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REVIEW:  The You Know Who Girls: Freshman Year by Annameekee Hesik

REVIEW: The You Know Who Girls: Freshman Year by Annameekee...

“Abbey Brooks, Gila High freshman-to-be, never thought a hellish day of shopping at the mall with her best friend, Kate, could change her life. But when she orders French fries from the flirtatious Hot Dog on a Stick Chick, she gets more than deep-fried potatoes. Abbey tries to ignore the weird, happy feeling in her gut, but that proves to be as impossible as avoiding the very insistent (and—rumor has it—very lesbian) players on Gila High’s girls’ basketball team. They want freakishly long-legged Abbey to try out, and Abbey doesn’t hate the idea. But Kate made Abbey pinky swear to avoid basketball and to keep away from the you-know-who girls on the team.

Sometimes promises can’t be kept. And sometimes girls in uniform are impossible to resist.”

Dear Ms. Hesick,

I like to broaden my reading horizons and have had some good luck trying Young Adult and LGBT books which is what made me want to read “The You Who Know Girls: Freshman Year” from Bold Stroke Books. To be honest, at the halfway mark, I debated whether or not I wanted to keep reading. The subject matter, a teenager beginning her freshman year and discovering and exploring her sexuality, was interesting but the teenager – or rather her obsession with herself and her habit of lying – grew tiresome.

you_know_who_girls_freshman__207602The first third of the book took me back a few years. Abbey and her friends, including best friend Kate, are about to begin high school with all its excitement and pitfalls. As freshmen, they’re on the bottom rung of the social hierarchy but at the same time, they’re in high school now! Abbey might not be as focused on fashion as Kate is but she wants to fit in and find her place. Kate is changing the rules though and making Abbey and the others agree to ditch their studying ways. Abbey’s okay with this but finds it hard to keep to the promise to avoid basketball and the rumored lesbians on the team. She discovers a love of the game and being with these girls who accept her just as she is without trying to change or manage her. I think you captured the excitement and the nervousness of her first days in this new environment which is not surprising since you’re a high school teacher.

Pretty soon, though, a habit of Abbey’s starts to annoy me and it kept annoying me until the end of the book. Abbey lies. She lies to herself, she lies to her mom, to her best friend, to her other friends, to a potential girlfriend, to a guy who asked her out, and to her teachers. She lies to just about everyone. What start out as innocent, little white lies soon balloon into whoppers that get so convoluted that I find it hard to believe she doesn’t trip over them while trying to keep them all straight in her head. She only ever directly apologizes to her BFF and, in a sideways manner, to a teammate and then only when she finally get caught out. Aside from that, she’s a liar and a whiny one at that. I only hope when her mother eventually discovers all this, it won’t hurt her too much.

I know this is a major turning point in her life – she’s growing up, starting high school and – most importantly – discovering her sexuality and preferences but there is some intense navel gazing going on here. Fourteen year olds are just getting to that “OMG! everything that happens to me is SO important and earth SHATTERINGLY riveting” so I get that Abbey is obsessed with herself and feels the entire world is too. But regardless of it this is normal teenage behavior, I didn’t find myself as interested in her as she is. She’s smart, she can play basketball, she’s somewhat attractive but aside from that I didn’t get what caused Keeta – a sought after senior with a string of past and wannabe girlfriends – and Mia to keep pursuing Abbey.

This isn’t a totally gay friendly world, as evidenced by one short scene of Abbey and Keeta being harassed in public, and Abbey does worry about how the important people in her life will react to her revelation. Still when it comes right down to it, there isn’t much of this actually covered in the book. Kate the BFF finds out and it does affect their relationship for a few weeks. But most of the rest of the people “in the know” are lesbians and okay with it. Abbey does get invited out by one guy and this is used as a way for her to wonder – a little bit – about whether she’s really lesbian or maybe bisexual but then after a short amount of reflection, she realizes she isn’t interested in him romantically and he then drops off the face of the planet. I hoped that we’d get a bit of his viewpoint to her coming out – or actually her quiet slipping out – of the closet but no, nothing. It’s like he completely ceases to exist. Or what about the rest of Abbey’s former group of friends? Not much from them either. And nothing from Abbey’s mother who – I think – might guess Abbey’s secret but – maybe not – as nothing is ever said to her!

I think the book is technically well written and probably accurately shows the fact that teenagers think the least little thing that takes place in their life is of center stage importance. But honestly by the time I finished it, I had had enough of Abbey. Beyond the fact that she’ discovering herself as a lesbian, she’s just not that interesting. The LGBT hook is what will probably keep people reading the story. It had a lot of potential but fails to really take advantage of much of it and ultimately ends up being an okay book at best for me. C

~Jayne

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REVIEW: Hoops by Patricia McLinn

REVIEW: Hoops by Patricia McLinn

In honor of the Olympics, we are reposting some sports books this week.  McLinn actually has an Olympic book called “The Games“.  Jane has read it and will review it tomorrow.

Dear. Ms McLinn,

The first book of yours I read, “Widow Woman” made a very good impression on me. Then Jane read one of your contemporaries, “The Rancher Meets His Match” and it also scored a good grade. When I discovered A Writer’s Work publishing group which reissues older books and publishes new works at a significant discount and realized you are one of the authors it seemed like a perfect time to check out some of your other books.

Patricia McLinn HoopsCarolyn Trent’s logically mapped journey to becoming the perfect professor of English was hijacked the day she became academic advisor to the Ashton University men’s basketball team. The hijacker was C.J. Draper, the team’s infuriating, irreverent and sexy new coach.

C.J. has never let adversity stop him – if he had he’d never have gotten this far. He’s not about to start by letting Professor Trent derail him. If he chose to rattle her ivory tower it was just for the fun of seeing the fiery woman beneath the marble-cool exterior . . . wasn’t it?

When logic clashes with ambition in the game of love, will anyone win?

College basketball is my favorite sport to watch so picking “Hoops” to try was a no-brainer for me. After finishing it, I can see why it was a RITA finalist. Carolyn Trent starts out as a slightly buttoned down ivory tower woman. The university environment is about all she’s ever known and where she feels most confident and comfortable. C.J. Draper’s casual attitude towards everything she holds dear ticks her off and raises her hackles. Ashton University has always stood for excellence in academics and Carolyn isn’t about to let its standards slide just to get a winning basketball team.

With the almost yearly graduation ratings of shame for some of the top programs in men’s Division I basketball, I can easily see where Carolyn is coming from. And for someone whose whole life is wrapped up in academia, it makes sense for her to resist the school’s decision to return to top division play. But it also seems realistic for her to take her assignment seriously and as a natural teacher, try to do the best for these players who are also students.

On the other hand I can see C.J.’s almost single minded drive to take this tiny program, turn it around and use it as a springboard back into the big time. He’s been a pro player, he knows the perks and attention that goes with that level of the game. But as his friend and former team mate Rake tells Carolyn, C.J. is also a person who is almost compelled to help others. So his emphasis on teaching his players how to think their way through a game rather than just following his orders and as well as his, albeit sometimes reluctant, relinquishment of his team to Carolyn’s mandatory study halls so they can keep their grades up seems a part of his personality.

I like how you show both Carolyn and C.J. at their jobs. Carolyn has just been to a prestigious academic seminar and works at writing papers to be published. C.J. religiously watches scouting tapes and games or can be found imparting his playing wisdom to his team. It’s also fun to watch Carolyn being converted to a true fan of the game and see C.J.’s realization of how well thought of she is in academia. And while the progression of the Ashton Aces in what is obviously the NCAA tournament seems amazing for such a small program, the event thrives on Cinderella teams who come from nowhere to take down the big boys.

The progression of the conflict between Carolyn and C.J. climaxes in a believable way and makes sense. This isn’t some made up, last minute, gotta pad the page count event. But Carolyn and C.J. also each have a personal issue that needs to be dealt with. I think you handle Carolyn’s better though. Hints were dropped about “something” in C.J.’s past but even though it ends up making sense, it still seems to go from 0 to 60 in too few pages for me to feel totally comfortable about it. I do like that though Carolyn and C.J. are each willing to help the other and support each other’s resolution of their individual conflicts, that resolution comes from within for them rather than relying solely on the other.

I enjoyed “Hoops” and my time with Carolyn and C.J. The game is covered well though I don’t think readers have to come to the book with either advanced knowledge of nor love of the game to enjoy the story. And with the bargain price you’re charging for it, I think it’s a great place for people to dip a toe in your backlist. Oh, but one thing I need to add is that there are some edits left in the file. Not enough to ruin the reading experience but definitely something which should be looked into.

~Jayne

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