Wednesday, May 24, 2006

And in a completely different vein...

Bass Ackwards and Belly Up, by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain.

While Between Mom and Jo is a serious, heartbreaking novel, Back Ackwards and Belly Up is pure fluff. But it's good fluff and lots of fun.

Four best friends are headed off to college. (There's more than a nod to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants here--there are several references in the novel as well.) On the evening before departure day, one of the girls, Harper, announces she's not attending NYU as planned, but instead will stay home and write the Great American Novel. Harper's announcement sets of a chain of events certain to upset parents everywhere. Sophie decides she will not attend college either, but instead heads out to LA and follow her dream of becoming an actress. Straight-laced, perfect Kate (Harvard-bound, no less) decides to defer enrollment and to travel abroad instead. Only Becca, afraid of love, sets out for college. After all, to ski at Middlebury IS her dream.

There is only one big problem with this scenario (besides the parents, that is). Harper lied about her dream. While it is true she wants to write, the fact is she was rejected to NYU and it was the only school she applied to. Throughout the novel, she feels guilty that her false "dream" inspired her friends to follow theirs.

Bass Ackwards and Belly Up follows each of the four girls over the course of four months through first-person narration, e-mails, letters, and phone conversations. The girls learn about themselves and each other and, needless to say, happy endings abound.

I liked some of the girls' stories more than others. Kate's trip through Europe and the challenges she accepts and meets were particularly compelling to me as a reader. Harper's struggle to write and to hide her big lie was also true-to-life and painful. I even enjoyed Becca's challenge to find true love, despite the fall out from the traumatic divorce and remarriages of her parents. Sophie's dream to become an actress in LA was less appealing to me, though I suspect many teens will be inspired.

Back Ackwards and Belly Up is a perfect beach read. Young girls are going to love it.