FICTION

37 Things I Love (In No Particular Order)

224p. Holt. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-94657.
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Gr 10 Up—Magoon takes readers through four days in the life of a 15-year-old in this short novel that is packed with memories, flashbacks, issues, and characters, adding a sense of elongated time. For two years, Ellis's loving father has been in a coma and kept alive by machines. Despite his inability to communicate, his daughter holds out hope that he will someday be whole. She doesn't have much of a support system. Her BFF Abby is simply clueless and a flirt. Colin, who adores Abby, shows some ability to connect with Ellis's feelings, but she turns to a childhood friend with whom she has had little contact of late. Trying to sort out why she let their friendship languish; why she tolerates Abby's selfishness; how to relate to her mom, who thinks "it's time"; how to let her father go, and—as if that were not enough—who she is socially and sexually make up the story line. Abby (who has "enlarged" her breasts with Jell-O Jigglers) gets terribly drunk at a party, and there is tremendous drama when the story of her fake bosom hits the high-school gossip mill. When the former friends connect, Cara assumes that Ellis knows and accepts that she is gay, and she takes sexual liberties that confuse Ellis even more. It is not until her father dies and she eulogizes him that readers discover the "37 things" she loves are one memory for each year of his short life. This is an easy but not substantive read, and the ending is too neat.—Joanne K. Cecere, Monroe-Woodbury High School, Central Valley, NY
Ellis's adored father has been in a coma for two years; Mom wants to turn off the machines keeping her husband alive, and Ellis, who visits her father at the nursing home often, disagrees. Her high school friendships are complicated, too. There is much to this slim book--coming of age, death, hope, love--and Ellis is a character to care about and cheer on for a long, long time.
Thirty-seven first-person chapters give the reader a front-row seat to the challenges high school sophomore Ellis faces. From the first pages, we know the situation is tough: Ellis’s adored father has been in a coma for two years; Mom wants to turn off the machines keeping her husband alive, and Ellis, who visits her father at the nursing home often, disagrees. What elevates this story from an Afterschool Special is that Ellis’s words, carefully written, presumably in a journal, reveal the typical world of a teenager and the complicated world of high school friendships. Her best friends, Abby and Colin, are summed up easily. "He is the best friend either of us could ask for. Sometimes I don’t know why Abby and I bother with each other." Anyone who has been in high school knows why Ellis stays friends with Abby, despite her drinking, mean-girl manipulation, boy-crazy behavior, and control issues. Inertia. Fear. Then there is Cara, who used to be in the group. It takes a while to figure out why she is no longer a part of things, but the emotional punch that comes when Ellis learns why the foursome became a threesome (Abby’s homophobia) is equaled only by the reader’s surprise. There is much to this slim book -- coming of age, death, hope, love -- and Ellis is a character to care about and cheer on for a long, long time. robin l. smith

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