The Secrets of Peaches. By Jodi Lynn Anderson. HarperTeen. $8.99.
Off Campus: An Upper Class Novel. By Hobson Brown, Taylor Materne, and Caroline Says. HarperTeen. $8.99.
The Interns: Fashionistas. By Chloe Walsh. HarperTeen. $8.99.
The Interns: Truth or Fashion. By Chloe Walsh. HarperTeen. $8.99.
Frenemies. By Alexa Young. HarperTeen. $8.99.
Summertime, and the readin’ is easy – and insubstantial. Teens looking for a throwaway book for the beach or the pool can pick up any of these, and it doesn’t much matter which. None pretends to be anything more than superficial; all have similar characters, defined by what they do and how they look rather than by any attempt to create personalities for them; and all offer plots that hit the expected points of the teen-beach-lit genre without trying to go beyond them. But they all fulfill the expectations that readers will bring to them – within their genre, they are done quite well.
If you liked Peaches, you will probably enjoy Jodi Lynn Anderson’s sequel, The Secrets of Peaches. The same girls who suffered heartbreak while keeping their friendship strong in the earlier book now suffer heartbreak and keep their friendship strong in the new one. The plot revolves around the possibility that Murphy, Leeda and Birdie may have to leave the peach orchard where they spent a magical summer – the orchard that brought them together. There are family and boy and friendship issues throughout, and even though the friends are sundered at the end, there is an implication that there will be more of their tale to come – and indeed there will be, in the followup novel, Love and Peaches.
The Upper Class novels, set in a privileged school filled with rich kids with secrets of various sorts, are essentially about culture clash – people showing up at Wellington who, for one reason or another, “don’t belong” there. In Off Campus, the third of these books, Nikki Olivetti finally feels comfortable enough to try to show someone new around – someone like transfer student Delia Breton, who comes from California with (of course) secrets. Nikki and Delia find themselves having a good time together on campus – but problems arise when they head out beyond Wellington. There are the expected boy issues and friendship issues, with the key being the eventual realization, “You feel low, you stand tall. You mess up, you move on.” And that sets the stage for Crash Test, the next novel in the series.
Fashionistas is the first in The Interns series, in which four talented young women have the chance to make it big in the fashion world, where they all want to be, by succeeding in summer internships at Couture magazine. The characters of Callie, Nadine, Ava and Aynsley are all designed around different stereotypical personalities, guaranteeing that there will be clashes and uncertainty; and the question of who is behind a blog dispensing all-that fashion wisdom lends predictable spice to their tale. These girls aim high, they think: “If Sly could manage to toss back a bottle of Pinot, stumble to bed at two a.m., and still show up to work the next day pulling fashion miracles out of her ass, then Nadine was determined to do the same.” The girls, of course, learn about Life and Friendship, and the book sets the scene for its sequel, Truth or Fashion. In this one, Callie and Aynsley have found big success (not bad for interns!) – the former as a designer, no less – while Nadine and Ava hide secrets and worries. Throw in the continuing Fashionista blog, which here even talks back to (the ghosts of) Marilyn Monroe and Oscar Wilde, add the usual brand-label name dropping, and you have a continuing saga of shallowness that remains fun in its own way.
Fashion also plays a big part in Frenemies, which is not, at least so far, part of a series. Avalon Greene is the fashionista par excellence at her Southern California middle school – yes, middle school – and has decided that she will host the social event of the season by giving a to-die-for party in honor of her BFF, Halley Brandon. Unfortunately, Halley has undergone a fashion conversion during art camp, becoming more funky than elegant, and that is so not going to happen in Avalon’s world. So the best friends become worst enemies, and get into disputes over who gets to keep which of their former friends-in-common, and how to share custody of the puppy they co-own, Pucci (that name is actually a nice touch). Then things get really nasty, since Avalon and Halley know each other’s deepest, darkest middle-school secrets. But after all the nastiness is aired and all the blog posts have evaporated into cyberspace, the girls realize that, after all, they really do need each other, and it’s better to go back to being friends. Awwwwwwww.