Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Reasons to be Happy by Katrina Kittle


21. Cat purr vibrating through your skin
22. Jumping on a trampoline in the rain
23. Raw cookie dough
24. Getting yourself all freaked out after a scary movie
25. Dancing like an idiot when no one is watching

What happened to the girl who wrote those things? I miss that girl. She used to be bold and fun. Now she's a big chicken loser.
How could so much change so fast?
Let's see, you could be the plain Jane daughter of two gorgeous famous people, move to a new school, have no real friends, and your mom could get sick, and, oh yeah, you could have the most embarrassing secret in the world.
Yep, that about does it.
So, the real question is, how do I get that girl back?

OPINION: 3 Stars

The Short Version:
Though rushed at times, Reasons to by Happy doesn't skate around the full depth of bulimia and what's related to it even with a younger audience in mind. Hitting hard on body issues, while giving it more depth than just a basic desire to be skinny, this one carries a lonely air throughout it with an overall sympathetic protagonist. With some great points made, and some well done and emotional scenes along the way, Reasons to be Happy is a likable and important read.

The Extended Version:
Hannah is an easy character to like, one who's personality comes through at the start of the book before she starts to change. It wasn't so much that she simply found a crowd at her new school she was yearning to be with, but that there were enough small things about the group that made her not stand up for herself from the start. Her body issues are grounded in far more than just wanting to be as skinny as her so called friends, and aren't even simply about impressing a boy. The true depth of not only how she fell into the bulimia, but the way she viewed it as helping her and then the changes thereafter not only help to flesh out her character, but give a vivid view to readers about the full nature of the illness. Her character goes through some immense change, not only due to the bulimia, and she is definitely one to root for.

Though there is a relatively large supporting cast, Kittle handles it well, giving each character enough time for readers to know them, without taking away from the focus on Hannah. Though Hannah finds herself immersed in the classic mean girl clique, and head over heels for a hot guy who is a jerk, these somewhat cliche elements play well into the book without being the only driving factor. Jasper is sweet and gentle, the kind of boy that is very often overlooked in middle school but who is truly a great guy. His role in the book is poignant, and Hannah's interactions with him add a softer and more empathetic note to the book.

The plot did, in truth, feel rushed in several places, with too much being dumped into a short span of pages. Despite this, though, there is a good overall sequence to the plot, and the reader will truly see Hannah hit rock bottom in some very rough ways when things were allowed to really progress and be shown. The biggest issue for this reader was how narrated much of the book was, with far more simple telling rather than really weaving the story. This also added to the rushed feeling, keeping the overall book at a more shallow level than the depth that it could have had.

While the writing was simplistic overall, and the tone makes it clear this book is meant for a younger crowd, there is still a good voice and a vividness to Hannah's personality that comes through the pages. The lists throughout the book, centered around reasons to be happy, are fresh and original and will make the reader think of the simplicity and truth in many of them. These are incoporated throughout the book in a very great way, not only showing the constant and true pain Hannah finds herself in, but also reflect the changes in her while giving her something from her "former self" to grasp on to.

Though rushed at times, and a few elements were admittedly a little too convenient seeming, there is a ruggedness that drives this book. Giving depth to bulimia, and showing a range of outside reactions to it, Kittle is definitely bringing an important topic to an age group often forgotten about in regards to the subject matter. With some emotional scenes pulling the reader in, this one definitely is a quick but effective read.

Source: ALA
Reading level: Young Adult

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date:  October 1, 2011

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