Thursday, November 03, 2011

Review: Calli by Jessica Lee Anderson

Title: Calli
Author: Jessica Lee Anderson
Publisher: Milkweed Editions                     
Release date: September 13th 2011
Pages: 198
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley - thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for providing a free eGalley of this book
Find out more: Amazon ; Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Fifteen-year-old Calli has just about everything she could want in life—two loving moms, a good-looking boyfriend, and a best friend who has always been there for support. An only child, Calli is excited when her parents announce that they want to be foster parents. Unfortunately, being a foster sister to Cherish is not at all what Calli expected. First Cherish steals Calli’s boyfriend, then begins to pit Calli’s moms against one another, and she even steals Calli’s iPod. Tired of being pushed around and determined to get even, Calli steals one of Cherish’s necklaces. But this plan for revenge goes horribly awry, and Cherish ends up in juvenile detention. Isolating herself from her moms, her boyfriend, and even her best friend, Calli wrestles with her guilt and tries to figure out a way to undo the damage she’s caused. When her moms are asked to take on another foster child, Calli sees an opportunity to make amends for her past mistakes.

First sentence:
A girl rushes to the tallest guy in tenth grade and reaches up to drape her thin, muscular arms around his neck.

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I really liked the idea and the plot in Calli. Calli's problems with her foster sister Cherish are a good main plot - that's an original idea and interesting to read about. The family dynamics are interesting to read about too - characters with gay parents are something I'd really like to see more of in YA. Calli's problems with her boyfriend, Dub, and best friend, Delia, are pretty average but could have added some nice layers to the story. Other than the plot, though, I didn't really like Calli, and I was pretty disappointed.

The writing did not work for me. It's choppy and seems, well, constructed. The dialogue is not realistic - it's just not how you talk. While I appreciated that many issues are addressed (homosexuality, abuse, body image, accepting yourself, etc.), I thought the book's take on them was too preachy. I don't like when the author's message is too clear - I like it better when the reader can take from a book what he or she wants without having the feeling that you're being preached to. Also, the environment is mentioned all the time in this book, also in that preachy way. That aspect didn't fit into the story at all and was kind of annoying.

Calli is a pretty relatable character. Her emotions are ones every girl has felt. The secondary characters, though, are not fully-developed. None of them have real personalities. Especially Cherish's character needed to be developed more - I did not understand at all why she acted the way she did.

My main problem with Calli is the pacing. Everything, in my opinion, happens too fast. There is no real development; things just change from one moment to the other. This affects every aspect of the book, which is why I couldn't really get into any of the storylines. The pacing made the relationship between Calli and her boyfriend, Dub, unrealistic. First, Calli is super-mad at Dub for kissing Cherish, and then when he says it was Cherish's fault and that she threw herself at him, everything is fine. Calli immediately believes and forgives him, which I thought was strange. The same goes for Calli's relationship with her best friend, Delia. Delia goes back and forth between being there for Calli and being, well, a total bitch and basically ignoring Calli because a 'better' friend came along. At first Calli's mad at Delia for that, which is normal, in my opinion, but then, with no development or anything in-between, she's totally fine with it - I really didn't get what that was supposed to mean. The relationship between Calli and Cherish is weird, too - sometimes, they seem totally fine, and sometimes they hate each other for no apparent reason. After the big fight, everything seems fine again, but I didn't find it realistic how Cherish responded to Calli's letter and there were no hard feelings. Everything just seemed to wrap up too nicely to be realistic.

On a positive note, one thing I really liked are the family dynamics. I liked reading about what it's like for Calli to live with two moms, and what it's like to have foster siblings. One of Calli's moms has Lupus, and I also liked reading about how that affected Calli and the rest of the family.

My favorite character is, by far, Lemond, Calli's foster brother. Even though his relationship with Calli developed way too quickly, he and his relationship with Calli are adorable. I found Lemond, even though he's only six or seven, to be the most realistic character.

Maybe Calli is better suited for a younger audience. I found Calli too immature, and the whole style is too preachy, explaining and immature for YA. Maybe Calli's character should have been a few years younger and Calli should have been marketed as MG instead of YA - the ideas are pretty good and might have worked as MG. The way it is, though, I did not particularly enjoy Calli.


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