Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Kayla Chronicles

The Kayla ChroniclesWinston, S.  (2008).  The Kayla Chronicles.  New York:  Little, Brown and Company.


188 pages.

Appetizer:  Kayla has just started high school, but she has big plans to become a journalist.  Her best friend, Rosalie, knows just what she should write about for her first expose.  Rosalie wants Kayla, a gymnast and (secret) dancer, to try out for the high school dance team, to expose them for only allowing the curvier girls to join the team.  Rosalie hopes that when Kayla (who is lacking curves) is rejected from the team then they'll be able to expose the dance team for their vile ways.

Things don't quite go as Rosalie had planned.  First, Kayla didn't really want to go along with the plan to begin with.  Second, Kayla makes the dance team.  It quickly becomes apparent that the two may be growing apart as friends.

I absolutely loved Kayla's voice in the book.  She was strong, honest and feminist and willing to question her beliefs and why she had them.  All this was very refreshing.  And while she initially had trouble telling her friends what she was thinking, she didn't have a problem telling the reader.  Some of the time, she did feel too wise for a fourteen-year-old, but that can be explained away by the fact that she is also a genius (not just according to her, but also to "Broward County, the state of Florida and a 4.5 GPA" (p. 25)).

Her family is funny and quirky and so are her friends.  And Kayla balances the pressures others put on her with her desire to belong, be a strong, independent woman and find out who she is as well.

I loved that Kayla presented herself as a feminist from the very beginning.  On page two, she narrates:  "When I, Mikayla Alicia Dean, soon to be fifteen, think of feminism, I think of strong females taking action--even when that action goes against the girly-girl mold society assigns us" (p.2).  She goes on to breakdown some stereotypes of what readers may expect a feminist to look like.

Kayla is also dealing with her first romance as well.  Her reactions to the boy she likes are often innocent, honest and over-the-top embarrassing.  (So, I could see two or three embarrassing things happening in the midst of going from you know I exist? Really? to girlfriend-boyfriend.  But Kayla's interactions with Roger Lee are less along the lines of those "ugh, I can't believe I said that" moments of cringiness and are closer to the "Will he still like me?  Will he ever speak to me again?  The horror!  THE HORRROR!" level of embarrassment.)  It was a little much for me by about the fourth time something SUPER-embarrassing happened to her.  I'm sure other readers would say those were their favorite moments though.  I personally was cringing on Kayla's behalf.

Throughout the book, Kayla describes the website her and her friends have created or her list of favorite books on listmania.  With all the online references, I was surprised to see there was no website devoted to the book.  Little Brown, get on that.  It could be a great avenue for readers to discuss the book and the ideas in it.

Also, I chose to read this book because the plot involved Kayla joining the dance team.  I was kind of surprised that the actual dancing didn't really have a place in most of the story.  There's a description of a routine here or there, lots of mentions of sweating through practices, but I was left wanting more.  (My WIP involves dancing.  So, my current research is to see how other authors incorporate it.  How explicit are they about the steps?  Does their writing make me want to dance?  Stuff like that.)

Dinner Conversation:

Allow me to define it:
Stank-a-le-shus--derived from stank, slang for stinker; 1) the art of being stank; 2) one who behaves in a manner so overboard, so bigger-than-life outrageous, so self-deluded, well, it could only be considered stankalicious.
And stankalicious, the newest word in my book of Kayla-isms, describes my best friend, Rosalie, to a tee" (p. 1).

"The "doom my future" part is that she wants me to try out for the Lady Lions dance team--the It girls of our new school.  She wants me to prove how they won't let ordinary girls like me on the team.  So my goal is to fail, thus supporting her theory while turning me into a huge "Who Not to Be Like" poster.
Rosalie was all "ooo" and "ahhh" and "power to the people," and I'm like, "hmm, you have a lot of nerve, sister-girl.  A. Lot. Of. Nerve."
I didn't say it out loud, though.
I should have, but I didn't" (p. 3).

"So it was official:
My boy-breasts were about to become political prisoners in a high-stakes game of Popularity Death Match.
Breasts so small shouldn't be so much trouble" (p. 12).

"IF you're concerned with how others are seeing you, don't be.  It'll make you crazy.  Your confidence, your power, will come from looking inside and trusting yourself" (p. 91).

"My head buzzed with voices.  Rosalie's voice and what she wanted.  JoJo and what I thought she wanted.  Miss Lavender and her comments about my look and what she wanted.  Even my Mom's voice.  I could hear them all buzzing in my head, telling me what was best for me, telling me how to be Kayla" (p. 108).

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

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