CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 5 . . . . October 26, 2007
These two novels are the third and fourth books in Patricia G. Penny's “Not Just Proms & Parties” series for young adult readers. In Belinda's Obsession, the main character, Belinda, doesn't believe in romance and love and finds Valentine's Day particularly annoying. As a gay teenager, Belinda has some difficulty relating to her friends...until Candice, her "summer fling," comes back into her life. To make things even more complicated, Belinda's faith in love and her trust in relationships is further undermined when she sees her mother walking with a man who isn't Belinda's father. All of the emotions one would expect come to the surface, and Belinda becomes obsessive about finding out if her mother is having an affair. What can she do to keep this from breaking up her family? In whom should she confide? Belinda isn't above a little amateur
In Karin's Dilemma, Karin is a top student who is aiming for a post-secondary scholarship to attend veterinary school. She has been hoping her mother would find a boyfriend. Her mom needs someone to fill the gap left when her abusive father moved out and someone to give her self-esteem a much-needed boost. Karin also worries that her mother shouldn't be left to cope on her own once she leaves for school in the fall. But Cal certainly doesn't fit Karin's picture of an ideal mate. And is Cal's unwanted touching just accidental as he claims? Concern for her mother's well-being and aggravation about Cal conspire to make it difficult for Karin to concentrate and her grades are showing the effects. Karin is determined to find out just who Cal really is and perhaps convince her mother that she isn't simply jealous of this new relationship when she begs her mother to quit seeing her new boyfriend.
Both of these young adult novels are intended for reluctant readers, and once again Penny has come up with plots which have an interesting blend of romance and realism. As with a soap opera, readers become involved with the characters and are anxious to know the outcome of the story. There are only a few main characters in each book, and the plots are uncomplicated, centering on only one or two themes. The language is appropriate for teens, and the short chapters make both books quick and easy reads.
Penny portrays characters who are given tough choices in life and who are learning that high school is "not just proms and parties." Although the plots may be somewhat predictable, they contain many positive messages for teen girls regarding relationships in families, romantic relationships, and the importance of communication. Penny is never moralistic in her approach; instead, the messages are interwoven within the plot and, along with being just good, entertaining reads, these books open the door to deeper discussions regarding various human relationships and how we deal with the ups and downs which are bound to occur within them.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.