January 28, 2008

One Leg At A Time... Or One Butt Cheek...

Gert Garibaldi’s Rants and Raves: One Butt Cheek at a Time By Amber Kizer

“My parents always say, “Put one foot in front of the other.” What is that? It’s discriminatory, for one thing. Not everyone has feet, nor can everyone move their feet. But here’s the epiphany that is my brilliance—we all have butts. Seriously, even people without legs and arms have butts, right?”

Gert Garibaldi hates her name, hates her teachers, hates some of her classmates, and even sometimes hates her best friend – not because he’s gay, but because he gets all breathless about his new beau, and sometimes doesn’t have time for her. As is true of many heroines of YA novels, Gert is sharp-tongued and outspoken, and sometimes really, really funny.

Gert’s mother gives her a diary – pink, with a unicorn on it, showing how little she knows about her daughter. But what Gert doesn’t know is that she needs this diary. She needs to start working out what’s going on in her head, on her own. Nobody else is there to do it for her, after all. Reluctantly, after remodeling the cover, Gert starts to talk to herself about who she is, and who she wants to be.

Despite the bright pink cover with what looks like a big-headed sheep (it’s a unicorn. Trust me.) and duct tape on the spine, this isn’t your typical chick-lit YA novel about an angsty, diary-writing girl, not after the first hundred pages, anyway. Gert’s forays into getting to know her body during a particularly insightful sex ed chapter in biology save this novel from being a cookie cutter of anything else you’ve ever read.

Unfortunately, sometimes Gert also seems a little too …old? sophisticated? smart? for the childish jealousy she acts out, and her character simply doesn’t always ring true. For all that she has an opinion on practically everything, and, with older parents, is used to being left to fend for herself, she seems to have no internal resources whatsoever, and if her best friend isn’t paying attention to her at all times, she pouts. She spends much of the novel wondering why she has no boyfriend, but the reader doesn’t get a sense that there is all that much to Gert for anyone to be interested in yet. While there are plenty of people like that in the real world, Gert’s self-centeredness doesn’t exactly make for riveting can’t-put-it-down reading.
A little uneven, but full of funny wisecracks, Gert Garibaldi's Rants and Raves will make readers smile.

This review was first published in the January '08 Edge of the Forest Children's Literature Monthly.

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