Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Summer of Cotton Candy

A "Sweet Seasons" novel by Debbie Viguie, this book introduces readers to Candace Thompson, a seventeen-year-old who, at the insistence of her parents, begrudgingly gets her very first job. The local amusement park offers her only two options: bathroom janitor or sweets vendor. That's how our main character enters The Summer of Cotton Candy.

Working at an amusment park doesn't seem like a bad gig, but Candance faces one horrible scenario after another. First, her name tag says "Candy" (a nickname she absolutely hates); she gets badly sunburned, nearly run over by a train and bullied by co-workers. Meanwhile her best friend is less than supportive. From a wealthy family, she encourages Candace to quit her job and enjoy the summer on her money. Candance is tempted, but doesn't want to live like a leach on her best friend. But when she decides to stick with the job, her best friend gets mad and acts weird all summer. One positive light in all this is the mysterious hottie who also works there.

Will Candance survive the summer with her faith in tact? Will she lose her best friend if she keeps her job? And what about a love life?

If your teen is looking for a fun vacation read, this may be the perfect choice.

What I Like: This was an easy read, a great beach book that follows a common chick-lit formula. The author provides great attention to detail. She's in touch with a suburban teen vibe which makes these characters realistic, even to the point of common superficiality. The dialog was authentic. I especially liked that there was no highly controversial content. There's no sex, no drinking, no vampires or magic or any of those hot button issues that too often saturate YA literature. It's a clean book that I can't imagine would offend any parent.

What I Dislike: The characters seemed shallow and the moral content very light. This is not unusual in teens, but as a parent, I would have liked something deeper. I felt the author spent way more time developing the theme park than the characters or their spiritual maturity.

For example, the main character, when discovering that a new friend doesn't have a girlfriend, asks if he has a boyfriend. This reference to homosexuality is offered in a very neutral light, as neither positive nor negative. Please note this is the only reference to homosexuality, and it is only one sentence in the entire book.

A larger example of this: Candace admits she doesn't know if her boyfriend, Kurt, believes in God or not. She admits that this is important and that she wants "a guy who values the same things." Yet she never sparks a conversation with him about spiritual things. At the end of the book [[Spoiler Alert!]] she and Kurt get back together still without ever talking about God. It seems his ambitions toward college and planning his future are more important to Candace than his beliefs (or lack thereof) in God.

Overall Rating: Very Good.

Age Appeal: Teen

Publisher Info: Zondervan, 2008; ISBN: 031071558X; Paperback; $9.99

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Special Info: This is the first of four books in this series. Readers can follow these characters in The Fall of Candy Corn, The Winter of Candy Canes, and The Spring of Candy Apples. You can enjoy 25% off the cover price when you buy the set -- all four books for just $29.99.

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