Book Review: Trash Can Days: A Middle School Saga by Teddy Steinkellner (3.5/5)

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I have been putting off reviewing this book for two months now…for no particular reason. It’s time I post this review!

Trash Can Days features a multiple-first-person-POV writing style. The entries include diary excerpts, online chats and emails. I imagine they may have different fonts in the actual novel that will illustrate this scattered storytelling style quite well!

There are four main characters in Trash Can Days: eighth grader Hannah, her seventh grader brother Jake, their friend Danny and seventh grader Dorothy Wu. Each of them struggle with unique problems — thus, the beauty of the multiple POV’s. You can only understand these problems if you see them from each middle schooler’s eyes. Popular Hannah struggles with friendships and boyfriends. Jake finds Danny drifting apart from him. Danny feels torn between his Mexican identity and being Jake’s friend.

And then there’s Dorothy Wu. Oh, Dorothy. If there’s one character in every book that you must love, it’s Dorothy. She’s weird, lonely, brilliant and admirable. She’s not afraid to be herself. And that’s something you can’t say about every 12-year-old Asian-American girl, pressured by society, parents and peers. I greatly admire Teddy Steinkellner’s ability to infuse such personality into the character of Dorothy. In fact, I think the reason I enjoyed the book was for Dorothy’s moments!

That being said, Trash Can Days was not phenomenal. It has moments of emotion and catharsis for each of the four main characters, but the story feels disjointed at times and the ending doesn’t seem quite as fulfilling as one might expect. There’s also violence and language in this book. It wouldn’t be suitable for elementary school children. But the social situations, peer pressure, bullying and social outcasting (of Dorothy Wu) is, sadly, a somewhat realistic portrayal of what my middle school was like.

Trash Can Days’ target audience is a bit vague. It’s definitely not YA…Yes, it’s still middle grade. Personally, I will probably not be re-reading Trash Can Days, though I did screenshot some of Dorothy Wu’s funniest words. (I’m reading this on Kindle on my phone.) And I wouldn’t recommend this to the children in my life (who are all elementary-school-aged). In conclusion, I think middle schoolers and high schoolers would find Trash Can Days enjoyable.

***eBook provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review

Read more of my book reviews here on my blog: Remembering Wonderland! 

Book Review: World on a String by Larry Phifer (4/5)

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World on a String is a feel-good, rhyming picture book. I can imagine toddlers would very much enjoy the sing-songy feel of the words. There is a certain appeal in the rhyming scheme. The storyline of World on a String is simplistic, but there is an expansive underlying message about looking at the world — and loss — in a different way.

Remember when you had a balloon on a string? And it was like your whole world because it was so colorful and free? But it also instilled some kind of fear in you…it could fly away at any moment. And needless to say, you accidentally let go and watched it disappeared into the blue, blue net of the sky. You realized that the sky represented some place you couldn’t go to, some place out of your reach. Even your all-powerful superhero parents didn’t have the ability to bring back your world on a string.

It was then that you felt the consuming edges of loss. Things could be taken from you. You could lose whole worlds, whole feelings that could never be replaced.

I do have a soft spot for picture books, and I was very much disappointed when I couldn’t see the pictures in this galley. I can’t judge very well, because I couldn’t see the illustrations — that’s the main point of a picture book: the interplay between the artist and the writer!

So it’s a 4/5.

But I’m sure I would have found this a charming story as a toddler. It’s nothing amazing and astounding; it’s actually one of the “safe” books. It won’t challenge ideas or plant unconventional ideas in budding minds. But charming.

***eBook provided by Netgalley.com in exchange for my honest review