Two books I really enjoyed–Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles and New Money: A Novel by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal–are releasing today. They’re both books I plan on buying for my classroom library and sharing with my students.
Title: Living with Jackie Chan
Author: Jo Knowles
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Summary (From Goodreads):
After fathering a baby, a teenager moves in with his karate-loving uncle and tries to come to terms with his guilt — and find a way to forgive.
This isn’t how Josh expected to spend senior year. He thought he’d be hanging out with his best friends, Dave and Caleb, driving around, partying, just like always. But here he is, miles from home — new school, new life, living with his Jackie-Chan-obsessed uncle, Larry, and trying to forget. But Josh can’t forget. So many things bring back memories of last year and the night that changed everything. Every day the pain, the shame, and the just not knowing are never far from his thoughts. Why is he such a loser? How could he have done what he did? He finds some moments of peace when he practices karate with Stella, the girl upstairs and his one real friend. As they move together through the katas, Josh feels connected in a way he has never felt before. He wonders if they could be more than friends, but Stella’s jealous boyfriend will make sure that doesn’t happen. And maybe it doesn’t matter. If Stella knew the truth, would she still think he was a True Karate Man? Readers first met Josh in Jumping Off Swings which told the story of four high school students and how one pregnancy changed all of their lives. In this companion book, they follow Josh as he tries to come to terms with what happened, and find a way to forgive.
Flash Review: So first of all, I didn’t realize this is a companion to Jumping Off Swings until I started reading it. I guess I wasn’t paying close attention to the summary! Second, I was pleasantly surprised because I wanted more of Josh’s story when I finished reading Jumping Off Swings.
Living with Jackie Chan is an all-around enjoyable read that is full of heart. Josh is a character readers will relate with and probably learn from. He was really suffering in Jumping Off Swings and that suffering is even more evident in this companion novel. He simply doesn’t know how to deal with what he did and what happened to him. His guilt and remorse are eating him up from the inside out, but thankfully he has a supportive family and group of friends to help him. I love his uncle Larry for this reason. Larry is encouraging, enthusiastic, and supportive without being over-bearing. He’s a gem of a character and so much fun to read. My one minor qualm with Living with Jackie Chan is that it felt a little long. Towards the end I was ready for Josh to heal and stop being so remorseful; his narration and feelings began to feel repetitive. Despite that, I really liked this book and am looking forward to sharing it with my students.
Title: New Money: A Novel
Author: Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Thomas Dunne Books)
Summary (From Goodreads):
A young Southern woman of modest means suddenly finds herself thrust into New York’s high society when she discovers that she is the illegitimate daughter of a recently-deceased billionaire.
Savannah Morgan had high hopes. She dreamed of becoming a writer and escaping her South Carolina town, where snooty debutantes have always looked down on her. But at twenty-four, she’s become a frustrated ex-cheerleader who lives with her mother and wonders if rejecting a marriage proposal was a terrible mistake. Then Savannah’s world is shaken when she learns the father she never knew is Edward Stone, a billionaire media mogul who has left Savannah his fortune on the condition that she move to Manhattan and work at his global news corporation. Putting aside her mother’s disapproval, Savannah plunges into a life of wealth and luxury that is threatened by Edward’s other children—the infuriatingly arrogant Ned and his sharp-tongued sister, Caroline, whose joint mission is to get rid of Savannah. She deals with their treachery along with her complicated love life, and she eventually has to decide between Jack, a smooth and charming real estate executive, and Alex, a handsome aspiring writer/actor. Savannah must navigate a thrilling but dangerous city while trying to figure out what kind of man her father truly was.
NEW MONEY is a keenly observed and exciting peek into a world of privilege and glamour with a spirited and charming heroine at its center.
Flash Review: New Money is Lorraine Zago Rosenthal’s sophomore release. Her debut was YA, but I would consider this to be New Adult/chick (women’s) lit. If you’re looking for a New Adult novel that isn’t a “junior romance novel,” then New Money is for you. (There is, however, romance in the story, just not a gratuitous amount of it.)
Something I really enjoyed while reading New Money is that it felt like I was watching a movie or a television drama. The characters are easy to imagine and the narration and dialogue read smoothly like characters on screen would. When I told my students about this book, they told me it sounds like Hart of Dixie which stars Rachel Bilson. It would be fun to see these characters come to life, although I did have a hard time liking Savannah at times. She’s navigating this new life and begins to forget who she is and where she comes from, as I’m sure many people in her position would. Rosenthal has written characters readers will cheer for and characters readers will despise. It’s these characters that kept me engaged. The story is sweet, and while I predicted some of the events that took place, I still wanted to read to the end to know the fate of each character. Savannah is beyond college, but I still think my high school students will enjoy her story, so I plan on buying a copy of New Money for my classroom.
As always, thank you for the Flash Reviews idea, GreenBeanTeenQueen!