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Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to Buy a Love of Reading (Teen)

Released May 2009

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The formation of HOW TO BUY A LOVE OF READING links back to a discussion between the author and one of her students who'd never "read any book she liked." The author sets high expectations by stating she wanted to "write a book that a girl like that would like." I actually understand where the female student is coming from. In middle school, I loved reading. I always had Lois Duncan in my backpack. In high school, teachers deemed books of that nature as juvenile and mandatory reading assignments began. Three years running, I was assigned Romeo and Juliet. Rarely did I like anything we were told to read. In the end, I spent high school avoiding books. Today, I read at least two books per week. There's something to be said about free choice.

In HOW TO BUY A LOVE OF READING, the author taps into a Gossip Girl world. Carley Wells lives in Long Island. She's overweight, much to her size double-zero mother's dismay; is in love with her best friend, Hunter, of many years; and is generally accepted into the elite world of Long Island's Fox Glen because her father is the famous inventor of the Marvel-Bra entitling them to impressive wealth.

Carley's parents, like many of the other Fox Glen parents, are clueless at parenting. Between Carley's mother's snide comments about her fat daughter and her father's ignorance into the pain Carley endures because of those comments, Carley's sole support comes from Hunter, who is addicted to booze, Vicodin and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hunter's passion for literature is lost on Carley. In fact, Carley writes for a school assignment asking about her favorite book that she's "never met one she liked." In an artsy community that one comment is concerning to her parents. For Carley's 16th birthday, they hire a novelist to write a story Carley will adore.

While I have my dreams of wealth, every time I read a book about the wealthy, I start to wonder if they really are that shallow. Honestly, I pitied Carley and hated most of the remaining characters. It's hard to enjoy a book when the characters turn you off. Hunter's mother leads the pack because she's a vapid airhead who should have recognized the trouble her son was in. When he's sober, which isn't often, Hunter had tremendous potential. I'd hoped for a more satisfying ending, but I guess what's done is done.

This leads me to wonder if teens will like this book. It does have that Gossip Girl appeal, but the vocabulary is better and it gives insight into the structure of a novel. But, I'm not sure the average teen really cares about the formation of a book. It comes off, at times, as a writing lesson defeating the entertainment value. Yet, I still found myself intrigued to see where the story would go.

The book is being marketed as teen fiction. Parents should note drugs, sex and alcohol are prominent features in the book just as they are in life. Some parents try to keep their children from reading certain material, a practice with which I disagree. I do recommend reading the book with your teen and being ready to use the material as an opportunity to have a candid discussion on issues that teens face.

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