Monday, June 30, 2014

MG Book Review: Ethel Is Hot LOL, by Kay Stephens

General Information
Publisher: sMashup Press
Year of publication: 2014
# of chapters: 25
# of pages: (e-book)
Genre: Contemporary


Plot summary (from Amazon):
Okay, maybe twelve-year-old Ethel F. Effleby likes to coordinate her outfits on an Excel spreadsheet and wear high waters with rainbow socks, but these days, being an oddball is actually cool.

Backing her all the way is her feisty, unconventional Gram, with whom she now lives ever since her mom went to prison. It’s the first time Ethel has had a chance to blossom in the Seaside School for Girls, an all-girls science and leadership middle school in Maine that encourages high-tech skills and big dreams.

For fun, Ethel and her friends delve into the virtual world of, creating custom avatars and trying on identities. Here, the talk in the chat room isn’t about boys or the latest fashion. Ethel and the gals like to talk in Scottish accents, ponder why astronauts wear space diapers, and have virtual disco parties.

Unfortunately, tech knowledge also has a dark side. When fellow sixth grader Stephönë Gallagher, a recent transplant from L.A., parodies Ethel online as a way to get more friends, things start to get ugly. Stephönë thinks she might have a shot at her own teen reality show, if she just keeps the drama going on Ethel. After her followers find out about Ethel’s mother, they start an all-out cyber attack on her, using cell phones, websites, blogs and videos, as dozens of anonymous middle school bystanders join in. Tweens will relate to Ethel’s horrible dilemma: should she keeping taking the abuse—or fight back and make it worse?

As in real life, adults are clueless until her Gram discovers what Stephönë and her friends have been up to. Their covert plan to get positive exposure for their Internet reality show derails when the local media pick up the story, then CNN. When asked to face off in a joint interview with Stephönë on national TV, Ethel confronts her greatest fear yet. To clear her name will she have to expose her humiliation to the world?

Positive Points
As soon as I started reading this book, I was intrigued. Ethel is no ordinary girl, and she seems to fit in well at school, even with her unusual style and vibrant personality. I liked her right away, and I couldn't stop reading to find out how things would turn out for her.

I love the diversity in this book, not just of race, but also of culture, social status, and family structure. This book has it all!

The grammar and writing style are very good. That's always a positive point for self-published novels, which, sadly, often contain numerous typos and grammar errors. Not this book, though. I can tell the author made extra effort in getting it perfect before publication (and chose a skilled editor).

Negative Points
If you have been following my reviews, you already know that I dislike finding swear words in a MG book. This one had a few (God, damn, hell, Jesus Christ), which might offend people with religious values.

There was a lot of telling and back story at the beginning, about how her friends got their nicknames, and details about secondary characters that may not be necessary to the plot. It was a lot to take in all at once, before I even knew the main character well. I would have preferred a little less detail about each friend, or I would suggest maybe just pick a few characters and develop them more. But it didn't stop me from reading.

What makes this book unique
This book is about cyberbullying, a new topic in our fast-changing technology era. It's a good tool for people who want to learn more about this issue and how to deal with it. The author has a great site about cyberbullying that complements the book (or maybe the book complements the website?). I can tell a lot of research has gone into this story. In fact, Kay Stephens also wrote a nonfiction book about cyberbullying.

Overall Impression
This book reminded me of Stargirl, a quirky girl trying to fit in while preserving her unique personality and style.

My Rating:

Thinking of purchasing this book? I'll make it easy for you:


Greg Pattridge said...

The title caught my eye from the start. The topic of cyberbullying is certainly current and it sounds like this story captures it nicely. I also agree with your feeling about swear words in MG books. YA stories already are loaded with teen language. No sense starting it for the 8-12 year olds.

Jenni said...

I agree. It's a great title. I would be put off by the swearing, especially for middle grade, but this sounds like an interesting read and an intriguing character. I loved Stargirl!

Unknown said...

It seems like a interesting book about a topic that's often talked about but little is done about. Thanks for the review!

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