Review: Falling Out of Place by M G Higgins

 

Title:  Falling Out of Place

Author:  M G Higgins

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Gabby Herrera is not like her perfect sister, Celia–straight-A student, obedient, responsible. Her parents don’t get it. They don’t get er C-average report card. Her love for basketball.
"The three of them think anything is possible if you just try hard enough. Well, I’ve tried. It’s not possible."
She can’t be who she is unless she is just like them. And if she’s not like them, she’s not a real person. She’s a broken person. A broken Herrera. And that is unacceptable.


Review:

Falling Out of Place was an unsolicited review copy, and when I pulled it out of the envelope, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I have had a few issues with other Saddleback publications, and while I have found them all compulsively readable, I wasn’t always impressed with the quality of writing or the presentation values.  I started reading this book because it was short, it looked like a fast read, and I wasn’t really in the mood for anything else.  I am so glad that I did start it, because by the third chapter, I could not put it down.  This story hit all the right spots for me, and I enjoyed it much more than I was expecting.

Gabby is an angry young woman.  Her sisters are perfect compared to her, and her parents keep ragging on her to get better grades and work harder in school.  Gabby hates school.  What she loves is basketball, and when she’s on the court, she hustles and gives her all.  After a series of personal meltdowns, she is forbidden from playing by her father, forced to get a job after school, and she’s grounded for what seems like life.  As her life continues to spiral out of control, Gabby finds herself engaging in reckless, dangerous behavior.  She is compelled to do the wrong thing, to make the wrong decisions, by the demons that are haunting her.  One by one her friends abandon her, leaving her even more angry and isolated.  When her Uncle Mike dies,  everything comes to a screeching halt.  He was the only one who understood her, and now that he’s gone, Gabby hates herself even more.  Will anything save her from herself and the rage that threatens to consume her?

When I finished this book, I had one word to say – wow.  I had such a hard time liking Gabby, because she is so unlikable.  It wasn’t surprising that she was left friendless; she excelled at pushing everyone who cared for her as far away as possible.  Her temper is out of control, and after a few too many flare ups, nobody wanted to be near her.  What if she came unglued on them?  Her unhappiness and self-loathing grew, page after agonizing page.  Gabby sucked at everything except destroying her life and all of the relationships that meant anything to her, and it was very painful to read along as she self-destructed.

Gabby is a complete train wreck, and after her Uncle Mike dies, things only get worse.  She starts hanging out with people who encourage her to do the wrong thing.  She drinks at work, at home, and at school.  She parties like a pro, but only ends up feeling even more miserable.  With all of the stupid stuff she did, I am surprised she was able to survive from one drinking binge to the next.  This girl was hurting so badly, yet nobody in her family was willing to see her misery.  There wasn’t anybody for her to turn to for help, and that was heartbreaking.  When she finally does go too far, it’s almost too late for her.

I’m not usually drawn to stories with suicidal teens because I find them depressing and difficult to read, but this book is told with so much heart that I couldn’t put it down.  It’s a fast, powerful read with so much emotion stuffed into its short length.  The ending is upbeat, probably too upbeat and not realistic, but I liked it.  Gabby was in complete freefall, when finally, miraculously, she was able to grab onto some hope and finally start to like herself again. 

Grade:  A-/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Graphic Biographies: Steve Jobs

 

Title: Steve Jobs Graphic Biography (Saddleback’s Graphic Biographies)

Publisher:  Saddleback

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Fast-paced and easy-to-read, these softcover 25-page graphic biographies teach students about historical figures: those who lead us into new territory; pursued scientific discoveries; battled injustice and prejudice; and broke down creative and artistic barriers. These biographies offer a variety of rich primary and secondary source material to support teaching to the standards.
Using the graphics, students can activate prior knowledge–bridge what they already know with what they have yet to learn. Graphically illustrated biographies also teach inference skills, character development, dialogue, transitions, and drawing conclusions. Graphic biographies in the classroom provide an intervention with proven success for the struggling reader.


Review:

When I first received this review book, I wasn’t impressed.  At 25 pages, it seemed skimpy, and I didn’t think a graphic novel about Steve Jobs would hold my attention, even at such a low page count.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  If you know me, you know how much I love gadgets, most of which Steve Jobs was directly responsible for.  He had such a vision of what technology would and should be, and he had the drive to make his ideas transform the world.  His contributions to technology have touched the lives of almost everyone, and there aren’t many people who can make that claim.  To me, Steve Jobs is a lot like Walt Disney; he saw a void in the entertainment world, and he aggressively moved to fill it, despite set backs and the skepticism of others.  When he passed away last year, I was surprisingly upset, and I was left to wonder what other wonderful ideas he might have had, what other ways he could have changed my world. 

This graphic biography is part of Saddleback’s collection of fast-paced and easy to read glimpses into the lives of famous historical figures.  It’s marketed to struggling learners, and because everyone is aware of Apple products and almost everyone owns at least one, I think that this book will appeal to even the most reluctant of readers.  It would also be appreciated by Middle Grade readers.  It is a very easy to read book, and it is packed with the highlights and even the rare failures that made up Jobs’ career.   I found the material extremely compelling, as I was there for many of Steve’s product launches.  My mom had an Apple computer, and I wasted many, many hours playing Tetris on it when I should have been doing homework instead.  I still love Pixar movies, and I wonder how different Disney would have been without Toy Story and Monsters, Inc to enrich both their movie catalog and their theme parks.  Where would I be without my iPhone and iPad? Probably reading more, but most assuredly Tweeting, texting, and blogging less.

While I enjoyed the written material, I found the artwork functional at best.  These are no frills illustrations that follow along with the text, but offer nothing more.  The prose was occasionally stiff and unnatural.  At 25 pages, the $7.95 price point is also exceptionally steep, so you might want to check this out of the library.   Despite these nitpicks, I thought this was an informative and interesting read.  I am definitely in the minority about this, so you might want to sample a copy at the bookstore before you purchase.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher