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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027
The Not-So-Great Depression: In which the economy crashes, my mom goes broke, my sister's plans are ruined, my dad grows vegetables, and I do not get a hamster - Amy Goldman Koss Disclaimer: The bookstore company I work for is really bad about getting advanced copies out. The main office will, on occasion, ship us a box of ARCs that have already come out or are coming in about two weeks’ time. In the case of this book (and several others), this was sent out in that time period…and was buried in my boss’s office for about a year and a half. This is a review of an ARC copy from that box; if there are any differences in the final printing, please let me know.My HS Honors Economics teacher understood one thing about my class: If we were subjected to a bunch of educational videos about (likely outdated) economics, all that information would seep out of our brains. Aside from one video, the stuff we watched in class were carefully supervised and yet strangely relevant clips of movies we would be familiar with or have actually seen: Tommy Boy, the Adam Sandler remake of Mr. Deeds, Anti-Trust, etc. The point was that even if the scene(s) in question were only partially relevant, we’d have at least some understanding of how things worked. The reason I bring up my high school days (circa 2003-2004, for those of you wondering) is because I actually don’t mind it when YA authors do try to use big concepts like economics and foreign policy and bring them to the level where a teen can get the jist of what’s going on, because hey! This character’s going through all of this stuff that I don’t quite understand either! And I wish I could say that this book accomplishes the above. It doesn’t. I understand that Jacki and her family are extremely privileged, and that the shock of her mother losing her job is going to be confusing for everyone. But there’s no growth nor acknowledgement on any characters’ part to the situation and how they’re all affected. Even less Jacki—there’s absolutely no emotional or mature change between her character from the beginning to the end of the book. She’s an immensely static character who only reacts to the situation around her and very blandly recites details. If anything, I was more interested in her older sister, Brooke, as she felt like the one with not only an actual story but we see how Brooke reacts and changes to the financial situation. Unfortunately, Brooke is regulated to the background for the majority of the book, which is only explained away at the end of what she’s been doing the whole time. Also, Jacki doesn’t read as a ninth grader—early middle school, maybe. Not just entering high school. Again, her lack of emotional maturity doesn’t lend to the whole premise of the book, seeing as she blithely writes off her mother’s unemployment as boring NPR stuff. Look, in ninth grade, I didn’t pay attention to as much of the world around me either. But I did take notice of things that were important, and even when my own mother was unemployed at that time, I felt like I had to take some responsibility about my money. It also doesn’t help that Jacki regularly looks down at her father for not having a ‘real’ job and being more self-sufficient. There’s a lot of complex things in the text, but they’re never fully explored and the book feels extremely lacking. It also doesn’t help that Jacki doesn’t even sound like a high schooler; again, her dialogue reads more like an eleven year old talking. (The “zabba zabba” tic got real old.) The writing is pretty…confusing? It’s not quite stream-of-consciousness, but it feels like this should have been written in a diary format, rather than a straight narrative. As for the economical and financial discussion? We get a metaphor involving sea monkeys, which I could see as a extremely simplified version of explaining the housing crash. However, since the majority of Jacki’s school scenes are punctuated with her current affairs class, again, there’s no real discussion of how the economy works. Again, Jacki’s privilege isn’t really discussed beyond her visiting a homeless shelter a few times near the end of the book and her thinking “Oh, at least I still have a house over my head!” (She also brings up “Poor people are happy because they don’t have so much they have to worry about!” Book. Wall.) I know there are people who would look at this and think “Oh, it’s just a light look at the current economy, it’s just YA, no need to take it seriously.” I’d be fine with this being a light look if the author took the time to acknowledge Jacki’s privilege and would actually take the situation seriously. But the flippant attitude and the uneven writing just brought this down so much for me.