Tag Archives: dating

29 Dates by Melissa de la Cruz

29 Dates by Melissa de la Cruz. December 18, 2018. Inkyard Press, 395 p. ISBN: 9781335541543.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

How many dates will it take to find The One?

Jisu’s traditional South Korean parents are concerned by what they see as her lack of attention to her schoolwork and her future. Working with Seoul’s premiere matchmaker to find the right boyfriend is one step toward ensuring Jisu’s success, and going on the recommended dates is Jisu’s compromise to please her parents while finding space to figure out her own dreams. But when she flubs a test then skips out on a date to spend time with friends, her fed-up parents shock her by shipping her off to a private school in San Francisco. Where she’ll have the opportunity to shine academically—and be set up on more dates!

Navigating her host family, her new city and school, and more dates, Jisu finds comfort in taking the photographs that populate her ever-growing social media account. Soon attention from two very different boys sends Jisu into a tailspin of soul-searching. As her passion for photography lights her on fire, does she even want to find The One? And what if her One isn’t parent and matchmaker approved?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Racial insensitivity

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 7-10. Ji-su has gotten used to the pressure her parents put on her to excel in school, but the summer before her senior year they’ve pushed into her personal life, arranging matchmaker-organized dates (seons) so she can meet the perfect guy to complement her perfect future. But when they suddenly send her from her ultracompetitive South Korean high school to one in San Francisco, Ji-su’s dating life gets even more complicated. 29 Dates is a sweet, unique take on the high-school rom-com. Ji-su’s parade of suitors allows the novel to consider any number of dynamics and types before zooming in on the all-important endgame pairing. The details of Ji-su’s life in South Korea and in the U.S. are intricately woven into the story in a way that makes the book feel cinematic and inviting. This latest by de la Cruz is perfect for fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2014), or those who love classic rom-coms and are looking for the next great narrative convention.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
A South Korean high school student spending her senior year in the United States navigates a new school, dating, and college pressures. Ji-su, who is enduring a succession of blind dates set up for her by her ambitious parents through a matchmaker, suddenly finds herself attending a private school in San Francisco, something her parents hope will help her stand out when she applies to college. Although she is heartbroken to leave behind her beloved besties, Euni and Min, she soon makes new friends, including Filipino-American heartthrob Austin; popular, high-achieving Korean-American Dave; and confident, friendly, Lebanese-American Hiba, who becomes a close friend. Ji-su continues going on arranged blind dates in California but also experiences feelings of attraction toward both Austin and Dave, all while applying to (and waiting to hear from) highly competitive colleges. The conceit of the book—following Ji-su through 29 blind dates over the course of her senior year—helps the plot move along swiftly and introduces readers to a wide variety of Korean boys with different personalities and interests, helping to break stereotypes about Asian males. Characters of a range of ethnicities populate the book, and the cultural details about life in Korea are realistically drawn and impressive in their accuracy. A surprise ending brings the story to a satisfying close that will thrill fans of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2014). A surefire hit wherever lighthearted romances are popular. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Authors

Melissa de la Cruz grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. She majored in art history and English at Columbia University (and minored in nightclubs and shopping!).

She now divides her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she lives in the Hollywood Hills with her husband and daughter.  Her website is www.melissa-delacruz.com/

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No One Here Is Lonely by Sarah Everett

No One Here Is Lonely by Sarah Everett. February 5, 2019. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 352 p. ISBN: 9780553538687.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 740.

Our entire lives are online, but what if the boy you love actually lives there? For fans of Adam Silvera comes a story about the future of relationships.

Eden has always had two loves: her best friend, Lacey, and her crush, Will. And then, almost simultaneously, she loses them both. Will to a car accident and Lacey to the inevitable growing up and growing apart.

Devastated by the holes they have left in her life, Eden finds solace in an unlikely place. Before he died, Will set up an account with In Good Company, a service that uploads voices and emails and creates a digital companion that can be called anytime, day or night. It couldn’t come at a better time because, after losing Lacey–the hardest thing Eden has had to deal with–who else can she confide all her secrets to? Who is Eden without Lacey?

As Eden falls deeper into her relationship with “Will,” she hardly notices as her real life blooms around her. There is a new job, new friends. Then there is Oliver. He’s Lacey’s twin, so has always been off-limits to her, until now. He may be real, but to have him, will Eden be able to say goodbye to Will?

Sarah Everett deftly captures the heartbreak of losing your best friend and discovering love in the unlikeliest of places.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. Eighteen-year-old Eden’s life is all about change. Lacey, her best friend, is inexplicably distancing herself, canceling their summer plans to work as camp counselors and, instead, starting to hang with a different crowd. And then there’s Will, whom Eden has loved for four years—Will, who died in a car crash. It seems impossible to cope with the loss of both her best friend and the object of her affection. But then she discovers a high-tech outfit called In Good Company, which offers a chance to communicate with Will or at least those parts of him that he had uploaded into a complex computer program. Eden becomes obsessed with talking by phone to the disembodied voice of the simulated Will, running the risk of losing contact with real life and with Oliver, who loves her. Everett has written a not-unfamiliar love story, but what makes it unusual is her invention of In Good Company. Its service is not altogether plausible but will appeal to techies; the rest of us will stick around for the romance.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
A teen struggles with loneliness during the summer after high school. Sheridan “Eden” Paulsen is terrified of change. Her best friend, Lacey, deserts her for a new group of friends, she discovers her mother cheating on her father, and she has no one to talk to. But then she calls longtime unrequited love Will, who will be there “whenever [her] heart desires.” The catch? Will Mason died two weeks before graduation. Before his accidental death, Will signed up to be a Cognitive Donor with In Good Company, a phone service that allows people to talk to a Companion—a highly artificially intelligent facsimile of the deceased. Keeping her phone on as she moves through her summer, Eden takes Will with her everywhere she goes: to work, out with co-workers, and as she completes her summer to-do list, the pre-college list she and Lacey were supposed to tackle together. As summer wears on, Eden falls in love with Will despite knowing he’s not real. Narrator Eden’s position as the uncertain middle daughter in a family of achievers who know who they are and what they want will resonate with readers who are also unsure of their own paths. The speculative aspect of the Companion blends seamlessly with the realism. Eden and Will are black, Eden has a black co-worker, and everyone else is assumed white. Readers developing a sense of self will be in good company here. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Sarah Everett grew up in enchanted forests, desert islands, and inside a magical wardrobe. She speaks two Nigerian languages and a small amount of Afrikaans, and was also president of her high school’s Japanese club (which was only slightly less nerdy than it sounds). She now lives in Alberta, Canada, where she moonlights as a graduate student and writes young-adult novels. She believes in chocolate, daydreaming, and good mistakes. When she’s not writing, Sarah is probably nose-deep in a book, bemoaning her nonexistent sense of direction or engaging in some “car-aoke” while she tries to find her way home.

Her website is www.saraheverettbooks.com

Around the Web

No One Here Is Lonely on Amazon

No One Here Is Lonely on Barnes and Noble

No One Here Is Lonely on Goodreads

No One Here Is Lonely on LibraryThing

No One Here Is Lonely Publisher Page

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera. October 9, 2018. HarperTeen, 437 p. ISBN: 9780062795250.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Homophobia

 

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Reviews

Booklist (July 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 21))
Grades 9-12. Arthur’s interning in New York for the summer, but even the proximity to Broadway can’t stop him from missing his life in Georgia. Ben’s an Alphabet City native, reeling from a breakup that fractured his friend group. When they meet by chance, Arthur is sure the universe has spoken, but Ben isn’t convinced. After several false starts, miscommunications, and second guesses, they have to wonder—how much of a say does the universe really get? Albertalli (Leah on the Offbeat​, 2018) and Silvera (They Both Die at the End​, 2017) each provide a first-person narrative for one of the boys, rounding out the will-they-won’t-they love story with a vibrant supporting cast. In the coauthors’ capable hands, Arthur and Ben are distinct, empathetic heroes; Broadway-loving Arthur, who has Ivy League aspirations, adapts to the ways his recent coming out changed his friendships, while Ben struggles in school but dreams of writing, and sometimes isn’t sure how to connect with his Puerto Rican heritage when he passes as white. A comforting exploration of self-discovery and self-creation.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2018)
Ben and Arthur meet-cute in a Manhattan post office, leave without exchanging contact information, and spend the first act trying to track each other down, with a little help from “the universe.” When they finally locate each other, a series of creative attempts at first dates and “do-over” dates ensues before the relationship turns more serious. Underlying issues propel their conflicts: class differences, Arthur’s impending return to Georgia, misunderstandings about Ben’s ex-boyfriend. Homophobia plays a brief role; newly out Arthur’s insecurities play a more extended one. But mostly, the novel is a happy and often laugh-out-loud-funny rom-com, full of theater and other pop-culture references (Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, lots and lots of Harry Potter) and silly banter between Ben and Arthur and within their friend groups. (Particularly Ben’s, whose straight best friend is refreshingly comfortable being close with him.) The alternating-POV chapters make each protagonist’s concerns believable and sympathetic as we see the story unfold through their individual perspectives, even as much of the plot hinges on unbelievable luck. shoshana flax

About the Authors

Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, DC. These days, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons, and writes very nerdy contemporary young adult fiction.

Her website is www.beckyalbertalli.com.

 

Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx. He has worked in the publishing industry as a children’s bookseller, marketing assistant at a literary development company, and book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. His debut novel, More Happy Than Not, received multiple starred reviews and is a New York Times bestseller, and Adam was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start. He writes full-time in New York City and is tall for no reason.

His website is www.adamsilvera.com.

Teacher Resources

What If It’s Us on Common Sense Media

What If It’s Us Reading Guide

Around the Web

What If It’s Us on Amazon

What If It’s Us on Barnes & Noble

What If It’s Us on Goodreads

What If It’s Us Publisher Page

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo. May 8, 2018. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 323 p. ISBN: 9780374304089.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 670.

From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking, Smoking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 15))
Grades 9-12. Sixteen-year-old Clara Shin loves her untethered L.A. life, where she lives with her young Korean Brazilian dad. But when a prom prank turns into a brawl, her punishment is the worst she can imagine: working all summer on her dad’s hot, cramped food truck, KoBra, instead of vacationing in Mexico with her mom. As if that weren’t bad enough, overachiever and perennial enemy Rose Carver must also work on the truck as punishment for her part in the scuffle. Clever strategies by Dad lead Clara and Rose to see each other less as adversaries and more as friends. Meanwhile, a Chinese boy named Hamlet expresses interest in Clara and helps her realize that perhaps her old self isn’t the one she wants to embrace going forward. Flip, hip narrator Clara may seem a tad unlikable at first, but readers can’t help but get caught up in her bumpy coming-of-age journey, applauding her increasing attachment to KoBra and her drive to help facilitate her dad’s dream of opening a restaurant. With massive amounts of humor, heart, and soul, this love letter to L.A. and its diversity is a celebration of friends, family, and food trucks.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
A spirited teenager learns about the meaning of love, friendship, and family. When spunky Clara Shin, the daughter of two Brazilian immigrants of Korean descent, is forced to make up for a school prank by taking a summer job working in her father’s food truck alongside her nemesis, Rose Carver, a perfectionistic, overachieving classmate who looks like a “long-lost Obama daughter,” she thinks it’s the end of her summer. Clara’s insouciant and rebellious demeanor hides profound feelings of rejection over her glamorous mother’s decision to leave the family when Clara was 4 to jaunt around the world as a social media influencer. Clara is most comfortable hanging out with a crowd of kids who are similarly rebellious and disengaged, but a budding romance with earnest Chinese heartthrob Hamlet Wong, who works in a neighboring food truck, and a developing friendship with Rose, who has never had a BFF, teach Clara that there’s an upside to taking risks and letting people get close. When Clara feels hurt by her father’s negative reaction to a well-intentioned surprise, she takes off on an adventure that ultimately opens her eyes to all the good things that await her back home. Clara’s personal growth during this summer of change is realistic and convincing. Snappy dialogue and an endearing cast of characters bring to life this richly-drawn portrait of multicultural LA. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Maurene Goo grew up in a Los Angeles suburb surrounded by floral wallpaper and piles of books. She studied communication at UC San Diego and then later received a Masters in publishing, writing, and literature at Emerson College. Before publishing her first book, Since You Asked, she worked in both textbook and art book publishing. She also has very strong feelings about tacos and houseplants and lives in Los Angeles.

Her website is www.maurenegoo.com

Around the Web

The Way You Make Me Feel on Amazon

The Way You Make Me Feel on Goodreads

The Way You Make Me Feel Publisher Page

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena. February 27, 2018. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 378 p. ISBN: 9780374305444.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 890.

A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved. 

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school.  You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

This beautifully written debut novel from Tanaz Bhathena reveals a rich and wonderful new world to readers. It tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion, and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong sexual themes, Smoking, Rape, Physical abuse

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2018)
When Zarin Wadia dies in a car crash with a boy named Porus, no one in her South Asian community in Jeddah is surprised—what else would you expect from a girl like that? Originally from Mumbai, half-Parsi, half-Hindu Zarin moved in with her aunt and uncle after her mother died. The family relocated to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to escape rumors about Zarin’s mother’s death, plunging her into a world of abuse and gender-based restrictions against which she rebelled. It was only after Porus, a Parsi friend from Mumbai, moved to Jeddah for work that Zarin began to reconsider her behavior—and her capacity for love. Featuring a diverse cast of Arab and South Asian characters of various classes and faiths, the story is a gripping and nuanced portrait of how teens, both boys and girls, react to patriarchy (the novel contains graphic descriptions of abuse and sexual assault). Bhathena’s prose can be stilted, and her excessive use of multiple voices limits both character development and the resolution of some storylines. In addition, the beginning and ending chapters narrated by Zarin’s ghost feel disjointed from the otherwise searingly realistic narrative. All in all, though, the book is a fast-paced, fascinating read about a community rarely seen in young adult novels in the West. A refreshingly nuanced narrative about gender in the Middle East. (Romance. 16-adult)

Publishers Weekly (November 27, 2017)
Bhathena makes an impressive debut with this eye-opening novel about a free-spirited girl in present-day Saudi Arabia. Orphaned at a young age, Zarin Wadia moves in with her uncle and abusive aunt, who constantly shames and beats her. “Some people hide, some people fight to cover up their shame,” Zarin explains. “I was always the kind of person who fought.” Her treatment at school is even worse-she’s shunned for being different (she’s Zoroastrian, for starters) and responds by smoking cigarettes and sneaking out with boys. After Zarin gets reacquainted with a childhood friend, Porus, she becomes dependent on him for escape, protection, and the type of gentle affection she has not felt since her mother’s death. Readers know from the outset that Zarin and Porus die in a gruesome car accident, and their reflective post-death narratives share space with chapters written from the perspectives of others in their orbits. Bhathena’s novel should spur heated discussions about sexist double standards and the ways societies restrict, control, and punish women and girls. Ages 14-up. Agent: Eleanor Jackson, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Feb.)

About the Author

Tanaz Bhathena was born in Mumbai and raised in Riyadh, Jeddah and Toronto. Her short stories have appeared in various journals, including Blackbird, Witness and Room Magazine. A Girl Like That is her first novel.

Her website is tanazbhathena.com

Around the Web

A Girl Like That on Amazon

A Girl Like That on Goodreads

A Girl Like That Publisher Page

This Tiny Perfect World by Lauren Gibaldi

This Tiny Perfect World by Lauren Gibaldi. February 27, 2018. HarperTeen, 304 p. ISBN: 9780062490070.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A contemporary “clean teen” coming-of-age story about a small-town girl who opens her eyes to life’s endless possibilities

When Penny wins a scholarship to a prestigious theater camp, she thinks it’s the start of a perfect summer. But when she arrives at camp, Penny is thrust into a world of competition and self-doubt. And as she meets new friends, including Chase, a talented young actor with big-city dreams, she begins to realize that her own dreams may be bigger than she ever imagined.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview (2015)

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. Life in small-town Florida holds few surprises for Penny. She has the steady company of her best friend, the reliable affection of her boyfriend, and a place to work at her dad’s restaurant. It seems a fluke when she’s chosen for an exclusive theater camp, since Penny adores acting but has little onstage experience. But Penny flourishes. She catches the attention of handsome, worldly Chase, who encourages her to take risks as an actor and exposes her to new experiences. Consequently, Penny dares to wonder if her future might extend beyond the familiar faces and places of her little town. The depiction of Penny’s hometown life realistically mixes the comfort of dependable friendships with the disappointment of limited opportunities. In contrast, Penny’s experiences at camp constantly challenge her to take risks with her artistic expression and in her social life. Theater buffs will enjoy the descriptions of Penny’s acting classes and her audition scenes. The focus on self-discovery makes this a worthy recommendation for fans of Sarah Dessen’s The Moon and More (2013).

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2017)
A summer theater program changes Penny’s expectations for life after high school.Penny’s grown up in a tiny Florida town, embracing a future that everyone assumes will include inheriting her family’s diner and marrying her high school sweetheart, Logan. Attending a summer theater camp, on scholarship, before her senior year feels more like self-indulgence than career preparation. However, several of Penny’s pre-camp reflections already foreshadow changes on the horizon. First she describes a companionable silence with Logan as “mostly” comfortable and then moments later boldly concludes that her friendships will never change because “we have it all planned out—our futures here. Together.” So it’s not entirely surprising when her more-cosmopolitan theater friends’ dreams of acting in the big cities make Penny’s pre-determined small-town future begin to feel dull. Nevertheless, Penny’s wracked with guilt about viewing the family’s legacy as a burden, and bridging the gulf between Penny’s and Logan’s future expectations bids to be a difficult—and unresolved—feat. Gibaldi sensitively develops Penny’s desire for both independence and the safety net of Logan’s love, although secondary storylines—especially Penny’s father’s new romance—occasionally feel underdeveloped. Penny is depicted on the cover as white, and the lack of racial markers points to a mostly white cast. Penny’s conflict about her future is believable, and readers facing similar choices should find much that is recognizable. (Fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Lauren Gibaldi is a public librarian who’s been, among other things, a magazine editor, high school English teacher, bookseller, and circus aerialist (seriously). She has a BA in Literature and Master’s in Library and Information Studies.

She lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband and daughter.  Her website is laurengibaldi.com.

Around the Web

This Tiny Perfect World on Amazon

This Tiny Perfect World on Goodreads

This Tiny Perfect World Publisher Page

A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen

A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen. January 9, 2018. Harry N. Abrams, 336 p. ISBN: 9781419725418.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Corporal punishment

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 8-12. Spencer has been able to see directly into Hope’s bedroom window from his own since she moved to town the summer before seventh grade. From that vantage, they’ve been in the right place to fall for each other, but never at the right time. That hasn’t kept Spencer from annotating, in detailed, drawn taxonomies, their ever-changing relationship throughout middle and high school: Hope as the only girl who likes to climb trees with him. Hope as the one person who doesn’t make fun of his Tourette’s. Hope as the object of his affection when she’s dating other people, but who is emotionally unreachable when she isn’t. In this sincerely charming account of one friendship in flux over the course of six years—eons in adolescence—the pair wrestle with their relationship. Simple summer crush? Tireless support through family strife and personal illness? Lovelorn confidante? Through sparkling prose (and Spencer’s clever doodles), Allen depicts how debasing unrequited love can feel, and just how consuming that connection can be when shared at long last.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Two teens chronicle six years of their unpredictable relationships.Despite his habit of sorting people into categories, Spencer Barton, an awkward white boy with Tourette’s syndrome, doesn’t fit in anywhere. He doesn’t share his father and older brother’s love of hunting, and his tics make him a bully magnet. But when Hope Birdsong, a “magical” white girl, moves in next door, she becomes his—protector? Friend? Girlfriend? As they grow up in the insular Georgia town of Peach Valley, Spencer details their amorphous, contentious, on-and-off relationship from ages 13 to 19. His self-deprecating narrative, supplemented with snarky flow charts, alternates with Hope’s pensive text messages and handwritten letters to her older sister. As Spencer and Hope navigate their feelings for each other, their relationships with friends and family—tinged with parental disappointment, sibling rivalry, and grief—evolve. The long time frame occasionally condenses important events, resulting in some clunky expository dialogue and abrupt character development. However, fast-forwarding also allows Spencer and Hope to reflect (albeit somewhat heavy-handedly) on their maturing views of love, sex, friendship, disability, racism (at the expense of a briefly featured black secondary character), and loss. The ending provides closure, but it feels rather neat after the lessons learned from their messy ups and downs. Patient readers will want to follow Spencer and Hope’s tangled relationship just to see where it finally ends up. (Romance. 13-18)

About the Author

Rachael Allen is the author of 17 First Kisses and The Revenge Playbook. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two children, and two sled dogs.

Her website is rachaelallenwrites.blogspot.com

 

Around the Web

A Taxonomy of Love on Amazon

A Taxonomy of Love on Goodreads

A Taxonomy of Love Publisher Page

All We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson

All We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson. February 6, 2018. Razorbill, 277 p. ISBN: 9780448494111.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900.

In the hours after a bridge collapse rocks their city, a group of Boston teenagers meet in the waiting room of Massachusetts General Hospital:

Siblings Jason and Alexa have already experienced enough grief for a lifetime, so in this moment of confusion and despair, Alexa hopes that she can look to her brother for support. But a secret Jason has been keeping from his sister threatens to tear the siblings apart…right when they need each other most.

Scott is waiting to hear about his girlfriend, Aimee, who was on a bus with her theater group when the bridge went down. Their relationship has been rocky, but Scott knows that if he can just see Aimee one more time, if she can just make it through this ordeal and he can tell her he loves her, everything will be all right.

And then there’s Skyler, whose sister Kate—the sister who is more like a mother, the sister who is basically Skyler’s everything—was crossing the bridge when it collapsed. As the minutes tick by without a word from the hospital staff, Skyler is left to wonder how she can possibly move through life without the one person who makes her feel strong when she’s at her weakest.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Marijuana, Domestic abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. In the wake of a bridge collapse, several Boston-area teens find themselves at a hospital to hope—and mostly wait—for word on their loved ones. Alexa and her brother, Jason, consider life without their parents. Scott regrets the way things ended with his girlfriend. Skyler tries to summon the strength of her older sister, Kate. And Morgan, already touched by death, reaches out to bring them all together. What results is a remarkable story that explores growing up through the lens of mortality, told through multiple points of view and featuring flashbacks that allow readers to gain insights into each character. Lawson is adept at gripping the reader while eschewing typical tropes of YA literature (e.g., romantic entanglements and social drama). Rather, the spotlight is on the relationships the teens have with loved ones, the relationships they begin with each other, and the insights gleaned from a harrowing experience. Young readers looking for a change of pace will be rewarded by this quiet yet powerful meditation on life and death.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2017)
A lot can happen in the hospital waiting room in the wake of a tragedy. When Boston’s Tobin Bridge collapses into the Mystic River, it takes nearly 200 drivers and passengers with it. A third-person omniscient narrator alternates through the perspectives of five teen characters—strangers who are connected to the victims—as they wait with hundreds of others at the hospital for news about the incident. Siblings Jason and Alexa are “well-to-do New England WASPs” from Back Bay whose lives have already been transformed after the death of a close friend—closeted Jason’s secret boyfriend. Cambodian-American Skyler, who is raised by her grandparents, is mixed up in an abusive relationship with an upperclassman. Scott and Morgan, who are both white, have their own secret back stories. Vanity Fair film critic Lawson’s teen fiction debut is a careful exploration of the rippling effects of tragedy. Alternating viewpoints give multiple sides of the same story, while flashbacks give the important contexts of the characters’ lives before the accident. Boston-savvy readers will know and appreciate all the local references. But the promising premise doesn’t quite deliver and is spoiled by a too-tidy conclusion. Patient readers will fall for the characters; others will wonder if it’s worth the wait—even with lives on the line. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Richard Lawson is the film critic for Vanity Fair and a co-host of V.F.‘s Little Gold Men podcast. He has written for The GuardianThe Atlantic Wire, Gawker, and Out magazine, and has contributed to the Dinner Party Download radio show.

Though currently living in New York City, Richard was born and raised in Boston. Her website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

Around the Web

All We Can Do Is Wait on Amazon

All We Can Do Is Wait on Goodreads

All We Can Do Is Wait Publisher Page

A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck. September 26, 2017.  Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781524716080.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900

Seriously, how can you see a person nearly every day of your life and never think a thing of it, then all of a sudden, one day, it’s different? You see that goofy grin a thousand times and just laugh. But goofy grin #1,001 nearly stops your heart? 

Right. That sounds like a bad movie already.

Matt Wainwright is constantly sabotaged by the overdramatic movie director in his head. He can’t tell his best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her, he implodes on the JV basketball team, and the only place he feels normal is in Mr. Ellis’s English class, discussing the greatest fart scenes in literature and writing poems about pissed-off candy-cane lumberjacks.

If this were a movie, everything would work out perfectly. Tabby would discover that Matt’s madly in love with her, be overcome with emotion, and would fall into his arms. Maybe in the rain.

But that’s not how it works. Matt watches Tabby get swept away by senior basketball star and all-around great guy Liam Branson. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough, but screwing up and losing her as a friend is even worse.

After a tragic accident, Matt finds himself left on the sidelines, on the verge of spiraling out of control and losing everything that matters to him. From debut author Jared Reck comes a fiercely funny and heart-wrenching novel about love, longing, and what happens when life as you know it changes in an instant.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Mild sexual themes

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (August 2017 (Online))
Grades 8-11. Matt and Tabby have been neighbors and best friends since they were babies. Now they are freshmen in high school, and Matt has fallen in love with Tabby. To his dismay, handsome, highly likeable senior, Branson, is falling for Tabby as well. It’s exquisitely painful for Matt to witness Tabby’s delight, but he tries to ignore his feelings and channels his frustrations into basketball. Then Matt loses Tabby forever. In this debut novel, Reck creates a realistic and moving portrait of a 14-year-old guy clobbered by a grief he cannot express. Matt is a funny, good-natured teen until the tragedy, and in the days and weeks that follow, he copes by maintaining surface-level denial while a roiling mass of anger builds within. Sympathetic adults intervene to help get Matt on track without providing pat solutions, much like the adult characters in Chris Crutcher novels.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2017)
A young man loses the love of his life. Matt Wainwright has pined for his best friend, Tabby Laughlin, for years but has never struck up the nerve to tell her how he feels. Instead he seethes with jealousy when Tabby begins to date the big man on campus, Liam Branson. There’s friction between the two best friends for a bit, but just when things are starting to look up, tragedy strikes. The novel is startlingly similar to John Green’s Looking for Alaska, with lost loves, car crashes, and wise teachers. Even more startling is the novels’ mirrored structures: both take place over a school year and end with an essay written by the young man for a class taught by an inspiring teacher. The cherry on top of this comparable sundae is the fact that both books feature paragraphs in which the protagonist contemplates how long an instant death feels. Reck’s debut is competently written, but the ruminations don’t run as deep as Green’s. The tertiary characters don’t sparkle, spouting serviceable but unremarkable dialogue, and there’s little attempt to introduce diversity to the largely white cast. In the end, readers will have the feeling they’ve read this story before, and it was much better the first time around. (Fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Jared Reck lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two daughters. He teaches 8th grade Language Arts, where he has been reading awesome books and writing alongside his students for the past twelve years. A Short History of the Girl Next Door is his first novel.

His website is www.jaredreckbooks.com/

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A Short History of the Girl Next Door on Amazon

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A Short History of the Girl Next Door on JLG

A Short History of the Girl Next Door Publisher Page

Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey

Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey. July 11, 2017. Fiewel & Friends, 272 p. ISBN: 9781250119520.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

I’m never going outside again. 

Mallory hasn’t left the house in sixty-seven days–since the day her dad left. She attends her classes via webcam, rarely leaves her room (much to her brother’s chagrin), and spends most of her time watching The X-Files or chatting with the always obnoxious BeamMeUp on New Mexico’s premier alien message board.

But when she’s shockingly nominated for homecoming queen, her life takes a surprising turn. She slowly begins to open up to the world outside. And maybe if she can get her popular jock neighbor Brad Kirkpatrick to be her homecoming date, her classmates will stop calling her a freak.

In this heartwarming and humorous debut, Mallory discovers first love and the true meaning of home–just by taking one small step outside her house.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Ever since her dad left a few months ago, the world has been too big for Mallory, literally: stepping outside of the house gives her a panic attack. She goes to school via webcam (a development that’s been fodder for the high-school gossip mill) and chats about potential alien sightings on We Are Not Alone, an online message board, with an obnoxious but clever person with the username BeamMeUp. Still, she’s missing things: her younger brother, Lincoln, just came out of the closet a year ago, and Mallory can’t be there for him at school. When she’s unexpectedly nominated for homecoming queen, she tentatively starts to consider stepping outside her house. Of course, she doesn’t have a chance in the world of winning—unless she can get her next-door neighbor, the popular, athletic, and all-around nice guy Brad Kirkpatrick to take her to the dance. This is a charming take on high school—the friendships, the romance, and the snubs—that also tenderly explores mental illness and the stigmas that accompany it. A sweet and funny debut.

School Library Journal (May 1, 2017)
Gr 7 Up-Authentic teen voices and a gentle love story are paired with a familiar and questionable plot. Mallory copes with extreme anxiety since her father abandoned the family; she hasn’t left her house in more than two months. She spends her time attending webcam classes, hanging out with her best friend Jenni and her brother Lincoln, and posting on a website devoted to alien research. The seemingly cruel nomination of Mallory for prom queen upsets her safe world. Instead of declining the nomination, however, she decides to pursue the crown, if only for the $500 prize; this is just enough money to fund her search for her father. Her friends, the star jock, and his brother pull Mallory out of her sheltered life; on the way, she finds true friendship, love, and acceptance. While the voice rings true and the romance is predictable yet sweet, the downfall of this book is that the protagonist’s ability to overcome her anxiety strains credulity; considering the amount of plot buildup, the conflicts are resolved too quickly. Also, character traits don’t always match character actions. How can Mallory so easily venture out of doors after becoming physically ill during her prior excursion? VERDICT Those who want an accurate portrayal of anxiety disorders should consider John Corey Whaley’s Highly Illogical Behavior. If realism isn’t an issue, the voice here will engage romance seekers.-Lisa Ehrle, Falcon Creek Middle School, CO

About the Author

Kerry Winfrey grew up in Bellville, Ohio, where she spent most of her time reading inappropriate books at the library. Not much has changed. Kerry writes for HelloGiggles and blogs at welcometoladyville.com.

She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, their son, and their dog, Merlin.

Around the Web

Love and Other Alien Experiences on Amazon

Love and Other Alien Experiences on Goodreads

Love and Other Alien Experiences on JLG

Love and Other Alien Experiences Publisher Page