A sequel to the now-classic Ellen Foster picks up Ellen's life five years later, at 15, with a new mother, a home, a mind too large for her ...Show synopsisA sequel to the now-classic Ellen Foster picks up Ellen's life five years later, at 15, with a new mother, a home, a mind too large for her surroundings, and a brave and compassionate integrity.Hide synopsis
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I have to start by saying I really loved _Ellen Foster_, which lead to me having really high hopes that this book was going to continue on in the same vein. Unfortunately, it just didn't quite cut it. The voice of Ellen, which was so strong and real in the _Ellen Foster_ was a convoluted here, stuck somewhere between sounding like a very well spoken adult with a lot of knowledge of self and a too-smart kid with an attitude. Actually, the whole novel was a bit convoluted, and it seemed like the author was trying to incorporate too many different parts of the story and characters, so that it was difficult to focus at the end. Where it's predecessor read really fast, this one lagged for about 150 pages, but I have to say the last 80 pages made reading it more worthwhile. It just seems like somone really pushed the author to make a sequel and she did so begrudgingly.
"The Life All Around Me" takes up several years after "Ellen Foster" ends. Ellen is now a gifted high school student, in a school which provides little scholastic challenge for her. She is still socially unsure and emotionally fragile. Although she thinks she wants to drop out of school and go directly to Harvard--if she can get a scholarship--the reader knows she's not ready to leave her loving, supportive foster mother or her familiar small town; she will need to learn to make friends and relate to people here or she'll never make it in the radically different environment of an Ivy League college.
I found this book less convincing than its predecessor, and therefore less engaging and moving. Maybe it's just that Ellen is less believable as a teenager than she was as a younger girl. She is no longer being abused, but she's still an emotional wreck. There is also an aura of grotesquerie which hangs over some of the characters, making them seem freakish and the setting seem like a parody of a small, southern hick town. It's not a bad book, just not the equal of "Ellen Foster."
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