Ages 12 and up. Who would have thought the author of the gritty classic Speak
had a gift for comedy? Here she demonstrates her comedic talent in the warm and witty story of Ashley, who is definitely not a prom-type person, and her best friend Nat, who lives for the prom. When the math teacher disappears with the funds just eleven days before the dance, determined and organized Nat goes into high gear to find alternative ways to make the prom happen and drags an unwilling Ashley into the flurry of urgent details.
Ashley has enough problems in her life already, starting with the complexities of her crowded but loving working class family -- her extremely pregnant mother and her three exuberant and prom-crazy aunts, and her cab-driving father and three younger brothers, who think nothing of happily trashing the kitchen in a game of hot dog baseball. Then theres Mr. Gilroy, the evil vice principal of discipline, who has Ashley on endless detention, her awful job at EZ-CHEEZ-E, where she has trouble seeing the customers through the eyeholes of her rat costume, and her good-looking but lowlife boyfriend TJ, who wants her to join him in a future as depressing as the dank one-room apartment he has so proudly rented for them. Not to speak of Nats loony grandmother, who wears her red bathing cap even when shes not doing the backstroke in a wading pool, babbles at Ashley in Russian, and spits on the floor to show her disapproval.
But in the end its grandma with her skill at baking (pastries to bribe the custodians) and sewing (a magical prom dress) who saves both the prom and Ashleys belief in herself and her future in this delightful and heartfelt novel. --Patty Campbell
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From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up - Ashley is (in her own words) normal - a senior from a lower-middle-class family, dating a high school dropout, and gearing up for graduation but with no plans for college. But when the new math teacher steals the prom money, Ashley - who swears she doesn't care - finds herself sucked into turning nothing into the best prom ever because it means the world to her best friend, Nat. This is a light, fast read, with "chapters" that range from one line to five pages and a narrative voice that is only a little smarter than it should be. Some secondary characters - Ashley's mother and Nat's grandmother - jump off the pages; unfortunately, the teens do not fare as well. Boyfriend TJ is a stereotypical tough boy, and Ash and Nat's other friends are there mostly as filler. But the first-person narration and the essentially personal nature of the story - Ashley finally comes into her own and proves herself successful at something other than garnering undeserved detentions - makes this a flaw that readers will overlook. In fact, the major flaw is that it's hard to believe Ashley is as bad a kid as she might have you believe. But teens are notorious for making petty misbehavior sound bigger and badder, so this could be read as further proof of just how normal she is. Those looking for another Speak
(Farrar, 1999) may be disappointed, but this book will delight readers who want their realism tempered with fun. - Karyn N. Silverman, Elizabeth Irwin High School, New York City
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