Monday, March 25, 2013



LOVE INC still holds the record for my favorite Collins/Rideout book, but I've enjoyed everything else I've read by them. THE BLACK SHEEP is a lighthearted, fun story with plenty of genuinely heart-tugging moments, especially in regards to not fitting in and feeling completely alone.

Kendra has problems with her parents. Who doesn't, right? Except Kendra's parents actually have a book of rules, a tome really. They live by order, so Kendra must as well. They're both workaholic bankers, to boot, and hardly ever have or make time for their daughter. Which Kendra accepted when she had her nanny, Rosa, someone who actually cared about her happiness as much as her well-being. Then Kendra breaks one of her parents' precious rules and when they discover Rosa allowed it, they fire her. Enraged, Kendra writes away to a forthcoming reality television show, the Black Sheep, in which two teenagers unhappy with their families will switch and experience a different kind of lifestyle. Certainly a timely hook with reality television's presence and popularity at the moment. Anyway, that's where the book starts, with Kendra's shocked realization that the show actually did choose her. She wrote the application letter in anger and never really believed anything would come of it, so when a camera crew shows up on her doorstep, she tries backing out, to no avail. You definitely have to put your skepticism on pause regarding the legality of some of the show's inner workings and manipulations of an underage girl, but once you do it's a fun ride.

As I mentioned, this is a light, fluffy read with a chick lit taste. Kendra's a fairly shallow protagonist, though still likable and certainly believable. Her superficiality doesn't magically erase by the end of the book, but she gains significant insight from her experiences and grows enough to satisfy. She often frustrated me, but I don't mean that as a negative commentary on how much I enjoyed the book. I mentioned themes about not fitting in, and that can be broken down further into two separate topics: not fitting in anywhere and not fitting in within your own family. Kendra suffers both. The family end, though, delivers the most sincere, impacting dilemmas. Kendra loves her parents, but that doesn't make her relationship with them perfect; in fact, loving them might only make it hurt more when their parenting proves flawed or lacking. Her tastes differ from theirs and she doesn't know if she wants the future they've mapped out for her. However, characterization emerges yet again as one of Collins and Rideout's greatest strengths. Even if she doesn't see it, Kendra's personality reflects how she's been raised and proves she's not so different from her parents as she might imagine.

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