Thursday, December 11, 2014

Homeroom Diaries

Patterson, J. and Papademetriou, L. (2014). Homeroom Diaries. Blackstone Audiobooks.

YA / Realistic Fiction / Humor

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars

NOTE: Sadly, my audio review copy didn't include the PDF of art and illustrations, so I am reviewing solely on the audiobook content. This is a very quick listen at just four hours playing on normal speed.

In Homeroom Diaries, authors James Patterson and Lisa Papademetriou cover some heavy material in the very believable voice of main character, Maggie Clarke. It's junior year of high school, and Maggie "Cuckoo" Clarke has chosen optimism as her modus operandi. It doesn't matter that she had a mental breakdown after her mother abandoned her (hence the nickname, Cuckoo), that the school counselor anxiously and almost enthusiastically awaits a relapse, that she and her "Freak Show" friends are bullied by the school's haters, or that even those who seem to have it together are teetering on the edge. Oh, and she may have a crush on her teacher and the feeling might be mutual.  Despite the odds, Cuckoo and the Freak Show friends will choose happiness for not only themselves, but for the entire school -- come hell or high water.

"Even trees go through sad times, but then they burst back to life. That will be me. THAT will be me." Cuckoo Clarke, as she prefers to be called, is an amazing narrator. (And on that note, Lauren Fortgang does an excellent job of reading, though as is often the case, her male voices sound a lot like Rudolph with his fake nose on his face.)  Through Cuck's diary entries, readers are taken straight into the battlefields of high school, where even the teachers and school staff can be the enemy.  Cuckoo navigates it all and strives to accept herself, faults and all, embracing what makes her unique, in part because she has the support of an incredible foster mother, Mrs. Morris. Patterson & Papademetriou quickly establish the deep love and respect between Cuckoo and Mrs. Morris, setting the stage for even more heartache. 

There are definitely a few parts that are unrealistic -- two quick examples are a seventeen-year-old protégé being hired as a high school teacher and a student who attempted suicide being right back in school just days later -- but the writing is vivid ("Marjorie's car is a vintage Buick and it still smells like an old man.") and the messages are powerful. Cuckoo Clarke reminds readers that the bad doesn't have to define who you are, and that happiness -- even if you have to rewrite endings to find it -- is a life choice. 

This book was reviewed for Readers' Favorite, who provided me a free CD audiobook in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.

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