Review: Crush. Candy.Corpse. by Sylvia McNicoll

I received this ARC from McNicoll’s publisher Lorimer at OLA last month. The book follows high school student Sonja (Sunny) Ehret and she stands trial for manslaughter. Every chapter alternates between last year (Sunny serving volunteers hours on an Alzheimer’s ward), and this year (Sunny’s manslaughter trial). So just how are the two connected? Well you have to pick up this uh-mazing book to find out! I actually read this book in less than a day as I could just not put it down.

Since McNicoll is a Canadian author, I really appreciated the Canadiana infused throughout the book. From the Canadian justice system, to everyone’s favourite-Timmies doughnuts! I especially related to the high school graduation requirement of 40 hours of volunteer work. Rather than having a choice of placement, Sunny is reluctantly sited at an elder care facility called ‘Paradise Manor’. In comparison, I really enjoyed completing my forty hours of volunteer work and hope it remains a requirement for years to come.  However, I think it is crucial that students pick their own placements rather than be forced to be somewhere they don’t want to be.  I chose to volunteer at a wide spread of organizations-including an elderly home!  Due to this experience, I could definitely sympathize with some of the sights and smells Sunny complained about. I wish I thought of making a coffee bean necklace…

I loved how the elderly residents really started to change the way Sunny felt about volunteering at Paradise Manor. Each individual had a unique personality and made me laugh. My favourite was Jeanette with her love of lipstick and how she complimented Sunny on her non-existent fashions. Despite the lighter moments, this book definitely deals with heavy, mature content. I liked how McNicoll was able to describe the devastating disease of Alzheimer’s through Sunny’s class presentation so readers are aware of all that it entails without it feeling too medical or pushed. The book also skims the surface of the euthanasia debate and whether a suffering person with a terminal illness has the right to die on their own terms. It truly is a legitimate concern since the Alzheimer’s rate is likely to skyrocket as baby boomers in Canada age. Hopefully, a treatment or cure can be realized so Alzheimer’s won’t become the defining disease of the Baby Boom Generation.

Look for Crush.Candy.Corpse. at bookstores and libraries March 12, 2012.

The Invisible Rules of the Zoe Lama

I received the book The Invisible Rules of the Zoe Lama (2007) by Tish Cohen at the OLA. She was there signing both her adult and YA books. The book completely reminded me of the book I just reviewed called, The Fourth Stall but the less-violent girl version. And YES, I know Cohen’s book came out first, but still.

The book is about confident 7th grader Zoe, who has become legendary at her school for wise rules and advice.  When a new girl starts school, Zoe decides to take her on as a client and reform her— Clueless, anyone? The new girl, as well as most of the school, follow Zoe’s unwritten (or as she calls them, ‘invisible’) rules that guide general life. I won’t give them all away—you will have to read the book!

Here are the first five…
1. The possibilities for disaster are endless with balloons ***
2. No one has ever questioned my advice before
3. Smartin Granitstein is vile
4. I’ll tell you when I’m good and ready
5. Never lift for yourself what a fifth grader is willing to lift for you

** I thought the extent of her phobia of balloons was a little ridiculous. However, after a quick Google search, sure enough, Globophobia (the phobia of balloons) does actually exist. 

            What I did like: Cohen is able to add in an aging grandparent with Alzheimer’s*. As our population ages, it is likely that more families will experience the effects of Alzheimer’s. The plot line of Zoe’s grandmother helps to introduce the disease so that readers are conscious of what exactly Alzheimer’s is and how it can affect families. In the end, the storyline of Zoe’s grandmother is resolved in a realistic way.

* If you are interested in more books that deal with Alzheimers, check out: The Last Best Days of Summer by Valerie Hobbs or Runaway Gran by Sonia Craddock.

What I didn’t like: The amount of bold print, italics, and doodles. Sure, I know they were meant to add an element of fun, but I just found them annoying (especially the photographs of chocolate chip cookies!).

Best for:  Although the characters are in middle school, the book is aimed more toward elementary-level readers. Zoe and her classmates are young for their age. 

Interesting Fact: The Invisible Rules of the Zoe Lama was highlighted under February 2011 Book Club Books on the Girl Guides of Canada website. The reviewers also agree that the book is best suited for girls ages 8-14 years old.


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