclusion: A fun and funny book that loses steam around the middle but picks up again for a satisfying conclusion.

Support Your Local Library: 24/30; YA Challenge: 20/20