Friday, October 9, 2009


Last week I made a whole lot of presentations on banned books that we call "Feasting on Forbidden Fruit." Most of the time my audience was sixth graders, and I asked them if they had ever brought home a book that their mom or dad made a face over and asked if they could read or look at it first. More than once that book was ttyl by Lauren Myracle. I haven't read any of her books, so I was glad to see Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks pop up on my listening radar so I could have a little more acquaintance with her work.

Carly Lauderdale is entering her sophomore year at Holy Redeemer in her upscale Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. Her job, as she sees it, will be to shepherd her one-year younger sister, Anna, through the perils of her first year in high school. Carly's spent the summer doing trail maintenance on the Appalachian Trail (?) and she's pretty darn shocked to see that Anna has "blossomed" while she's been away. Her sister has developed some impressive breasts and turned drop-dead gorgeous. What Carly -- who prides herself on her free-spirited opposition to the acquisition-oriented lives of her wealthy parents and friends -- can't seem to admit to herself is that she is now kinda jealous of Anna. And that unspoken jealousy is leading her to say and do things that she may regret; Carly finds out she may not be the kind of sister that she thinks she is.

This is one of those books in the subgenre (named by me) of wealthy girl stories. I've not read Gossip Girls, but Carly and her schoolmates might qualify for membership. Even though Carly decries her family's lifestyle, she doesn't seem to have many qualms about taking advantage of it. The retail endorsements aside, Carly's story is an engaging one that teens will eat up (all checked out at my library); there aren't many of us who don't want to live the rich life -- at least vicariously.

Julia Whelan is the narrator. I've never heard her read, but she's got a pleasant voice and she knows how to keep a story moving along. She's not afraid to be emotional (there was a genuine sob on Disc 6), and I thought she got right to the core of Carly, whose self examination will only go so far. Whelan adopts a Southern accent for all the characters and sticks with it, and while I can't comment on this accent's authenticity, she was pretty consistent. She doesn't greatly differentiate between characters, but the book is written so that it isn't too tricky to follow conversations. Those alpha girls tend to sound similar, and since that is my expectation anyway, I wasn't bothered by this. More importantly, Whelan sounds like a teenaged girl -- she's got that speech pattern down really well, with or without the twangy bits.

In the ongoing what's-great-about-audiobooks list: Lauren's last name is pronounced My-rah-cul. However, she doesn't reveal on her website what I really want to know: Is Myracle the name she (or her husband) was born with?

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