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Mini-Reviews: “Who Done It?”, “Here I Go Again” and “Hooked”

When Chicago winter rears its ugly, black icy, snow swirly head, all I want to do is stay inside and read books. I don’t want to work. I don’t want to go out. I don’t want to get the flu, but that happened last week. But you know the great thing about the flu (after I passed out for two days, that is)? I got to stay inside and read books! Here’s what’s currently in my Lucille Bluth tote bag, and a couple others I just finished.

Who Done It? (ed. Jon Scieszka)

Cover of Who Done It? conducted by Jon Scieszka
Image: goodreads.com

Now this is the lighter-than-air confection of silliness I’m devouring. Who Done It? is essentially a who’s who of fabulous YA: David Levithan! Maureen Johnson! Lemony Snicket! Libba Bray! Jacquelyn Mitchard! My girl Susane Colasanti!

When I finished fangirl screaming, I instantly fell in love with the premise. You see, book editor Herman Mildew – in all his hygiene-challenged, smelly cheese-loving glory – is dead. Every one of these 90 authors has endured his horrid nature, empty promises of contracts and incomprehensible line edits, so they’ve all got a motive. And they’re all talking. But someone’s lying. The “alibis” range from poetry to comics, and are hilarious.

Perhaps the best part? All proceeds from Who Done It? will benefit 826NYC, the New York branch of Dave Eggers’ teen literacy nonprofit. (I keep meaning to volunteer at 826CHI, the Chicago branch. This could be just the kick in the pants I need.) And yes, Eggers has his own “alibi.” So yeah, you can buy a hugely entertaining YA anthology and help people too. Win/win!

Who Done It? will be in hardcover and ebook February 12, but is available now for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Here I Go Again (Jen Lancaster)

Cover of Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster
Image: goodreads.com

I adore Jen Lancaster’s sassy, hilarious memoirs, but I wasn’t quite into her fiction. If You Were Here was just”¦ okay. Thankfully, she’s found a better balance in Here I Go Again, out Wednesday.

I mean, who doesn’t want to read about a high school mean girl getting hers? And (anti)heroine Lissy Ryder is THAT mean girl. The kind that would make fun of your clothes, steal your boyfriend just because she could, and do it all while winning prom queen and driving the best car. Ew. Fast-forward 20 years, and Lissy’s not doing so great. She’s been let go from her job, left by her (former high school quarterback) husband, and is now living at home with her henpecked dad and overbearing mom. But with the help of a kooky peer turned successful life coach, Lissy is granted a second chance”¦ by time traveling back to senior year in 1991.

Lancaster has Lissy to a nasty chick T: I relished her downfall while also hoping she’d pull it together. And the early-nineties references are so much fun (hint: Nirvana plays an important part). It’s a light read with substance – as you might guess, karma is discussed early and often – that made me giggle, and made me think. Because in a very major way, most of us are the amazing people we are because some icky mean girl hated us in high school.

Here I Go Again is available in hardcover and ebook on January 29. (Amazon, Barnes & Noble)

Hooked (Liz Fichera)

Cover of Hooked by Liz Fichera
Image: goodreads.com

There are so many things to love about Hooked. I mean, the book practically sells itself. The heroine, Fred Oday (short for Fredericka) is one of the few Native Americans in a school of rich white kids. And she is seriously, awesomely good”¦ at golf. So good that she’s offered a spot on the school team. The problem? There are two problems: one, it’s an all-boys team. And two, for Fred to get a place someone has to be ousted, and wealthy slacker jerk Seth is not taking it well. But Seth’s BFF Ryan, who’s beginning to wonder what he sees in his group of friends, is first angered, then intrigued by the quiet girl with the phenomenal swing.

When was the last time you read a book about a Native American female golfer? Never, that’s when. Fichera does a lovely job painting Fred and her family (supportive dad, alcoholic mom and troublemaking but loyal brother), and contrasting that with Ryan’s folks (oblivious dad, distant mom, annoying but supportive younger sister). Fred and Ryan’s relationship is sweetly realistic, as they circle around each other and navigate their various trust issues on and off the course. There’s a bit of Magical Native American Man in there, but the way the residents of the reservation have each other’s backs is really nice and heartwarming. And if you’re a golf noob (like yours truly), not to worry: there’s a glossary in the back, but even if you don’t use it, the tournament scenes are pretty easy to follow.

Hooked will be available in paperback and ebook on January 29. (Amazon, Barnes & Noble)

(Note: I received Who Done It? from SoHo Teen, Here I Go Again from Edelweiss/Above the TreeLine and Hooked from NetGalley, all free of charge with no obligation to review.)

What are you reading? Any good stuff? Any stuff to avoid? Do you have the flu? (I hope not!) Leave a comment!

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The Unprofessional Critic

Lauren Whalen is a freelance writer living in Chicago. She reviews plays for Chicago Theater Beat (http://www.chicagotheaterbeat.com) and talks about movies on The Film Yap (http://www.thefilmyap.com). Lauren's young adult novel is represented by Chalberg & Sussman Literary Agency. Say hi to her at maybeimamazed02(at)gmail(dot)com. (Photo by Greg Inda)

10 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews: “Who Done It?”, “Here I Go Again” and “Hooked””

    1. Yeah, so many romance covers are TERRIBLE. There are some beautiful cover artists, but many…eek. Makes me grateful for my ereader.

      But yes, golf! A girl who is a good golfer! I KNOW I’ve never read about a girl golfer. And the author clearly has experience or did her research because it didn’t read to me like, “okay, what main character has never been written before?” If that makes sense.

    1. Dormouse, I know there are branches in NYC, Chicago and the Bay Area (I believe that was the first one). Chicago’s has a great store called The Boring Store where all proceeds go to 826.

      If you click on the link to the organization near the end of this article, I believe it lists the locations. I really need to volunteer at 826CHI.

      1. After posting this comment, I ended up googling it, and there is an 826Sea up in the Greenlake area. I was kind of surprised by the location, tbh, because it’s in a staunchly middle class area. But maybe that’s just really classist of me to assume that all organizations of the like should be targeting lower income communities instead. Regardless, the organization sounds fantastic! :)

        1. Dormouse, 826CHI is located in the Wicker Park neighborhood, which has…a lot of hipsters.

          I used to work for a nonprofit not far from there, that was more a college neighborhood, but we would frequently bus in classrooms/students for education programs. I know 826CHI is near a lot of public schools – maybe that’s the case for the Seattle location as well?

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