TeenLit Book Reviews

October 2000

Durable Goods

Elizabeth Berg

Durable Goods, by Elizabeth Berg, was about a young girl going through life with her abusive father and trying to deal with the death of her mother. The only two people who seem to care for her are her best friend , Cherylanne, and her older sister, Diana. Their father tells them they are moving. Katie and Diana can’t handle the abuse so they run away with Diana’s boyfriend, Dickie. Katie decides she can’t go on when they get half way to Mexico and she calls Cherylanne. Her father comes to get her with their new puppy along with him. They return home and move in three days. Unlike Diana, Katie finally gets through to her father and live with no abuse. “For a moment I see him as someone other than my father, and he seems so curious to me, and sad, like an animal wrongly tied up.” I think the author means that the softer side of him was showing for a moment. I really enjoyed reading this book but I think it could have been a little more exciting. This story is mainly about dealing with life. If you like books about life and dealing with life, then I highly recommend this book.
Reviewed by Kyla. Grade: 7th Grade in Worthington, - Link directly to entry

The Baboon King

Anton Quintala

The Baboon King, by Anton Quintala, is a story of survival. The story itself seems so real that it is hard to believe it is a work of fiction. Morengaru is an independent, solitary, strong native hunter, living in the areas of Tanzania and Kenya, most likely in the present day. Born of a Kikuyu mother and a Masai father, Morengaru has felt like an outsider for all of his life. After a fatal misunderstanding, Morengaru is banished from the Kikuyu tribe. He wanders through the African grasslands until he meets up with a tribe of baboons. Their leader, or king, steps forwards and challenges Morengaru to a fight. Armed with only his knife and his brute strength, Morengaru accepts. The fight ends: the baboon king is dead, Morengaru is seriously crippled. Morengaru’s helplessness forces him to stay near the area of the baboons. Morengaru now must adapt to living with the baboons; yet still somehow hope to return to human civilization. Gripping and realistic, this story will have you on the edge of your seat. Quintala writes with the knowledge and confidence of one who has been around these African and baboon tribes. I felt that this book was very well written. As said, Quintala writes with knowledge and confidence. Originally I had thought that the book wasn’t going to be that good. My mind had no empty space that was craving to be filled with knowledge of the baboons or African tribespeople. However, my mind changed upon reading into the book. The story is very nicely tied together, in connections that make sense and are easy to grasp. The book is filled with descriptions: descriptions of the African grasslands, the jungle, the animals who live there, and the tribes of the Kikuyu and the Masai. These descriptions are great for laying down the setting of the book and they are not too long, losing the reader’s attention. No book is perfect though, and The Baboon King had its weaknesses. At one point during the story, when Morengaru is first living near the baboons, I was struck by this “this is getting a little boring,” thought. However, the action rose after a little bit, and then I was engrossed once again. The Baboon King, a story of survival, is not for everyone. This book is for people who enjoy reading about situations of survival, and plots set in the present-day world. Although I knew nothing about the life of African tribespeople, I did not let this hinder my reading. In the end, it did not matter what my knowledge was, since the book was very clear and knowledgeable. Readers who will probably enjoy The Baboon King are those who have liked other novels such as Hatchet and The Lord of the Flies. The Baboon King is difficult reading material, and I would recommend it to readers in sixth grade and above. Basically you, the potential reader, decide for yourself whether or not The Baboon King is for going to capture your enthusiasm. I highly enjoyed this book and recommend it to others interested in such novels. 3½ (out of 4 stars)
Reviewed by Carolyn. Grade: ----- in Sherrill, - Link directly to entry

Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes

Wendelin von Draanen

Mystery, Ages: 11-15 I readily enjoyed this teen mystery. It's in the tradition of Nancy Drew and the Dana Girls. However Sammy Keyes is a rather original character though she has some all-too familiar traits. Think Harriet the Spy. The story revolves around Sammy, her best friend, Marissa, her grandmother, and some pretty rough gang members. This is the first novel in the series that I've read. However it seems that Sammy should know better. She always gets herself into these weird situations. But this girl has got guts! When Sammy is left a "surprise" from a scared-to-death girl in the mall, she knows there is a mystery to solve. Danger lurks in her path at every moment. Snake Eyes with his "Hatred for eyes, steel for a mouth" is a pretty intense character. However it keeps your adrenaline going. A lot of surprises came from this novel. I was happily and not-so-happily surprised sometimes. The last fews sentences of each chapter left me wanting more. At times, I felt I couldn't put down the book. Ms. Von Draanen was very good at keeping someone's attention. For the most part, the story was believeable. Just don't try this at home! However I was disappointed a few times when it seemed unrealistic. It seemed as if Ms. Von Draanen just needed to give the reader this information whilst forgetting realism. I mean come on, why would a tough guy start spilling family history to some little girl he doesn't know? But again, for the most part, Ms. Von Draanen was pretty consistant. The whole side story about softball was pretty much the same as every other teen novel. I think it would have been better if Ms. Von Draanen had stuck with the mystery which is ultimately the main and best part of the novel. The side story really doesn't entangle with the main story so it seemed like a waste of time. However Ms. Von Draanen is a talented writer and kept my attention throughout these times. Overall, I'd rate this novel four out of five stars. It wasn't perfect, but it was good enough that it kept me reading for at least an hour at a time. Hats off to Wendelin von Draanen and Sammy Keyes!
Reviewed by Jeanette. Grade: ----- in Waldorf, - Link directly to entry
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