Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Not the usual adolescence

Jennifer Scales is fourteen years old and considers herself a typical teenager. She has a few good friends, loves playing soccer, fights with her parents - but not excessively - and things are going fairly smoothly. Then, in the wake of a soccer game in which she astounds her teammates with an unbelievably acrobatic maneuver, she finds herself the object of uncomfortable scrutiny at home. Her parents seem to know something about her that she doesn't know, and it makes her angry and frightened at the same time.

Then certain changes start happening to her - but they're not exactly the kind of changes she'd been expecting to happen as she grew older. Jennifer learns - although she can't quite bring herself to believe it - that she is some sort of shapeshifter, and that the change is coming earlier than anyone expected. Suddenly her father's frequent absences are explained, along with many other things about Jennifer's life that were a bit odd, but nothing she'd ever thought much about before. When the evidence becomes impossible to deny, Jennifer is faced with saying goodbye to her typical teenage life and embracing an altogether different destiny. She is not a complacent, accepting kind of girl, but her stubbornness and anger are accompanied by fierce determination, which made me root for her even when she got a bit too full of self-pity.

I read this book because I was curious to see what sort of YA novel the author of the Betsy, Queen of the Vampires series would write. She writes the Jennifer Scales series with her husband, and this first book is written in a completely different style, in a more serious vein than the Betsy books (pardon the pun!).

I wasn't bowled over by this one, but it was an interesting premise, and it had some fun twists and turns and characters that I do think I'll want to read more about. I found Jennifer's reaction to the change to be a bit puzzling, especially her continued ambivalence in spite of all the way cool things most teens would probably delight in, were they in the same situation. I also found her parents' behavior to be a bit baffling. It didn't make sense to me that they would keep her in the dark about her situation, and then be so unsympathetic about her reaction to it - almost blaming her for not figuring it out herself.

I also found the cover to be rather unappealing - it looks more like an advertisement than the cover of a book. And was it absolutely necessary to write"USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR" on the spine of the book, as well as splashed across the top of the front cover? At any rate, I am curious to see where Jennifer's adventures will take her, especially as the there are still many unanswered questions and unresolved issues.

Books in the Jennifer Scales series:
1. Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace
2. Jennifer Scales and the Messenger of Light
3. The Silver Moon Elm

Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace by MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi (Berkley Jam Books, 2005

Also reviewed at:
Very Occasional Book Reviews


  1. The cover reminds me of those books I'd see in the Weekly Reader book catalogs or the Scholastic book catalog in the 80s that usually accompanied synopses of "teen girl in angst" books that desperately wanted to be "Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret," but were really just rough sketches of a bad afterschool specials.

  2. See now I quite like the cover. It does sound interesting and I am sorry it didn't quite live up to your expectations. I have only read a short story b y her so far but do have her first Betsy book and Fred series to start when I find some spare time.

  3. Molly - that's how I felt about it - more that they were overtly trying to sell the book than make a cover that really complemented the story. Do they still do after-school specials-type films, I wonder?

    Rhinoa - I think the cover looks better in the picture than in person. It is a good thing when the book is better than the cover, though, rather than than the other way around! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Betsy when you get to her.

  4. I haven't read any of MaryJanice Davidson's books in awhile. I really need to get caught up! I think I could like these too but it sounds like her "adult" books are still better.

  5. Spot on description of the cover. There are some young adult books I've been coming across where the cover art definitely seems to be an afterthought.

  6. Yup that is quite possibly the worst cover.
    Great review though :)
    I'm a huge Queen Betsy fan, so when I heard she was doing a YA series I was really interested.

  7. Ladytink - I've been meaning to read another Queen Betsy book soon. I tend to save that kind of book for when I'm feeling stressed or need cheering up! So I suppose it's not a bad thing that I haven't read one in awhile...

    Bookchronicle - Let's hope it's not going to be a publishing trend! Of course, as long as the insides are good, it's not so bad. But I do love the combination of great book and great cover art, too.

    Thanks, Book Zombie! I have the second book in my book pile, and now that the situation has been established in the first book, I'm looking forward to seeing how things go from there. I hope you enjoy it if you give it a try.


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