Friday, February 24, 2012

TGIF @ GReads # 1!

TGIF is a weekly feature hosted by Ginger of GReads, where she proposes a question to which we reply on our blogs! I've been reading responses all these weeks and finally decided to participate myself, after I created my own book blog! :)


This week's question is: "Required Reading: Which book from your school days do you remember reading and enjoying? Is there a book published now that you'd like to see in today's curriculum for kids?" 

I'm definitely sure my response would be very different from other bloggers. Why? Because in my school (and in my city, for that matter), reading books was NOT compulsory! The novels, I mean. And it's pathetic, I know. I guess they've started with it now, but it's books like 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen and 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bronte, which anyway are not full versions when given to the kids to read and are too uninteresting to keep them hooked. That's totally wrong.

Anyway, I'm glad and truly thankful to my wonderful Mom, who's a primary school teacher and always got loads of books for me to read, ever since I was tiny! Hence, I picked up books from the library on my own and thinking back to that time, I guess I loved reading 'Oliver Twist' and 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens and 'The Secret Garden' by F.H. Burnett (I was a classics fan back then! I mean I still like them, but that was different. Like there's a time when you like something A LOT).!

            


Apart from classics, I was hooked to the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene and Famous Five and Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton. 

I believe reading is the strongest tool to self-discipline and in understanding situations from different viewpoints. I wish this art be accepted and embraced by school kids worldwide, especially in countries where it's not focused on. I would suggest these books for school children, since they would be interesting and even if they're forced to read, they wouldn't regret it!

1. The Secret Garden (F.H. Burnett), simply because of its purity and depth of meaning about trials and tribulations and love and innocence. 

 2. The Artemis Fowl series (Eoin Colfer). Imaginative, deals with non-human creatures and a teen genius! I guess kids would enjoy that, since it's the imaginative world we usually like the most (at least I do!).


3. The Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling). Though I think compulsory or not, kids would anyway love to read it, but still. There are kids who love the HP movies, but wouldn't ever read the books. They ought to know how different and more beautiful it actually is! And I'm pretty sure many will begin their love for novels with this series! :)
I think 'The Star of Kazan' by Eva Ibbotson would be a good read too (for young teens)! I greatly enjoyed that one! 

There's a quote by Elizabeth Scott that I totally love and I hope and wish that school students too, develop this feeling. :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Calmer You by Sonal Kalra

Sonal Kalra
Author's unofficial websites: Sonalkalra.com, Fans of Sonal Kalra 
Publisher: Wisdom Tree
Published in: 2010
Price: Rs.245 (discounted to Rs. 201 at Flipkart)
Category: Non-Fiction, Self-help

Sonal Kalra is an Indian Journalist who recently received the coveted Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award 2012! No wonder, I would say, she totally deserves such awards. She writes a weekly column in HT City, a daily supplement to Hindustan Times. The column is all about little (or not so little) troubles and things that stress us out in our daily lives, providing rational tips to deal with stress and embrace calmness, with an element of fun and humor. It's not like the regular cliched columns where they give straight tips that are boring to read; the use of wit, measured sarcasm and humor, and practical points that we probably already know, but need reminders, are the uniqueness factors that add charm to this column.

About the book (and my review)
A Calmer You is a compilation of 63 articles from the weekly column, sub-divided into seven different sections, similar and related articles being under one section.

1. Relation-trips 
This section has articles on stress factors related with people we love. Be it kids, spouse, parents, siblings, close relatives, distant relatives, friends, ex-friends, you'll find calmness tips for so many common problems everyone faces in their lives! My favorite chapters include:

- Life in Circles (talks about prioritizing people and work in your life.)
- Learn to say "No, Thank You" (I so needed this! If you're stuck with someone who's getting on you with unnecessary hassles, say 'No'!)
- Shut up and Listen (about those annoying souls who don't let others speak)
- My Lovable Monster (If there's a category of 'my favorites' withing My favorites, I would give this chapter the position! Talks about parents worrying over how their kid behaves in public. I loved the way she described her own cute little daughter's antics!)
- Be a hero at home (why we should be at our best behavior even at home, and not just at work and in public!)

2. Hassle-Bustle
Dealing with everyday stress-giving situations that most people face. About not laughing enough, going overboard, making hurried decisions, about parking problems, being late, forgiveness, finding calmness, mannerisms, neighbors, partying, dining, Diwali, house maids, or keeping resolutions!! Though I loved all the chapters, I greatly enjoyed reading:

- Maid in India (for its humor and light way of seeing a problem relevant to so many of us. I thought I wouldn't ever stop laughing!).
- Three Magic Words (The bottom-line was "It doesn't matter". The words the author used sometimes ring in my head when I'm facing nervousness due to a problem- 'A particular person or incident that has disturbed you doesn't really matter in the overall scheme of life').


3. Work is Worry-ship
Talks about stress faced at work- about hiring/firing, taxes and filing, working at BPOs, dealing with immediate hurdles or bosses! My favorite chapter here is:
- Deal with it...now ('Follow the thirty-second rule in life. Don't postpone anything which can be dealt within thirty seconds of it coming to your notice'. Piling up stuff that can be dealt with, adds to the stress.) 

4. Stress Study-stics
Ha! About problems and problems and problems related with "studies"! Be it the dreaded board exams, or the pressure to achieve more 'marks', admissions, exam results or dealing with high expectations, each chapter delves into the truths about a student's life and states certain warm tips about not freaking out over little stuff like 'marks', which generally do not matter in the overall scheme of life. (That's what it said and that's what we need to know :) ). 

5. News and don'ts
Even news telecasts give us stress, right? What's the point of getting glued to the TV watching gruesome scenes of a gruesome terror attack and getting panic attacks yourself, when you know you can't help the affected people? It's important to know the news, but not necessary to watch a four day live telecast. 

6. Tech my Stress away
Technology sure has made lives easier, but has also brought its stress-inducing characteristics along with it. The chapters here talk about little irritations that arise out of technologically advanced devices, like cell phones. My favorite chapter was 'The trin-trin monster', that talked about how, even at casual dinners, people seem to be glued to their Blackberrys and ignore the real people sitting two feet across from them! "There's a switch off button designed in every phone. Use it!" (a lot of people need to learn this!).

7. The Burning Strain
When stress catches you and affects your body and mind. About loving ourselves, achieving inner peace, having a good night's sleep, facing competition, procrastinating, and many more. I would say this whole section was the best among all. For instance, 'Tomorrow never comes' tells us why procrastination is bad and 'Are you a star' brings a heart warming story of a little boy, who's so positive even dealing with a disability.

This book has calmness tips written in simple, yet thought provoking language, that all of us can identify with. Such practical insights coupled with wit and humor (aided by her characters like the property agent, Chhadha ji, neighbor Bubbly Aunty, MNC friend Jayant and dhabawallas Pappu Singh and Chottu). Witty and ironical punchlines at the end of each chapter brings a smile on the reader's face. All I can say is I would recommend this book to everyone!

PS- I've had the wonderful fortune to meet Miss Sonal Kalra personally- twice! Apart from her writings that has me hooked to the weekly column, her warm smile, kind words and humble personality has made me a big fan! <See my signed copy of the book? ;)>


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

HARSH PINK by Melody Carlson

Author Melody Carlson
Publisher: THINK Books (an imprint of NavPress)
Published in: 2007
Price: Rs. 811 (discounted to Rs. 641 at Flipkart)/ $12.99

Harsh Pink- Color Me Burned, is the final installment (12th) in the TRUECOLORS series; a story of Reagan Mercer, seventeen, who's the 'new girl' in High School after shifting from Boston with her Mom. She's smart, talented and infused with the eagerness and zeal to get accepted in the new school. It's a book that remarkably presents deep rooted apprehensions in teenagers, the way they perceive things, the difference in mindset among   different girls. Literally a mental roller coaster ride of the feelings and situations faced by Reagan.

Storyline
Reagan gets selected into varsity team for cheerleading, getting herself in Miss Mean and Snooty Kendra's bad books. Reagan has snatched her place in the team and Kendra's set to let everyone know who's the boss. But Reagan is smarter. She knows how to wean herself out of tricky situations and so decides that the best way to keep herself safe would be to befriend Kendra and her gang. She uses Jocelyn, who's new to the High School squad like her, to strike friendship with Kendra. Soon it's all a "Mean girls" setup, each of them using each other for their selfish purposes. Reagan's accepted into their gang, (with slight resentment from Sally, Kendra's best who thinks Reagan's going to steal her place) and it isn't long before Kendra and Sally are playing real mean tricks on Jocelyn to make her leave the squad, so that Kendra can replace her. 

While Reagan feels guilty about backstabbing her friend, she plays along with them, being mean, to stay in Kendra's good books. She knows she can be much better off if she doesn't have people like Kendra or Sally on her back, so she goes selfish and lets them trick Jocelyn into quitting. Meanwhile, it's getting harder to take care of Reagan's Grandmom with Alzheimer's, so her Mom decides to send her to a nursing facility. But Reagan goes against it and says she'll do everything to make sure Nana (her Grandmom) is comfortable, which is another activity that takes up her time. 
Harsh Pink book cover
Andrea Lynch was a 'Geek Girl' who befriended Reagan when she was new to the place, but Reagan didn't want to be seen with someone like her. She wanted to be friends with "A class" people and Andrea seemed a "C minus" to her. As soon as school started, Reagan dumped Andrea and carried on with her new friends. However, she notices that Andrea sticks around with her Grandma (who seems to be fond of her) and thinks it's a trick to get friendly with Reagan. She thinks it's lame, but Andrea actually was working with a Youth Program and she knew that old people need Love and care more than anything else. She tells Reagan that she used to be mean and famous in middle school, but she wasn't happy (much like Reagan feels now), so she decided to commit herself to God and work for humanity.

Reagan makes plans to go out with Kendra to shop for stuff for her party and promises her Mom to be back home (where Nana's alone) well on time to take care of her. But she's having fun and doesn't realize the time and when she gets home, finds Nana on the floor. She had fallen down and broken her pelvic bone and had been staying there for a long time, since no one was home. Nana's transferred to a nursing facility that's terrible (after being treated at the hospital) and Reagan feels guilty because it's all her fault (I really hated that girl then!). She meets Nana everyday for an hour but missed out a whole week after a few days, because of her busy life (Yeah, right!).

It's Sally's eighteenth birthday and though she didn't want to be there, Reagan's present for the sleepover. However, she's worried sick when she sees them drinking hard and forcing her to do the same. She makes an excuse and sneaks out and before she knows, she's crying. She meets Andrea on the way, who offers her a lift home and is all ears as Reagan spills all her feelings out. Andrea seems to understand and tells her to be good and go back to make sure everything's okay. When Reagan returns, she finds Sally in an unconscious state because of alcohol poisoning and calls the paramedics. It's because of her timely action that Sally's life was saved. Reagan finally understood the importance of true friends and goes back to being friends with Andrea, Jocelyn and even Sally. She even embraces Christianity because she now believes in God (thanks to Andrea).

My review
Teenage period spells havoc, literally. Be it emotions, feelings, situations, moods or every simple thing that's completely normal till you're a preteen. Harsh Pink is a good read, especially because it presents the turmoil and the feelings teens go through. What Reagan felt when she was nervous about being at loggerheads with Miss Popular Kendra, how she decides to befriend her, how she feels they might be tricking her, her thoughts and guilt when she thinks she's being part of the backstabbing game towards a friend, or when she's not able to take time out for Nana. I think the descriptions and the way it's been told is fantastic.

However, I personally do not like mean girls and this book was totally about that. Though I was hooked to the book, there were parts when I felt frustrated at the way things were going and somewhat disliked Reagan for behaving selfish, but I guess that's how mean girls actually are. In that case, it gives a pretty cool insight into what transpires between the 'bullies' and 'meanies' at school. Though I was disappointed with the way Reagan's Mom treats her Mother, I liked the way Reagan felt sorry for her and helped Nana out. That's a different issue I wanted to kill Reagan for leaving her alone at home, because of which she had to deal with a painful recovery plus a life in the nursery. Reagan says she'll get Nana back home when she's recovered, but I felt real angry when the book ended just like that! Not a word about the old lady. (I might seem a little too concerned, but I have a sensitive point when it comes to Grandmas). 

Apart from not-a-word-about-Nana thing, the ending gave me some satisfaction. It gives the message that whatever the situation, wherever you go, if you're in a problem, it's the good people who're always there to help you out; true friends whom you might not even like, but they'll act selflessly for you anyway. That it's the love givers who feel contended with your success and help you out when you're in trouble. The 'fakies' and meanies wouldn't give a damn and will use you like a use-and-throw napkin. I liked the way Andrea helps Reagan and Sally transform, though I think it could have used more space to describe this 'transformation' (it spanned just three pages!). 

Overall, a good  read. Recommended for young and late teens- girls who're naturally mean would find their story told in a novel and the good ones would find out how mean people can get, and what apprehensions are buried under the mean, confident exterior of bullies.

There's something that Andrea says, when she's asking Reagan which course she'd decided to take for her life, that's stuck with me because of its deep meaning. Andrea said, "Not making a decision is the same as making one. It's like saying you like how things are going, that you want to keep heading in the same direction. But I think that's a bad choice".

Sunday, February 12, 2012

New Moon

Price: Rs. 395
Publisher: Atom books


New Moon is the second book in the Twilight series, continuing with the story of seventeen year old Bella Swan having found love in a vampire (Edward Cullen). Since I found Twilight slightly static, with some action only at the end (Thank God for the killer vampire or I wouldn't have tried to read this book!), I picked up this book to know more. And I'm glad I did. This one has more life in it, happiness and again, action, though only towards the end. It's more positive (Thank you, Jacob Black) and it seems that Bella isn't such a robot after all!

Storyline
It's Bella's eighteenth birthday and Edward's invited her over to his house. Everyone at Edward's place is excited and they have the whole place done up with decorations and gifts for Bella. However, not everyone in the Cullen household has mastered the control over their urge to taste human blood and when Bella accidentally cuts her finger while opening one of the gifts, Jasper flings himself at her, saved in the nick of time by Edward. The next few days are confusing for Bella, as Alice and Jasper left for some other place for a while and Edward starts to behave indifferently. The change kills Bella inside and she tries to cover it with the fact that Edward's upset over the "incident", until that happens.

Edward tells Bella that the Cullens are leaving- forever, and that they can't be together anymore. It's a bitter shock for Bella and she turns into an unsmiling, pale, sad and basic-things-doing human robot over the months after Edward leaves. She doesn't talk to a single person and gradually loses all friends in school. Charlie then scolds her and pleads with her to get some life back into herself! She asks a schoolmate, a suprised Jessica to accompany her to a movie. However, once there, she gets a feeling of Deja Vu and almost runs into danger when she hears Edward's voice in her head, as clear as if he's standing right next to her, instructing her to back from the danger and return home. That's when Bella realizes that she hears his voice talking to her whenever she's doing something reckless. 

One day Charlie takes her to his friend Billy's place and there Bella becomes friends with Jacob, a fun loving, kind guy who assembles cars. They become good friends and Bella changes for the better. She finds two motorbikes with a few technical glitches and takes them to Jacob for a secret repair. She knew her dad's views on motorbikes- reckless and she's determined to be reckless and hear his voice again. It happens and she enjoys it. But there's another problem- Jacob's stopped talking to her as well and she finds out the reason- that he's turned into a werewolf and didn't want her to know. She tells him she doesn't mind it a bit and comes to know that the reason the werewolves in La Push have been out running in the forests was a vampire- an ally of Victoria (a female vampire whose mate was killed by Edward), who's come to hunt for Bella- and the werewolves try to keep her safe.

While Jacob and his clan are out hunting, Bella goes for a cliff dive into the water raging with a furious storm., from which Jacob rescues her. This is the vision Alice sees and communicates it to Edward, who later calls up Bella's house, to which Jacob answers, "Charlie's at the funeral" (in the context of Charlie being at a friend's funeral, but Edward thinks Bella's dead). Edward feels reckless and runs off to the Volturi in Italy, a royal family intent on keeping the existence of Vampires a secret from the world. It was said that for a vampire to die, all they had to do was infuriate the Volturi, which Edward was determined to do. Alice comes to Bella for help, because it's Bella who can stop him. They fly to Italy and Bella stops Edward in the nick of time from showing himself as a vampire, to a crowd of clueless humans. It's reunion time! But the Volturi only leave Bella when they promise them that Bella will be tuned into a vampire someday. (Much to Edward's disgust and Bella's joy). 

Edward says he left her because he thought she would do better without his dangerous presence in her life, not because it was because of her that his family was breaking apart, which was what Bella had thought! It ends with Edward being back with Bella, and having a cold war with Jacob.

My Take
Definitely better than Twilight! The parts where Bella's with Jacob are full of energy and positivity, which makes it clear that Jacob's the right person for her. Though the parts where Bella leads a robotic life are very dull, the chapters following it makes up for the dullness. And I loved the action towards the end when Edward runs off to Italy! There are increased heartbeats when they confront the potential dangers of the Volutri and when there's this rush to get to Edward before he gives himself away. I like books with a happy ending and this surely has one. The Cullens get back to Forks, but now Bella's not with Jacob anymore. Though she wants him to stay on as her friend, he makes his visits as short as possible, because of Edward and the vampire-werewolf tiff. What happens after this seemingly interesting ending is a mystery to me, as of now, because I haven't read the next two books yet. 

I would recommend this book to light mystery lovers. And good-vampire lovers too ;)

Friday, February 10, 2012

34 Bubblegums and Candies

Author Preeti Shenoy
Author: Preeti Shenoy
Price: Rs. 100
Publisher: Srishti Publishers and Distributors

I had heard about this book quite a lot. But because of my I-wouldn't-read-hyped-about-books-till-the-hype-gets-over obsession, I hadn't read it up till last week when I was climbing up the stairs to the Metro station and realized that I hadn't any newspaper/magazine/book with me! The thought of travelling in the Metro with nothing to read was daunting and I headed towards the book shop. 34 Bs and Cs caught my attention, because one, I knew it was good and two, I had been following the author's blog since a long time and liked her posts.

About the book
This is a very simple book, a compilation of the author's life's experiences and instances that emanate meaningful lessons for life. Each chapter is a unique story and contains experiences the author had, from the point of view of a mother of two, a wife, a daughter, a sibling or simply a silent spectator. Each chapter ends with a note of what the experience tells us- how life gives us unexpected challenges or equally unexpected moments of joy or surprise and how we react to them. Such notes at some places are motivating, some thought provoking and some totally profound. 
Preeti Shenoy says "Life is like Bubblegums and Candies. Sometimes you have to keep on chewing so that you extract whatever you can out of it. At times, the bubble you blow bursts unexpectedly and you are left with a sticky mess. Sometimes you lick it slowly and relish it."

34 Bubblegums and Candies book cover
My take
The best thing about this book is that we all have experienced similar instances and we can easily connect with her stories, sometimes nodding our heads knowing that that is what happens and sometimes getting bewildered at the funny turn of events. The first and last chapters were emotionally moving, talking about the author's dad and how the book came to be. My favorite chapters include:

- My Special Friend (About the author's dad)
- Please hug me (About kids suffering from AIDS and how they are just like any other kids, full of love, but not so much loved)
- Feeling needed (When kids pester you continuously, it seems irritating, but you enjoy the feeling that you're needed)
- Dance like no one is watching (Enjoy the little things in life. And dance like no one's watching. Even if they are!)
- Siblings without rivalry (An instance where the author's older kid accepted punishment in school, saving his younger and rule-abiding sister from the embarrassment)
- Age miracles (A funny chapter with instances where Preeti Shenoy was mistaken as being a kid herself! [she looks quite young])
- Truth is stranger than Fiction (Talks about coinciding date and time of her dad's demise and her brother's first child's birth)
- The stranger (A stranger in Kerala who made her kids happy by catching up with two goat kids and letting them pet them.)
- Mail Exchange (Emails exchanged between IIT-IIM kind of "professionals" and "artists". It was funny)
- The Magic of faith (A beautiful instance of the author's six year old daughter's faith in her mother)

I liked the other chapters too, but these are my favorites! I would recommend this book to everyone. Young and old! 

I'll soon be reading Preeti Shenoy's second book, 'Life is what you make it', a story of a young girl, Ankita who's got a perfect life, until she's diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. It's a story of love, hope and strong will to overcome odds and live life the way you want.
Her third book, 'Tea for two and a piece of cake' is up for pre-order from Flipkart!

Bratfest at Tiffany's

Price: Rs. 540 / Rs. 295 (if published by Piaktus)
Publisher: Poppy Books

Recommended for: Young Teens

Bratfest at Tiffany's is a Clique novel, the ninth installment in the series. Massie and her gang are in 8th grade, final year of middle school and they want to make it as best and ah-mazing as ever! But their alpha status is in serious danger. It's always been the Pretty Committee (PC) at OCD that was admired by all the students and whatever they did was followed by the 'lesser' kids doing the same. However, now the students have something much better to think about- boys from Brairwood, who lost their school to flood and now were being accommodated at OCD (which changed to BOCD). It's a bitter shock for Massie to see that kids really didn't care about the PC anymore. All they wanted to talk about was the soccer players and the non-soccer players!

Storyline
After OCD turns BOCD and gets infested by boys, Massie declares a boyfast. Anyone crushing on a boy will be turned out of the gang, which is now The NPC (New Pretty Committee). To make their promises properly, Massie gifts everyone in NPC (Alicia, Dylan, Kristen, Claire) a charm bracelet from Tiffany's, with each of their initials dangling from it. It was to serve as a reminder of their boyfast every time they thought they were breaking the rules. While on the surface everyone seemed unperturbed, they were having secret pangs in their own. Alicia, for instance, thinks she cannot just leave ah-dorable Josh and makes up a plan to be at the same table at lunch when THE news would be read out. (She was the student news reader and had 'accidentally' seen the next day's announcement, which said that half the kids would be taken to their 'new' building to ease the chaos of so many kids). While The NPC (along with many other kids) shifts to a trailer, which is cold, damp, musty and an ewww place for the NPC to be, Alicia's trying to ease her gulit. Massie knows Alicia did it on purpose and they make her leave the NPC for breaking the rules.

Claire tries hard not to notice her ex, Cam, who's replaced her with Olivia. Meanwhile, Massie's determined to make life for the kids in the trailer fun and revive her alpha status. She doesn't want to be pitied, rather adored. She hires a famous designer and surprises everyone with the "new" and happening trailer! It resembles a huge Tiffany jewelry box, with soft, plush carpets, leather bound massage chairs, Louis Vuitton suitcase lockers and fantastic aromatic walls! Except for a couple of LBRs (Loser Beyond Repair), everyone loves it! To make the whole look completely ah-dorable, Massie gives everyone in the trailer a makeover! The fabulous new trailers are now better than the Main Building, filling all students with pangs of envy. To add to it, there's a news coverage of the makeover and now parents of students at MB call it unfair that their own kids don't get to stay in the trailers (Massie's 'Mission Accomplished!' moment).

There's a locker-designing contest held, where students who design the best lockers win and get to stay at the trailers. The soccer guys are not interested, because they don't want to live in a 'jewelry' box, but The NPC wants them to go away. Alicia begs Massie to take her back but Massie puts up a condition- that she gets rid of the boys. When results of the contest are announced, Alicia changes the list and puts all soccer boys (including all their ex-crushes) in the Tiffany box! That makes her win over her friends and Massie ends the boyfast! The LBRs are sad to see NPC go from the trailers and they (NPC) pretend they're sad too, but they're actually very happy to get their old school back, to themselves!

My Take
Certainly interesting and a fun read. Any young teen girl who loves luxury, cute stuff and girly talks would love this book. It's very descriptive, providing visualizations that add to the benefits of this book. It talks about the insecurities of a young girl who's used to fame and being adored by her 'fans', and her friends who define who she is. Everyone in the PC is a different character with different tastes and it gives a look into the same situation through five different minds. Though the idea of a central character who's snobbish and sometimes a bully, a riot who aggressively demands anything she wants, is not very appealing, but it has been wonderfully done, nevertheless. The feelings, worries, happiness and all small things it talks about in a teenager's life, is something everyone can connect with (except the super rich part, maybe). Overall, a good book, recommended for chick-lit loving young girls. :)

The Clique has been converted into a movie as well.

Other books in the series- Best Friends for Never

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Best Friends for Never

Lisi Harrison
Author: Lisi Harrison
Price: Rs. 225
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (some editions by Harper Collins too)

Recommended for: Young teens. And girls who love luxury brand clothes.

Coming across this book was totally random and the cover stating it as "THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING SERIES" was what made me pick it up. It's a chick-lit for young teenage girls, the second book in "The Clique" series, involving a group of super rich, or call that 'filthy' rich young girls (or brats) headed by Massie Block, seventh grader, who wants nothing more than being the top performer. In every single thing.

Storyline
The Block estate has got Massie's dad's friend's family staying at the guesthouse and Massie hates the fact that they have to spend their dinner time with them, not to mention Claire, Massie's classmate who wants nothing more than join Massie's 'clique' so that she would be hanging out with the 'cool' gang. And Claire's ten year old pesky brother, Todd who's always trying to play mischievous tricks on them. After a nasty argument at the dinner table, where the luxury brand loving Massie calls Claire outdated and makes fun of her wearing sweats and Keds, their parents decided it's time to teach the girls to behave and get along with each other.

Massie overhears this and gets a devilish idea in her head. She got to know that a girl in her class has decided to organize a Halloween boy-girl party, something that's never happened before. Of course, it has to be Massie who will organize it and get all the attention, because it's her admirers and her friends that Massie loves beyond anything! She tricks Claire into pretending to be friends so that her parents agree to let her have the party. The plan works and the parents think it's a joint party by both girls and then Massie makes it clear that it's only her party, reducing Claire to sobs.

Best Friends for Never book cover
Anyway, a professional is hired and Massie gets whatever she wants for her party- ice skating rink, DJ, sweets stalls, tattoo artists and everything! Massie and her friends- Dylan, Kristen, Alicia (who call themselves the "Pretty Committee") decide to wear the same outfit to school that they were going to wear at the party. Gorgeous outfits, of course. There's one for Claire too, but Massie "forgets" to ask her to wear it. Anyway, they get in trouble at school and everyone but Massie is worried. Massie wouldn't ah-bviously be punished. Her dad donates huge amount of money to their school, OCD and they wouldn't dare punish her! But the school comes up with bad news- they're going uniform! Everyone turns to Massie with looks of loathing and she couldn't afford that! So she convinces the teachers to let them design uniforms and have a contest, to see who designs best.

For all the trouble, it's only Kristen who gets grounded (because she isn't as rich as the others and swaps her clothes on the way to school) and she doesn't attend the Halloween "Hell Freezes Over" party. Everyone seems to have fun at the party- even Claire who finds a friend in Cam, a good looking guy and they get along well. The story ends with a family dinner and everything being good and everyone feeling satisfied.
It's titled "Best Friends for Never" because Claire tries really hard to be best friends with Massie and her clique, but Massie is determined not to let her join her gang!

My take
It's a book that will be enjoyed most by girls in their early teens and those who love ah-dorable stuff like high end clothes and shoes. It's very descriptive, which makes visualizing the story very easy and that's what makes it interesting. The story and tantrums of a young girl, who feels complete with her gang and who cannot live without shopping. To me, Massie seemed the kind of girl who I wouldn't want to be with. I identify more with Claire, who has accepted how she is and doesn't care much about clothes. But to read about Massie gives insights into the insecurities and fears of those who are bullies. There are a few things which they are comfortable with, and they love to show it off. Sometimes I felt it's a little too descriptive, but I enjoyed reading it nevertheless. Felt kind of same when I used to read the Sweet Valley High series in school! 
Recommended for young teens!

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