by K.P. Smith
Published: May 2011
Publisher: Do It Publishing
Growing Pains; Kendra's Dairies is the first book in the series chronicling the journey of Kendra Foster from adolescence to adulthood.
I aspire to encourage, entertain, and inspire young adults. Life has its ups and downs, its bumps, and its bruises. But with perseverance, determination, and faith you can be all you were born to be.
Never Give Up!
There were certain elements of this book that I really loved and others that drove me nuts! So, let me start off with the things I loved :)
Kendra. She is flawed, she is real, she is African-American and she is facing real problems that many other young girls face. Kendra's one of those characters that isn't overly perfect and can be related to easily. I love that she is an African-American living in New Orleans, because it is representative of the population there and, although she could easily have been written as white, it is a nice change in a market flooded with white protagonists. (As a teacher this is a very frustrating fact). I especially love that she is a normal 13-year-old girl that isn't obsessed with one boy, and constantly going on about how he is her life.
The other characters in the book are also believable and again the situations were believable and relateable for a younger teen audience. Kendra goes through a number of experiences that most girls will. Preparing to enter high school, first crush, fighting with her best friend, first kiss, jealousy, arguing parents. Her life is very normal. And that leads to my first issue.
Normal can be, well, boring. There was no sense of urgency in this novel. Things happened and Kendra learned to move on. We didn't necessarily see or feel her confusion or despair when her dad walked out on them, and the love interest is only mildly developed. As much as I am for non-obsessive teen love, preteen and younger teens tend toward the obsessive, especially with first love. I think more narration about her feels would have given more importance to the issues she was facing.
Setting was another area I thought the author should have given more consideration to. New Orleans is a city full of life and culture. Sadly there wasn't really any details that made New Orleans different from any other city in the US. But more important was the time frame. It took me until I was almost half way through the book to realize this story was taking place during the 1980's. Later on there were references to 80's specific people or items that made it clear, but then it felt more like a trip down memory lane for the author. Will today's teens really want to read two pages of comparisons between the the love lives of Kendra and her friend being compared to those on Dallas?
The dialogue was the final area I felt that needed strengthening. Listen to any teen, even way back in the 80's and they spoke casually, using contractions and slang. Everything the characters said sounded very formal. And from my experiences living in the South for over ten years, people down there are anything but formal in their speech. I just wanted to shake these characters and tell them to speak normally. This is Smith's debut novel, and I think that as the series continues Smith will find a more natural voice for her characters.