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Book Review: Frankly in Love by David Yoon

Publisher’s description

Two friends. One fake dating scheme. What could possibly go wrong?

Frank Li has two names. There’s Frank Li, his American name. Then there’s Sung-Min Li, his Korean name. No one uses his Korean name, not even his parents. Frank barely speaks any Korean. He was born and raised in Southern California.

Even so, his parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl—which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit, who is funny and nerdy just like him. Brit, who makes him laugh like no one else. Brit . . . who is white.

As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he’s forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don’t leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he’s found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he’s left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love—or himself—at all.

In this moving debut novel—featuring striking blue stained edges and beautiful original endpaper art by the author—David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.

Amanda’s thoughts

Easily one of my top ten reads this year. EASILY. You know how many books I read a year? A few hundred. Eventually, many of them blur into fuzziness—I can’t remember plots or characters or (gulp) sometimes even that I read them at all. A long time ago, working at The Children’s Book Shop while I was in graduate school, my boss scolded me. “Don’t bolt your food!” she told me, watching me devour book after book. I can’t help it—I hardly stop to actually enjoy the writing, so desperate to consume the story. I usually hardly take a breath in between finishing one book and starting the next. But with this book? I read slowly. I let myself NOT read anything the rest of the day after I finished it. And I definitely will not be forgetting plot details or characters. This book is GOOD.

Korean-American Frank isn’t sure where he’s supposed to fit in. The child of immigrants, he always feels like he’s not Korean enough, but he’s not fully American. He loves his parents, who are complicated people. He fully admits they’re racist (and have essentially let their daughter, whose husband is black, walk out of their lives because of this). His best friend, Q, is black, and while he feels totally at home at Q’s house, he rarely has him over. He knows when he eventually finds a girlfriend, she should probably be Korean-American, just to make everything easier. Falling for white Brit means lots of deception. When he begins fake dating his Korean-American friend Joy, as a cover, we can see what may happen, but we can’t predict all of the twists and turns that will come with both his real relationship and his fake one.

While this is a love story, it’s also about so much more. Frank spends an awful lot of time thinking about race and where he fits. He talks with his friends about this. He travels in various circles—the AP kids (the Apeys), the Gathering kids—and fits everywhere and nowhere. He is always learning, rethinking, growing. At one point he thinks, “People who let themselves learn new things are the best kind of people.” Mine, too, Frank. When he starts to date Brit, he eventually realizes that he will always be holding her at a distance because he isn’t being his real self with her (whoever his real self is). But dating Joy turns out to be just as complicated when he begins to see all the gaps in life–gaps in time, in generations, in class, in upbringing, in experience. He’s trying to figure out what labels are for him, or if labels are even helpful, which is not an easy task.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s smart, funny, sweet, sad, cute, and thoughtful in all the best ways. I totally admit that if I start a book that’s more than 250 pages or so, I think, ugh—I bet it won’t need to be so long, mostly just because I want to race through it and onto the next book on my list. At 432 pages, I was wary. But you know what? Every single page needs to exist. I wanted more. The ending is perfect and satisfying, but I wanted more. One last thing: I am an easy crier. I cry at books all the time. If we could play back a reel of my life so far, we could clip together like an entire hour of my son just looking at me in exasperation, saying, “Oh my god—are you crying? Are you crying again? Are you still crying? WHY ARE YOU CRYING SO MUCH?” I am not, however, an easy laugh. It’s the rare book that makes me literally laugh out loud or smile into its pages. This book managed that trick many times. I love how Frank and his friends talk, how they relate, how they support each other. I just love them. I hope you’ll go grab this book and love them too. An utter delight.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781984812209
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 09/10/2019

Book Review: This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender

Publisher’s description

epicA fresh, charming rom-com perfect for fans of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Boy Meets Boy about Nathan Bird, who has sworn off happy endings but is sorely tested when his former best friend, Ollie, moves back to town.

Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in happy endings. Although he’s the ultimate film buff and an aspiring screenwriter, Nate’s seen the demise of too many relationships to believe that happy endings exist in real life.

Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been his MO ever since his father died and left his mom to unravel—but this strategy is not without fault. His best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-best-friend-again, Florence, is set on making sure Nate finds someone else. And in a twist that is rom-com-worthy, someone does come along: Oliver James Hernández, his childhood best friend.

After a painful mix-up when they were little, Nate finally has the chance to tell Ollie the truth about his feelings. But can Nate find the courage to pursue his own happily ever after?

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Like ever-changing relationships? Then this is the book for you. It’s friends-to-lovers-to-friends-again, it’s friends-to-estranged-to-friends-to lovers-to-estranged-to-?, it’s friends-to-crush-to-rejection-to-lovers (I am really not enjoying how much I am using the word “lovers” here, but I’m trying to stick with the phrasing of this kind of trope). Basically, if you like stories that are super about relationships, this is your book.

 

Nate has his guard up, big time. He’s so worried about getting hurt, about getting his heart broken, that he either preemptively ruins things before they can get ruined or doesn’t allow himself to act on his feelings. He and Flo have recently broken up, after dating for a year. Flo would like Nate and her new girlfriend to be friends, but that’s asking a lot, especially when you consider that Nate may still have feelings for Flo (and doesn’t particularly want to be buds with the girl with whom Flo cheated on Nate). But Flo and Nate seem pretty okay—a little tension there, maybe, but still best friends. And speaking of best friends, Nate’s childhood BFF, Oliver James, is back in town. Nate is pretty sure he had screwed up their friendship beyond all repair when Oliver moved, but the two quickly start hanging out again. Oliver is hard of hearing and Nate still remembers a lot of sign language, so the two talk out loud (Oliver reads lips, too), sign, and type out more complicated thoughts that Nate can’t figure out how to sign. Things are a little tense with them at times (do you get the feeling things are often a little tense between various characters in this book?), but they seem like they’re back to being friends. Except Nate has feelings for Ollie. FEEEEELINGS. And Oliver has a boyfriend back in Santa Fe. But… but…. It’s always complicated, right? Even if Oliver winds up single and Nate can act on his feelings, will he? Is he too scared? Too self-protective? Will his meddling friends just let them figure it out at their own pace? Will kissing various friends make things MORE clear or way more complicated? You can probably guess.

 

There’s a lot of great things going on in this book—queer POC main characters, a hard of hearing main character, fluid sexuality that doesn’t have labels or require any kind of “wait, you like boys, too?” kind of conversation, strong friendships, honest feelings, and lots of pop culture references. It’s a good read for those who like character-driven stories, though at times I wanted more from the characters (I wanted to know more about their backstories, their friendships, their thought process). Throughout the course of the book, Nate writes a screenplay, which was hear a tiny bit about but never really get to see any of—I would have liked to see some of it! We don’t get much of a deep dive into Nate’s psychological reasons for being so afraid of relationships (other than his dad died some years ago and his mom is still grieving), so his character doesn’t develop as much as I would have liked to see. But, overall, it’s a fun, quick read full of dating, making out, and breaking up. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

ISBN-13: 9780062820228
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/30/2018

Book Review: Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Publisher’s description

love hateIn this unforgettable debut novel, an Indian-American Muslim teen copes with Islamophobia, cultural divides among peers and parents, and a reality she can neither explain nor escape. 

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I burned through this important and immensely readable book in one sitting. In fact, I got so engrossed and read it so quickly that I was actually pretty shocked when, at one point, I set it down to go get something to drink and realized I was nearly done!

Maya, who is Indian American and Muslim, is rarely without her camera. She loves watching life unfold through her camera lens and dreams of going to NYU to film school. That’s actually a very attainable dream for her, as she’s been accepted there, but her parents have made it clear that filmmaking is a nice hobby, but she needs to stay close to home and attend the University of Chicago, maybe became a doctor or lawyer. They also would love to get her set up with a suitable Indian boy, but Maya isn’t interested in being set up—she’s interested in Phil, school quarterback and homecoming king, a boy who has always been friendly to Maya, but never seemed within reach. Until now.

In between chapters, we see another story unfolding, one of a young man who is about to commit a heinous act of terrorism in Illinois, killing more than a hundred people. Though initially reported as being carried out by a young Egyptian Muslim, the perpetrator is actually a white man with ties to white supremacy organizations. This act, and its incorrect reporting, stirs up some never-far-from-the-surface Islamophobia in one of Maya’s classmates, putting her safety and that of her family at risk. Shaken, her parents want to keep her close by them and safe, but Maya still dreams of leaving home and living in New York. She’s conflicted over how to live the life she wants and how to be a good daughter at the same time. Over the course of the story, she learns how to assert herself and pick her own path, even if its one that will come with some heartache. A searing look at racism and Islamophobia mixed with an excellent romance. Authentic, powerful, and important. 

 

ISBN-13: 9781616958473
Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/16/2018

Book Review: Meet Cute by various authors

Publisher’s description

meet cute

Stories by: Jennifer L. Armentrout, Dhonielle Clayton, Katie Cotugno, Jocelyn Davies, Nina LaCour, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Emery Lord, Katharine McGee, Kass Morgan, Julie Murphy, Meredith Russo, Sara Shepard, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi

Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors.

Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants.

This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I so love a good collection of short stories. And this one of the many cute, funny, and unexpected ways romances can start is diverse, sweet, and has something for nearly everyone. 

In Katie Cotugno’s piece, an unlikely couple shares a moment and possibly nothing more while hiding out at a party. In Nina LaCour’s story, two girls meet over Twitter during a customer service crisis. Ibi Zoboi’s contribution is about Cherish, a 6’5″ black girl desperate to get out of her super white town but wait listed at all of the HBUCs she applied to. Just when she sees a way out, she meets the one interesting boy in town. Katherine McGee’s science fiction story finds Alexa, a computer programmer working on a revolutionary virtual reality program, going on a date with a boy a computer algorithm says should be a perfect match… only he’s not who she thinks he is. Sara Shepard’s story involves a musician and a record label intern. Meredith Russo writes about Nina, a trans student who’s embroiled in a bathroom battle at school where her classmate Lexie is among the most unspoken of her opponents. Dhonielle Clayton’s piece revolves around a love blueprint—coiled tattoos on hands—that eventually fade to match your love’s. When her main character holds hands with a boy she meets (something that is forbidden), she sees many futures for herself. Emery Lord’s tale about two girls meeting in a security line at the airport proves that sometimes you just totally get someone right away. Jennifer Armentrout’s piece reveals a connection made via an overdue library book. Jocelyn Davies’ main characters, Dev and Samara, find out the statistical odds of falling in love at first with someone on the subway. Kass Morgan’s story looks at two candidates for a one-way mission to Mars and the reasons they have for leaving. Julie Murphy’s story has two girls competing on a reality show for a date with a musician, but discover they’re both interested in someone else. Huntley Fitzpatrick’s story is about a waitress and a customer, a boy, with an, unbeknownst to her, complicated relationship. Nicola Yoon’s piece about the Department of Dead Love, which performs relationship autopsies, finishes off the collection.

This is a super fun and cute collection. The stories are all very different, featuring a variety of characters, identities, and settings. This will be an easy recommendation for many readers. Plus, the cover is so dang cute, it will sell itself. Me + this book = true love. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781328759870
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 01/02/2018

 

Book Review: The Ocean in My Ears by Meagan Macvie

Publisher’s description

ra6Meri Miller lives in Soldotna, Alaska. Never heard of it? That’s because in Slowdotna the most riveting activities for a teenager are salmon fishing and grabbing a Big Gulp at the local 7-Eleven. More than anything, Meri wants to hop in her VW Bug and head somewhere exciting, like New York or L.A. or any city where going to the theater doesn’t only mean the movies. Everything is so scripted here—don’t have too much fun, date this guy because he’s older and popular, stay put because that’s what everyone else does.

But when her senior year should be all boys, SAT prep, and prom drama, Meri feels more and more distance between herself and the people she loves. Her grandma dies, her brother gets hurt, and even her best friend checks out to spend more time with some guy. As she struggles with family, grief, friends, and hormones, Meri must decide if she really is ready for the world beyond her backyard.

Meagan Macvie’s debut novel, The Ocean in My Ears , raises questions of love, purpose, and the power to choose your own future even when your future’s the thing that scares you the most.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

the oceanMeri is complex. Heading into her senior year of high school, she’s desperate to leave her tiny Alaska town (a town known for two things—salmon fishing and having the highest per capita teen birthrate in the nation), but also terrified of leaving behind everything she knows. She has sex with a creepy older guy she’s dating but is also worried that it’s a sin and she might regret it (also, he’s a terrible human being but she hangs out with him for waaaaay too long). She doesn’t reveal anything about her life to her distant (both emotionally and physically) parents but longs for someone to do some parenting and for them to maybe understand her or even just see her. She has big dreams and big doubts. She’s been raised in a religious setting, having gone to Christian school until junior high. Her mother, and the church, repeatedly drive home the point that sex outside of marriage is a sin. It’s terrible, awful, you will go to hell, you will get diseases, you will get pregnant. Meri hears all of this but still wants to make her own choices, come to her own conclusions. It’s never easy stumbling your way through adolescence (the only way through is by stumbling, I think), but Meri is having a particularly hard time senior year. Her dad is either always off working in the oil fields or at home ordering her around, her grandma is dying (and her mom is gone for much of the book in Idaho tending to Meri’s grandma), her best friend has ditched her for a boy, and she likes Joaquin, a nice dude who she worries her parents won’t approve of, but instead dates jerky oaf Brett. She’s trying to figure out what she wants in life, but that’s hard to do in her tiny, isolated town with the constant talk of judging, sinning, and Satan.

 

Set in 1990, this look at a small town girl feeling trapped, frustrated, and ready to explore bigger horizons will appeal to fans of Carrie Mesrobian’s Just a Girl and other realistic YA where the main plot is the day-to-day existence of a teenager just trying to figure it all out. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781932010947
Publisher: Ooligan Press
Publication date: 11/07/2017

Book Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of School Library Journal. I am SO EXCITED to now be able to rave to everyone about this book. 

 

upsideAlbertalli, Becky. THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED

ISBN-13: 9780062348708 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 04/11/2017

★ Gr 9 Up—Growing up can mean growing apart, which is a hard revelation for twins Cassie and Molly Peskin-Suso. When Cassie, who is a lesbian, begins dating Mina, a pansexual Korean American, Molly feels a little cast aside. Molly, who has an anxiety disorder, has silently nursed 26 crushes and is working on finally risking the rejection she fears and starting to date. Cassie wants Molly to hook up with Mina’s best friend, Will, but Molly might be more interested in sweet and endearingly geeky Reid. While the girls are navigating these new worlds of romance, things don’t slow down in other parts of their lives. Cassie and Molly’s moms are finally getting married, so there’s a wedding to plan, much to the delight of Pinterest-savvy Molly; plus there are jobs, friends, and a busy baby brother. Molly, Cassie, and all of the secondary characters are well-developed and distinctive. The outspoken girls have honest, humorous, and sometimes awkward conversations with each other, their friends, and their supportive and loving moms about relationships and growing up. Albertalli’s keen ear for authentic teen voices will instantly make readers feel that they are a part of Cassie and Molly’s world, filled with rich diversity (Cassie and Molly’s family is Jewish and interracial), love, support, and a little heartache. In the satisfying conclusion, Molly and Cassie learn that letting new people into their lives does not have to mean shutting out others. VERDICT: Readers will fall in love with this fresh, honest, inclusive look at dating, families, and friendship. A top purchase for all YA collections.

Book Review: Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

Publisher’s description

wild swansThe summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden-all bonfires, barbeques, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives-and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?

But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past…

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Confession: I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump. I started and then quit 4 books before settling on this one. My life is kind of bonkers right now, and my TBR pile stands a good chance of killing someone should it tip over, so when I sit down to read, I want it to be engrossing. I don’t like writing negative reviews, or meh reviews, here on TLT. I get to choose what I review. So why waste my time on things that feel like I’m slogging through them? All of this is to say that WILD SWANS absolutely snapped me out of my slump. Big time.

 

“Granddad says all the Milbourn women are extraordinary

Amelia, the Shakespeare professor up at the college, says cursed

Judy, the bookseller down at the Book Addict, says crazy

Here in Cecil, girls are still expected to be nice. Quiet. All sugar. Maybe a little spice.

But not us. We Milbourn women are a complicated lot.” 

 

Those first few lines roped me right in.

 

Ivy is 17 and looking forward to (for once) a low-key summer. Those plans come crashing to a halt when her estranged mother appears. Ivy lives with her grandfather (called Granddad or the Professor) and has since her mom bailed on her as a toddler. Erica, Ivy’s mom, has had NOTHING to do with her since then. Granddad is letting Erica and her two girls move in with them for a bit while she tries to get back on her feet. Ivy’s curious about her two half-sisters, Grace and Isobel, but not looking forward to seeing Erica. It’s immediately clear that Erica is a MESS. She’s cruel, selfish, oblivious, and, worst of all, has been lying to her girls saying that Ivy is their aunt, not their big sister. Nice. Of course, Cecil is a tiny town, so it doesn’t take long for gossip or truth to circulate.

 

Ivy feels she’s “utterly ordinary.” She comes from a long line of woman who excelled in the arts—and who also died young and tragically. Granddad is always pushing for her to take more classes, submit her poetry, always do more or be better. The long history of heavy pressures—of success but at what cost, of mental illness, of accidental or intentional death—is rarely discussed. Granddad certainly doesn’t see how the burden of the family legacy and his own pressures could be causing Ivy harm.

 

There is a lot I love about this book, but the things I love best are Ivy’s friendships. She has three best friends–Claire, Abby, and Alex. Mexican American Alex and his mother live in Ivy’s granddad’s carriage house. They’re basically family. Tension arises when Alex begins to have feelings for Ivy that go beyond the realm of their brother-sister relationship. Ivy isn’t feeling it–or maybe she is, but she won’t let herself feel it because she’s too afraid of what it might do to their friendship. Alex is hurt by her rejection, and that hurt multiples when Ivy begins to date biracial Connor, a poetry protege of her granddad. Ivy’s friend Claire is GREAT. She’s my new book best friend. She’s outspoken and brilliant and unabashedly a feminist. She nudges Abby and Ivy toward conversations on sex, slut-shaming, fat-shaming, birth control, feminism, agency, loyalty, and double standards. She has no problem calling people on their garbage. She supports other girls—she and Ivy have a pact not to talk trash about other girls. The girls are GREAT. Ivy feels annoyed at the expectation that she be “nice.” Claire, who is bi, makes sure no one defaults to heteronormative comments. And both girls speak up when Abby has trouble accepting that her 6-year-old sister Ella (formerly Eli) is transgender. All of the other stuff–the disastrous days with Erica, the new sibling issues, the boy drama–make this book extremely interesting and well-done, but it’s the friendship that I’m here for. Give me more of this, please, YA novels. Girls TOTALLY sticking up for each other, looking out for each other, having frank conversations about huge issues. MORE. PLEASE. 

 

This well-written book full of strong characters and complicated relationship will fly off the shelves. It will appeal to readers who like family drama, romances, great friendships, and stories about the pressures of being a teenager. Totally on my top books of the year list. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781492622161

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Publication date: 05/03/2016

Book Review: Heat of the Moment by Lauren Barnholdt

I’m going to summarize the entire plot of Lauren Barnholdt’s Heat of the Moment in one sentence for you, okay? Here it is: Lyla really wants to have sex with her boyfriend Derrick while they’re in Florida for their senior class trip, but she’s surprised to find herself suddenly (and desperately) attracted to Beckett, much to her consternation.

 

That’s pretty much it. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Yes, there is of course (a bit more) to it: she ends up rooming with her two former best friends and she’s receiving constant emails that she wrote to herself when she was 14 telling her to learn how to trust. We get a little of her backstory—her family situation, why she’s estranged from Aven and Quinn (the former BFFs), her relationship with Derrick. But really it’s about sex and attraction. Lyla is thinking about sex all the time. She really wants Florida to be the setting for that perfect first time with Derrick—even though it appears they haven’t really ever talked about having sex or wanting to have sex, despite having dated for 2 years and been doing “everything but” for a long time. Really? I suppose it’s possible to have not talked about it. Derrick doesn’t seem nearly as excited about this plan to have sex as Lyla is. He says they shouldn’t rush it and should take some time to think about it (especially now that he’s pissed that Lyla caught a ride to the airport with Beckett after they both missed the school bus that took their class there). Lyla doesn’t seem deterred by Derrick’s attitude (though she does wonder why he is hesitant—what guy wouldn’t be psyched that his girlfriend is initiating a conversation about sex, she wonders). She continues to think about sex, hoping it will be romantic and special, wondering how long it will take and other fine details. She thinks about birth control, wondering if Derrick will have a condom (though, really, Lyla—this was your plan; go buy those condoms yourself, girl), wondering if she should go on the pill, etc. Lyla keeps pushing for it to happen and Derrick keeps holding her at bay (for reasons that never become super clear), asking her if she’s sure, if she’ll regret it.

 

And then there’s Beckett. Lyla, against all rational thought, is unbelievably attracted to him. She thinks he’s hot. Pretty quickly after they start hanging around each other, she’s picturing kissing him, making out with him. Yes, all of this is happening while she’s also getting ready to have sex with her boyfriend for the first time. She knows it’s not right, but can’t seem to help herself: she’s into Beckett. Even though he’s sometimes kind of douchey (and so is Derrick, and so is Lyla for that matter), she is drawn to him. And when they eventually (and inevitably) kiss, it’s no surprise. She thinks to herself, “One of my personalities is totally normal and loves Derrick and is excited about this trip. My other personality is some kind of sex-crazed maniac who can’t seem to keep her boobs inside her top and wants to kiss and cheat with every guy she sees.”

 

Personally, I adore Lyla. I love that she’s sex-crazed, that she makes crappy choices, that she lies, she’s confused, she’s stubborn. She’s real. She’s a type of girl we don’t get to see a lot of in YA—someone who’s constantly thinking about sex. I just wish she had more people to talk to about it than Derrick, who doesn’t seem as interested as she does. A lot of her thoughts and desires are kept in her head. Her former friends she’s rooming with, Aven and Quinn, are pretty peripheral characters who only are used for convenient plot purposes in this story, though the cliffhanger ending makes it pretty clear they will play a big part in book two. Readers who don’t mind an extremely thin plot will fly through this story of lust, mistakes, and trust. 

 

REVIEW COPY COURTESY OF EDELWEISS
ISBN-13: 9780062321398
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 5/12/2015

Book review: Promposal by Rhonda Helms

In Promposal, by Rhonda Helms, best friends Camilla and Joshua are angsting about who their prom dates will be. Camilla has agreed to go with a peer who barely qualifies as a friend, even though she’d rather go with her psychology class crush. Joshua would love to finally confess how he feels to his friend Ethan, but instead gets roped into helping Ethan plan the perfect promposal for Ethan’s crush.

 

(Digression: You know what promposals are, right? They’re the over-the-top gestures now commonly used by teenagers to ask one another to prom. Go check out this images search for just a taste of what they look like.

 

Here’s the thing: I was a conscientious objector of prom in high school. I had a boyfriend both years, but would rather have eaten nails than gotten dressed up and gone to dance with my classmates. I know—hating prom is kind of cliché and hating high school is even more so. But whatever—prom, not for me. I also have replaced the part of my memory that covers the early 90s and high school with a black hole, but I’m pretty sure promposals were not a thing when I was a teenager. That doesn’t mean I’ve escaped witnessing them, though.

 

When I worked as a librarian at the high school here, I saw quite a few. Fact about me: I get incredibly uncomfortable for people when something awkward is happening. I don’t embarrass particularly easily, but I embarrass on the behalf of others pretty quickly. So sometimes a boy would come in and ask if he could arrange to parade in with friends and make a scene inviting a girl studying in there. Sometimes I’d see videos on kids’ phones about something that happened in the halls or cafeteria. It all made me itchy. I know there are plenty of cute ways to ask someone to prom, and I know stuff like that makes people swoony (a word I hate—I should add that to my reading pet peeves post that I’m working on). Be swoony. That’s cool. But all I see is awkwardness and the pressure to say yes because you’re on display. Also, this has probably just sealed the deal that someday my son will ask a girl or boy to prom in a super public way and I’ll die a little inside. Okay. Crabby old lady rant done. We now return you to your regularly scheduled review.)

 

Camilla and Benjamin, her crush, are in a psychology class together, where they are studying about social norms and pressures. These ideas play into why Camilla says “yes” to Zach, the boy who asks her to prom in an incredibly OTT way. Not only is it in front of lots of classmates, it’s being FILMED. For the NEWS. By Zach’s MOTHER. I know. She feels she has to say yes. Camilla and Benjamin get to know each other better as they work on their class project, which involves testing social mores and comfort zones. Camilla’s dodging Zach’s incessant requests to plan for prom, focusing her attention instead on Benjamin and how he keeps running hot and cold toward her.

 

Meanwhile, Joshua is kicking himself for waiting too long to confess his feelings to Ethan, thinking they’re too deep into the friend zone now. Ethan is somehow completely oblivious to the fact that Joshua is pining for him. Joshua’s dad urges him to just go for it and let Ethan know how he feels, but Joshua’s worried about being rejected and ruining their friendship.

 

I liked that none of the relationships presented (both those of Camilla and Joshua and of the more secondary characters) are cut and dried. Moves are made and feelings are revealed that don’t always go over well. There’s fighting and making up. Characters are sweet and thoughtful, but also act in selfish and jerky ways. The plot of this book could be summed up as “two teens want the boys they like to like them back.” Fortunately the things that fill that plot in make it feel larger than just that. I also loved that this book was 0% about coming out or Joshua being gay being any kind of issue. I love that we are finally seeing more LGBTQIA+ characters being a part of the story in ways beyond feeling “issue-y” or showing them facing some kind of struggle. Overall, this was a fun read and will have a wide appeal for fans of contemporary fiction. 

 

REVIEW COPY COURTESY OF EDELWEISS

ISBN-13: 9781481422321
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date
: 2/10/2015