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Title: Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet
Author: Sherri L. Smith
Number of Pages: 167 pages
Book Number/Goal: 66/75 for 2009
My Rating: 3/5

When a pipe bursts during Ana Shen's middle school graduation, flooding the field and cutting the ceremony short, it doesn't seem like things could get any worse. Then comes the announcement that the gym is flooded, too, and the graduation dance is cancelled. The dance was going to be Ana's big chance to tell Jamie Tabata she likes him before they go their separate ways for high school, but when her best friend Chelsea ends up inviting Jamie and his family over to Ana's for a graduation dinner, it looks like there might be hope after all. Assuming Ana can keep her grandmothers' rivalry from ruining everything.

I'd seen several reviews for this on [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc and wasn't really that interested, but after reading and loving Flygirl, I decided to give some of Smith's other books a try. This...is definitely no Flygirl. It's cute enough, and it's nice to see a biracial main character (or any character!) who isn't half white, but I wasn't wowed or anything.

I really think the book could have used a lot more editing. Most of it is fine, but it starts to fall apart at the ending, which seems really rushed, plus has a couple of chapters that don't really fit. At one point her grandfather starts telling a story and instead of just making it quick or summarising, we actually get a random flashback chapter in his POV about the event he's relating. We also get a few paragraphs in one of the grandmothers' POV towards the end, in a story that has otherwise been very tight third person with only one POV. It just seemed sloppy.

Also I was really excited about the story being set in LA at first, but it ended up being more frustrating than anything because the author gave all sorts of conflicting details. The kids have gone to school together since kindergarten, yet for some reason they all go to an elementary school in a totally different zone than where they live. (One person going to a far away public school might have some excuse, but not a whole class.) Then the high school mentioned is not the high school that middle school feeds into. Neither is it the high school she would actually be going to for where she's supposed to live. Which being less than a mile from the beach would be Santa Monica and she'd go to SaMoHi, not Uni (also everyone keeps saying University High and I'm sorry but I have never heard anyone call it that; it's Uni). Plus the author gives a freeway exit that they're supposed to live near, which is not less than a mile from the beach, either.

I really don't know what she was thinking. The jacket flap says she lives in LA, so it's not just that she didn't know what she was talking about. It's like she wanted to use real names of stuff, but didn't want to be specific, so she ended up taking bits from all over. If you don't want to be specific, then either be vague or make up names of school and stuff. But if you're going to be specific then you have to get your facts right!

Of course most of the people reading aren't going to know or care, but it really took a lot of fun out of it for me.
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Title: Flygirl
Author: Sherri L. Smith
Number of Pages: 275 pages
Book Number/Goal: 50/75 for 2009
My Rating: 5/5

Ida Mae's dad taught her how to fly in the plane he used for cropdusting, but being both black and female, it's not easy for her to get her pilot's license. While she's saving up the money she earns cleaning houses to go to the one school she knows licenses both women and blacks, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and suddenly they're in the middle of a war. When her little brother shows her a newspaper article about the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), she knows she has to join...even if it means passing for white.

I really liked this book a lot. I read it in two days, which is quick for me, but it was really hard to put down! I love that Smith really doesn't pull any punches. Passing allows Ida Mae to do what she loves, but it changes her forever. The scene where her mom visits her during her training was especially tough to read.

There are several other reviews here.


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