President Snow’s Panem Address:
The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor
Bettina has been raised in a very strict family. She’s not allowed to do anything other than attend dance classes, which ended when her best friend moved away. Otherwise it is only school and home. So when a very sweet basketball player at school asks her out, she is forced to say no. But he doesn’t accept that and manages to charm Bettina’s family enough that she is allowed to go out with him. At first everything is wonderful and Brady is a perfect boyfriend, who takes things very slow and doesn’t pressure. But as they date more, Brady begins to change. He gets angrier as pressure goes up on the basketball court. Then Bettina meets a man who is everything that Brady isn’t. He doesn’t ask for anything from her, never gets mad, and Bettina finds herself longing to spend more time with him even though her family would never approve. Bettina knows she has to leave Brady before he hurts her more badly, but as she hesitates something happens so that the truth of the two men in her life must be revealed.
Connor captures an abusive relationship with a delicacy that allows the reader to begin to rationalize what happens to Bettina along with her. This is not straight-forward beatings, but rather teasing taken too far, anger expressed in the wrong way, and as Bettina learns to tiptoe around Brady the reader realizes that they too have been drawn into the wrong relationship alongside her. It is powerfully done. When Connor adds the character of Cowboy to the book, it is a surprising choice. His gentleness and quiet in an older man makes for a charismatic character unusual in teen novels. While he is a foil for the young and angry Brady, he is also himself a complicated and intriguing figure.
Connor seems to write only complicated characters, much to her credit. Bettina is a girl who is eager to leave the confines of her upbringing, pushing against her parents’ control. Yet even her parents are completely drawn characters, struggling to do their best for their daughter. The book plays with overprotective parents who don’t manage to protect their daughter from anything in the end. Yet their love is what lingers beyond that.
A powerful read with moments of breathlessness from surprise and shock, this book is not only about an abusive relationship but about true love and hope too. Appropriate for ages 14-17.
Reviewed from digital copy received from Edelweiss and Katherine Tegen Books.
The winners of the 2014 IRA Children’s and Young Adult Book Awards have been announced. The award focuses on debut authors, considering only the first and second books by an author. The authors must show early and “unusual promise in the children’s and young adults’ book field.”
PRIMARY FICTION WINNER
Dear Santasaurus by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Jef Kaminsky
PRIMARY FICTION HONOR BOOKS
Digby Differs by Miriam Koch
Jackie and Me: A Very Special Friendship by Tania Grossinger
Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier, illustrated by Suzy Lee
PRIMARY NONFICTION WINNER
War Dogs: Churchill & Rufus by Kathryn Selbert
INTERMEDIATE FICTION WINNER
Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff
INTERMEDIATE FICTION HONOR BOOKS
Paperboy by Vince Vawter
The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
INTERMEDIATE NONFICTION WINNER
Draw Out the Story: Ten Secrets to Creating Your Own Comic by Brian McLachlan
YOUNG ADULT FICTION WINNER
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
YOUNG ADULT FICTION HONOR BOOKS
Absent by Katie Williams
The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban