Books to Start the New Year
Reviewed by Michele Ashman Bell

Now that Christmas is over and the holiday season is drawing to a close, here are two books that might tempt young people (or people who are young at heart) to spend a little more time on vacation.

Staying in Tune by Carmen Rasmusen
Spring Creek Book Company, 141 pages

Click to Buy
What can I say? I’m star-struck. I got to meet Carmen Rasmusen, and not only did she meet my expectations, she exceeded them. And so did her book.

I was a fan of Carmen’s when she competed on “American Idol.” Every week she impressed me – not just with her singing, but with the type of person she was throughout the competition. For someone her age to handle the pressure of being on such a high-profile television show with the grace and class Carmen did, says a lot about Carmen, and about her family.

Her book, Staying in Tune, shares her experience on “American Idol,” and her gospel-centered upbringing that prepared her so well to handle the pressures of that experience. In the book, she also shares what she learned along that journey and what impact the experience has had in her life, all the while staying true to her values and beliefs.

Believe it or not, as a girl, and then as a young woman, Carmen struggled fitting in, just like so many girls do. In her book, she tells that she had a tendency to learn things the hard way and she shares how she went through the agony of braces and feeling unpretty and unpopular.

She had many exciting things happen, like being chosen to be a member of the children’s chorus in the Broadway production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, starring Donny Osmond. She also had typical teenage tragedies happen – running for student body office and losing, and being talked about behind her back and ostracized by girls whom she had thought were her friends.

Throughout the book, Carmen shares tidbits of wisdom she has learned while growing up. By using the Young Women values, she talks about prayer, faith, honesty, chastity, and important issues facing Young Women today. One of the qualities she talks about, which seemed to attract some of her greatest opposition, was her decision to dress modestly.

From the very beginning of her time with “American Idol,” until the end of the tour promoting her own CD, Carmen has had to defend her position over and over again. But she remains strong and true to her beliefs and standards and shows that it is possible to make dreams come true and still be true to yourself.

I recommend this book to every Young Women who is, or isn’t, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Carmen writes in an open and honest way, which is exactly as she is in real life. Her story is interesting, fun and touching. Her advice to Young Women is consistent with gospel teachings and her actions are a reflection of her testimony.

Before, I was a fan of Carmen, the “American Idol,” but I am now even a bigger fan of Carmen Rasmusen Herbert, the person. Make sure you don’t miss Staying in Tune.

Revenge of the Cheerleaders by Janette Rallison

It’s hard to believe that a girl as beautiful as Chelsea, who’s popular and a cheerleader, could ever have her boyfriend break up with her. But he does. And worse, he’s been dating another girl behind her back!

Chelsea is further tormented by the fact that her sister, Adrian, who is two years younger and a sophomore at her high school, is dating a complete loser named Rick who has an obnoxious rock band. Consequently, Rick and Chelsea do not get along.

On Halloween, Chelsea’s mom is worried about Adrian, so she asks Chelsea to go look for her. Rick’s band is playing at a Halloween party at the college, so Chelsea goes, thinking Adrian will be there. With her friend Samantha by her side, they try to get into the dance but they don’t have any money. Good luck is on their side because the very cute guy selling tickets, named Tanner, tells them they can go in and look for her sister for free. Tanner shows an interest in Chelsea, but she regretfully doesn’t have time to chat; she’s got to find her sister.

Chelsea mistakes someone else for her sister because they are wearing the same costume. The girl starts running to get away from Chelsea and trips over some of the band’s electrical cords, completely unplugging the guitars and the microphone. Not only did Chelsea not find her sister, but she also succeeded in making her sister’s boyfriend hate her even more.

The following week at school, during the pep assembly, instead of the cheer song, “Be True to Your School,” coming out of her boom box, it’s one of Rick’s CD’s with a horrible song about how bad they hated school and the teachers.

One of the teachers, Mrs. Jones, decides that the assembly isn’t going to end on such a bad note and decides to sing the song for the girls to do their routine to. The problem is, Mrs. Jones doesn’t know the words. Chelsea runs up to the microphone to help her out and luckily her three years of choir training kicks in and she does a great job. When the song is over the audience cheers and the cheerleaders are hauled off to the principal’s office.

Chelsea is convinced it is Rick and Adrian’s fault the tapes got switched, and she’s determined to get even with them. She finds out that High School Idol is coming to town and that Rick’s band is going to audition so they can become famous rock stars. And worse, Rick and his band have come up with some new songs, which all have to do with how much they hate cheerleaders.

Encouraged by the reaction of the student body after she sang at the pep assembly, Chelsea is not about to let Rick and his band win that contest, so she decides to enter, with her friends singing backup. Chelsea just needs some voice coaching to help her prepare.

Mr. Metzerol, the choir teacher, agrees to help her, if she will agree to help two of his new pupils, twins who have superb voices, but not much self-esteem. The girls are rather plain-looking and a bit on the overweight side and instead of calling them their names, Polly and Molly, kids at school call them Roly and Poly. Mr. Metzerol is convinced that Chelsea can help the girls fit in and boost their image at Pullman High School.

Chelsea agrees and recruits her friends to help her. While at first, she is not sure what she’s gotten herself into, she learns that Molly and Polly are talented singers and really great girls. They just need a little confidence boost.

The makeover begins and Molly and Polly receive hair, makeup, and wardrobe suggestions. Just as Mr. Metzerol predicted, Chelsea’s connection with the girls helps them at school, but more importantly, Chelsea enjoys the new friendship with Molly and Polly.

During the hecticness of her life, Chelsea manages to bump into Tanner, the very cute boy from the college dance. After a few dates, he invites her to his house for a special dinner. Excited to meet his family Chelsea agrees, but when she arrives at his house she receives a very unexpected surprise. Adrian’s boyfriend Rick, is Tanner brother!

I found Revenge of the Cheerleaders to be a very enjoyable and quick read, mainly because the story is interesting and fast-paced, and the characters are vibrant and fun. Rallison has a way of weaving sub-plots into the main plot to create a textured story that has depth, but doesn’t weigh the reader down with too much detail. And, as is Rallison’s signature, the story is filled with clever dialogue and rib-splitting wit.

Chelsea is one of the fortunate people in life who can’t help being popular, smart and beautiful, yet you don’t hate her for it. She’s a good person and she does try to be a good sister and friend. Situations just somehow manage to get twisted around and she gets caught in the confusion.

A couple of times I did question the logic the characters use to make their choices and warrant certain behavior, which seemed a bit out of character. But this is a fun story that has a lot of heart and a nice twist at the end that will leave the reader satisfied and is certain to make an even bigger Janette Rallison fan out of the reader.