Being Sloane Jacobs

After recent events, I decided that I needed to read something on the lighter side of things. Thanks to the list of 16-17 South Carolina Junior Book Award nominees, I was led to Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill.

I like to read as many of the SCJBA nominees as possible to see if any are okay for the upper elementary crowd. While I don’t think Being Sloane Jacobs is a good fit for elementary libraries–it’s definitely more suited to middle grade and teen readers–I do think it has tons of potential for a Disney Channel movie. (Seriously. If someone’s not on this already, they really should be.) Combine The Parent Trap with doses of The Mighty Ducks and The Cutting Edge, and you’re close to this entertaining read.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

In Washington, DC, we have Sloane Emily Jacobs, a girl who knows something about stress. After a disastrous fall years earlier, she’s making her return to competitive figure skating. But Sloane isn’t sure that she has what it takes anymore. She doesn’t know that spending time at a Montreal skating camp this summer will help with her nerves…but it could provide a much-needed break from her overbearing mother and her secretive father, a senator who will do almost anything to hold onto his position.

In Philadelphia, we have Sloane Devon Jacobs, a tough hockey player trying to get back into her groove. She’s somehow lost the ability to score, so she’s taking her frustrations out on other players. Her coach arranges her attendance in a summer hockey camp in Montreal, hoping to help Sloane with her aggression issues and prepare her to impress scouts in the coming year. Sloane doesn’t want to give up her summer, but she won’t deny she needs to escape the fact of her mom’s absence and her dad’s supposed indifference. Maybe this camp will be what she needs.

As luck would have it, these two vastly different girls with the same names meet in a Montreal hotel, and it doesn’t take long for a wild plan to emerge. No one at either camp knows much about Sloane Jacobs, so what if they just switched places? Each Sloane Jacobs would get a fresh start, a chance to be someone completely new, and they could avoid all of the expectations that have been weighing on them. Should be easy, right?

At first, things seem to be okay, but these two girls soon realize that there’s more to this switch than just changing wardrobes. Sloane Emily has to toughen up and learn the basics of hockey. She has to tap into her aggressive side, stand up to bullies, and show that she’s got what it takes to be part of a team. Sloane Devon realizes that figure skating isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s murder on every part of her body, and now she doesn’t have pads to cushion the blow every time she falls on the ice. And that’s just the skating. She also has to deal with a particularly vicious mean girl who sees her (or the other Sloane) as a threat.

And if keeping stories straight and learning new sports isn’t enough, both girls have potential romances brewing. Sloane Emily meets a hockey player–emphasis on the word player–who vows she can trust him. She wants to, even knowing that she’s hiding her true self from him. As for Sloane Devon, she runs into an old friend from home at a neighborhood pub. She knows there could be a potential relationship there, but what would he think if he knew she gave up hockey for figure skating this summer? How could he possibly understand something so out of character for her?

Both girls are learning a lot about themselves this summer, and, as it turns out, both are stronger than they ever realized. They have the drive to succeed in totally new sports, and they’re growing comfortable with their new personas. But what will happen when the truth comes to light? Will they lose all they’ve worked for this summer, or will they use their experiences to become entirely new versions of Sloane Jacobs, girls with the confidence to face anything that comes their way?


Even though both girls in this book had to deal with some big issues–chief among them an alcoholic mom and a dad caught in an affair–I found Being Sloane Jacobs to be a light, fun, and somewhat stressful read. Will the girls be caught? When? What will happen after that? Like I said…stressful. But in a good way. I was eager to turn the pages (or swipe the screen) to see what awaited each girl next and to see how each of them handled the switch. I think middle grade and teen readers will feel the same way.

The school librarian in me is usually looking for life lessons in the books I read. If I could point to just one in this book it would be empathy. On the outside, these two girls have nothing in common aside from their names. It takes actually walking–or skating–in the other person’s shoes to see that not everything is as simple as it seems. Having money doesn’t mean having a worry-free life. Living outside of the spotlight doesn’t mean everything is simple and hunky-dory. Each girl learns a great deal about the other during this whole process, and I think each of them emerges as a more compassionate person.

Like I said before, I think Being Sloane Jacobs would make an excellent Disney Channel movie, and I think you’ll agree when you give this book a read.

If you’d like more information on this book and others by Lauren Morrill, you can connect with her on Twitter or her website.

Happy reading!

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Before I begin telling you about Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door, I must urge you to read the amazing Anna and the French Kiss.  A couple of notable characters from Anna appear in Lola’s story, and it might be helpful–but not totally necessary–to read about their story before diving into Lola’s.  And, honestly, Anna and the French Kiss is a funny, romantic, beautiful novel that you really need to read anyway.  So do that.  Now.

Moving on to Lola…I loved everything about this book.  It’s got it all:  quirky, memorable characters, teen angst and drama, humor, and, most importantly, a love story that readers can really root for.  I also enjoyed that, unlike many other YA novels, Lola’s parents had a presence in her life.  They had rules they expected her to follow (which she didn’t always do, of course), and, in my opinion, Lola respected her parents and wanted their respect in return.  That was a nice change of pace from what I normally read.

Lola Nolan is a true individual. She dreams of being a fashion designer, and she sees clothing as a way to really express herself.  Lola’s appearance may change from day to day, but some things will always stay the same.  She will always be a loyal daughter, friend, and girlfriend.  She loves her dads, she supports her best friend, and she’s devoted to her boyfriend, Max.  In fact, she and Max (who is much older than her) have big plans for the future.  She’ll design fabulous costumes, and Max will enjoy success as a rock star.  All the while, love will keep them together.  (Anyone else have a Captain and Tennille song playing in their heads right now?)

Well, as you know, plans have a way of unraveling…especially when Lola’s first love–the boy who broke her young heart–moves back into the house next door and makes it clear he’s never forgotten Lola.

Cricket Bell was the first boy Lola ever loved, and, now that he’s back in town, Lola must face him, the past, and the rather confusing feelings Cricket inspires.  Can Lola and Cricket put the past behind them and be friends (even though one–or both–of them wants more)?  If they can be friends, how will Lola explain this relationship to Max, the boyfriend who’s been the center of her life for months?

Lola is becoming more conflicted by the minute.  She and Cricket are closer than ever, and it’s clear that there are strong feelings on both sides.  But Lola is still with Max.  Max, an older guy her parents and friends hate, a guy who’s not always nice or there for Lola, a guy who may not be as perfect as Lola once thought.  Will Lola wake up and see what’s obvious to everyone else in the world?  Will she give the boy next door the chance to be the boy that captures her heart?  Read Lola and the Boy Next Door to find out!

This book is an absolutely perfect example of young adult romance.  Stephanie Perkins has captured the very essence of young love and the drama that goes along with it.  Lola, like most teenage girls, is confused yet determined to go her own way, and she wants to be loved by those closest to her…and sometimes she makes things more difficult than they need to be.  I think we can all relate.

I’ll admit that Lola takes second place when it comes to my favorite character in this book.  I fell in love with Cricket Bell (and I think most readers will, too).  He is the perfect guy–not brooding or moody like most guys in YA novels–and he’s my new standard for, well, everything.  Move over Edward Cullen.  Cricket Bell has just taken your place.

If you’d like to read some truly stellar love stories, you must check out both Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door.  We can also look forward to another book to join these two, Isla and the Happily Ever After, due out in the fall of 2012.

For more information on author Stephanie Perkins and her wonderful books, visit http://stephanieperkins.com/index.html.  You won’t be disappointed.