The Authentics

The AuthenticsThe Authentics by Abdi Nazemian
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Authentics tells the story of Daria in the year leading up to her Sweet Sixteen. Like many teenagers, she’s been through a shift in her close friendships, is uncertain about her place in the social hierarchy, and is chafing against the expectations of her parents. Through research for a school assignment, she also uncovers a family secret that challenges everything she thinks about herself and the people she loves.

In The Authentics, Nazermian shows us a community that is not often seen in American teen literature: Persian Americans in California. Readers will learn that Persians don’t all share the same religion or relationship with the history of their nation of origin. Readers will have an introduction to some Iranian foods, words, and customs. Nazermian also shows us a caring nuclear family setting as well as some healthy high school friendships.

Unfortunately, at no point did Daria feel like a real and fully developed person. Nazermian name-drops Beverly Hills, swanky hotels, the music and movie industries, real estate development, and Chanel, yet he expects that his readers will accept Daria as “too poor” for a family trip during school vacations. Much of his writing has been for films, and the setting for this book shows the unrealistic wealth that is often on display in the movies. That, coupled with Daria’s impulsive, dangerous, and irresponsible behavior makes it difficult for her to be perceived as a sympathetic or authentic character.

I really liked the idea of this book and wanted to love it.

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Mr. 60%

Mr. 60%Mr. 60% by Clete Barrett Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mr. 60% tells the story of Matt, a high school senior. His guidance counselor sees him going nowhere, the school’s administration can’t wait to get rid of him, and the kids at school only pal up to him as a means of scoring their next high. Matt puts in just enough effort at school to pass every class, but not excel. What no one knows about Matt is that he is putting in 100% to keep himself and his Uncle Jack alive and housed.

Smith has created compelling characters in Matt and Amanda. Their sadnesses and struggles are believable, as are the strategies they employ to try to fix things. This is an excellent read on its own, but the story also reminds the reader to look beyond appearances and think about what might make someone behave as they do. What circumstances are they dealing with that you cannot see? What could make someone do things they shouldn’t? And, is it possible for us to compassionately help one another?

Despite some bullying and drug references, this is a fairly tame story and would be suitable for young teens. Although, Smith’s depiction of the world of drug dealing and smuggling is a little too tame. Young readers may get the wrong impression regarding how dangerous it is to transport illegal drugs.

Highly recommended for high school and public libraries, teachers looking for a classroom novel, readers age 12 and up.

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