Showing 81 - 90 of 221 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn

Life As I Knew It

Hacker, Randi

Last Updated: May-25-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Angelina Rossini tells the story of the year her father died. A lively, opinionated, attractive sixty-nine-year-old Italian happily married to a forty-two-year-old English woman, he has hardly been an inconspicuous presence in the small town of Blodgett, Vermont with a population of 854. Angelina, the only child of this second marriage, loves her father dearly, though she rolls her eyes at his eccentricities, and knows herself to be fortunate in both parents, though they're older, and her mother somewhat less expressive, than she would choose. Her best friend, Jax, belongs to a very different family, large, blue-collar, partly French Canadian. Though she and Jax have been friends since kindergarten, and though she has known for some time that he is gay, her love for him sometimes spills over into desire. They talk about this, as they do about everything else, though this subject is a little tenderer than most. When a girl who has been aggressive and unfriendly suddenly reveals her own same-sex desires, Angelina is able to handle her awkward revelation with compassion.

When Angelina's father has a stroke, all the rhythms of family life are disrupted. Her half sister, whom she's never liked much, comes for an extended visit. Her mother is preoccupied, first at the hospital, then with home care. And she herself has to learn aspects of caregiving for a partly paralyzed father who has lost his speech. The process is, of course, emotionally complex, sometimes comical, often heartbreaking. But when she speaks at his funeral, after a heart attack takes his life, it is with a widened appreciation of the kind of man he was, and of what value his life had even in the months he was severely incapacitated. After his death, she explores, in a few final chapters, the ambiguities of grief, and the process of forging a new relationship with her mother, who has lost her own best friend and companion.

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Rx

Lynn, Tracy

Last Updated: May-22-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Thyme Gilcrest, an honor student in an upscale suburban high school, begins her short career as drug dealer by taking a friend's Ritalin and finding it useful as a "study drug." Though she has suspected she might have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), her parents don't think so; what she does know is that the drug helps her focus and perform with reassuring reliability. Gradually, experimenting with the effects of other drugs--Adderall, Xanax, Zoloft, Valium, and others easily found in medicine cabinets or in the purses of parents' party guests--she finds herself able not only to "manage" her own mood swings and compensate for the effects of the Ritalin, but also to supply a growing number of friends who trade in prescription drugs.

For some time, since she hardly fits the profile of a drug dealer, she is able to remain in denial about her growing preoccupation with obtaining and distributing drugs. Only when one friend gets caught, another commits suicide, and a boyfriend confronts her does she decide she needs to be done with personal use and disengage from the network of codependent "friends" who have come to rely on her for their drugs of choice. In the final chapter, in her college dorm, she once again faces the temptation to deal when she overhears new acquaintances asking where they might get Adderall or Ritalin or Stratera. They're willing to pay.

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Broken China

Williams, Lori

Last Updated: May-21-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

At fourteen, China Cameron is trying hard to be a good mother to her two-year-old daughter, conceived while China and her best friend, Trip, were "fooling around" at his house one day. Trip and China's disabled Uncle--her only parent since the death of her mother and her father's early abandonment-do all they can to help her stay in school and parent well. But the child contracts a respiratory infection and dies, leaving China not only devastated, but responsible for a large funeral bill: she insists on ordering the most beautiful casket in the catalogue and funeral services that turn out to be devastatingly expensive. To pay the bill, against the advice of Trip and her uncle, China begins working at the reception desk of a local "gentlemen's club."

Though the job requires that she wear skimpy and revealing clothing, and subjects her to the unwelcome attentions of inebriated patrons, she squares it with her conscience by hanging onto the belief that she is doing the best she can for her daughter. The terms of her employment, however, become more difficult as she is moved toward "dancing" on stage. When she finally decides to quit, she finds that the club is partly owned by the funeral director, who has a history of involving young women in her situation in debilitating debt.

A subplot follows the misfortunes of China's best friend, Yolanda, a young women in her twenties with several children by different fathers who is trying to realign her life after her youngest children are taken temporarily to foster care. Despite their various difficulties, the characters enter with compassion and imagination into each other's lives, and find ways to help one another. At the end of the story, China finally consents to visit her daughter's grave--something she has strenuously avoided--nd concedes to the necessity of coming to terms in a new way with her loss so as to reorient her life beyond funeral expenses, and go back to school with a reclaimed hope of a different kind of life.

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Fix

Margolis, Leslie

Last Updated: May-21-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Cameron, 18, and her sister Allie, 15, have inherited their father’s large nose. Living in Los Angeles, at the epicenter of the entertainment industry, they are familiar with the social currencies of money and beauty. Their mother, a former film actress, auditioning again after years at home, is exceptionally beautiful. Cameron’s “nose job”—the rhinoplastic surgery her parents arranged for her when she entered high school—has changed her life; it is debatable whether altogether for the better. She is now popular and accepted, but also, after a history of rejection and peers’ mockery, fixated on the kinds of beauty that bring social acceptance. Her interest in photography dovetails with this fascination.

At just the time her parents decide to arrange for a similar “nose job” for Allie, who doesn’t want it, and would rather spend the summer at soccer camp, Cameron decides to use her savings, and her new legal freedom as an 18-year-old, to have breast augmentation. Her parents and most of her friends oppose it, her boyfriend most strenuously, who can’t understand why she would take the risks entailed to do something so clearly unnecessary. As the girls learn, their mother has, at the same time, decided to have a face-lift as a return-to-career move.

Both Cameron and her mother go through the surgery—Cameron at the cost of considerable pain in recovery and aware of the long-term risks and costs. Allie, on the other hand, after coming to know an aging actress who was once a beauty, makes an eleventh-hour decision to refuse surgery and with it, the impossible standards of beauty that seem to her to entrap so many like her sister.

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The Killing Sea

Lewis, Richard

Last Updated: May-13-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Sarah and Peter Bedford are sailing with their parents off the coast of Indonesia when the tsunami strikes. As they attempt to escape, their father breaks his leg. Their mother insists the children run ahead, so they do, up the hills into the jungle. Sarah later finds her mother, dead, on the beach, but not her father. Peter is soon running a fever and Sarah embarks on an arduous overland journey to try to get him help. At the same time Ruslan, an Indonesian boy, has taken his own escape route out of his village, and is looking for his father, along with many who are searching for missing relatives. Ruslan and Sarah recognize one another when their paths cross, as he had waited on her family on an earlier stop in his village. Together, with a few other refugees, they make their way to another village where Peter may be able to receive help in a makeshift hospital. Ruslan is threatened by an additional danger, since his family are partisans in a local conflict, and he is suspected of activity on behalf of the rebels.

At the hospital, lack of personnel and supplies throws Peter's survival into doubt, as well as the prospect of finding the children's father. Eventually Ruslan finds his own father, and Sarah and Peter are rescued by the military and taken to a base where more adequate care may be provided. Once there, Sarah finds herself swarmed by journalists, but realizes that the international attention their own case has incited is lopsided, given the many locals whose stories of loss and suffering are not being told. The story ends with the fates of Peter and their father unresolved; clearly part of the story is that no "end" is in sight, and that it will be a long, long time before anything that looks like "normality" will be restored.

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The Mailbox

Shafer, Audrey

Last Updated: Apr-07-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

After living with various foster families, nine-year-old Gabe is taken to live with his aging Uncle Vernon in West Virginia. The relationship with his mother's gruff and distant older brother, a Vietnam vet, is distant at first, but warms up over time. But after his first day in 6th grade, Gabe comes home to find his uncle dead on the floor.

Uncertain what to do, he does nothing for a day or two, pretending at school that everything is normal. Then the body disappears and cards with cryptic messages appear in the mailbox that indicate that someone is looking out for him. After a time, a dog appears, too, sent by the mysterious correspondent. Gabe continues to attend school, and to visit his close friend, Webber, whose mother extends healing hospitality and discreet concern to him. His English teacher takes a particular interest in Gabe, noticing both his honesty as a writer and the signs that he is carrying an unarticulated burden.

Finally the police apprehend Gabe and question him about the disappearance of his uncle's body. The mysterious correspondent turns out to be Smitty, a wartime companion of his uncle's, who has lived alone, unwilling to disclose his disfiguring facial injury in public, and isolated by the lasting effects of post-traumatic stress. Mr. Boehm, the English teacher, takes Gabe under his wing, arranges for a proper military burial for Uncle Vernon, and helps Gabe make direct contact with Smitty, then offers Gabe a home with him.


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The Fat Girl

Sachs, Marilyn

Last Updated: Mar-22-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Jeff is happily connected to his beautiful girlfriend, Norma, a skilled potter and social success, when "the fat girl," Ellen, enters their pottery class. Finding himself despising her, Jeff feels responsible when one day she overhears his mean remarks about her fat, her awkwardness, and her incompetence. Attempting to atone for his behavior, he visits her at her home and finds himself involved in more than he anticipated when she confides that she is considering suicide.

For reasons he himself doesn't understand until much later, he gradually becomes both friend and caretaker and, as she loses weight under his guidance, a possessive and supervisory boyfriend. Ellen's transformation eventuates in a new sense of her own worth and objectives, and also in a startling confrontation with the boy from whose help she also has to break free.

Readers are left to ponder the implicit connection between Jeff's controlling behavior toward his girlfriend protégé and his ambivalent relationship with a mother whose reaction to divorce has been to control her children in ways that entrap them. Both the protagonists learn valuable and also very painful lessons.

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Summary:

In a fascinating and wide-ranging series of chapters organized by categories of disease or disability that have afflicted known artists, writers, and musicians, Sandblom examines the multifaceted relationship between creative work and illness. He begins his discussions of particular artists usually with basic information about the nature of the affliction and its manifestations; where available, introduces the artist’s own comments upon his or her condition; and then analyzes how particular works represent or implicitly allude to the illness. In some cases the disease is a context; in others a theme; in others a vehicle or tenor of metaphor.

The book is richly illustrated with reproductions of paintings, parts of musical scores, and poems or prose excerpts. Artists and writers under discussion include Bacon, Beethoven, Jorge Luis Borges, the Brontes, George Gordon Byron, Cezanne, Anton P.Chekhov, Chopin, Emily Dickinson, F. (Francis) Scott Fitzgerald, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Franz Kafka, John Keats, Mahler, Thomas Mann, Herman Melville, John Milton, Flannery O’Connor, Proust, Rainer Maria Rilke, William Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson, Titian, John Updike, William Wordsworth, and Yeats, to name a few.

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Tortuga

Anaya, Rudolfo

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

An adolescent boy enters a hospital for crippled children. His initiation into institutional life is painful. At first he wants nothing more than isolation and protection from patients he regards as "freaks." But as alliances form and the subtleties of ward life become clearer, he learns new methods of self-identification that have more to do with the peculiar structures of this confined world than with the world outside. Home becomes an increasingly remote reference point and the camaraderie of suffering in exile the dominant source of affirmation.

The story is a coming of age tale intensified by burdens beyond what adolescence is normally required to bear. A boy becomes not only a man, but in some sense an old man before his time, and returns to youth "outside" both scarred and gifted with what suffering has taught him, and with a new sense of who are his "brothers and sisters."

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Antonia Saw the Oryx First

Thomas, Maria

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Antonia Redmond is a young Harvard-trained doctor who has returned to the East African village where she was raised by American parents to establish a medical practice. Her efforts are frustrated by inadequate supplies and funding, an under-trained staff, and patients whose superstitions and mistrust make diagnosis and treatment difficult. She deals daily with a conflict of cultures, trying to maintain her medical methods and standards in an environment where she competes with the authority of native healers.

Esther, daughter of a native healer who has some familiarity with and respect for Western medicine, envies and longs for Antonia’s Western training and attaches herself to her as a disciple. In her encounters with patients, Esther finds that she has an inexplicable gift for healing which baffles her as well as Antonia and complicates their already tenuous relationship. Esther’s gift forces Antonia to reexamine some of her most basic assumptions about what constitutes healing.

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