Bumped by Megan McCaffertyBumped by Megan McCafferty

In a world where only teenagers can have babies things are exactly as you would expect–stupid. Something has gone wrong in the world, specifically a virus, which causes anybody above the ages of eighteen to twenty to become infertile. It’s left to teenagers to keep the world’s population up, but as you can imagine this is full of drama and stupidity as teenagers are full of both.

Adult couples desiring children often buy babies off of pregnant teenage girls. A whole new industry has risen up in matching the correct teenage girl and sperm donor to the correct couple. Melody Mayflower was the first teenager in her high school to sign up to professionally match with someone for a couple. Nothing has happened yet, but she waits for the day when it will. She has encouraged many other girls to go the same route. These girls give up their own babies to the highest paying bidder, but the girls don’t really regret it because they’re given large doses of a medication that makes it impossible for them to bond with their babies. It’s all business as usual.

Things were business as usual for Melody until her twin sister, Harmony, showed up. They were separated at birth and have no idea who their parents are. Harmony was raised inside of a strict religion, while Melody was raised with all the things of the world, such as a rampant encouragement for teenagers and preteens to have sex. The fear is that because Harmony looks exactly like Melody that she could counterfeit her and undercut her price and devalue what Melody has to offer. Melody tries desperately to keep Harmony a secret, but her best guy friend finds out soon after Harmony shows up.

Harmony has been doubting her life in her religious world. She is expected to be married and be a mother from a very young age, thirteen or so, but her first fiance was taken away from her at thirteen, now at sixteen she has another chance, but things still aren’t exactly right, and everyone eventually finds out that Harmony isn’t telling the whole truth.

Both girls eventually find out that the things they originally wanted aren’t what they really want. Things are broken in both their worlds, perhaps they as sisters can help to make them right.

What I liked

I didn’t quite expect this book to turn out as it did when I first started reading it. I am quite fond of dystopian novels. I like to read about all the ways society could possibly fall apart and how people would pick up, or not pick up, afterwards. Maybe my fondness for dystopian novels makes me weird, whatever. P.D. James wrote about a similar dystopian scenario. In her book, Children of Men, no one could have babies. No one. Something happened and mankind’s fate was seemingly sealed. The human race would die out because no one could reproduce, or so everyone thought.

Megan doesn’t address this ‘what if’ in a manner as serious as P.D. did, but she still addresses the question. Really, what if humanity couldn’t reproduce like it should be able to? You may think this entire mode of questioning stupid or silly, but don’t. There’s scientific evidence for you to take this line of questioning seriously.

Here’s something you should know, while we do have quite a large world population these days, the largest in the history of the Earth, we’re also having some fertility problems, more likely to be in developed countries versus non-developed countries. Infertility rates have gone up, a lot, in the past fifty years or so. Today, the infertility rates in developed countries, specifically The United States, are primarily caused by an autoimmune disease called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome; PCOS causes about seventy percent of infertility cases in The United States(don’t quote me on that, those could be older statistics, but past research gave that number). Here’s the thing–no one knows what causes PCOS and no one knows what causes  some other infertility problems. You can actually be diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility;’ doctors pretty much throw their hands up in the air and say, “Beats me.”

Some infertility problems can be resolved, but there are some that cannot be remedied no matter how hard anyone tries and the problem is becoming more frequent. Something more people should be worried about are the skyrocketing rates of PCOS, which affects approximately ten percent of child-bearing aged women in developed countries these days. What’s going to happen if that numbers gets to fifty percent? PCOS is not a sentence to infertility, but it makes things more difficult.

We have to consider the idea that perhaps we brought this upon ourselves. Some people theorize that PCOS is caused by excesses of various chemicals, hormone mimickers, and hormone disruptors that are so often found in our more developed worlds these days. Some studies even point to GMOs, saying that rats who ate GMOs for several generations found themselves unable to reproduce. Whatever the answer is, we should probably be more concerned about it. Really, this could come back to bite us in the butts and we’ll just be screwed.

I explained all of this to provide evidence to back up Megan’s decision to write about a world where fertility is at stake. It was a smart move on Megan’s part to address the idea of world where humanity was not failing because of nuclear war or zombies, but by the inability to reproduce. I hate to burst all the zombie-lovers’ bubbles but, an apocalypse by infertility is more likely to happen than an apocalypse by zombies.

Good job, Megan.

What I didn’t like

In the beginning of my post I mentioned that a world where only teenagers could have babies would be stupid and I meant it. First of all, we know teenagers are stupid, we know they make unwise decisions and their brains aren’t all the way developed yet. Can you imagine having to cater to that? Imagine having to treat all those unwise teenagers with respect and even worship because they’re the only ones who could have babies.

Add on top of that a world and economy that also has to cater to teenagers. Everywhere teenagers look in Melody’s world they are told to have sex. Teen pregnancy is a norm. It’s encouraged. Girls run around hoping to get pregnant every nine months. Their bodies aren’t even finished developing yet. The world becomes stupid because, let’s face it, teenage girls aren’t the brightest people on the planet. The stores, the news, the media, the everything–caters to teenage girls.

The characters in the book say things like “fertilicious.” Really?

Look, everyone likes sex, for the most part, but in a world where sex is so strongly shoved in everyone’s faces, it loses its, dare I say, sacredness. Yes, there have been cults that have used sex as a form of worship, but when I say sex is sacred I’m not describing it in that manner. Sex is something you do because you want to, not necessarily because you have to. In this story sex is almost like a war effort. Have sex for your country, or else you’re not a real American. I know it sounds silly, but that’s kind of the vibe I get from this whole book. The specialness of the whole thing has been taken away. None of it is about pleasure, love, or psychological or physiological need anymore, it’s all about reproduction. It’s all on a time-table. It’s become mandatory. We all know when something becomes mandatory that all the enjoyment  can be sucked right out of a situation.

Can you imagine a world where no one really wants to have sex of their own accord because of all the expectations placed on getting pregnant?

Life is about more than passing on genetic material.


Let’s hope to goodness that we never have to depend on teenagers to have the sole responsibility of carrying on the human race.

Weigh in

If it was suddenly made known that only teenagers could get pregnant, would you encourage your daughter to get pregnant or would you encourage her to stick to her current path in life?

Do you think religious inhibitions about teenage and premarital sex would become more lenient in the case of something like this happening in the world, or do you believe they would only become more strict?

bumped, Bumped by Megan McCafferty, dystopian novel, dystopian novel about pregnant teenagers, failure to reproduce, harmony, infertility, megan mccafferty, melody, PCOS, teen pregnancy, teenagers, teenagers get pregnant, unexplained infertility
Coming of age, Fiction, Finding Your Self, McCafferty-Megan, Social Commentary, what if, Young Adult

#498 Gossamer by Lois Lowry

Gossamer by Lois LowryGossamer by Lois Lowry

What are dreams made of exactly and how to you have them? To be more precise, what exactly is the process by which you dream? The thing is, we don’t know. We sort of know, but we don’t know exactly how and why we dream. Our lack of knowledge leads to all kinds of speculation about how dreams come to be, maybe the reality isn’t anything as whimsical as this story, but you never know.

Small creatures sneak about in a house in the dark. They’re practically see through. They’re not dogs, this much Littlest One has determined. Littlest is on her training. She’s learning how to give dreams to people as they sleep.

This process involves very lightly touching items in the house to receive fragments of memories and feelings. Littlest one will then use these fragments to give dreams to people by blowing in their ears or noses. Littlest is said to have a gossamer touch. The house she is training in is inhabited by one lady and her dog. There is a lot on the woman’s mind here recently. She’s thinking of taking in a foster boy.

The elderly dream givers fear a horde is coming. When a dream giver goes bad they turn into something called sinisteed. It looks like a horse and goes around giving people nightmares. Sometimes multiple sinisteeds congregate together to attack one person and this is called a horde. The dream givers cannot fight the sinisteeds and must simply watch on as horrible nightmares are inflicted on people.

The boy moves into the woman’s house; his name is John and he’s quite angry. He has been taken away from his mother, but his father was abusive and he’s just going through a lot of things. He is angry at the lady, but she is always patient with him no matter what. A sinisteed senses the weakness of the boy and comes to give him nightmares, but everyone knows a horde is coming. Littlest suggests strengthening the boy so the nightmares will not hurt him as much. Littlest is able to accomplish this at great risk to herself; she’s even reward for her heroics, but she soon learns she will not be the Littlest anymore and she will leave the boy she has learned to care for, but she is told that she isn’t human and she should not feel human emotions. Littlest takes comfort in the fact that she will always be in the boy’s heart.

What I liked

We really don’t know exactly why or how we dream. So of course we can make up all this stuff about dreams and where they come from. Lois’ explanation is neater than some. If you recall Roald Dahl wrote about The BFG who gave dreams to people. The idea of dream-giving is a subject writers have explored for a while. It’s really a fascinating thing. We play these seemingly random stories in our heads when we’re sleeping. What for? To what end? Does it actually accomplish anything?

I think the world that Lois imagined up is pretty neat. She created this entire race of beings that give people dreams.

What I didn’t like

John needs a smack. This little boy talks terribly to the woman who is trying to shelter him and give him a good life. He calls her stupid. Let me tell you something…it is not kosher to call someone older than you stupid, specifically if you are a child, meaning…if you’re under eighteen, you better not be calling anyone older than you stupid. It’s rude. It’s disrespectful. Generally, someone who is older than you are, knows more than you do and has more life experience, granted, this isn’t always the case, but most of the time, that older person has been through a lot more than you have and has much more insight on a situation than you do.

In fact, you shouldn’t be calling anybody stupid. We throw the word stupid around like it’s a “sentence enhancer,” but, you know what, it’s an insult. It’s an insult to anybody. It’s not even a word that can be used to compliment someone in any way. You can say someone’s a geek and still sort of be paying them a compliment, but you can’t do that with the word stupid. The word stupid insults everybody all around. Nobody wants to be stupid. It’s rude to insult someone’s intelligence. It’s rude to insult anybody for any reason at all, but insulting someone’s intelligence is kind of a big deal.

The point is, someone needs to be some respect into this boy. I know he hasn’t had the easiest life and he probably doesn’t actually respect his parents. I get that; I wouldn’t respect my parents either in the situation that John was in. Even with all of that said, this boy needs to learn to respect the adults in his life and stop calling them terrible names. That’s probably the entire reason he had already been through several foster homes.

People foster children out of the goodness of their hearts. They don’t have to do it. With their own children, they would kind of have to take care of them no matter what, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s sad to say, but, if you are a foster child and you’re acting up for the very people who are trying to give you a home, then it’s kind of your fault if you don’t get to stay. In a perfect world we would all have boundless amounts of patience with one another, but the world isn’t perfect.


The idea of bestowing dreams is a neat idea.

Weigh in

What kind of dreams would you bestow on a person if you had the ability to do so?

Do you feel that nightmares and good dreams come from the same place?

bad dreams, dream givers, dreams, good dreams, gossamer, Gossamer by Lois Lowry, gossamer touch, john, littlest, lois lowry, nightmares, sinisteed, toby the dog
Family dynamics, Fantasy, Fiction, Lowry-Lois, what if, Young Adult

Ellen Foster by Kaye GibbonsEllen Foster by Kaye Gibbons

Ellen used to think up ways to kill her daddy, but in the end, she didn’t have to do it. He pretty much killed himself. He didn’t use a gun or a rope, but hard-living got the best of him and he ended up dead, holed up in his own house for who knows how long. Ellen was gone by then; she had left.

She had already decided living with her daddy wasn’t a good life. Her mama had taken a bunch of pills and her daddy wouldn’t let her call an ambulance or anything so her mother died. Ellen has found herself a new family, where she gets enough to eat, has her own room, and can go riding on a pony, but it wasn’t the first house she tried.

When Ellen still lived with her daddy she often escaped from him to her friend Starletta’s house. Starletta is not white like Ellen and lives in a small shack. There is no running water, but Starletta’s family is kind to Ellen. They know she doesn’t have the best life and they welcome her to stay as much as she wants to, but Ellen has not yet learned to trust people who aren’t the same race as her.

First, Ellen tries her aunt, but her aunt tells her she cannot stay but for the weekend. Then the school intervenes and she stays with the art teacher, who is a good person, but the court steps in and Ellen is sent to live with her maternal grandmother. Her grandmother is not kind to her. She makes her work in the fields picking cotton and always looks down on her because of who her father is. The woman never has a kind remark for Ellen, but Ellen takes care of her despite that. It turns out that her grandmother was actually quite sick and does die. After that Ellen goes to live with another aunt, who tolerates her for a while, but the situation doesn’t work out because her aunt only has eyes for her daughter and not for Ellen.

Ellen spies a woman in church who has lots of different children. She asks about her and determines that she will be her new mama.

What I liked

Poor Ellen has a rough life. I liked that she learned to get above it though. She didn’t let the fact that her parents were dead really hold her back. She didn’t let the fact that her grandmother was mean as a snake to her hold her back. She went on with life. She’s resilient in a way that many people aren’t. You really have to admire someone like Ellen. She takes her own life into her hands and just goes on about her business.

I also really liked that Ellen learned to realize that Starletta was a person just the same as her. In the beginning of the story, Ellen thought she was going to get some kind of germs from Starletta because her skin was a different color. Ellen learns that this is not the case and Starletta is just like her. This is a grand realization for someone so young. Small children often do not care about race, but they can be taught through action and word to be prejudiced by the time they’re several years old. This is what happened to Ellen. She didn’t do this herself, but was taught, probably not outright, but she was taught to distrust anyone who wasn’t the same race as herself. I’m glad that she was able to reprogram herself and be more trusting.

What I didn’t like

I was watching Call the Midwife last night(it’s a British show based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth and her time as a midwife in London). I like the show; it deals with a lot of issues of the day and also issues that have always existed. The episode last night was about four neglected children. Their mother would go off and just leave them for a day or two at a time, when the youngest was a baby. They were filthy and hungry. They had nobody there for them. The oldest boy, who had to be only seven or eight, took care of them himself or tried to. It was just about the saddest thing.

I don’t understand why or how people could do anything like that. I don’t understand what’s in certain people to treat a child in such a manner. I cannot imagine what went through Ellen’s father’s head in order for him to treat her so. If Ellen had not left when she did, things would have been very bad for her. I just can’t comprehend the fact that someone could be so terrible to their own children.

It almost makes me want to say that some people just don’t deserve children, but how are you supposed to know that a person is like that before they actually have a child? It’s a question for the ages. It’s just something we have to try to clean up as a society because we can’t tell who is and who isn’t going to take care of their children before they have them. It’s up to us to pick up those pieces after a person like Ellen’s father rolls through the world.


I think in a twisted way, this is a really good book for foster children to read. It shows them that they can be somebody and they don’t have to suffer.

Weigh in

If you were in the same situation as Ellen had been in, would you leave your home?

Do you believe that Ellen being appreciated and cared for made her more able to appreciate Starletta?

abusing children, bad home life, books about foster children, ellen, Ellen Foster, Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, foster care, foster children, Kaye Gibbons, mean grandmother, neglecting children, starletta
Coming of age, Family dynamics, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Gibbons-Kaye, Social Commentary

Kira-Kira by Cynthia KadohataKira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

In Japanese “kira-kira” means something like “glittering” or “glittery.” Katie and her sister Lynn use this word to describe everything. Their mother says they’re not using the word correctly and she bemoans the fact that they haven’t been to Japan yet, but she works hard for her family.

The family, mother, father, Lynn, and Katie start out in Iowa. Their father owns an Asian market there, but it doesn’t do so well. There simply aren’t enough Asian people in their area to keep the market going. The family never considered themselves poor as long as they had enough rice.

The plan is to move to Southern Georgia where mother and father will work for a chicken plant. Uncle will help them move. They will live in an apartment building with all the other Japanese people in the area, who also work at the chicken plant. Mother and father work many long hours to save for a house for their family.

The years pass by. A little brother comes along, he is named Sammy. Lynn gets her own friend, but a strange and sudden fatigue comes over Lynn that no one is ever able to explain for several years. Lynn and Katie are as close as can be. They have many adventures in their life. They go camping. They go on picnics. They get into a bit of trouble. Their parents are long-suffering and go to work day in and day out, sometimes not even coming home for days at a time. Lynn and Katie are often left to themselves with Sammy.

Lynn’s fatigue comes back. Doctors are visited. Hospital trips are in order. Nobody tells Katie what is wrong with Lynn, but the adults know. A sky blue house is purchased so the family can be in a house for Lynn. Lynn has to stay in the bedroom by herself. Katie and Sammy have to sleep in the living room. Katie gets mad because she has to take care of her sister and she still doesn’t know what is wrong.

Time goes on and Lynn gets sicker and sicker. She’s just not the same Lynn she used to be. The family hardly ever seems to be together anymore. Mother and father area always working. Finally, the inevitable happens. Father does something completely out of character when it does, but life moves on. Katie knows she has to be better for her sister.

What I liked

This is the story of a hard-working immigrant family. Those stories are always tough. While it is true that there are rags to riches stories, immigrant stories are often very difficult. It used to be extremely difficult for immigrants to fit in when moving to the United States. We have all these sayings about how The United States is a melting pot, but in reality, things don’t melt so easy. Over time they melt, but it takes a very long time for the different substances to break down and play nice. It’s not as easy as throwing white chocolate and dark chocolate into a pot and having it melted in five minutes. Cultures clash. People are suspicious. People are scared. People hold hatred for anything that is unfamiliar. People think they’re better because they’re one race or the other.

Look, we all know that one race is not better than another race. We’re in a more enlightened time, at least I would hope we are. We’re all still people no matter how you look at it. During the time this story was written that wasn’t so. People were deeply prejudiced still. We are talking about South Georgia after all. I grew up in Georgia, not everyone is a bigoted jerk there, but there are still enough holdouts that they give everyone else a bad name.

Let me tell you a true story about South Georgia. I was once talking to a man from South Georgia. I talked to him shortly until he chose to use the word “colored” for anybody of African-American descent. I don’t agree with this usage and I find it derogatory. I quit talking to this man. While it is true that it’s his opinion and he can say whatever in the heck he wants to say because he has free speech, it’s not very nice to use such an antiquated term which was at one point an insult.

A place like South Georgia is slow to change and I think Cynthia captured that quite well. I don’t like the fact that South Georgia is slow to change. Yes, I know it’s in my “what I liked” section. I like that Cynthia captured an era and a prejudice so well.

What I didn’t like

My family has some experience in chicken processing plants. They are dangerous, dirty, disgusting places to work. They don’t pay well. There aren’t really any unions. I don’t know where Cynthia got this idea of a union in a Southern chicken processing plant from. Maybe it really happened at one point, but as far as I know, Southern chicken processing plants do not have unions. Most of who works in chicken processing plants are immigrants. There are life-long American citizens who work in chicken plants, such as members of my family, but that’s an exception, not a rule. It’s very difficult work.

Disease and injury are common mainstays of any meat processing plant. If you think the idea of Katie’s mom wearing a pad to catch urine while she works her shift is awful and far-fetched, it’s not. It’s been documented. Meat processing workers aren’t treated with the same respect as workers in other fields. It’s very rare for a meat processing plant to get shut down because they have such strong lobbies in congress. Here’s a fun fact, if your death is caused by something that happens in a meat processing plant your family only gets 75,000 dollars; that’s it, nothing more. A human life isn’t worth more than $75,000 to the beef processing industry. Granted, that may have changed in the past few years, I’m not exactly up on all USDA legislation the United States passes.

Cynthia only scratches the surface of the terrible life that Katie’s family is living. What is described is a very hard life on anyone. I don’t think the reader can really gather how terrible this life is unless they’ve done their own research or known someone who has worked in a chicken plant. In the end, Katie’s family works their butt off only for one of their children to succumb to an illness that perhaps could have been defeated with the proper resources. Life is not easy for them at all.


This book was a great fictional look into the life of immigrant chicken plant workers and their struggles.

Weigh In

Do you believe that Katie would manage to make her sister proud in her later life?

If you have ever cared for a dying loved one, do you find that Katie’s anger towards the situation was warranted?

chicken plant, chicken processing plant, cynthia kadohata, georgia, immigrants work in chicken processing plants, japanese immigrants, katie, kira-kira, Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata, lynn, working in a chicken plant
Books Set in the South, Coming of age, Family dynamics, Fiction, Kadohata-Cynthia, Young Adult

The Waters of Kronos by Conrad RichterThe Waters of Kronos by Conrad Richter

This book was published in 1960, but I’ve never heard of it. It was short and had good reviews so I decided that I would read it.

This book is about a man named John Donner. He’s driving back to his hometown, but the thing is, he can’t get there ever again. His hometown of Unionville was flooded to create a water reservoir and dam. The purpose was of course to provide water to surrounding communities and also hydroelectric power.

Driving up to town, everything looks the same, but then, there is a large dam and a large lake where there wasn’t one before. John happens to be an author. He has money. He’s lived his life; he just wants to go home. The guards at the dam are reluctant to let him in. He wants to explore what is left. He finally gets in by saying that he wants to see the cemeteries. The people who built the dam had to move several cemeteries. They don’t have the character they used to and they feel quite dead, but here are the bones of his family that died before him. As he sneaks around, where he shouldn’t, he spies a wagon, which is strange for several reasons. First of all, no wagons could get where this wagon is now because there is a lake in the way. Second of all, nobody drives a wagon anymore. When John was a boy people drove wagons, but not anymore.

John goes to the man in the wagon, surprisingly, he’s real. He asks for a ride into town. The man is going to Unionville. John is astounded to find himself actually going to Unionville. There are all the old buildings. There are the churches, his father’s store, and his aunt’s house. It’s all there. Nobody is driving a car. There are only buggies.

At first, John tries to speak with his father. It is soon made known that John has gone back in time. His father is just starting to leave for school to become a preacher, this was when John was only a young boy. His father is not as polite to him as he expects. He doesn’t know John as a grown man. He tries is aunt next, but she doesn’t know him either. Another relative seems to know him, but everyone thinks he’s crazy. Nobody recognizes the grown up John.

John wants above all else to see his mother, but his mother cannot come because there has been a family death, John’s grandfather. John somehow passes out. He finds himself being looked over by several people. They think he had a stroke. They put him to bed. His mother cannot come, but she sends John himself, the young John. The older John knows what the young John thinks about and about the voice he hears every once in a while. Soon the woman whose house it is say’s it’s time to go.

What I liked

This book is definitely mysterious. None of this is ever really explained. How did John travel back in time? Why did it happen? Did it really happen? Did he just pass out? Did he really have a stroke? If he was able to go back and change the past, how come nothing changed in current time line? Did John ever recover from this?

The thing is, we don’t know if John makes it out of Unionville alive or if he doesn’t. Maybe he really did have some sort of stroke and Unionville was simply a last glimpse of his life before he drifted off into death.

Conrad was very good at describing the surroundings. If you read his writing you can imagine the lake and the trees and all the other things that John talks about. You can see Unionville in your head. Conrad was really able to make the whole thing come to life.

This story borders on being a ghost story and I like that.

What I didn’t like

I feel bad for John Donner. He just wanted to revisit his past, see his home one last time, see the people he loved one last time. Nobody recognized him. His past didn’t recognize him as his future. Isn’t that how it should work though? Shouldn’t we improve so much that our past life couldn’t recognize our future life? Ideally, I think that’s how it should work. I don’t think you should be able to go back in time to when you were ten and be recognized by your past life, that means you didn’t do enough to change yourself and make yourself better.

On the other hand, maybe your past doesn’t recognize your future because you’ve went wrong. Maybe you turned down the wrong roads and made the wrong choices. Maybe that’s something the past you would have never done and your past would be disappointed to know how you’ve turned out. It cannot recognize you because your past never imagined that you would turn out to be a drug dealer or an adulterer or whatever.

When John goes back into the past he knows the future of the people there. He knows that there are several people who will be murdered. He knows there are several people who will die of tuberculosis. He knows this is going to happen, but he can’t do anything about it. Nobody recognizes him and everyone just thinks he’s crazy. Nobody is going to listen to his rantings about murderers and TB. He can’t do anything to save these people. That’s a downer right there.

All around, John gets disappointed by his past life.


I have never, NEVER, understood why anyone would want to go back to being a former age, especially a child age. John remembers his childhood days fondly, but going back is not easy for him and nothing turns out in his favor really. I guess this story is a good way of saying don’t dwell in the past. The past is the past; move forward.

Weigh in

Would you go back into your past to revisit everyone and everything knowing that you would not be recognized and you could not prevent any of the horrible things that you know would happen?

Are you of the mind that your past self should not recognize your future self or are you of the mind that you should always be able to recognize yourself no matter when it is?

conrad richter, dammed up the river, going back in time, john donner, kronos river, lake, seeing the past, the waters of kronos, The Waters of Kronos by Conrad Richter, time travel
Family dynamics, Fantasy, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Mystery, Richter-Conrad, Science Fiction, what if

Outside Beauty by Cynthia KadohataOutside Beauty by Cynthia Kadohata

I liked the first Cynthia Kadohata book so much that I decided to read a second one right after the first. This book is about four sisters. All of them are half-Japanese except for one, who is all the way Japanese. Their mother is a woman named Helen Kimura. She values her beauty above anything else. She collects men just like she collects the real diamonds and other jewels in her collection that grows up to a worth of about one-hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

The sisters are each different as they’re different people, but they each also have different fathers. Our narrator is a girl named Shelby, the second-oldest girl. Her father was actually Japanese. The other girls’ fathers are Italian-American and a mixture of other hyphenated Americans.

The girls do hope for a father in life. They really like Lakey’s father Larry. He lives in California. They go out to visit him when the current boyfriend, Pierre, throws a temper-tantrum. All the girls really like Larry, but Helen doesn’t like him so much. She sees each man as a conquest. She teaches her girls how to look beautiful. She tells them how to get men. Despite all of these perhaps dubious teachings, she also takes very good care of her daughters. They always have food. They have what they need. They each get their own box of crackers. Their mother is quite thoughtful to them. Each of them are trusted with responsibilities and money from a young age. They all know how to make a budget for a trip or read a map. They even have their own savings, which totals around three-thousand dollars, and that’s saying something for young girls.

Something terrible happens part of the way through the book. As a result of this terrible incident each of the girls must go and live with their fathers for a while. Lakey enjoys her time in California. Marilyn enjoys her stay in Chicago because her father is there. For the most part Shelby enjoys her stay with her father in Arkansas. He makes gum. He has a goat and he’s not a bad person. She sees wisdom in his ways. The one who doesn’t enjoy her stay is Maddie, the youngest. Her father has claimed himself as a child-rearing expert and expects her to behave a certain way, which includes not wetting the bed.

The girls grow more and more concerned over Maddie. At one point they must fly back to Chicago to see their mother who has acquired an infection. They make a plan on how to remain together. It’s a little daring and it gets them in a bit of trouble, but their mother has already taught them the things they need to know to complete their task.

What I liked

I liked how close these sisters were. I don’t have any sisters. I really have no idea what it’s like to have a sister or to be close to another woman in the way that these four sisters are close. I like how they care for one another and depend on one another. They’re quite capable of living on their own if need be. Their mother taught them well in the realm of self-reliance even if it didn’t always appear that she was doing so.

What I didn’t like

This story goes to show a person how petty some people can be. Helen Kimura, while not the greatest role model, is a good mother. She keeps her children together and will do almost anything to make sure it stays that way. The fathers on the other-hand each have their failings, but none so much as Maddie’s father, Mr. Bronson. Mr. Bronson seems to be the most educated out of all four fathers, but he seems to lack the most people smarts. He doesn’t know how to deal with people properly and encroaches on the territory of decisions best made by other people. He treats poor Maddie like a robot and expects her to behave like one when she’s just a child. If he’s such an expert on child-rearing and already has three children of his own, then he should know that children do not behave like robots.

I think it’s really sad that such a young child got ripped away from the only life she knew and got placed into something so foreign she really couldn’t have imagined it. It happens a lot though, in real life. Custody battles end up with some strange outcomes sometimes. People are often more concerned about their desires and wants than they are about the child they’re playing tug-of-war with. Sometimes what’s best for a child isn’t necessarily what parenting books say is best for a child.

Looking at Helen, she does teach her girls some dubious lessons. She teaches them to value beauty and use men. Marilyn and Shelby are old enough to see her mistakes and her loneliness, but the younger two girls are not. Beauty is not necessarily something you should teach your children to value above all else, unless you’re also teaching your children to find beauty in all things, then maybe you could teach them to value beauty above all else. Beauty, as in the type of beauty Helen is so proud of, is fleeting and is not fixed. It will change and whither. Although, even after an accident that causes Helen’s beauty to change she still managed to exude beauty in her own way.


These girl are independent and they stick together.

Weigh In

Do you think Helen is correct in teaching her girls to value their beauty above other qualities?

If you didn’t have a father or a very good father, whose father would you choose instead and why?

beauty, blended families, children with different fathers, cynthia kadohata, japanese girls, lakey, maddie, marilyn, outside beauty, Outside Beauty by Cynthia Kadohata, sexpot, shelby, sisters, sisters want to stay together, valuing beauty
Coming of age, Family dynamics, Fiction, Kadohata-Cynthia, Social Commentary, Young Adult

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia KadohataThe Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata

In the middle of the United States things are a bit different than on either coast. The middle of the States, while being tornado alley, is also home to much of our food production, including cattle, corn, and wheat. In this story Summer belongs to a wheat harvesting family, not a wheat farming family, but a wheat harvesting family. Summer’s family is also Japanese.

At the beginning of the book we find that it has been a year of bad luck. Summer got a case of malaria, which is quite rare int he United States. She was sick for the longest time. Her parents have gone back to Japan to take care of her great-grandparents while they die. Summer and her brother Jaz are left with their grandparents.

Jaz does not have any friends. As the story progresses it’s evident that something is wrong with Jaz. The way he acts sounds an awfully lot like autism. They hold a party for Jaz, but no one comes. Soon it is harvest time. Jichan, Summer’s grandfather, will drive a combine to harvest wheat and Obachan, her grandmother, will be the cook for the harvesters.

The process is hard on both grandparents. Obachan has an old back injury that gives her much pain. Jichan becomes ill part of the way through harvest. They both push forward though because they know they need the money, while arguing all the time. Summer and Jaz are there along with their grandparents. They stay in an RV on site. Summer’s dog kills some chickens when she isn’t paying attention. Her grandparents try to teach her about being a good person. Sometimes Summer listens sometimes she doesn’t. Meanwhile Jaz knows he is different and asks his sister why people don’t like him.

At one point Summer must drive a combine herself to get the wheat harvested in time. She learns that her luck can change.

What I liked

There is a bit of a culture clash in this story and it’s an interesting one. The Japanese culture meets the middle-America harvesting and farming culture. If you go to Japan, out of the cities, you will find that many Japanese people farm or garden. Most people in the more rural areas have some sort of garden especially in Okinawa. Farming and growing things is a way of life for Japanese people, but it’s not quite on such a grand scale as the farms in the middle of America. In Okinawa, everyone has their little patch of land, or pots, where they grow the things they want to grow. It’s not enough to sustain an entire family, but it helps. In the middle of America, one farm sustains thousands of people.

So in the end, this whole thing may be familiar to Summer’s family, but only in a certain manner. They’ve learned how to adapt to the world they live in now.

Summer tries to be good, but she’s still just a kid. There are lots of things she still has to figure out and by the end of the book she knows this is true. She knows she has a lot of growing up to do, but she’ll eventually figure out where she is supposed to be in life and what she’s about. Let me tell you something, it’s quite rare that a teenager figures out that they’re not quite who they’re supposed to be yet as a teenager. Teenagers think they know everything and that they’ll never change their attitudes or ideas. Summer is a rare student who learns that the Summer she is now isn’t the Summer she’s going to end up as.

What I didn’t like

This book contained an awfully lot about wheat. First of all, I can’t eat wheat. Second of all, due to certain aspects of my upbringing I know way more about wheat than I should, really. I know how to store it. I know how to grind it. I know how to make cereal out of it. I know that people make things like “wheatballs” out of it; it’s like meatballs, but with 100% more gluten. What I’m trying to say is that I’m wheated out. I don’t want to read about wheat. I have seriously heard about enough wheat in my life. In fact, I have wheat in my house, not that I can eat it, but I have some. You never know when the apocalypse is going to happen and you’re going to have to spend the rest of your living life being sick to the stomach because the only thing you have to eat is red winter wheat. I guess it’s survival of the fittest. All the people with wheat allergies and celiac disease will die off during the apocalypse and it will leave a new breed of people who survive solely on red winter wheat. They’ll graze on it like cows. They’ll be called “the wheat people.”

I’ve gotten a bit off topic, but overall, I’m tired of hearing about wheat. Wheat can go fly a kite, especially the Monsanto stuff.

Oh and, DEET, Summer uses it all the time. DO NOT PUT DEET ON YOUR SKIN. Go for more natural remedies. That stuff is bad news. Get yourself some citronella oil from the health food store and mix it with a carrier oil, then spray that on yourself for insect repellant. Don’t put nasty Monsanto or other similarly big agri/pharma derived chemicals on your skin.


I like Summer. She’s a good kid. I hope she goes far in life and I hope Jaz figures out where his place is as well.

Weigh In

Would you eat wheatballs instead of meatballs?

If you could not eat wheat and the apocalypse happened, what measures would you take to ensure your survival in a world of preppers who stored up tons of red winter wheat?

combines, cynthia kadohata, driving a combine, farming wheat, grandparents, harvesting wheat, japan, japanese americans, jaz, jichan, malaria, obachan, summer, the thing about luck, The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata, wheat
Coming of age, Family dynamics, Fiction, Finding Your Self, Kadohata-Cynthia, Romantic Fiction, Social Commentary, Young Adult


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