Oh my goodness – Summer Reading and Learning is almost over, and I am so thrilled. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Summer Learning, but it’s tiring, yes?
Well, guess what I found out recently turned 20 years old? Me? Unfortunately, no, but something better – the movie of my generation (well, 1 of them, at least) – Clueless.
You know the story; a retelling of Emma, Clueless is led by Cher as she tries to find love and cultivate friendships as well as her wish to be a good person: a person who helps other people. It’s that shining gem starring Alicia Silverstone which also gave viewers our first glance at the never aging Paul Rudd. Seriously – have you seen him in the new Wet Hot American Summer prequel on Netflix? Dude doesn’t age.
Anyways…I decided to watch the movie to relive that summer of my 17th year where I had nothing more to ponder than where I thought Cher had bought that yellow plaid jacket/skirt combo. The movie was just as good as I remembered, and I realized that I’d love to delve more into Cher as a character. What was she like? And, most importantly, what would she read?
So, here it is, Hubbers, my attempt to guess as to what our dear Cher would most enjoy reading if she would happen to come in to the library and ask for some recommendations. And, one tiny nonessential secret before we move on to my top book picks for Cher. I actually hadn’t thought of the movie for a while, but as I was watching Bachelor in Paradise a few weeks ago (no judgement), Ashley I. was lamenting her status as a virgin, and boom! This quote popped in my head: “You’re a virgin who can’t drive.” I figured any random quote that would stick in my head for 20 years must be indicative of a fantastic movie. And, I was right. Anyways, here we go…
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults): Cher is totally devoted to her family. She lives with her dad, Mel; unfortunately, her mom died in a tragic accident during a routine liposuction. But, her friends are her family, too – Dionne, Murray, Josh (her cute stepbrother), and new student Tai, whom Cher takes under her wing. I thought that Cher might like to read a book about a family where not everyone is related by blood. She might relate to a story that tells us that family can be anyone you choose or anyone who you grow to care about and love.
In How to Save a Life, we meet Jill. Jill’s life before was perfect – perfect dad, perfect friends, perfect boyfriend. Then, after her dad’s death, nothing mattered – not her friends, not her boyfriend, not school, nothing. Of course, Jill still had her mother, but they were on totally different wavelengths. They were aware of each other’s existence, but never really connecting, and never, ever talking about what happened or what it was like before.
Then, one day, Jill’s mother Robin makes an announcement – and it’s not an idea to be thought about or discussed; Robin has made her decision – she’s going to adopt a baby; the baby of a teenager who is going to live with Robin and Jill until the baby is born. Her name is Mandy, and she and her baby are on their way. And, there was a before and after in Mandy’s life, too. Before was a nightmare – being ignored and belittled by her mother, having to put up with the endless amount of her mother’s live-in boyfriends, no friends, no life, nothing. Then after – after that afternoon at the Riverbrook County Fair, something mattered to Mandy – her life and her baby’s life and how they weren’t going to be anywhere near where they were now. She was going to give her baby a future, and hopefully, get one for herself in the process. Robin was going to be her and her baby’s savior – whether Robin knew it or not. Cher and readers will love this story of coming together as a new type of family, and loving someone no matter what – warts and all.
The Silenced by James DeVita: When Josh, Cher’s stepbrother and total hottie, insinuated that Cher was vain and superficial, Cher decided she didn’t agree with that assessment and went on a mission to prove him wrong. She tries to encourage love between two of her lonely teachers and she befriends a new girl at school and gives her a massive make over. But, throughout the movie, viewers also see Cher taking an interest in social causes.
This is why I thought Cher might enjoy reading The Silenced. I totally loved this book when it was first released in 2007; and it’s recently been re-released as a paperback, so I’m hoping a new audience will read this touching book! In a world of ZT, Zero Tolerance, where citizens are forbidden to read, write, even remember, Marena is doing just that – trying to remember what her life was like before ZT and before her mother was “neutralized”. Listening devices are placed in homes, curfews are established and contact with the opposite sex is strictly prohibited. It seems as though only the “listeners”, those who are known to spy for the government, and Stofs, the government’s security forces, are content in their current situation, but what can an ordinary citizen do?
But, Marena’s anger grows as she remembers how her mother, along with others who spoke out against the government occupation, was taken and ultimately murdered while it seems her father and society stood aimlessly by. The more she remembers, the more she resists; with two other friends, Dex and Eric, she starts a resistance group, The White Rose, admonishing those in her community with the words “You have no right to be silent!” At the conclusion of the story, readers find that the character of Marena is actually based on the real Sophie Scholl who, along with her brothers and friends, created The White Rose as a resistance to Nazi occupation in 1942. Like Marena, they left fliers and pamphlets throughout the city of Munich, Germany criticizing the government. James DeVita created Marena in the image of Sophie; many of the things Marena prints on fliers and says throughout the book are based on things Sophie said herself. What a great book to show readers that activism can start with a very tiny spark, but can grow into quite a fire.
#scandal by Sarah Ockler: Deep down, Cher is just a regular ole’ romantic, so I think #scandal would be perfect (and mirror Cher’s own life, a bit). Lucy is just trying to stay under the radar. She has friends that’s she’s found and stayed close to all these years, she loves shooting zombies (imaginary, of course), and she is in love with her best friend Ellie’s boyfriend, Cole. But Cole made his choice, and Lucy has just tried to stay as invisible as possible. That’s all working fine until Ellie gets horrible stomach flu sick right before the prom. She begs Lucy to go to the prom with Cole so he won’t have to miss it. Everything is all fine and dandy (with Lucy wishing most of the night she was at home with her zombies), until Cole kisses her under the stars. Lucy knows what she has to do; she has to tell her best friend what happened, but before she can, pictures of Lucy and Cole are all over Facebook. Now, she’s without her best friend and branded with a bad reputation. But, she’s not going to stay under the radar any longer. She’s going to stand up for herself and get her guy. Want to know if it turns out as well for Lucy and Ellie as it did for Cher and Tai (they fought over Josh, remember?!)? Then read this awesome book by Sarah Ockler (who also happened to write one of my most favorite teen books ever, Twenty Boy Summer – Cher would like that one, too, I think!).
Confessions of a Hater by Caprice Crane: Cher is definitely one of the queen bees at her school, but after her eye-opening talk with Josh, she doesn’t want to just be seen as a mean girl (and, who does? Mean girls are the worst. Let’s not speak of them again). Maybe Cher would enjoy reading a story of ruthlessness and redemption set in a high school not unlike her own. In Confessions of a Hater, Hailey Harper is on her way to becoming the Queen Bee of mean. Hailey used to be at the bottom of the popularity pile, but wants that to change now that she’s in Hollywood, California. Luckily, she finds a discarded diary written by her Über-popular older sister, Noel, that explains just how to be a very important somebody in high school. Armed with Noel’s discarded clothes and a brand new attitude thanks to that diary, Hailey is on the path to popularity. Yet, when she gets exactly what she wants at West Hollywood High, a spot with the popular group at the school, made up of Skyler and her minions, she realizes that Skyler is pretty cruel. And Hailey’s remedy to that – beating Skyler at her own game which results in an all-out war of the pranks. But, as Hailey becomes more and more obsessed with the pranks, and they keep getting meaner and meaner, she starts to realize that maybe she’s the top Mean Girl after all. A great read that shows that sometimes beating them at their own game is worse than the game itself.
The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley (2015 Printz Honor, 2015 Morris Finalist): And, just because I love this book sooo much, I had to mention it again. Here’s what I said about it earlier this year: It’s 1993; Maggie loves living in Chicago and she really loves her Uncle Kevin – he’s everything a cool uncle should be – into awesome alt-rock, he’s in a band, and he loves educating Maggie on politics, religion, and free thinking. Maggie’s not so thrilled with her mom, Laura. Ever since Maggie’s dad left, Laura has been falling in and out of love for years until she meets Colm. Maggie thinks this will be another flash in the pan romance, but Colm asks Laura to marry him…and move back to his home country, Ireland. Maggie and her younger sister are uprooted from Chicago and their grandma and beloved Uncle Kevin to start new in a totally unfamiliar country. But, she gets care packages from Kevin and soon falls in love with a wonderful Irish boy. Horrifically, tragedy strikes, and Maggie must do what she can to fulfill a final request bestowed upon her by someone she loves, and it leads her to places she never thought she’d go, literally and figuratively. A beautifully written, touching book that will stay with readers long past the last page. I didn’t want to leave Maggie behind. And, Nirvana! Smashing Pumpkins! Cher might enjoy reading about someone her own age that’s going through a very different struggle. Plus, it might make her better appreciate Josh and his “cry-baby music.”
Well, that’s it for me. I thoroughly enjoyed this walk down memory lane (2 posts related to things from the 90s in 1 year – I need to step back into the present, that’s for sure). Even though now I’m thinking seriously about mainlining a My So-Called Life Marathon…I do have the DVDs at my library. Ahem! Join me next month when I’ll be talking all about my new favorite realistic fiction books for teens! And, remember…Ren & Stimpy? They’re way existential.
— Traci Glass, currently reading The Land of 10,000 Madonnas by Kate Hatemer