Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June

Title: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June
Author: Robin Benway
Publisher: Razorbill
Date: August 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1595142863
Reviewed from Advanced Reader’s Copy from publisher

Plot Summary: After their parents get divorced, prompting a move to a new house and high school, sisters April, May and June discover that they each have superpowers – which end up complicating their lives.  April, the oldest, receives visions from the future, but is not always able to understand what the visions mean.  May, in the middle, can literally disappear, but has trouble learning how to control her new skill.  The youngest, June, is thrilled to discover that she can read minds – a talent she can use to become popular at the new school, even though she is only a freshman.

Rather than uniting them, their new-found powers just complicate their already strained sibling relationships, particularly when April and May cannot hide anything from June.  But real life issues serve to bring them back together, as boys and parties can prove to be even more confusing than superpowers and sisterhood.  When April foresees an accident, the three sisters must work together to avoid tragedy.

Critical Evaluation: Like the fantasy novel East, Robin Benway’s upcoming novel about three paranormal sisters has an alternating first-person narration – in this case it rotates from April to May to June, and back to April, etc.  This is an effective technique for building the characters because it allows us to see their thoughts and experiences to understand their motivations, and also observes the characters through the eyes of their sisters, to understand how another would see them and to set up the sibling relationships.  The dynamics between the siblings and their rivalries is the central focus of the novel, and how they are tested and challenged by their parent’s divorce, their transfer to a new high school, and the emergence of their superpowers.

While I found it to be a fun read, I felt that the plot could be stronger.  There were some subplots that seemed to go ignored (for instance, they learn that their grandmother and great-aunts might have had the same supernatural gifts – but this is never fully explored and ends up as just an interesting background detail).  Their calendar-inspired names are also shrugged off as the result of “hippie parents” – not that I needed a thorough explanation about why their names were chosen, but it did require a suspension of disbelief.  Also, while the concept behind giving superpowers to a trio of sisters was a great idea, it never really went beyond the setting of high school – rather than fighting the battle of good and evil, they were occupied with boys and partying, which is presumably what they would be doing anyway.

I did enjoy The Extraordinary Secrets as an entertaining read, and I just wish that the introduction of superpowers could have been better used as a vehicle to take it to the next level.  I think there’s definitely potential for a sequel, which would do well to expand their horizons.  And answer the question about their names!

Reader’s Annotation: Three sisters – April, May and June – discover that they each have superpowers soon after their parents get divorced.  Initially, their powers just complicate their sibling relationships, but when April foresees a terrible accident, the sisters must work together to avoid tragedy.

Author Information: Robin Benway was born in Inglewood, CA, and grew up in Orange County before moving to New York City at the age of 18.  Her favorite books are Nabokov’s Lolita and Salinger’s Franny & Zooey, which she brings with her when she travels.  She says that quitting her day job to become a writer was the smartest thing she has ever done, describing it as “the hardest, scariest, most terrifying thing I ever did, and it changed my whole life.”

Benway says that her greatest achievement is having a strong relationship with her family, and adds that she counts her mother and brother as among her best friends.  Of her writing technique, Benway says, “I do a lot of writing in my head while driving, but then I’m desperate to jot down ideas before I forget them!” (Source)

Genre: Paranormal

Curriculum Ties: None

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Discuss whether the superpowers each sister receives reflects their personality or birth order (for instance, May can disappear – as a middle child, does she feel ignored?)
2) Decide which of the superpowers would be most useful – seeing the future, disappearing, or reading minds.
3) Is it significant that their grandmother and great-aunts may have had powers?  Does this mean that they’re not just experiencing a phase but will continue to have these gifts?

Interest Age: 14 and older

Challenge Issues: sexual content, profanity, underage drinking

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on Amazon.com.

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book through my job at an independent bookstore, and was excited for my chance to review an upcoming YA title.

Extras:

Robin Benway’s blog.

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March 17, 2010 - Posted by | Books |

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