Review: A Long Way From You by Gwendolyn Heasley

 

Title: A Long Way From You

Author: Gwendolyn Heasley

Publisher:  Harper Teen

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

For too long, Kitsy has had to satisfy her dreams of becoming a real artist by giving her friends makeovers before prom. So when her best friend Corrinne’s family offers to sponsor her for a summer art course in New York City, Kitsy bids a temporary good-bye to Texas to say hello to the West Village.

Between navigating the subway and the New Yorkers—namely, the Art Boy who has a nice trick of getting under her skin—Kitsy knows that this summer is going to be about a lot more than figure drawing.

Review:

When I saw that Gwendolyn Heasley had a follow up to Where I Belong, I was quite excited to read it.  I enjoyed her first book, and found myself overcoming my initial dislike of Corrinne as she matured into a more compassionate human being.  At the start of her story, she is spoiled, over-indulged, and not likable.  Not at all.  But as her family’s financial circumstances deteriorated, she was forced to take a long look at herself and decide whether she wanted to continue being a selfish, immature person.  Unfortunately, the Corrinne that we meet in A Long Way From You is sadly similar to the Corrinne at the beginning of Where I Belong.  Her New York friends, obviously, were not good for her personality, but I digress.

In this outing, Kitsy is the star, and I never had a problem liking her.  Kitsy is bubbly and fun, despite her difficult home life.  Her mother is not an ideal caregiver, and Kitsy is the adult in their house.  She cares for her younger brother,  as well as her mother, cooking, cleaning, and keeping everything running as smoothly as a teenager in charge of a household can.  She is the breadwinner, and her checks from her job at Sonic keep the lights on and food on the table, but just barely.  Kitsy has so many dreams, too, but as shackled as she is to the well-being of her family, it is unlikely that she will ever see them realized. 

When Corrinne’s family volunteers to sponsor her in New York City so she can attend summer art school, it’s a dream come true.  Though she’s excited to attend, the reality of leaving her brother in their mother’s questionable  care is almost enough to keep her home in tiny Broken Spoke, Texas.  There are so many things that can go wrong during her absence, and her mother is so unreliable.  When she is accepted into the summer art program, it’s with a great deal of trepidation that she accepts the plane ticket to NYC, and her summer of adventure.

I was under the mistaken impression that this is a romance.  It’s not, not really.  This is the story about a young woman who is given the chance to discover who she is, away from the stifling expectations of her small town.  Nobody knows Kitsy in NYC, and she loves the freedom that brings.  She can become anyone she wants to be, without her mother’s failures to hinder her.  She isn’t expected to be anyone’s steadfast girlfriend, or the level-headed older sister who has been given far too many responsibilities for far too long.  I loved reading along with Kitsy as she rebels against the perfect girl she is supposed to be.   When she meets a handsome guy who is just as interested in art as she is, she looses her sense of caution and takes risks and chances she would never have done at home.  Finally, in the crush of humanity that is NYC, she is given the freedom to make mistakes, and more importantly, to learn from them as she makes them.

I enjoyed this quiet, feel good read.  Kisty’s New York adventure forces her to reassess  her life and her dreams, and helps her to face her problems at home.  The resolution of her strained relationship with her mother is too easily won, but I found this book a fulfilling read.  I liked the protagonist and her new friends, and found A Long Way From You hard to put down.  I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

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Interview with Gwendolyn Heasley, Author of A Long Way From You


Gwendolyn Heasley is making a repeat visit to the Cafe.  When we chatted with her last, her debut novel Where I Belong had just hit store shelves.  Today, Gwen is back with us to discuss her latest release, A Long Way From You.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Gwendolyn Heasley] I’m a native Midwestern with New Yorker parents. I love a story more than anything in the world. My greatest career ambition is to have readers relate to my characters and be moved by their stories.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about A Long Way From You?

[Gwendolyn Heasley] On the plot level, it’s the story of Kitsy Kidd’s summer trip to Manhattan to attend art classes.

On the inner level, it’s the story of Kitsy exploring who she is when she’s away from everything she’s ever known.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Kitsy?

[Gwendolyn Heasley] Peppy. Caring. Brave.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Kitsy would never have in her purse?

[Gwendolyn Heasley] Anything designer or frivolous. Kitsy doesn’t have many physical possessions, so her purse would be very bare. She might carry a lip gloss, but that’s the only make-up she’d ever have on her. She would have something to remind her of her brother Kiki, her most important baggage.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Kitsy’s single most prized possession?

[Gwendolyn Heasley] A poster of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Which of your characters are you more like: Corrinne or Kitsy?

[Gwendolyn Heasley] I’m a little bit of each. I’ve lived in cities and small towns although none as small as Kitsy’s hometown of Broken Spoke. Both Kitsy and Corrinne possess contradictions (which is the basis of a good character in my mind) and I also possess many contradictions. Depending on the situation, I can be shy or loud, timid or brave. I think situation dictates character. We are all capable of acting in many different ways. Throughout my life, I’ve vacillated between being a Kitsy and a Corrinne.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Gwendolyn Heasley] My life. I mine my own emotional experiences for ideas…but after that, I try to let the characters take their own journeys. (My characters are often more grown-up and mature than I was at that age.)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Gwendolyn Heasley] Coffee. Diet coke. Silence although I’m always hoping that I can turn into a writer who listens to music while working.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Gwendolyn Heasley] I recently read Sara Pennypacker’s Summer of the Gypsy Moths and I loved it. It has amazing Gothic elements but is written at a very accessible level.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Gwendolyn Heasley] The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin made me into a fanatic reader. I think series can be extremely inspirational for young readers. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the BSC.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Gwendolyn Heasley] I love TV and movies (nearly) as much as I love books. I’m also a big fan of exploring my wonderful city (Manhattan), traveling, skiing, running, interneting, and attempting to cook. I’m also planning my wedding, which is a mammoth but wonderful undertaking.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Gwendolyn Heasley] Hearing from my readers is my favorite part of this job. (And I take readers thoughts very seriously and often incorporate suggestions into my next work) I promise to respond to every email I receive, so please write me at Gwendolyn.heasley@gmail.com

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase A Long Way From You, as well as Where I Belong, from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital

Review: Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

 

Title: Deadly

Author: Julie Chibbaro

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 978-0689857393

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Join the search for Typhoid Mary in this early twentieth-century CSI. Now in paperback!

Prudence Galewski doesn’t belong in Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls. She doesn’t want an “appropriate” job that makes use of refinement and charm. Instead, she is fascinated by how the human body works—and why it fails.

Prudence is lucky to land a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of a mysterious fever. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, Prudence explores every potential cause of the disease to no avail—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. But she’s never been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in solving one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century? 

Review:

When I first sat down with Deadly, I was just a bit apprehensive.  The first few pages didn’t exactly grab me, and I was afraid I was in for a slow, dull read.  My apprehension quickly disappeared.  This book is fantastic, and I quickly started looking at the world in a whole new way.  Bacteria?  What an interesting organism!  When Prudence was finally allowed a peek through a microscope, her enthusiasm was contagious.  What is this tiny, living thing that makes people so ill?  Just like Prudence, I longed to learn more about typhoid fever and how to stop its persistent spread through 1906 New York.

I love a book that does make me think, and Deadly is one of those books.  Prudence is such a smart young woman, curious about science and the human body, but because she is woman, her inquisitive nature is destined to go nowhere.  She is enrolled at a school to learn how to run a household and be a proper wife, which bores her to tears.  She wants to do something meaningful; she wants to help people, so nobody else has to watch a loved one die of illness. When she is hired to work at the Department of Health and Sanitation, she is given an outlet for her curiosity.  Hired because of her neat penmanship and ability to type, she is quickly challenged to use her mind, too.  Her supervisor’s current task is to find the cause of the typhoid fever outbreak and put an end to it before anyone else dies of the disease.

Deadly is a character driven book, and what characters it has!  I loved Prudence, despite her cool reserve.  She isn’t one to easily show her emotions, but she is constantly plagued by them.  Because she wants to make a good impression on her new coworkers, she won’t allow herself to appear weak or womanly before them.  Instead, she’s all business; she wants to prove that she is worthy of her new position, and she devotes herself to assisting Mr. Soper.  She is also still hurting from her brother’s death and the disappearance of her father, who is missing in action from the Spanish American War.  Because of these losses, she is reluctant to risk being hurt again, so she keeps a wall around her emotions.

As Mr. Soper and Prudence begin to suspect that an Irish immigrant is responsible for the outbreak of typhoid, Prudence is assailed with moral and ethical questions.  Is it right to forcibly isolate Mary for the public good?  Do the ends always justify the means?  These questions had me Googling so many issues brought up in the novel.  How could a healthy person spread a disease they never had? What happened to Mary after the events in the book?  How did the typhoid outbreak end?  The book left me with lots of questions that I wanted answers for.  The mere idea that installing toilets in separate rooms at boarding houses made me realize how far medical advances have come in just over 100 years.  Indoor plumbing cut down on the transmission of so many diseases, and yet there are still millions of people without the luxury of toilets!

If you are looking for an engrossing, intelligent read, look no further than Deadly.  Peopled with wonderful, intriguing characters, this book will make you think differently about science and medicine.  I could not put it down, and when I wasn’t reading it, I was telling other people about it, and discussing germs with them.  Much like the bacteria researched in the story, Deadly will get under your skin, without all of the yucky side effects of typhoid!

Grade:  A

Review copy provided by {teen} book scene

 

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