Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There’s no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again. Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?
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For a quick read, this book manages to cover heavy issues like poverty and homelessness. The impact on children is an important topic to include in juvenile fiction; however, the parents in this story really irritated me. Rather than seek out all the possible sources of help, they let pride stand in the way. In turn, the children developed major anxiety and their bellies growled of hunger. Jackson even turns to shoplifting to feed his hungry sister.

In addition to Jackson’s parents, I was also annoyed with Jackson’s imaginary friend, Crenshaw. Crenshaw the cat seems to appear when Jackson experiences anxiety. As shown in flashbacks, this anxiety stems from his family’s financial situation. Since I’ve never had an imaginary friend, I’m not really sure how Crenshaw helps Jackson. Crenshaw explains, “Imaginary friends are like books. We’re created, we’re enjoyed, we’re dog-eared and creased, and then we’re tucked away until we’re needed again (p. 222).” While this is a lovely thought, Crenshaw has little personality, and doesn’t provide Jackson with wise advice, or comic relief. He’s barely even in the book! Overall, Crenshaw was a bit of a disappointment, but I’ve been told Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan is better.

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1) by Sarah Rees Brennan

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met…a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

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For some reason, I didn’t connect with this book.  There’s nothing that I disliked about it, it’s just nothing really stood out to me. I read it last week, and already it’s a little forgettable.  That being said, I know tons of readers that would completely disagree with me so I urge you to give it a shot!

Here’s what I did like:

-the character of Kami. She had all the personality traits that I like: smart, brave, vulnerable and strong.  For example, in reference to her relationships-“She did not want to drown in what was between them and lose control, or lose who she was (p.323)”

-pacing and plot- keeps readers guessing. Lots of action/suspense.

-dark atmosphere

-well developed secondary characters

-interesting silhouette cover art

-inclusion of girl friendships

-Book set up. I loved the table of contents at the beginning, highlighting the parts/chapters.  The novel is divided into six parts, and includes quotes by Robert Frost, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and others.  The quotes helped to set up the tone of the section.

Personally, I like my books to have some sort of resolution at the end. I think readers that were emotionally invested will be very unsatisfied and perhaps a little angry with the ending provided.  Readers will have to wait for the sequel ‘Untold’ to get the conclusion they crave.

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