The Book Reviews – Website

January 1, 2011

The Parallel Universe of Liars

The Parallel Universe of Liars

Author: Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson

Page Length: 218

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Robin is 15 and has the good fortune of living next door to (Frankie) the hottest guy on the planet. Despite her good fortune, life seems to be the pits right now. Her best friend has just moved away, and no matter who she’s around sex seems to be something that everyone has in common. She’s seen the next door neighbor and his girlfriend, her mother and Dick, and even the next door neighbor and her stepmother. Unfortunately, Robin isn’t immune either. As Frankie begins to make advances toward Robin, she has a decision to make. Will she too join the parallel universe of liars? Can she resist him? What about the new relationship developing with Tri?

REVIEW: My first reaction to this book – is that there is no way I would want to use it as a classroom discussion piece. The book is frankly all about sex. Robin knows what her mother calls out during sex. She knows that Frankie and China watch pornography while having sex. She knows what Janice and Frankie do during sex. She is also propositioned by Frankie and does not effectively resist. Even her best friend, who has moved away, writes to her about being kissed by another girl. Sexuality is everywhere in this book.

The book of course does deal with the topic realistically. It might be a good book for a parent and teen to read (15 and up) to discuss how people can be used for sex, why a teen should consider their partners, how dangerous having a relationship with someone older and more experienced can be, etc.

There is also a useful discussion provided for talking about the detriments of finding worth only in one’s appearance. However, the author does fail to address the severity of the inappropriate relationship between a 22 and a 15 year old.

Exercise caution in recommending the book – parental issues could occur.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: cause and effect, analogies, elements of plot, author’s purpose 


 “Her naked breasts make me shivery and nervous. Frankie works them with his mouth..” (41)

“Under my hand …it begins to get bigger, then hard, and incredibly smooth” (114)

“he’s gasping and shuddering and my hand is a gushy mess” (124)

“my nipples turn into hard buttons under his tongue …his shifts to run his penis against my privates…convulsing and sending gush all over my tummy” (139)

RELATED BOOKS: Gone, Dumb Love, A Fast and Brutal Wing, Target


REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


January 11, 2008

Next Summer

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Next Summer

Author: Hailey Abbott

Page Length: 230

Reading Level: Unknown

Genre: Realistic Fiction


REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: This book is about the Northeast summer adventures of two sisters – Ella Tuttle and Kelsi Tuttle as well as their cousin Beth. The cover of the book suggests that this story may be a little “scandalous”. The top of the cover states, “a Summer Boys novel”, however this is not a book for boys but rather one about girls flirting with boys. Boys are described much more than girls are in this book. This story also contains all the drama that teenage love and romance entails. I would not recommend this book to a male. The book is written in third-person but focuses primarily on the actions of the three Tuttle girls and the boys they come into contact with. This book is one in a series.


The story starts off at the beginning of summer. Beth is a little sad that she is leaving her boyfriend George to go off to Pebble Beach with her cousins. George has chosen to stay behind, work, and save money for the fall. Ella and Kelsi are going to make the trip as well to the beach to stay at the family cottage. The reader finds out early on that something bad happened last summer – Ella cheated with Kelsi’s ex-boyfriend Peter. Ella has chosen to keep this act a secret for a year now. The guilt that Ella feels quickly lessens (for now) as the sight of the beach comes into view.


Jamie Tuttle is another cousin in this book that was unable to make it to the beach. She has chosen to attend Amherst for a summer writing program. However, conversations between her and the other girls happen via e-mail.


To put it simply: Beth is the one with the boyfriend this summer, Kelsi is the new-age girl who is more attractive than she thinks, and Ella is the girl that teases and entices boys all the time. Ella is pretty and she knows it. This has gotten her into trouble often.


Drama quickly begins and continues. All three girls end up getting into “trouble”. Beth ends up cheating on George with a lifeguard named Adam (who is quite a lot like George). However, at first, Beth tries to hook Kelsi up with Adam so as to try to forget her attraction to him. Unfortunately, Kelsi does not feel attracted to Adam very much. Kelsi instead is attracted to Tim, a jock and a type of guy who she would have never thought she would be interested in.


On the other hand, Ella is off flirting with all the out-going boys including one named Inigo who did not speak English. She later comes upon a boy named Jeremy who is quite shy – not the type that Ella would normally be attracted to. They end up forming a lasting and meaningful relationship. Ella learns a lesson that surprises come in all personality types.


There are two peaks in this novel: one occurred when Kelsi finds out that Ella made out with her ex-boyfriend. Another is when George discovers that Beth has been involved with Adam, the lifeguard.


Things settle down pretty quickly toward the end of the book and it seems that the story wraps up quite nicely – Beth and George make-up, Ella finds a meaningful, wholesome boy to date, and Kelsi surprises herself by falling in love with a total opposite.


If my review seems a “mess”, it is because the book is a “mess” which is what I believe the author wanted to convey to the reader. Teenage love is a disordered state. As the author writes on page 229, “this summer had been messy in so many ways”.


TOUCHY AREAS: A few words of caution to the more conservative reader: there are references to the act of intercourse and terms used to describe individuals who are on the promiscuous side. No sexual acts in the book are explicit but they are alluded to.  Also, descriptions of the Tuttle girls drinking alcohol are present in some parts.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: This book would appeal to many students due to its real-life dramas and current themes. If you were to use this story for teaching a lesson, I would highlight the skills of compare/contrast or characterization.




REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton


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