Dr. Dan's Elixir
|Potent Magic for Young Minds|
The Nine Lives of Chloe King by Celia Thomson
Simon Pulse, Copyright © 2004
250 pages, $6.99 Soft cover
Age Group: 14 up
3 out of 5 Stars -- I liked it
Chloe falls 200 feet from an observation tower in San Francisco. She should have
died but she walked away. From that point on things began to change in Chloe's
life. Never one of the in crowd, she and her two friends, Amy and Paul, lived on
the edge of the schoolyard. They had always been a tight group, which protected
them from the jibes of the popular kids. Two things change the dynamics of this
group. Chloe's fall from the tower and Amy and Paul's newfound love for each
other. These two items create the tensions in this book that need to be resolved.
From the moment Chloe walks away from that deadly fall she begins to change.
First we witness a change in her self-confidence. She begins to flirt and talk with
the cutest boys in school or customers at the store where she works. This is so
unlike Chloe that it frightens even her. Then comes the discovery of speed -- she
can run with the velocity and agility of a cat (the big cats, not house cats), her
simple self-defense classes evolve into a Jackie Chan kick-a-like and her senses
become more exact. She can smell subtle odors and hear conversations a great
deal away. Chloe wonders what she's becoming but she's having so much fun
(such as running home from work at full speed) with these abilities that she
doesn't give much thought to the situation at first.
Soon she gets a glimpse of another cat-person on a nearby rooftop as she is
leaping from house to house on her way home. The sight of this other roof-commuter is comforting but not very informational. He remains a mystery until
the end of the book.
This main plot regarding the metamorphosis from human to something more cat-like is very interesting and what made the book memorable to me. The secondary
plot regarding growing up and teenage angst wasn't as profound to me. I can see
where that subplot is important to helping teenagers relate to the book (it usually
helps me). Look at all the changes, physical and social, young adults are making
and add to that the transformation from human to cat and things become really
interesting. However, it's what Ms. Thomson shows as normal behaviors for
teenagers that bothered me about the book.
Call me a prude, call me conservative, but this book teaches values with which I
am not comfortable. Yes, many teenagers make the transition from kissing to
intercourse quite quickly. But that doesn't mean it's healthy or good for all
teenagers or should be an expectation. Parents might as well hand out condoms as
their young adult children march off to school each morning. Intercourse is
inevitable so why fight it? In all fairness to the author, Chloe never has sex, but
she and her friend sure discuss it time and again with the most common theme
being that intercourse should occur while you are sixteen.
I'm reminded of a friend's daughter. She was the top track and field star in North
Carolina. When the game schedule came out, most of the meets were on Sunday.
Without input from her parents, Amanda told her coach she would be quitting
track because she wouldn't run on Sunday. One girl changed the entire play
schedule of North Carolina. I tell this story because it exemplifies how one teen
can make such a huge difference when he/she doesn't follow the crowd. If Ms.
Thomson wants to teach us about teenagers facing life, let her use the examples of
those teens who do not follow the herd and rather stand on their own two feet. As
Rocky Balboa said to his son in the movie of the same name, "What's wrong with
putting your toes to the line and saying I am?" What we need are more books
where young adults defy the peer group and become something unique. After all,
isn't that what we want for our children? Isn't that what the outstanding young
adults have done? Isn't that what young adults really want themselves?
Also, the book had a little of what I call the "Buffy complex." Much of what
Chloe becomes is presented in a "Buffy the Vampire Killer" style of the TV show.
I kept thinking, is this Buffy the Rat Killer? There are times when the book had
all the believability of Sarah Michelle Geller kickboxing a vampire ten times as
strong as she to his death. This Buffy-like quality resulted in the book having
little depth. Reach past the story and your hand closes on air.
Dancing With An Alien by Mary Logue
HarperCollins, Copyright © 2000
130 pages, $14.95 Hardcover
Age Group: 14 up
3 out of 5 Stars -- I liked it
This is an interesting story that certainly qualifies as science fiction in a world of
fantasy. It appears that Branko's planet has suffered a catastrophe of huge
proportion. All of the women have died marking his people for extinction.
Branko comes to earth seeking a bride he may take home. He is not the first nor
will he be the last to do this.
Branko meets Tonia -- a tall, willowy, brunette sixteen-year-old -- when she
saves him from drowning. She begins giving him swimming lessons and their
relationship grows from this point on. Her best friend Beatrice is also
experiencing her first boyfriend. Together they compare notes to be sure their
relationships are headed in the right direction to achieve lovemaking. The
checklist is detailed and Beatrice's boyfriend says that he is so happy with what is
happening now that he can wait for what the girls call "slow dancing." Branko
can't wait but is seems that Tonia is of the same mind.
Tonia and Branko's relationship grows at light speed. For all of his awkwardness
born of being not only in a different culture but also from a different planet,
Branko is the perfect boyfriend. He is totally devoted, pays explicit attention to
every word, finds kissing and touching more wonderful than swimming (not
possible on his planet) and does not know what he would do without Tonia. When
she is grounded a few days before he must return home, he is devastated but no
more so than Tonia. To Branko touching is better than Dutch Apple Pie (Starman
-- the movie).
Finally Branko, secure in the love he and Tonia have for each other, asks Tonia if
she will go back to his planet with him, be his wife and have children. After little
thought she agrees to go. In the end Branko leaves without her because he loves
her too much to subject her to the horrors of his planet. This means he will go
home in disgrace, but he cannot let her become a baby machine. This is a sweet
story of simple, pure love. Branko may be the most genuine lover the literature
world will ever know.
Call me a dud, call me a dad, call me a crab, but my only complaint with this book
is that we have another author who feels it is her place to teach young adults when
the time is right to have sex; a topic better left taught in the home. Age sixteen
seems to be the targeted period by Ms. Logue. Nope, there is no explicit sex. We
learn merely that Tonia and Branko make love on a particular night. It's Tonia's
age that is stressed as the appropriate time. This is revealed in conversations with
Tonia's best friend Beatrice. Tonia and Branko go skinny dipping on their second
date. And it was Tonia's idea, for crying out loud. I like my young adult literature
without subplots regarding when to have intercourse. Teenage angst already
contains plenty of topics regarding human sexuality that teens must deal with for
the first time and would be appropriate topics for inclusion in novels.
Copies of Dancing With An Alien can be purchased from the sources below:
New from Books-A-Million (bamm.com) for $13.72
Used from Amazon.com starting at $1.54
Used from Barnes's & Noble (barnesandnoble.com) starting at $1.99