Taking Terri Mueller by Norma Fox Mazer

Those who know me well know that I cringe whenever someone uses the nouns “boy” and “girl” as adjectives, whether it’s to describe a color (Since when did rays of reflected light belong to a particular gender?), a book, or anything else. That being said, some authors tend to write for and/or attract a narrow audience. Norma Fox Mazer is one such author.

Now, I must confess that when I picked up Norma Fox Mazer’s Taking Terri Mueller, I had convinced myself that I was going to “take one for the team” (The “team,” of course, is a legion of former and future students.) and read a “girl book.” Having finished the book, I no longer have visions of martyrdom.

I’d like to share with you a quote from the author:

When asked why she wrote Taking Terri Mueller, Ms. Mazer replied, “I read that there are an estimated 25,000 children stolen each year in the aftermath of divorce and that most of them will never see their mothers again. I was not only saddened by this bleak statistic, I was also startled and fascinated that in the name of love adults would deprive their children not only of a parent but of family and friends, community and stability. I wrote this book for both adults and children. First, because it’s a story I think everyone can connect to; and second–as in all my writing for young people–to say, ‘Okay, life is not easy, but don’t despair. There is strength inside you.’ ”

Things Hoped For by Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements’ Things Hoped For is easily one of the best books I have ever read. And that’s not hyperbole. In fact, I’m not sure I’m capable of writing a review that will do this book justice. Instead, I think I’ll share the text from the back cover:

Gwen’s grandfather has disappeared from their home in New York City, but he’s left her a phone message telling her not to worry–and to let no one know he’s gone. The timing couldn’t be worse. Gwen has violin auditions soon at Manhattan’s top music schools. More stress is not what she needs. The she meets Robert, also in town for auditions, and her new freedom actually seems to have some benefits. After all, she’s seventeen, suddenly on her own, and there’s no place on earth quite like New York.

But below the surface, other forces are in motion. There’s the great-uncle who keeps coming to the house, insisting he has to talk with her grandfather. There’s the strange man Gwen sees one day when shopping, and then there’s the discovery, right in her own home, that brings the NYPD crashing onto the scene, uniting Gwen and Robert in ways neither of them could have foretold.

In this remarkable follow-up to the wildly popular Things Not Seen, award-winning author Andrew Clements brings readers a multi-layered story about art and identity, about friendship and family, and ultimately, about life and love.

Unbeknownst to me, Things Hoped For is actually the second book in what will soon become a trilogy: Things That Are is scheduled to be released on September 18, 2008. It’s not necessary to have read Things Not Seen to appreciate Things Hoped For. But you can bet Things Not Seen will be next on my reading list, followed by Things That Are as soon as it’s released.