Margot

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This book is a different than the ones I’ve read lately. Instead of being just a work of fiction, this novel combines historical facts with a fictionalized story. Margot is the name of Anne Frank’s older sister, who died after the family was captured and sent to the camps. American author Jillian Cantor writes an account of what could have happened if Margot had lived and escaped to the United States.

The story picks up in 1959. Margot is living as Margie Franklin in Philadelphia and has a job as a secretary at a law firm. No one knows the truth about her identity or her past, and she intends to keep it that way. While helping to work on a complicated case with one of the lawyers, she also attempts to find Peter, one of the people the Franks lived with while in hiding.

Cantor did a good job at imagining the interactions between Anne and Margot, described throughout the story in a series of flashbacks.

However, although Margot’s stress and paranoia is realistic,  I thought Cantor over-romanticized Margot’s character too much. Margot imagines her life as a happily married women without any worries or responsibilities. While I understand Margot’s desire to fit in after all she went through, I found that her fantasies happened too often and disrupted the flow of the story. It made it harder for me to continue reading, as I found myself being able to predict what happens.

While the historical elements of this novel are interesting, a more realistic character would have made the novel more worth reading. Cantor made a solid effort with historical facts, but I think focusing on pure fiction is more her strength.

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Autumn Falls

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A few weeks ago while at the library, I came across a novel by somebody named Bella Thorne. I recognized the her as a current Disney star. Even though I haven’t watched the channel in a few years, I decided to give it a try.

The story deals with Autumn Falls, a teenager who moves from Maryland to Florida following her father’s unexpected death. Starting at a new school, she makes friends easily, but soon gets caught up in drama with the school’s popular girl and dealing with the grief from her father’s death. This does sound like the cliched premise that is present in many young adult novels, but there is one element that makes the novel worth reading. Autumn receives a gift from her grandmother- a seemingly ordinary journal. When she starts writing in it, she finds that some of her entries about events she wishes would happen are actually occurring in real life, creating a sense of deja vu.

The concept is interesting enough, a take on the idea of wishes actually coming true and later regretting them. But there is also the element of dealing with the loss of a family member. I was surprised that Autumn did not mention her father too often, but after learning that Bella Thorne herself lost her father, I understood the reasons a little more. Everyone has different ways of coping with grief. Some go through periods of sadness, while others play out.

Thorne also incorporates several of her own traits into the character of Autumn, one of them being dyslexia. I thought that was interesting, since I haven’t read a book that contains the character having a learning disability. It made her much more relatable and added humor to the story.

Overall, the novel is a solid first try. It would have been better if the ending wasn’t as rushed.

Schooled

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This is a book I first read when I was in high school, but recently found as an Amazon eBook for cheap and decided to re-read it. Although targeted toward a younger demographic, I found the plot interesting enough to appeal to me.

Written by popular children’s author Gordon Korman, Schooled follows Capricorn Anderson, a teenager who has spent his entire life living a traditional, isolated life on a farm with his grandmother. After his grandmother has an accident and has to stay in the hospital, Cap finds himself facing culture shock when he’s sent to public school and experiencing life in the real world for the first time.

I like Korman’s writing style. Instead of having Cap narrate the entire story, the perspective alternates between multiple students and adults. It gives the story more angles and humor, though Korman keeps the topics simple enough. Cap’s culture shock point-of-view only adds more comical tones to the story, since he is clueless to just about everything from lockers to football and normal social skills. However, as funny as the plot is, I did find that there were some underlying messages in the story, like accepting other people’s cultural differences and dealing with events that have shaped the past and person you are.

Overall, I found this a quick, easy read for both adults and students.

A Midsummer’s Nightmare

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After finding that I enjoyed Kody Keplinger’s novel The Duff, I decided to read A Midsummer’s Nightmare,  another one of her books.

This story revolves around Whitley Johnson, a girl who has just graduated high school. When she goes to spend the summer at her dad’s, she discovers that he’s engaged to a women- whose son Nathan is the guy Whitley had a one night stand with at a party earlier in the summer. Whitley must overcome the awkwardness with Nathan and accept her new family while dealing with the cyberbullying she experiences on Facebook.

One quality I liked about this novel was how it overlapped with the characters from The Duff. Whitley becomes friends with Harrison Carlyle, who was a minor character in The Duff, while major characters Wesley and Bianca also make an appearance.

Although I enjoyed the book, it reminded me of a Sarah Dessen novel in several ways, particularly with the unique names, the concept of the protagonist’s parents being split up and the overlapping characters. However, I liked that Keplinger addressed modern issues, like cyberbullying and ways to deal with it.

Though the plot of this book doesn’t feel as original as The Duff, I still enjoyed it and will be sure to check out her other novels.