Monday, May 11, 2015

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, 2009

Note: This will be my last new review until May 22nd (next Friday). I thought I could make it through AP season without neglecting my blog, but I just don't have the time or energy to write reviews. As soon as this one goes live, am completely out of fresh content. I can post over some old reviews from Goodreads if you want me to - I'm not so short on time I can't copy and paste! - but I'm not sure if that isn't cheating. If you want me to do that, post in the comments and I'll pick out my best reviews to transfer over.
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Ivy June Mosely and Catherine Combs, two girls from different parts of Kentucky, are participating in the first seventh-grade student exchange program between their schools. The girls will stay at each other’s homes, attend school together, and record their experience in their journals. Catherine and her family have a beautiful home with plenty of space. Since Ivy June’s house is crowded, she lives with her grandparents. Her Pappaw works in the coal mines supporting four generations of kinfolk. Ivy June can’t wait until he leaves that mine forever and retires. As the girls get closer, they discover they’re more alike than different, especially when they face the terror of not knowing what’s happening to those they love most.

Hmm. I'm wondering if part of my apathy toward the book comes from reading it at the wrong time or something. It has all the pieces that I normally love in a story, but this time around it just felt a little tired. Then again, I'm tired, so who knows whether the book is to fault?

The characterization is pretty well done. Ivy June and Catherine are very typical twelve-year-olds, and they are painted with the right mixture of faults and merits to be neither saccarine angels or cliche cheeky devils. The characterization (now that I think about it a little more) might err slightly on the side of the generic, but it serves its purpose and is done very well.

The depiction of city life seemed really straight-on to me, warts and all. The attitude the "city folk" have toward their destitute neighbors is a very realistic cocktail of curiosity, snobbishness, pity, and (in some people) spite. I enjoyed watching Ivy June interact with the city for the first time, seeing my culture through the eyes of a newbie.

As for Ivy June's culture . . . I don't know. I was definitely stressing right alongside her when things got scary in the second half of the book, but when it comes to the town as a whole I had a hard time connecting. Do people really live like that, in America, in the 21st century? Are outhouses really still a thing out in rural areas? I have a hard time suspending my inside realist and accepting the fact that Ivy June lives such a ninteenth-century life. I couuld be completely wrong, though - I don't really know much about rural Kentuky. If anyone knows, I would love to learn whether this aspect of the story was realistic or not.

At the end of the day, I liked Faith, Hope, and Ivy June, but I wasn't swept away. I almost wanted more. The similarities and contrasts between Ivy June and Catherine was interesting, especially once things started going wrong in the second half of the book, but when I put the book down I felt almost apathetic toward it. Somehow I didn't really connect at all with the characters - I felt like I'd seen everything before. Perhaps you might be able to get more out of it than I did; I think it is a good book, it just didn't really do for me.

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