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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Anyone But You: A Novel in Two Voices* by Lara M. Zeises - young adult book review

Also by Lara M. Zeises:

The Sweet Life of Stella Madison
Anyone But You: A Novel in Two Voices
by Lara M. Zeises
Young adult 256 pages Laurel Leaf November 2007 Paperback    

Anyone But You is a story told in the voices of two "almost-siblings," Seattle and Critter. Seattle, Critter, and Critter's brother, Jesse, became siblings when Sea's dad walked out on their family six years ago and left Seattle behind. Layla, Critter and Jesse's mom, kept nine-year-old Seattle and treated her just like a daughter. Layla is the only mom Sea has ever known; her real mom died the day Sea was born.

Critter is more than a brother to Seattle; the two of them are best friends. And this summer, they are stoop-sitters together, dreading the start of summer school in July. It's too hot for anything - too hot for Seattle to be on her skateboard, for one thing. Jesse's got a job, so he doesn't join them in their summer laziness.

Then Seattle comes up with a plan to beat the heat. She and Critter will take the bus to a fancy apartment complex with a pool where they once swam last summer, and Critter can charm a lifeguard into letting them into the pool. That's all it's supposed to be; Sea just wants to swim.

Critter gets other ideas. Soon he is head over heels for Sarah, the Penn Acres Pool lifeguard. Sea, on the other hand, is trying not to fall for a skater boy on the rebound who is visiting from her namesake for the summer. Seattle may be talking to someone other than Critter for the first time in a long while, but she doesn't have to like it when Critter does the same. Then Seattle's dad shows up after six years of silence, trying to "play daddy," as Sea puts it, and the lives of Critter and Sea begin to change even more.

This is a powerful novel about family and growing up told in the alternating voices of Critter and Sea, which really makes it interesting. The switch between narrators adds something to this novel that it might not have otherwise. Of course, that is not to say that is the only thing that makes it good.

This book is the best of the three by Lara M. Zeises. Her other books, Contents Under Pressure and Bringing Up The Bones, are excellent, so that really says something. The characters in this book are even more realistic than those in her other novels. All three novels, however, certainly stand out in the genre of young adult fiction. They are real without being boring and have great characters that draw you in just as much as the brilliant plots do. All of the many strands of the story about Critter and Sea are written beautifully with attention to every part of the story, which makes this book a lot better than other young adult books that may be written more superficially, without dealing with the many different topics in this book so thoroughly.

Critter and Seattle are not the only intriguing, well-written characters in this book. We don't meet many, but all of them seem to be perfectly realistic and perfect for the roles that they fill in the book. Jesse, Layla, and even Frank are shown to be real people, not just superficial, flat book characters.

Anyone But You may be character-driven, but that's not to say that the plot isn't brilliant. The story of Critter and Seattle holds the reader's attention for as long as it takes to read the book, and you won't even stop thinking about it when you're done. There are many topics dealt with in Anyone But You, but most of all, it is about how blood might be thicker than water, but it surely can't be thicker than the bond between Layla, Seattle, Critter and Jesse. Maybe, Sea learns, family really is something you can choose for yourself. I am looking forward to Lara M. Zeises' next (surely amazing) book.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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