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Queen B    by Laura Peyton Roberts order for
Queen B
by Laura Peyton Roberts
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

If you haven't met fifteen-year old Cassie Howard yet, you are in for a treat. In Queen B, Cassie narrates an update on her life after The Queen of Second Place. She begins her tale of woes and victories after being chosen by teacher Mrs. Conway to oversee the school's first annual Student Talent Showcase to Benefit Cancer Research. Cassie's beyond a bundle of nerves, the curtain will rise in minutes to a sold-out audience, and she wonders why me? 'I'm not crazy - usually - and what normal person signs up for something like that talent show? ... I mean, because I swear I'm completely sane. At least, I was before all this started.' Then, Cassie backtracks to the events preceding the benefit show. The fact that she not only signed her own name to Mrs. Conway's show list, but added classmates as well hasn't won many over to her side. Faux pas number one among many!

Some things have changed. Her new boyfriend is the popular Kevin who she hopes will eventually tell her 'I love you', and elevate her status to the 'elite social circles' of Hilltop High School. Sterling is still her nemesis, but with double the trouble: Sterling's new disciple is Tiffany Hughes. Tiffi has her sights on Kevin, and consistently sets-up Cassie for humiliating situations (more so than Sterling, if that's possible). Dad has quit his job and is 'happy as a clam'. He has taken over the housekeeping chores, including 'Menus at Casa Howard', and Mom is more-than-unhappy about it all. And Grandma (Mom's Mom) has joined the household with a surprise visit, tutoring dad on cooking, painting, and all that household jazz. Mom and Grandma were already not the best of friends, as Grandma believes in domesticity, while Mom is swallowed hook, line, and sinker into her profession as an attorney.

Some things have stayed the same. At least, in between trials and tribulations, Hayley is still her best-friend, and Cassie's lack of self-esteem and her anxiety still reign. Eighth-grader brother Trevor continues to embarrass himself and his sister. But Cassie has promised Trevor to set up an introduction to freshman Julie Evans, on whom he has a painful crush. Sister also promised to get him invited to Ros's sixteenth birthday celebration, about which Cassie comments, 'Trevor was wearing new jeans, sneakers, a preppy blue blazer, and, despite my repeated threats to shove his head under a faucet, about a pound of hair gel. Oh, yeah - and Dad's cologne. He smelled like a collision between a coconut tree and a perfume truck.' And that's not the disaster - it happens at the party with very painful fallouts!

Meaning well, Cassie ventures forth with plans, but many times her actions backfire ... such is her life! Darn, she keeps promising herself to think before she speaks. And, she's still waiting for Mom to allow her to practice driving again, after the disaster in the prior book, plus the fact that Cassie is a few years away from getting her license, legally. Then, she recently decided to put on Mom's tanning lotion so that the elite humiliators will end their taunts about her very white legs. After all, Cassie is a redhead and redheads DO NOT TAN! But, woe be Cassie as she decides to add a second layer over the first, her legs are now streaked with blobs, and splotches, and glowing orange! Plus the fact that the teasers call her 'Commandant Carrots'!

Laura Peyton Roberts's short chapters quicken the pace of the lengthy, gabby narration of Queen B. The author masterfully manages Cassie's talks to the reader in a wind-up toy fashion that is deliciously exhilarating! There is a determinedly lighthearted teen feel in the area of teen-talk, teen-predicaments, and teen-emotions, and learning that Grandma is much wiser than one might think. There are also strong lessons in confidence, faithfulness, forgiveness, and not judging too quickly, until 'one has walked in the other person's shoes' - especially not knowing another's home/family situation.

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