Thursday, July 24, 2014

What I'm Reading: Romance Books

Ah...teen romance novels. Call it listening to too much Taylor Swift, or actually having mostly positive memories of high school (boys included), but I loved this week's genre. Interestingly, I couldn't remember any romance/love stories that I loved as a teen reader but I devoured three of my picks in a matter of days this week. I started off my exploration by searching "Popular Lists" on my nook and quickly found a Contemporary YA Romance list with 53 titles to sift through. My neighboring library has a much larger YA section than my local one, and I got lucky finding two of my top picks there as well as finding another one on display. I suspect I may be checking out a few more of these once my class is over and I can get back to leisure reading!

As in previous weeks, I tried to find at least one title that (might) appeal to a teen boy, though this genre was a little more difficult. Per usual, in no particular order...

Just One Day / Just One Year
Gayle Forman, Dutton Books, 2013

I found these books recommended in a roundup of top 2013 YA books (Reading Rants 2013 Top 10 List) and was immediately intrigued. Love, Shakespeare, European travel...what could be better? In the first, Allyson is a graduating high school senior, on a teen tour of Europe. Her trip has been predictably boring until she meets Willem the day before she's set to leave and he whisks her off for an unforgettable 24 hours in Paris. Leaving without a trace, she goes home, starts college and tries to forget Willem to no avail. A yearlong scavenger hunt leads her to Amsterdam...where Just One Year picks up. In this volume, we learn Willem's back story, and where he was the last year. It's a satisfying tale of missed opportunities, self-discovery and following one's heart in finding out if Allyson and Willem will get their happy ending. I fell in love with Allyson's voice in Just One Day, and waited a while before picking up Just One Year, since I wasn't sure I could feel the same way for Willem. I credit Forman with such strong character development that I was equally drawn into his story. Also love going into a book knowing there will be a sequel; as any good reader knows, it's hard to say goodbye to characters you love at the end of a book!

To All the Boys I've Loved Before
Jenny Han, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014

This was one that caught my eye while on display in the YA area of a nearby public library. I haven't read any of Han's previous novels, though after reading this one, I will. Lara Jean is the middle Song sister - not as Type A and achieving as her older sister Margot, not as winsome as her little sister Kitty - who has a habit of writing goodbye love letters once she's "over" her latest love. At 16, she's written five such letters, clearly never intended for the subjects to actually read, and is overcome with (understandable) embarrassment when she learns they have actually been sent. Margot's boyfriend, a popular jock at's truly cringeworthy to follow Lara Jean navigate the aftermath, though a satisfying ending proves that there's more than meets the eye. A nice touch is the playlist that Han has created to accompany her book: in her words, "a blend of songs that Lara Jean would listen to, songs that remind me of her, and songs that score certain scenes in my head."

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Alfred A. Knopf, 2010

From the team who wrote Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, this was a choice from the aforementioned nook list. Starting with a red Moleskine notebook in a bookstore in NYC, Dash finds a series of clues from Lily that begins a scavenger hunt throughout the city during the holiday season. As each of them tries to outdo the other, they begin pouring their hearts into the pages of the notebook. When their paths finally intersect, will it be true love? Or is the image they have of each other unable to be topped? Clever, witty, and fast-paced, even readers not into romance books (dare I say, even boys?) will find themselves cheering for Lily and Dash.

The Future of Us
Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, Razorbill, 2011

Having already read and liked a book from each co-author (Thirteen Reasons Why and The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, respectively), I was pretty sure I was going to like this one. It's 1996 and Josh and Emma are high school juniors and one-time best friends (an awkward almost-kiss has put a little friction in their friendship). In a strange twist of fate, they first stumble upon their Facebook profiles, 15 years in the future, and then discover that they have the power to alter their future by making deliberate choices in the present day. Will Josh end up married to the most popular girl in school? Is Emma doomed to a life of unhappiness? Will they resist the temptation to muddle into their futures and focus on living their best lives now? This Class of '95 high school graduate appreciated all the mid-90s references (that admittedly, will likely go over the heads of today's teenagers), but also enjoyed the message of embracing the moment, and realizing that sometimes the best surprises are the ones that have been there all along.

Honorable Mentions: 

Two additional titles I was interested in, but couldn't find at the library, and I have to curb the BN purchases at some point (and, sadly, move on to next week's genre!). 
  • Something Like Fate, Susane Colasanti
  • Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins 

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