Monday, October 4, 2010

Book Review: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June by Robin Benaway

Reading level: Young Adult

Hardcover: 281 pages
Publisher: Razorbill (August 3, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159514286X
ISBN-13: 978-1595142863

Muse Reviews Rating: 3.5 laurels

Publisher's Description

Three sisters share a magical, unshakeable bond in this witty, high-concept novel from the critically acclaimed author of Audrey, Wait!

Is there anything more disconcerting for a teenaged girl than enduring her parents' divorce only to move out of her childhood home, away from her friends, and have to learn her way around a new house, a new town, and a new school?  April, May, and June Stephenson would say "yes."  If typical adolescent angst weren't enough, each of these sisters has a new psychic ability she must learn to control while maintaining the appearance of a normal life.  Talk about pressure! 

April is the studious, responsible, and family-oriented oldest sister who can see the future.  It's perfect for helping keep her sisters out of trouble.  May, the middle sister, is the angst-ridden teen who feels overlooked in her family and life in general.  It's no surprise when her gift turns out to be the ability to turn invisible in more than a metaphoric sense.  June is determined to be everything her sisters are not - fashionable, popular, and "cool."  The power to read the minds of those around her is June's dream come true.  Now she will know exactly what people think about her style and adjust as needed to fit in with the kids who rule the school. 

Robin Benway's The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June is clever and fun, packed with laugh-out-loud funny moments.  Each chapter is from the perspective of a different sister and Benway has succeeded in giving each girl a distinct voice.  The major drawback of the book is that the characters are too typical.  Throughout the book, I kept wanting to slap the vapid, superficial June and tell her to grow up and get over herself.  Likewise, May makes the gloomiest emo kid seem bright and shiny as a new iPod full of Justin Bieber tunes, and April is so invested in the role of mother hen I felt like she was going to lay an egg any minute. 

Despite the occasional flatness of the main characters, I enjoyed The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June enough to forget I was reading a Young Adult novel.  The only other criticism I had was the use of adult language.  Extraordinary Secrets is billed as suitable for readers age 12 and up but, as a mother, I'm not sure I want my kids reading so much swearing.  Maybe I'm old-fashioned to think young teens are exposed to enough cursing at school and on the street; they don't need to be innundated with it in media too.  This book seems better suited to readers 15 and up.

Robin Benway attempts to set The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June within the ranks of (and poke a bit of fun at) paranormal young adult genre powerhouses by having her characters draw comparisons between themselves and predecessors such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter.  While I don't foresee Benway's book rising to the juggernaut status of Joss Whedon's or J. K. Rowling's creations, Extraordinary Secrets is still a worthy read.

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  1. My teenage daughter reads a lot of Twilight and other Vampire-type books. Do you think she would like this?

  2. Extraordinary Secrets is lighthearted and humorous rather than dark and brooding. If your daughter likes her reading material with the gothic overtones of Twilight, then Extraordinary Secrets might be too light for her tastes. However, if she enjoys all books with paranormal overtones, then she'll probably like it. The dialogue is snappy and funny enough to give her a good laugh.