Cupcake Queen Deals With Not So Sweet Realities Of Divorce and Bullies

Penny’s first clue that life in Hog’s Hollow will be a little more permanent is when her mom opens the cupcake shop.  Penny used to live in New York City with her mom and dad.  Now her parents have split.  She hoped it would be temporary.  She loved her old life and now has to make a new one.  Her big troubles began when she and her mom make cupcakes for the local “it girl”, Charity.  An accident at the party sends cupcakes flying, filling the birthday girl’s hair with pink frosting.  Charity decides to bully Penny, making her life miserable.  Another problem, they like the same boy.  Luckily another outsider, Tally befriends her.  The two girls have much more in common than they realize.  Penny must deal with bullies, building a new life and her feelings for a boy sometimes acts like he is interested and sometimes does not.    The revenge Tally comes up with is very creative.  They spin the bullying to make themselves look less bothered.  Many teens will relate to one or more of the characters.  I love the characters.  Tally is strong girl who isn’t afraid to paint her hair wild colors.  She has her own heartache, but builds a good life with her kind aunt.  Charity is so nasty.  What could make a girl so mean?  I love reading about the different designs Penny has for the cupcakes.  This book is good for a teen dealing with divorce or bullies. 

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Talk about the bullying Penny receives from Charity.  Why is Charity so mean?  Talk about how Tally spins the meanness and gets her revenge.

Marcus talks about what jolly rancher flavors say about a person.  What is your favorite flavor?  What do you think it says about you?

Penny says “In the City, I would dress to be noticed.  Here I try to dress to disappear.”  Discuss.  What would make a person do either?

Why do you think Marcus ignores Penny in school but is friendly when they meet on the beach?

Marcus talks about how his father works on his planet sculptures as a something to do so he does not have to feel.  Discuss. 

Penny says she smiles when she thinks about Snowball.  The bird lost both her wings but seems to be the happiest creature she’s ever met.  Talk about adapting when you’ve lost something really important.

If teens want, they can talk about their own experience with their parent’s divorce.

Compare “the way life should be” with “the way life is.”

Candace Bushnell Builds A Strong Foundation For Carrie Bradshaw! Great Read!

Candance Bushnell has written a fantastic prequel to her Sex And The City. Carrie Bradshaw is a senior in high school in a small town. She dreams of being a writer, but is struggling to find her voice and wondering if it is all just an unrealistic dream. Carrie has a cast of characters who are her friends, such as the smart Mouse, dramatic Maggie and competitive Lali. She falls in love with the dreamy new boy, Sabastian Kydd. Carrie wonders how much she is willing to compromise to be with him. We watch her love of vintage clothes unfold as she searches through her mother’s things (her mother died recently after a long illness) and dons genuine go go boots from the 70’s for the first day of school. “I figure the boots have had a much more interesting life than I have.”

Watching Carrie develop into the character I know and love so well was a joy! She is a smart (takes Calculus and her dad wants her to be a scientist), independent character hopefully teens will latch onto. Unlike Bushnell’s more mature material, The Carrie Diaries are age appropriate and written for the teen audience. Page 109 make me cheer out loud. Carrie talked about how she wanted to be rescued by the feminist writer, Mary Gordon Howard. That experience was humiliating and she was ashamed. “But that was a long time ago. I’m not that girl anymore. I don’t need to feel ashamed. And I don’t need to be rescued either.”

Carrie finds her writing voice after a particularly humiliating encounter with the resident mean girl, Donna LaDonna. She writes a column for the school paper under a pen name about Queen Bees. At that moment I heard Sarah Jessica Parker’s inner monologue voice come out as she does when she writes in column in the series. Carrie learns about the power of the written word and how the reaction is not always what you expect.

Another favorite moment of mine is on page 384 when she says, “I have this theory: If you forgive someone, they can’t hurt you anymore.”

This is a great read! I recommend it for both teens and adults. I love the last line in the book. It will make you smile! In my dream world, Candance Bushnell will also write The Samantha Diaries, The Miranda Diaries and The Charlotte Diaries.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Carrie’s mother embraces feminism when she reads Mary Gordon Howard. What does feminism mean to you?

What did Carrie mean when she said she didn’t need to feel ashamed anymore. And that she doesn’t need to be rescued anymore.

Do you think Sebastian is playing Carrie? What is his deal?

Carrie talks about how she feels she has to change when Sabastian is around. Talk about how this happens with boys they know. Is it worth it?

Discuss the Pod People and Donna LaDonna. How does Carrie’s relationship with her change throughout the book?

Talk about Carrie’s relationship with Lali.

Talk about George. Would they be attracted to him.

Talk about Carrie’s decision about her virginity.

“I have this theory: If you forgive someone, they can’t hurt you anymore.” Discuss.

Talk about the articles she writes about the Nerd Prince and the Queen Bee.

A Fun Vampire Read From Meg Cabot

Best selling author, Meg Cabot’s new book takes on the supernatural romance genre. Technically this is not a teen book and will likely be shelved with adult fiction. However, I think teens will enjoy this one as well as adults. Cabot draws parallels between her modern vampire prince and Dracula. Her main character is named Meena Harper. (Think Mina Harker. Her brother is even named Jonathan.) Meena has a secret. She can tell when a person is going to die by just meeting them. So she’ll warn people to avoid taking a certain flight or to stop eating so much pepperoni. As you can imagine, this does wonders for her love life. She is a writer for the hit soap opera, Insatiable. When the corporate powers that be want a vampire storyline to catch a younger demographic, Meena is not happy. She is so over vampires and feels like the network is selling out. At the same time, someone is killing girls in New York City and draining them of their blood. This catches the eye of the prince of vampires in Romania, otherwise known as Lucien, professor of Romanian History at the University of Bucharest . He is none other than the son of Dracula. He is coming to New York to put a stop to the murders. He and Meena bump into each other during the middle of the night when Meena is walking her dog, Jack Bauer. (He is named Jack Bauer because he is blond and always looks stressed out.) The handsome man protects her as an army of bats attacks. What Meena does not know is that the bat attack is really an assassination attempt on the prince. They meet again at a dinner party hosted by her obnoxious neighbor, the countess, who is a cousin of the prince. Surprise, surprise… they are drawn to each other and spark a hot romance.

Meg Cabot writes very much in the now, talking about pop culture and the current economy. There are plenty of fun references to Sookie Stackhouse and those books where the vampires eat animals and sparkle. This is the first recent novel I’ve read that makes reference to so many people being out of work. We can relate to Jonathan because we know someone, maybe ever ourselves, who have been recently laid off and are struggling to find a new job. I hope there are more books where the economy is mentioned in the plot. It can help readers fell less alone. Like in the Twilight books, Meena also has to make the ultimate choice whether to change herself for a vampire. Her choice is much different than Bella’s. This is my first Meg Cabot book. It was a blast to read!

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Talk about the original Dracula and the parallels between all the different vampire books they’ve read.

Talk about the economy, Jonathan now has to live with his sister because he is out of work. How has the economy changed their lives?

Who would they want to end up with, the vampire or the vampire hunter?

Would they want to be clairvoyant like Meena?

Have they ever watched soap operas?

Meena basically has to give up her life for the man she loves. Would it be worth it?

Compare her ultimate decision with Bella’s in Twilight.

What about the difference between how Lucien wanted her to become a vampire and how Edward did not want Bella to turn.