Nerds Heart YA is in its third year and seeks to bring books rarely blogged about more attention. According to the site, "the contest focuses specifically on books that in some way represent groups of people who are typically under represented in YA fiction."
All YA novels published in 2010 with few blogger reviews can be considered so long as a character (or the novel's author) falls into one of the following seven categories:
•Person(s) of Color (POC)
•Lower Socioeconomic Status
The First Round of Judging commenced on June 13th and runs until June 29th, followed by the Second Round. Visit Nerds Heart YA to keep up with what books are still in the running!
A Backwards Story and We're Not Butterflies... teamed up to decide which of the following two titles would move on to Round Two, INVISIBLE GIRL by Mary Hanlon Stone or DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C.J. Omololu.
Both books deal with abusive relationships. Read on to find out our decision!
RED = We're Not Butterflies...
PURPLE = A Backwards Story
Black = Everything Else!
WNB: I honestly thought that DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS was a silly title. That kind of turned me off... But I did like the cover image. I have the paperback.
ABS: I thought the title for DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS sounded too much like PRETTY LITTLE LIARS. I didn’t expect much from the title, to be honest.
ABS: I thought INVISIBLE GIRL was going to be more of a beach read based on the cover despite the hard-hitting issues lying within.
WNB: I was hoping INVISIBLE GIRL would be more feminist-y. I thought it was going to be more of an exploration of socio-economic status based on the cover synopsis and the descriptions of the golden CA imagery and the dirty, skinny, poor imagery of Stephanie's home life.
WNB: With INVISIBLE GIRL, I thought the beginning struggles with her mom were intense and horrifying. I thought her dad was a BIG wimpy loser for sending her to CA. After CA, I thought the mean girl seemed a lot like Regina in MEAN GIRLS. I thought the drinking beer/making out with the dude/barfing scene was weak.
ABS: I agree. The opening for INVISIBLE GIRL was so intense. The imagery with Stephanie curled in the closet with her childhood NANCY DREW novels and soiled pants really got to me. I thought this book was going to pack a huge punch, but the emotions fizzled when she moved to CA. The focus was more on her fitting in and less on all her emotional scars.
WNB: Yeah, and fitting in in a REALLY lame, already-been-done-a-lot way. It didn't seem realistic that she would want to be friends with those people no matter how sucky her life had been.
ABS: All the focus on fitting in made the book seem ordinary, like something I'd read before. Stephanie just happened to have an abusive mom. It was more about fitting in around rich, mean, snobby girls.
WNB: In DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, I loved the reality of Lucy’s feelings about her mom. I loved how she described the house and tried so hard not just to avoid her life but to change what she could about things.
ABS: I loved that DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS occurred over such a short period of time. It made all of Lucy's decisions harder. She was a scared teenager in a situation no one should have to go through. She loved her mom, but was embarrassed, too. It was easy to sympathize with her.
WNB: I really like how the author acknowledged things like how the character was worried how she smelled after living in a dirty house and how she valued hot showers, but didn't harp on these things and make it seem like she felt sorry for herself.
It felt like she really explored the issue of children whose parents are extreme hoarders and focused on the impact such a disorder would have on a family. I wish there had been more of this type of focus in INVISIBLE GIRL.
WNB: In DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, the relationships between the family such as the sister blaming her siblings for various events and the brother in denial all seemed possible.
ABS: I liked the way C.J. Omololu created such an introspective narrative that focused internally on Lucy's struggle. It never felt overdone or boring. She had just the right mixture of external events.
ABS: And the way her sister was turning into a younger version of her mother was scary! I also liked the focus on her friends, classmates, and neighbors. It revealed so much about Lucy and her situation.
WNB: It was. I really liked how the romantic interest was dealt with. It was subtle and seemed healthy, like two kids liked each other and wanted to spend more time together, but it forced Lucy to really look hard at her issues. I think was a really important catalyst for her development and rebellion against her mom's illness.
ABS: For INVISIBLE GIRL, I honestly have trouble remembering a lot of the characters now. I hate how Stephanie's dad just shipped her across the country (even though she had all those uncles). It was never really explained why she had to move so far. Stephanie felt like such a burden, and all it did was hinder her more.
WNB: I hated the shitty, wimpy dad, the intense mom and the Carson Drew dad in L.A., the lawyer. I really thought the lawyer was another person who totally failed Stephanie especially when she wanted so badly to respect him.
ABS: I agree. At first, I thought he was going to be a fantastic role model for Stephanie, and then after the briefcase incident, he did a complete 180. I felt bad for Stephanie; she had no one to turn to.
ABS: I loved how terrified we were of Stephanie's mother in the beginning and wish there had been tighter character development throughout.
WNB: Yeah, the beginning descriptions of Stephanie's mom were really great. Those are the characters Stone should have stuck with. I think the uncles would have been a more interesting choice as well. As for the adoptive family... All the people in LA were jerks. I am really relieved that she finally found Amal. Although Amal's character seemed really childish and the ending of finding Amal's family as allies seemed really sudden and a pat solution to Stephanie's problems.
ABS: DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS takes place over the course of about a day. The writing is tight and the events are so horrible that they compel you to keep reading to see what happens next. The end of the book has a drop, but Omololu posted an “aftermath” chapter online here (but DON’T read it unless you’ve read DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS).
WNB: I thought INVISIBLE GIRL was really choppy. It was hard to keep track of the days and nights; they all looked really similar. The book spanned summer and the start of school during the fall semester.
WNB: I thought the ending of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS was great. While it left one wanting to know more... the catastrophe couldn't have been a more causational end to the situation.
ABS: I didn't buy the ending of INVISIBLE GIRL. It felt too tidy. I think it's because the book had pacing issues and took place over such a long period of time. DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, however, had that drop, so I was really happy to see Omololu post the extra chapter online. I was hoping for a sequel until I saw that!
WNB: The end of INVISIBLE GIRL was definitely too tidy. It did offer relief from the horrors of Stephanie's life and while I was glad for that, I didn't really believe it. I remember thinking that I was glad that she found one person in her life that she could trust. I related to that part a lot because I teach high school girls and hopefully get to be that person for some of them.
And the winner that will be moving on to Round Two of Nerds Heart YA?
DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by C.J. Omololu. Congratulations! Keep score of what books move on at the OFFICIAL SITE.
WNB: Thanks to Nerds Heart YA and our sponsors! This was my first time judging and it was a really fun excuse to buy and read MORE books!
ABS: I really enjoyed participating in this year's Nerds Heart YA Tournament and can't wait to see who makes it into the final rounds. DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS is *my* dirty little secret and I hope it makes it all the way through! Thanks to everyone who took the time to read our post!