Donut Days by Lara Zielin. (Grades 7+)
Putnam Juvenile, August 2009.
ARC provided by publisher.
Who doesn't love donuts? Judging by how many people are camped out for the opening of the newest Crispy Dream donut store in the small town of Birch Lake, Minnesota, there aren't many who can resist the pastries. For Emma, the camp out should be a nice diversion from the problems in her life - her evangelical minister parents are being attacked by a member of the congregation, she's in a major fight with her best friend (who seems to have replaced her awfully quickly...), and she hasn't spoken to another good friend all summer after he unexpectedly declared his love for her... But Emma's got a mission at the donut camp: she's out to win a college scholarship by writing an article about the camp out. It's the only way she'll be able to go to a secular college. As Emma tries to find a story, her problems will come to find her and she'll have to figure out exactly where she stands with her family and her friends.
The first thing I loved about this novel is Emma's voice. It really reminds me of DJ Schwenk, which is awesome because I love the Dairy Queen books. Emma's a small-town girl, a little self-deprecating, and dealing with the same problems that so many teens are dealing with. She's facing the future and coming to grips with her parents' expectations of her. She's having issues with her best girlfriend and dealing with a guy friend who wants to be more.
The other thing I love about Donut Days is that Lara Zielin addresses all these common problems within a unique context - the close-knit community of an evangelical church. Emma feels like something's wrong with her when she's baptized and still doesn't speak in tongues or have visions of Jesus. Her parents have a college fund for her but they'll only let her use it for a Christian college.
The story lost me a little bit while Emma was at the camp and hanging out with Bear and his motorcycle gang. I found it a little creepy that she went off for lunch with a 40-year-old man, although I understand Bear's part in the story. But the story gets itself back on track and the ending wraps everything up nicely.
I'd recommend this to fans of DJ Schwenk and also Robin Brande's Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature. Or, y'know, anyone who enjoys sweet, funny teen fiction. Read more reviews at The Story Siren, Carrie's YA Bookshelf, Pop Culture Junkie*, and Sharon Loves Books and Cats.
This is Lara Zielin's first novel and I'll definitely be on the lookout for her future books! Ooh, and I see via Lara's blog that she's got a second novel coming out from Putnam in 2011. Here's what she says about Promgate:
"The book centers around the fallout when a pregnant teen is elected prom queen in a small Midwestern town. It’s loosely based on events that happened in my Wisconsin high school when I was a sophomore."
Um. I wants it now. But I guess we'll just have to be satisfied with the fact that Donut Days is on shelves.
*Hmm... would you call this Christian fiction? Maybe. I didn't think of it as Christian fiction as I was reading it. I thought of it as a story about a teen girl dealing with teen girl problems and who just happened to be raised in an evangelical Christian family. But in the sense that the main character is Christian and pretty much all the characters are Christian and they deal with issues of faith... I suppose it could be considered Christian fiction.