Kim Fu – The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

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Kim Fu – The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

A summer camp for young girls aged nine to twelve. Mostly rich, but there are also some poor ones granted scholarships so that they can take part, too. The rules have been the same over decades, everything in Camp Forevermore is as it has always been. Part of the camp experience is a kayak tour which the girls complete in small groups and which leaves them on isolated islands for a night. Siobhan, Nita, Andee, Isabel and Dina thus are assigned to the oldest and toughest camp supervisor. Yet, unexpectedly, the girls do not end in the spot they were destined to but find themselves on a different, much larger and completely isolated island, their chaperone dead and they themselves running out of food. Now, the real survival lesson begins.

The idea of a bunch of girls having to face raw nature and survive in unknown territory sounded quite intriguing to me. I anticipated it to be a bit like a girl version of the “Lord of the Flies” and I was curious to read how a group of girls develops under those conditions. Yet, the story of the lost girls is just a part of the novel. Their adventure is broken up by narrations about what happens to the girls later in life, their fate after surviving Camp Forevermore. This not only came a bit unexpected, but also shifted the focus away from the actual story to what such an experience makes with people and how they can never really get over it.

Kim Fu has a very lively style of writing. The characters seem authentic and you quickly get a good idea of their different personalities. I liked her writing most in the parts where the girls struggle to survive, she is great at portraying their fears, hate and desperation. Without any question, the girls’ later lives are also interesting and the author actually did a great job in developing the girls further as adults. However, I would have preferred to read more about Camp Forevermore and the girls desperate situation.

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Robin Wasserman – Girls on Fire

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Robin Wasserman – Girls on Fire

Hannah Dexters Leben ist ereignislos, wenn man es positiv ausdrücken möchte. Langweilig, wenn man es realistisch betrachtet. Sie hat keine wirklichen Freunde und wird weitgehend ignoriert. Das ist nicht schlecht, denn so vermeidet man auch alles, was einen verletzten oder später im Leben schaden kann. Nachdem ein Mitschüler sich das Leben genommen hat, sucht Lacey Champlain Kontakt zu ihr. Die neue, wilde Mitschülerin, von der man noch nichts weiß, obwohl sie schon seit Monaten in dieselbe Klasse geht. Die beiden Mädchen könnten kaum verschiedener sein: Hannah das brave, wohlerzogene Mädchen, Lacey äußerlich wie innerlich rebellisch. Lacey zeigt Hannah, wie sie auch sein kann, bringt ihr Musik nahe, vor allem Nirvana, und trinkt zum ersten Mal mit ihr. Langsam wird auch dem gehorsamen Teenager ein eine aufsässige junge Frau, die in einen Strudel von Lügen und Betrug gerät, ohne es zu merken. Das Mädchen wird zum Spielball und für hinterhältige Zwecke missbraucht. Aber ist es wirklich Lacey, die hinter allem steckt?

Robin Wasserman hat ihren Roman in die Anfänge der 1990er verlegt und den Ursprüngen des Grunge und der aufstrebenden Band Nirvana so ein kleines Denkmal gesetzt. Ihr Roman ist bezogen auf das Genre nicht ganz einfach einzuordnen, einerseits geht es um zwei Mädchen, die langsam erwachsen werden – mit allen schönen und hässlichen Seiten, da liegt Young Adult nahe. Gleichzeitig schildert sie aber auch sehr drastisch psychologische „Kriegsführung“, emotionaler Missbrauch und Gewalt, was nicht wirklich für Jugendliche geeignet ist. Ein interessanter Genremix, der sich am Ende zu einem wahrhaftigen Psychothriller entwickelt.

Die beiden Protagonistinnen sind glaubwürdig gezeichnet und könnten verschiedener kaum sein, was von Beginn an die Frage aufwirft, was sie verbindet. Das Band wird erst ganz zum Ende sichtbar, zwar deutet sich einiges an, aber clever wird immer wieder eine leichte Variante erzählt, andere Aspekte kommen hinzu und indem Robin Wasserman die beiden im Wechsel erzählen lässt – immer wieder kurz unterbrochen von Einwürfen anderer Figuren – dauert es, bis man als Leser durchschaut, welches Spiel gespielt wird und welche Koalitionen sich im Hintergrund bzw. vor der eigentlichen Handlung gebildet hatten. Vor allem die psychologischen Aspekte, die Motive und die erkennbaren Störungen der Mädchen sind der Autorin glaubwürdig gelungen.

Ein spannendes Buch über ausgesprochen destruktive Figuren, spannend geschrieben und mit einer cleveren Handlungsführung, die die amerikanische Provinz zum Tatort hinterhältigster Verbrechen macht.

 

Marieke Nijkamp – Before I let go

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Marieke Nijkamp – Before I let Go

For sixteen years, Corey and Kyra have been friends. Together they roamed the forests of Lost Creek, Alaska, went to school together and spent their free time together. Then, six months ago, Corey moved away with her mother and younger brother and left Kyra alone. Alone in a town who hated the girl because she was different. Her maniac-depressive behaviour irritated the 250 inhabitants of the small city; she was at best invisible, at worst an outsider. Two days before Corey is due to visit, Kyra is found dead. Beneath the ice of a lake in mid-winter. For Corey this is not only a shock, but unbelievable. Kyra cannot be dead and she would never have killed herself so shortly before her arrival. Her suspicion grows the closer she comes to her former hometown and finally there, she is not greeted with unanimous joy.

Marieke Nijkamp’s novel is set against the Alaskan winter which perfectly reflects the mood of the novel. The atmosphere is gloomy and often spooky throughout the story and at times it actually gave me the creeps. It is a wonderful merge of a young adult novel and a thriller.

Yet, first of all, it is a novel about friendship. Corey remembers her time with Kyra, the good ones and the bad ones and she is ruminating about the question if she has left her friend, left her alone with the ill-natured people of Lost Creek who resented her with her escapades. Could she have prevented a possible suicide or even murder of her friend? A tough question for a sixteen-year-old girl alone and face to face with a whole hostile town.

On the other hand, it is a novel about life in a reclusive community who considers people who moved away outsiders after only a short time and who are hard to anybody who does not fit in their world-view. Where people do not talk much to somebody who does not belong to the inner circle. And a community who lives to its own laws and values. After only a couple of months, Corey does not understand them anymore, does not recognise the people she once loved anymore.

Looming above all this is the question what happened to Kyra. Did she really change after Corey left? Did the people actually change in the last couple of weeks? Or is this just the story Corey is told to hide the truth.

The author has a great talent in making you feel with the protagonist, I experienced this when I read her novel “This is where it ends” about a school shooting, too. “Before I let go” is a quick read that I enjoyed a lot.

Eliza Robertson – Demi-Gods

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Eliza Robertson – Demi-Gods

Summertime in the early 1950s. Willa and her older sister Joan would like to have a relaxing time at their summer home together with their mom. But the mother has a new lover, Eugene, and to the girls‘ surprise, Eugene has invited his two sons to spend the summer with them. Kenneth and Patrick are slightly older than the girls immediately attract their attention. No, they definitely are not like brothers and sisters, Joan and Kenneth quickly fall for each other. For Willa and Patrick things are not that easy. Over the next years, they regularly meet and between Willa and Patrick a strange connection is formed. On the one hand, the boy can arouse feelings in her, but on the other, what he is doing to her repels her and she senses that his behaviour is far from being normal and acceptable. But what is there she can to about it? It will take years until she can free herself.

“Demi-God” – according to the Merriam-Webster definition, it is a mythological being with more power than a mortal but less than a god or a person so outstanding as to seem to approach the divine. For all female members of the family, the male counterparts are somehow demi-gods, at least in so far as they cannot refrain from their attraction. The mother is charmed by Eugene, Joan falls for Kenneth and also Willa has a special liking for Patrick. It is not quite clear what makes those three that outstanding, but their appeal is obvious. They can exert power over the women in different ways, but it is only Patrick how openly abuses this.

Before coming to this, what I liked especially about the novel was the atmosphere. You can sense immediately that Eliza Robertson is great at creating certain moods and you actually can feel this carefree time of being young during summer holidays when the days seem endless, when the sun is shining and when there are no worries and fears. I also appreciated her characters, first of all the mother who is neither completely stereotypical but nevertheless clearly represents a certain kind of woman of her time. In the focus of the novel are the girls and their relationship. It is not always easy to be sisters, at times they can confide in each other, at others they can’t. Yet, there is something like unconditional love between them, if one needs the other, she can surely count on her.

In this nice and loving ambiance now enters the evil that can be found in human beings. To name it openly, the novel is about sexual abuse, about menacing and exerting power over a weaker person. Willa is first too young, then unsure of how to react and how to qualify what happens to her. It is not the all bad and awful situation – this is what makes the novel especially impressive. It only happens at single instances, partly, she isn’t even sure if she did actually refuse it or even contributed to it happening. This makes it even more awful, because the girl is left alone with her feelings and worries. She plays normal and hides what has happened. It does not take much to imagine that there might be millions of girls out there suffering from the same abuse and feeling helpless and powerless.

Thus, the novel takes up a very serious topic and hopefully some readers might recognize that what Willa is going through is far from acceptable and can find a way of seeking help if they are in need.

Zoe Whittall – The Best Kind of People

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Zoe Whittall – The Best Kind of People

Avalon Hills, Connecticut. The Woodbury family is a kind of an institution in the small community. George’s father has helped to set up the town, George himself is a popular teacher and a hero since he prevented a school shooting ten years ago. His wife Joan works as a nurse and actively contributes to different kinds of charity work, their son Andrew is a successful lawyer in New York and their 17-year-old daughter Sadie a real prodigy. Their life is just perfect. Until one day, a bomb explodes and blows up their whole life: some underage girls accuse George of having tried to rape them during a school trip. What seems to be unbelievable is taken serious by the police and George has to go to prison. Slowly, the family’s confidence in the father’s innocence falls apart. Is he really the man they believed he was?

Zoe Whittall’s novel is a masterpiece in character study. She does not focus on sensationalist facts, actually the accusations, the arguments and the evidence brought forward to support George’s guilt just play a random role in the novel. The centre are Joan and Sadie, wife and daughter who are confronted with the question if they have been fooled and who have to struggle with conflicting emotions within themselves. Their development from absolute supporter, via sceptical but still loyal to building a life without him is remarkably and convincingly portrayed.

It is especially Sadie who can persuade me as a reader. A teenager who is completely knocked off the track, whose life was well organised, everything prearranged and clear in every respect has now to cope with uncertainties, with shades of grey, gets to know her former friends from a completely new and absolutely hostile side. Confused over whom and what to believe, she loses contact to her inner self, tries out pot and pills to numb down her irritating feelings. Strong only for hours or moments, then thrown back again. She is a very authentic character and her struggles appear to be quite authentic.

Since we only get one perspective, the one of the family, we do not really know what actually happened, we never really hear George’s point of view and thus the reader is kept in the dark throughout the novel. There are hints that all might have been set up, yet, then, there is evidence that George is guilty and has not been faithful – in this way, there is an underlying suspense which keeps you going on reading. I enjoyed the novel, for me, it absolutely fulfilled the expectations.

Steve Schafer – The Border

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Steve Schafer – The Border

It was meant to be the great celebration as it is a tradition in Mexico: Carmen’s 15th birthday, the so called quinceañera to which many friends of the family were invited. But then suddenly shouting and gunshots. Just a couple of minutes later, almost all guests are dead, shot in the head. Only the teenagers Pato and Arbo, best friends since they were born, and the siblings Marcos and Gladys have survived because they had gone outside and could hide in the backyard. Then they are seen and they have to run. In Mexico under to law of rivalling gangs no one can escape their verdict. They must go north, to the USA, take the hard route through the desert without money, without knowing how. An old friend of Pato’s father helps them at first, and hides them for a couple of days, but the gangs are after them and soon the four lost souls find themselves out in the blazing sun without water or orientation.

Steve Schafer’s novel narrates a story we mainly know from the news: Mexico, a country in which the governmental institutions are powerless against the well-organised gangs who rule not only the drug market but also the human trafficking business. It is with them you have to come to terms with and either you accept their rules or you find yourself shot dead. The story thus seems to be quite authentic and especially the people’s fear which is omnipresent throughout the plot gives a good impression of what life is like there.

In the centre, we have two main aspects. The first is the illegal transgression of the northern border. It is not only the danger of being caught by the border patrol – neither on the Mexican nor on the US side this is something you can with for. It is also the dangerous and often fatal route through the desert. During daytime, the sun is burning hot and since you cannot carry as much water as you’d normally need, it is a tricky calculation if your supplies will suffice for your route. On the other hand, without a local guide, you are soon lost and erring around the sandy landscape. The four teenagers, too, make these experiences which more than once bring them close to death. Also the other refugees who pop out now and again tell the same story. Additionally, this is a market and again, you cannot just you what you want to without following the rules of the gangs.

The second and even more interesting aspect is the relationship between the four of them. For one thing, they are too young to know why their parents were shot. This question is looming over them, especially when Pato and Arbo come to realise that Marcos, who is a bit older, seems to know something. And when the two boys have to accept that their fathers’ business might not have been what they always thought it was and that they, too, might have made deals with the gangs, they have to adapt everything they ever believed in to this. Further, being threatened by death brings them closer together at times and more apart at others. They are on the edge with their nerves and often close to just giving up.

The author especially succeeds in the psychological portrayal of the characters under those extreme conditions. They are lively and never act like adults might in their place. They have a survival instinct but nevertheless stick to their teenage convictions shaped by the idea of friendship and mutual support. All in all, a young adult novel with the typical topics of the genre presented under the most awful conditions and written at a high pace which makes you read on.

Shannon McCrimmon – The Summer I Learned to Dive

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Shannon McCrimmon – The Summer I Learned to Dive

Was sind die typischen Versatzstücke von Young Adult Romanen?

  1. die Protagonistin:

– sehr strebsam und intelligent

– sehr hübsch, ohne sich dessen bewusst zu sein

– lebt fernab der Realität und ist sich des Lebens eines Teenagers nicht bewusst

– keinerlei Erfahrung mit Alkohol, Jungs, Sex, Partys etc.

  1. Der Protagonist:

– schüchterner Junge, auf den alle Mädchen stehen, der aber auf „die Eine“ wartet

– makelloser Charakter

– würde nie Alkohol anrühren

– absolut selbstlos gegenüber seiner Familie

  1. die Handlung:

– Protagonistin kommt an fremden Ort, wo Protagonist lebt

– gerät zunächst an die falschen Freunde, Protagonist muss sie retten

– macht erste Erfahrungen im echten Leben, lernt: Alkohol ist böse

– durchlebt Familienkrise, Protagonist steht zu ihr

– Krise war eigentlich nur ein Missverständnis und wird so schnell erfolgreich gemeistert

– am Ende: alles Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen

Prüft man Shannon McCrimmons Roman „The Summer I Learned to Dive“ auf diese Punkte, erhält sie vollen Zuschlag. Die 18-jähige Finn erfährt zufällig von einem lange gehüteten Familiengeheimnis. Sie reist nachts heimlich ab, um ihre unbekannten Großeltern zu besuchen. Dort verliebt sie sich in den wunderbaren Jesse und erlebt im Schnelldurchlauf alles, was Teenager sonst in ein paar Jahren durchmachen. Gegen Ende noch großes Familiendrama, lange Aussprache, alles gut.

Da es ein amerikanischer Roman war noch die üblichen Moralpredigten: Alkohol ist böse, vergib Deinen Liebsten auch wenn sie dich jahrelang belogen haben, kein Sex im Teenagerroman.

Der Roman bietet wenig Überraschungen und ist so locker geschrieben, dass er sich entspannt an einem Nachmittag lesen lässt. Wie er zu 900 3-5 Sterne Bewertungen auf Goodreads kommt, bleibt für mich jedoch schleierhaft. Überbordende Lobeshymnen über das Buch, das so anders ist als all die anderen im Genre (?!?).

Berechtigte Frage: warum liest jemand ein YA Roman, wenn er das Genre offenbar doof findet? Kurz vorm Zubettgehen habe ich gestern einen neuen Roman benötigt und lustlos meinen Kindle nach etwas Leichtem und Sommertauglichen durchblättert. Das Cover war hübsch (und so passend zum Sommer) und wenn ich schon mal angefangen habe, lese ich ein Buch auch fertig, noch dazu wenn es so kurz ist. Fazit: manche Prinzipien sollte man vielleicht über Bord werfen.