What is social or antisocial behavior? Can you be social, but not spend all your time with other people? Are you antisocial if you like to spend time by yourself? Or are we all a little bit of both? I thought I’d give reviews of three books that address some aspect of the question. Hope you enjoy what I’ve chosen.
Anna, who suffers from social anxiety disorder, is having to deal with her return to Alexandria Preparatory Academy in Virginia, after the Christmas break. To make the return even more stressful, word of her break up with her one and only boyfriend, baseball star Palmer, has swept through the school. Since she’d abandoned her friends while trying to fit in with Palmer’s crowd, she is now alone. As she heads toward a vacant lunchroom table, she’s hailed by Jethro, who is in Anna’s old group—the group she ditched. He gets her to join their table, where she is treated with icy indifference by most of the group. But things get much worse for the whole school, when someone hacks the school’s social network site and then burrows into everyone’s phone, finding all kinds of personal information. The hacker then shares everyone’s secrets about bad things they’ve done. Anna is terrified the hacker will spread the awful things she wrote to Palmer about the kids in her group. Brought even closer together by the breaking scandals, Anna and Jethro spend more time together and eventually have sex. Jethro is suspected by the police of being the hacker and disappears, losing his opportunity to go to MIT. She and her friends do finally get back on an even keel in their relationships, and Anna learns good things about her ability to deal with social stress. The book is a little bland in its approach to the subject of hacking, but the damage the spreading of other people’s business is made abundantly clear.
BIBLIO: 2017, Old Curiosity Shop/Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/ Penguin Random House, Ages 14+, $17.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Young Adult
Human relationships are complicated and people do things to one another that might be unintentional, but do have consequences.
Hear the Wolves
Sloan is an excellent shot and used to be brave, but when her mother ran off a couple of years earlier, Sloan turned into a clingy, fearful soul, who won’t let her father and sister out of her sight. Dad decides Sloan needs to get over her fear and leaves her alone in the family’s cabin as he and Sloan’s sister, Maren, head to Vernon, the closest large town, for the monthly trek for supplies and to vote. Sloan realizes she needs more kerosene to keep the cabin generator going and the cabin livable. She forces herself to dress for the already starting blizzard and head out to the town’s church where the kerosene reserves are stored. The minister is not there, but the town’s only school teacher, Mr. Foster, comes in looking for fuel. Then a kid, Elton, leads a badly wounded, elderly woman, Ms. Wade, in. Sloan decides their best option is to trek to the river and float down to Vernon. After Pilot and Farts, his basset hound, join the group and finally Pilot alcoholic father insists on coming, they head off into the woods. But the wolves keep getting closer, Ms. Wade gets sicker, Pilot’s father is wounded and Mr. Foster is in danger. The story ends with all the adults dying and becoming wolf food, but the three kids and Farts end up at the river. They take the boat moored there and head down river to Vernon. Sloan is much braver and looking forward to new adventures. The author researched wolf behavior to make sure she told her story correctly. This book is a good read, with lots of interesting information in it.
BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Middle Reader
How important is it to have friends? How important is it to do things for others? How important is it do things for one’s self?
How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea
Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
The queen is tired of the same old tea, day in and day out, so she decides to travel the world by hot-air balloon in search of the perfect cup of tea. Her first stop is in Japan, most likely, since she meets a young girl named Noriko who says it’s time for the queen to snuggle with a kitten. The queen helps by finding the water faucet and watching Noriko make the tea. She enjoys her tea and says goodbye. Next, she flies to India, perhaps, since the boy she meets is named Sunil. He says it’s time for the queen to learn how to dribble a soccer ball. This time she helps her new friend make the tea by not only finding and turning on the water faucet, but then filling up the kettle, before watching Sunil do the rest. The two sit down to drink their tea and have a chat. Two cups of tea they drink, before the queen flies away. She lands possibly in Thailand, otherwise known as Siam, because the girl she meets is dressed in Thai clothes. Here she learns to dance, because young Rana says it’s time she tried dancing. This time the queen adds boiling the water to her growing list of tea-making skills. Rana and the queen talk until they’ve drunk three cups of tea. Once aloft in their balloon, the queen and her butler head home because the queen now knows right where to find the perfect cup of tea. The queen awakes early the following Saturday to get ready for her tea party. She dresses herself and makes the tea herself, because she has learned the best cup of tea is made by the drinker and shared with friends. What a grand book, with perfect illustrations.
BIBLIO: 2017, Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group, Ages 5 to 8, $18.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Picture Book