Monday, July 19, 2010

Review of Forget-Her-Nots

Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White
Pages: 384
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: March 2, 2010
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When someone leaves three mystery flowers outside her dorm door, Laurel thinks that maybe the Avondale School isn't so awful after all — until her own body starts to freak out. In the middle of her English presentation on the Victorian Language of Flowers, strange words pop into her head, and her body seems to tingle and hum. Impulsively, Laurel gives the love bouquet she made to demonstrate the language to her spinster English teacher. When that teacher unexpectedly and immediately finds romance, Laurel suspects that something — something magical — is up. With her new friend, Kate, she sets out to discover the origins and breadth of her powers by experimenting on herself and others. But she can’t seem to find any living experts in the field of flower powers to guide her. And her bouquets don't always do her bidding, especially when it comes to her own crush, Justin. Rumors about Laurel and her flowers fly across campus, and she's soon besieged by requests from girls — both friends and enemies — who want their lives magically transformed — just in time for prom."

Laurel's mother passes away and leaves Laurel, her dad, and her grandmother devastated.  Laurel's father tries to start over by promptly moving out of the house Laurel grew up in and the expansive gardens her mother tended.  She is unhappy and decides to attend Avondale School, which is a boarding school where not only her cousin attends, but her mother and grandmother attended as well.  Laurel may act like a typical fourteen year old, but she is hardly "normal."  During her English presentation on the Victorian Language of Flowers, she finds out that she holds special powers when she interacts with flowers.  Strange things start happening, for example, she presents her lonely English teacher with the "love" bouquet from her presentation and now her teacher, who classmates called Spinster Spencer, finds love!   She even helps her friends do better on tests by providing them with rosemary, which is for remembering.  But things start to get out of hand when she realizes that although she holds some power over flowers, things don't always go well with the magic and there are consequences to transforming people's love lives.    Amy Brecount White's debut novel is a cute read that I know my middle school students will love as well as any fans of flowers and nature.  Readers will bask in its beautiful descriptions and be enchanted by the language of flowers.


White incorporates many touches of poetry, such as e.e. Cummings and references many classics like Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and the myth of Demeter and Persephone, which was especially exciting for me since I actually teach those stories.  I also found the language of flowers to be captivating. I knew about this beforehand, but learned so much more about it through this novel and Laurel's adventures.  Another aspect of this novel that I enjoyed was the fact that it was innocent.  It was one of the most charming and sweet young adult novels that I've read in a long time.  I could easily recommend it to my students without hesitating, which as of late, is rare in young adult literature.  Usually there's either more cursing, sexual references, or violence, but readers can rest easy that this novel is very PG.  Lastly, I truly enjoyed White's descriptions of nature and of the flowers themselves.  I know this might annoy some readers, but I love nature and gardening so I fell in love with White's use of imagery.   It made me want to go out and buy a bouquet of gardenias or peonies, which are some of my favorites. Plus, there's a glossary in the back of the book that includes the language of flowers, which is especially fun and I referenced it many times while reading the novel.


There were only a few things that I didn't enjoy in this novel, but I know my middle school students probably wouldn't mind.  First, there is some teen speak.  There wasn't as much as other novels, but be forewarned, it's there.  For example, "love" is "luv" at times.  Also, Laurel tends to be corny at times and I think some of my "cooler" students may have a problem with this.  For example, she includes an e.e. Cummings poem in her email to her crush and while I love Cummings, many fourteen year old girls wouldn't dream of doing that.  Unfortunately, more might quote the immortal words of Justin Bieber before they quote classic love poetry.  I also felt like Laurel was a bit of a doormat and that frustrated me to witness her interactions with fellow classmates. Thankfully, her cousin Rose is anything but a doormat and I truly appreciated her character. She often came to Laurel's rescue when involved in awkward social situations or if she simply needed a friend.  But by the end of the novel, Laurel gets it together and things come full circle.  


All in all, Amy Brecount White's Forget-Her-Nots is a delightful debut novel that I will be recommending to my female middle school students this coming school year.  I am also excited that Amy will be at Bring YA to PA, which is coming to my neighborhood this August.  Also, I think it's really awesome that she was a former English teacher! (WOO HOO!) According to her website, she is currently working on her second novel which is tentatively titled String Theories.  I will have to keep my eye out for that one!  




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7 comments:

  1. Sounds like a good book. It's nice seeing a fantasy YA book that's good for younger teens.
    I like the "immortal words of Justin Bieber" quip. :-) I guess I'm too old, but I just don't get him. Or the Jonas Brothers for that matter.

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  2. what a great review! and the language of flowers sounds too wonderful! I'm going to have to pick up this book!

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  3. Great review. Thanks for the warning on teen speak ;)

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  4. I really love the idea of this book. I love the thought of the flowers and the relationship with mythology and Shakespeare. I am not loving the sound of the teen speak. I foresee that will irritate the pants off me. Great review! I'm on the fence with this one.

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  5. Great review. This does sound like a really cute and sweet book. I'm still not really sure if I want to read this one though.

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  6. Hmm, I'm getting a feeling that this book has a similar vibe to Wings. This was one of the early 2010 releases that I had my eye on but never got around to reading. I may have to pick it up now. I like finding YA books that would be suitable for an MG audience.

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  7. Thanks for all the comments, guys! I appreciate it. It's definitely appropriate for MG and I know my students will love it!

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I really appreciate your comments. Thank you!

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