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Speed of Life Hardcover – April 4, 2017
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"The multicultural cast is led by the completely likable Sofia, whose mother was Spanish and whose abuelo's comforting presence remains across the ocean. Her story has no fast, easy answers, but there is a clear message that while time does not necessarily heal, it helps. The advice of not to fall too hard, too fast, or too far is real, not preachy. Complex characters and a strong voice make this one stand out." - Kirkus, starred review
"Sofia's growth-amid unexpected interest from boys, her first relationship, new additions to her family, and grief-is both relatable and moving." - Publishers Weekly, starred review
"This slice-of-life story echoes the author's own experience as a teen magazine advice columnist and addresses all sorts of issues: death, grieving, moving, parental dating, parental sexuality, stepsibling conflict, new schools, self-esteem, and relationships. This refreshing work tackles a lot of themes, but eventually Sofia does get to a better place...Weston isn't afraid to tackle the squirm-inducing questions common to high school freshmen too embarrassed to seek sound information from reliable sources." - School Library Journal, starred review
"Carol Weston's novel takes place over the course of a year, allowing readers to see how much Sofia changes as time goes by." - Bookish
"This novel is jam-packed with important, dramatic, and inevitable aspects of adolescence, from pimples to periods to popularity...Weston draws heavily on her years as "Dear Carol" at Girls' Life magazine, creating a solid, affecting tale of maturing and coming to grips with one's reality." - Booklist, starred review
"A letter-writing habit turns hairy in Carol Weston's Speed of Life (Sourcebooks)." - Vanity Fair
"This is, perhaps, the most perfect eighth grade girl book I have ever read. In fact, it was excruciating to read (in the best possible way) as I felt I was right back in Middle School myself. It reminded me of nothing more than the Judy Blume books I read at that age, but current for today's readers." - Teen Librarian Toolbox, School Library Journal
"Author Carol Weston (Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You; Ava and Pip) has been the voice of "Dear Carol" at Girls' Life magazine since 1994. She draws on her many years of experience to tackle tough issues with honesty and humor. Death and grieving, self-esteem, "bras, periods, cliques, and crushes" are all addressed head-on in this engaging novel. Readers will enjoy spending a pivotal year with Sofia, as she learns to find comfort in life's changes, both big and small." - Shelf Awareness
"A sweet, moving tale about grief and growing up." - New York Post
"Weston imparts insights about life and loss throughout, tracing Sofia's increasing maturity; by the time Sofia turns fifteen, "I had gotten out of from under the heavy blanket of grief. I was...growing up." Supported by sympathetic friends and family (including Kate, who is just as nice in person, and always gives excellent advice), Sofia faces each new challenge in her life with honesty, bravery, and humor.
" - Horn Book Magazine
"I laughed out loud and I teared up while reading this novel. I will eagerly place it on my daughter's bookshelf, so that she, like Sofia, can find her own resilience and voice in our painful, joyful, speeding world." - The New York Times
"Perceptive, funny and moving...I laughed out loud and I teared up while reading this novel. I will eagerly place it on my daughter's bookshelf, so that she, like Sofia, can find her own resilience and voice in our painful, joyful, speeding world." - The New York Times
About the Author
Carol Weston has been the Dear Carol advice columnist at Girls' Life since 1994. Her sixteen books include Ava and Pip, which the New York Times called "a love letter to language," and Girltalk, which came out in a dozen languages. Speed of Life received starred reviews from Kirkus, PW, SLJ, and Booklist. Carol studied literature at Yale, graduating summa cum laude, and has an MA in Spanish from Middlebury. She lives in Manhattan. Visit her at www.carolweston.com.
Top customer reviews
The big drama, of course, is that our heroine Sofia has been corresponding with advice columnist Kate, and then Kate starts to date Sofia's Dad. That is soooo uncomfortable, but it's really a very small part of the book. (I mean how much can you do with just that premise?) The heart of the book is that during the course of the story Sofia gets a year older, and the Sofia from the end of the book is a more mature, self-reliant, self-aware and self-assured Sofia than the one we started with. I think that's a good thing.
The issues we deal with are a recently deceased Mom, (which is actually the main thread running through the book), boys, sex, daughter/Dad relations, dating widowed Dads, blended families, school pressure, peer pressure, BFF relations, and the occasional zit. No mean girl stuff or high drama. Because of that lack of "high drama" or edgy plot the book might be a bit slow for some readers, but I thought the pacing took us through Sofia's year with engaging style and energy.
In dealing with Sofia's issues we meet a remarkably together and articulate cast. Get this. Our heroine is not frantic or a drama queen. She narrates the book and her voice is honest and open. Sofia's BFF is funny and loyal. Dad is kind, supportive and perceptive. His new girlfriend, advice columnist Kate, is calm, perceptive, patient, and funny. The potential new step sister is funny, sarcastic, and basically decent. Are you kidding me? These are all solid people and yet they live a privileged life on the Upper West Side? Can that be possible?
And get this - "Dear Kate's" advice is pretty good advice, so any pre-teen or early teen reading this is actually going to get a positive takeaway.
So, it's heartfelt, it's authentic in a fictional-perfect-teen sort of way, it's lively and funny, and it's upbeat. Did not see that coming.
(Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
She turns to Dear Kate, an advice columnist for Fifteen magazine, and soon Sofia is pouring out her soul in email after email: how she doesn’t know if she’ll ever get over losing her mom, how her first kiss didn’t turn out like she expected, and how her dad’s dating again and she doesn’t know how to react.
Come to find out, her dad’s new girlfriend is none other than Dear Kate. Pretty soon, Sofia spends more time in the suburbs with Kate and her daughter Alexa; and before she knows it, she and her dad are moving in, building a new family out of the ashes of their broken one.
This is a beautiful novel about learning to live after losing the most important person in your life, and about the awkwardness of growing up when you’re stuck between child and adult. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret meets The Princess Diaries in Sofia’s voice, her pre-teeny voice mixed with the serious issues. This is the book I wish I’d had when I was in middle school, but I think anyone can appreciate the coming-of-age story.
Speed of Life has some wonderfully subtle diversity that I really appreciated: Sofia is half-Spanish (as in, from Spain); her best friend, Kiki, is Vietnamese and Brazilian; and Dear Kate’s daughter, Alexa, has a gay dad with a boyfriend. While all of this is part of the story, it’s subtle and natural without feeling forced.
I love the way the book deals with the issues 11-to-13-year-olds really want (and need) to know about, like periods and boyfriends and when to have sex. Having Dear Kate as a big part of the plot means that there’s some well-placed advice for kids that doesn’t come off as corny. Girls who are uncomfortable talking to their moms (or, like Sofia, can’t) will relish the realistic answers Dear Kate provides.
The treatment of grief in this novel is heartfelt and raw. As the story progresses and Sofia grows, the way she deals with grief changes; it becomes less obvious, peaking through occasionally in certain moments without being the biggest part of her story. She learns that it’s not about “getting over” losing her mom, but about learning to move forward; her mom will always be a part of her. I think this book could really do some good for kids dealing with the loss of a loved one.
While I enjoyed reading this book, it’s not without flaws. I didn’t enjoy the short scenes that made for an episodic feel, although I recognize that this would probably work for a Middle Grade reader more than it did for me. Additionally, some of the young characters make problematic statements that aren’t really further addressed. Early on, Kiki refers to the “ABCs of adolescence” as anorexia, bulimia, and cutting—it’s clearly supposed to be a joke, but I don’t think there’s anything funny about any of those things. Later, Alexa refers to her dislike for the main character in The Catcher in the Rye, that he’s “whiny and depressed. He should’ve just taken meds!” While I recognize that these statements are part of the characters (and their immaturity), they perpetuate harmful stereotypes and aren’t ever addressed by adult figures in the story.
Overall, I think this is a great book for parents or for younger teens, particularly girls struggling with the loss of a parent, or girls with non-traditional families. The coming-of-age story shows Sofia’s character growth and will resonate with anyone who’s ever been fourteen.
One unexpected highlight of Speed of Life is the inside look at what it is like to be a teenager in the fancy neighborhoods of Manhattan in 2017. As a teenager with brains but not wealth, the protagonist has to battle for things her peers can take for granted as a result of having rich parents. Her battles are ones we can all embrace.