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A Little Summer Lovin’

Ah, Summer. There is something about summer that makes me want to read some summer flings. While during the rest of the year I am drawn towards dark and edgy, there is something about the summer sun shining brightly that makes me want to pick up those books with light, airy covers that suggest we can all have our own summer love story. So here are 10 titles whose covers suggest these might be some great summer reads. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any meat in between the covers. Also, I haven’t read some of these yet (I add notes!), their covers just speak to me and whisper: we would make a great summer beach reads display.

The Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder

“Lauren has a secret. Colby has a problem. But when they find each other, everything falls into place.” – from the publisher (Scholastic Point, July, 9780545646017)

Things You Should Know:
There is some poetry in this book.
My God-daughter, a Tween and avid reader, is a HUGE Lisa Schroeder fan and highly recommends them all. All of them.

#Scandal by Sarah Ockler

“Lucy’s learned some important lessons from tabloid darling Jayla Heart’s all-too-public blunders: Avoid the spotlight, don’t feed the Internet trolls, and keep your secrets secret. The policy has served Lucy well all through high school, so when her best friend Ellie gets sick before prom and begs her to step in as Cole’s date, she accepts with a smile, silencing about ten different reservations. Like the one where she’d rather stay home shredding online zombies. And the one where she hates playing dress-up. And especially the one where she’s been secretly in love with Cole since the dawn of time.” – from the Publisher (Simon Pulse, June,

Things You Should Know:
Our MC is an online video gamer who loves to shred zombies. And she’s a girl. I love this.
Also, Ockler is a very dependable author that I enjoy so I am looking forward to this one.

Through to You by Lauren Barnholdt

Opposites attract—and then complicate—in this romantic, relatable novel from the author of Two-way Street and Sometimes It Happens.” – from the publisher (Simon Pulse, July, 9781442434639)

Things You Should Know:
I have started this and am enjoying it.

The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt

“Holly’s chapel represents everything she’s ever loved in her past. Dax might be everything she could ever love in the future. But as for right now, there’s a wedding chapel to save.” – from the publisher (Bloomsbury, May, 9781599907888)

Things You Should Know:
I enjoyed Leavitt’s previous title Going Vintage very much and am looking forward to this.

The Superlatives: Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols

“Tia and Will’s lives get flipped upside down when they’re voted Yearbook’s Biggest Flirts in this sassy novel from the author of Endless Summer and The One That I Want.” – from the publisher (Simon Pulse, May, 9781442474451)

Things You Should Know:
Fun series are always a great go to.
Echols is another author I recommend.

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

“A twisty story about love, loss, and lies, this contemporary oceanside adventure is tinged with a touch of dark magic as it follows seventeen-year-old Wendy Darling on a search for her missing surfer brothers.” – from the publisher (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, May, 9780374382674) 

Things You Should Know:
This is Peter Pan based.
It gets lost some along the way and has some very mixed reviews, but it is an interesting concept and definitely has that summer vibe.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

“What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.” – from the publisher (Simon and Schuster, April, 9781442426702)

Things You Should Know:
This book is a really great read. It was recently nominated as a Best Fiction for Young Adult title
This is the first book, there is at least one more to come.
This is one of the few titles I have received that really has any diversity.

How to Meet Boys by Catherine Clark

Find out what happens when you fall for your best friend’s worst enemy in this timeless and hilarious story of a forbidden first love and forever friendship.” – from the publisher (HarperTeen, May,

Things You Should Know:
Clark has crafted a couple of other really great beach read favorites so this should be a good one.

The Last Best Kiss by Claire LaZebnik

“Anna Eliot is tired of worrying about what other people think. After all, that was how she lost the only guy she ever really liked, Finn Westbrook. Now, three years after she broke his heart, the one who got away is back in her life.” – from the publisher (HarperTeen, April, 9780062252289)

The Last Forever by Deb Caletti

Endings and beginnings sit so close to each other that it’s sometimes impossible to tell which is which.

Nothing lasts forever, and no one gets that more than Tessa. After her mother died, it’s all she can do to keep her friends, her boyfriend, her happiness from slipping away. And then there’s her dad. He’s stuck in his own daze, and it’s so hard to feel like a family when their house no longer seems like a home.

Her father’s solution? An impromptu road trip that lands them in a small coastal town at Tessa’s grandmother’s.” – from the publisher (Simon Pulse, April, 9781442450004)

Things You Should Know:
Caletti writes amazing and beautiful love stories and you should read them all. 

And don’t forget Morgan Matson! Great summer reads. 

The problem of relationship (and girls) in YA lit, plus 5 of my favorite titles

Check out the series About the Girl over at Stacked

If you read enough YA lit, you might start to come to a few interesting conclusions:

1. Teens only have 1 relationship, romantic ones. Especially if you are a teenage girl.

2. Relationships only have one goal, which is sex. For some reason, as Cory Ann Haydu mentions here, a large number of YA books (never all) focus on romantic relationships that accelerate quickly from kissing to sex.

But what about all the other relationships in our lives?

If you read this blog enough, you know that one of my favorite books ever is Guitar Notes by Mary Amato. Primarily because it is a book about a boy and a girl who are not romantically involved. It’s possible that if Amato were going to write a sequel they could head in that direction, but they don’t have to (and that honestly is the sequel I would like to read).

Sometimes, if you are lucky, there are friends that become boyfriend and girlfriend in very organic and realistic ways, like in books such as The Sweetest Thing (Christina Mandelski) and Until It Hurts to Stop (Jennifer R. Hubbard), which also has a strong female friendship in it as well and has a female engaged in a nontraditional activity (hiking, mountain climbing).

But the truth is, we – people – are all about a wide variety of relationships.  We have families, parents. Many of us have siblings. We have friends. We have enemies. Sometimes we are in romantic relationships and sometimes we aren’t. And yes, some teens have sex, but not all of them do. And sometimes we go through a really long process before we even think about getting to sex. Relationships are complex.

My favorite high school memory involves a new relationship with a boy named Kenny. I don’t remember how we met, but he was my first real boyfriend and I was a senior in high school. Yep, a senior. I was scared and didn’t know what I was doing and we hadn’t even held hands yet. He was on the track team. One day after school a group of our friends were hanging around and Kenny had just finished track practice. He was exhausted and sweaty. And as we all sat there and talked, without even thinking, he just leaned back in his chair and grabbed my hand. It was like, in that moment his guard was down, and he just did what seemed to come naturally to him. It is many years later and I can still remember vividly every detail of that moment. Every thing I thought, every thing I felt, and the slow, casual, exhausted way he just leaned back and gently grabbed my hand while he talked to his friends. We dated for 18 months and of all the moments that happened between us, this is the most vivid and the most significant. It spoke volumes about his feelings. It was, in a word, beautiful. Simple, meaningful, and beautiful. Okay, that’s 3 words.

The rest of my teenage years were dominated primarily by friends, including two best friends that I had who were boys and never once did we ever discuss those friendships being anything more than that. In fact, one of them went on to marry my post-high school roommate (and we are still friends).

When I was in the 11th grade, my best friend, a girl, died in a car accident. My junior year was overshadowed by the process of mourning and the sometimes guilt I felt in the wake of that loss. No romance happening there.

My point is this, we do our teens a disservice when we continue to act as if romantic relationships are the end all be all of life, that they are the only relationships that matter. I am now married to my best friend, and have been for 18 years, but I am also a mother, a daughter, a friend . . . those relationships are important to me too. They are important to the ins and out of who I am as a person, how I choose to spend my time, and the issues that I wrestle with in my dreams at night.  People are multi-faceted, including teens. We need more stories that represent the dimensionality of life and the various ways that we define and attach ourselves. Which is why as a reviewer, I am always awarding bonus points to books that highlight different types of relationships, put an emphasis on including family members, or acknowledge that life is about more than falling in and out of love, etc. Sometimes you want a good love story, and I get that, but we need stories with dimension.  This is what I keep thinking about as read the ongoing series at Stacked on ABOUT THE GIRLS (there is lots of good discussion going on there, check it out.) So I thought I would contribute a post. It’s okay, she invited us to.

Because here’s the deal, I want teen girls to know that life is about more than romance. That they have other goals. That they can and should have other meaningful relationships. That they are not defined by whether or not a boy loves them in that way.

So here are 5 of my favorite YA titles and the reasons why . . .

The Lynburn Legacy from Sarah Rees Brennan (Book 1 is Unspoken)

This has such a tremendously fun female friendship. Both girls are strong, confident, realistic, supportive, etc. It is such a positive example of both female characters and a female friendship. Also, I laughed out loud throughout the entire thing.

Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

This is a male/female relationship that shows growth with the characters inspiring and sometimes challenging each other to be more honest with themselves (and their families) without necessarily resorting to romance. Plus, it is perfectly clean and can be read by anyone, and that really does matter to some people and I respect that.

Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Frenchie Garcia is a very depressed young lady, on the verge of graduating high school and unclear as to what her future holds. She has a male and a female friend who, at times, have a hard time understanding Frenchie’s extreme depression. But you know what, they come through time and time again for her. The relationships in this book are challenged, strained, and realistic.

Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

When we first meet Tella, we see her in the context of her family. She is there, with a very sick brother, and we see that relationship. Then she makes a decision, she enters a desperate race for a cure.  Here, she makes allies (think Survivor) and those relationships are very interesting. I was particularly struck by her relationship by a fellow female competitor who becomes her ally and the choices that they make. I also like this story because Tella is a very realistic portrayal of a typical teenage girl. Sometimes she is capable in this race but often she is not, which is in keeping with her character. And sometimes she just wants to go home and get a good manicure. I like that she is what we consider traditionally feminine and yet still strong.

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

I gave this title a mixed review, which I sometimes regret because I love the contemporary element of this title so much. But I DO love the relationships in this book between Isadora and both her female friend Tyler (as well as Tyler’s relationship with her boyfriend Scott) and her first friends than maybe something more relationship with Ry. In fact Ry very clearly tells her that you can’t actually be in a happy relationship unless you are happy with yourself first. You can read my full review here.

I know I said five, but I want to give a shout out to Going Vintage (Lindsay Leavitt) which examines some cool sibling relationship dynamics and has a great relationship between a female and her beloved grandmother. I am also a huge fan of This Song Will Save Your Life (Leila Sales) for its leading lady engaged in an under-represented passion – DJing – and the female relationships depicted in it.

We are more than the romantic men in our lives. And romance is about more than sex. So our books should be too. I am really enjoying the discussions in this series. Thanks for letting me add my two cents and sharing some of my favorites.

A Little Bit of Romance, a guest post by Jennifer Rummel

It’s two days until Valentine’s Day and I’m looking for a great romance book (as always.) I love teen romances and so do my teen patrons. I’m constantly giving out romance book recommendations in the stacks. There are so many great teen romances that it’’s easy to give out a pile of books. It’s even better when they come back asking for more. Here’s just a few of my favorites.

Old Favorites: 

Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

Frustrated with boys Penny Lane starts the Lonely Hearts Club where she swears off dating and boys. At first, her friends think she’s crazy but soon others start joining. What started as a single girls only club soon becomes a sisterhood who studies together, hangs out together, and supports each other. I love the idea of the sisterhood and girls supporting each other. Of course everything changes when a potential romance comes into play.

The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland

Em’s summer has been decided for her, but she jumps at the chance to visit her family in North Carolina for a month. The month changes everything. Instead of having everything planned for her, Em begins to discover her true self. She likes cooking, exploring the island, and learning how to surf. Of course this peaceful summer isn’t complete without a summer romance.

Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen

Macy’s father died. The guilt drives her to become the ultimate daughter. She has the perfect summer plans and they didn’t include working for Wish Catering.  However, Macy feels peace in the chaos surrounding the catering company – peace that almost has nothing to do with a certain co-worker.

Secrets of my Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita

Kaitlin Burke, one of the teen stars of the uber popular show Family Affair, feels exhausted. Since the filming of her show’s currently in hiatus, more than anything Kaitlin wants to normal life. She convinces everyone around her to allow her to attend a local high school under a false identity. It’s her turn to see if people can likeher for herself and not just her celebrity status.

Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer

Gigi, Bea, and Neerja are smart –smart enough to know that their life won’t peak in high school. That doesn’t mean they need to wait until college for their lives to start; they decide to take matters into their own hands. They make a pact and decide to challenge themselves. They’re saying goodbye to a fear of public speaking and their introverted ways. Can these former wallflowers make some high school memories?

New Favorites:
Also Known As by Robin Benway
I love spy books. Maggie wants more than anything to be normal, to put down roots, and to have friends. She’s a world class safecracker and has lived mission to mission with her parents working for the Collective. Now she has her first solo assignment – infiltrate a high school and gain access to a boy’s father. There’s just one problem – he’s a cutie.
Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Taking place during the summer after high school, this falls into the New Adult category, but works as a teen novel too. I love the dual perspectives and how the summer changes how both girls look at the world around them as they’re about to embark on the biggest journey of their lives. EB and Lauren write emails back and forth about their last days of living at home, their parents, their friends, and summer romances.
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
All it takes is one day for Allyson to fall in love with both Willem and Paris. They only have one day to spend together and despite several issues, it ends perfectly. In the morning, Allyson wakes up alone, but forever changed.
Taste Test by Kelly Fiore
Nora joins a reality teen cooking show where pranks, friendship, and maybe love are on the menu. I loved the cooking competitions and the banter between Nora and Christian. Interviews and cooking challenge results mix with the text, making this a fast read.
Unbreak My Heartby Melissa Walker
I love this one because even though there’s a summer romance, a major part of the plot is a love from a broken friendship. Clementine and her family are spending the summer on a boat. While it’s great being away from all the drama, it gives Clem time to think about her actions. Soon she meets James, who’s traveling the same path, and the summer gets a little bit brighter.
Here’s a few coming out this year that I’m looking forward to reading:
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris
17 First Kissesby Rachael Allen
Since Last Summerby Joanna Philbin
My Faire Lady by Laura Wettersten
Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols
Now and Foreverby Susanne Colasanti
Royally Lost by Angie Stanton
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt 
I happen to have an ARC of TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE by Jenny Han.  Leave a comment between now and the end of Valentine’s day (Friday at Midnight) and you’ll be entered to win it.  Tell us your favorite YA Lit Romances.  Be sure to leave a Twitter handle or email so we can get in touch with you if you win.  Open to U.S. residents. Also, if you win the ARC, you have to be willing to write a review of the book here at TLT 🙂
Jennifer Rummel is the YA Librarian at the Otis Library in Conneticut and she blogs at YA BooknerdJennifer blogged about YA romance last year as well, so here are more recs.

Book Review: A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin

Just when you thought Egmont Week was over….. one more review from their fall catalog!

The writing pair behind Notes from the Blender, a great bit of realistic fiction about the complications and joys of becoming, through no effort of your own, part of a blended family during high school, is back for another novel with a shared narration.  Emmy and Justin alternate chapters, detailing the daily grind of life at Heartland Academy, a school and treatment facility for teens who are… well, a really awesome mess.

I really enjoyed Notes from the Blender and the interplay between Cook and Halpin’s voices and perspectives.  The same technique is used here, and though the book is definitely enjoyable, I didn’t feel the same “zing” as in their previous collaboration, perhaps because there’s less humor in the subject matter, and perhaps because both characters need to focus inward so much more because of their situations.

Emmy, adopted as a baby from China by a Caucasian American family (who had a biological child just a few months after the adoption was final) struggles with an eating disorder and her feelings of abandonment and otherness, in addition to her anger over an incident of cyberbullying and sexual harassment at her previous school.  Justin claims he wasn’t really trying to kill himself when he took a bunch of Tylenol, but in combination with some inappropriate sexual behavior, the cry for help was heard loud and clear and he lands in Heartland too.

As Emmy and Justin learn the ins and outs of institutional life and get to know their roommates and groupmates, they begin to let down their guard enough to accept help and friendship when it is offered them.  Each finally admits that they have some issues that they need to work on, and begins to see their life before Heartland in a different way.

The cast of supporting characters is certainly interesting, and as you might expect from a book whose peer group of focus is a therapy group, each has a backstory and complexity that is slowly revealed.  There’s a sideplot regarding a pig, which seemed a little contrived and stretched the walls of believability, but certainly broke this book away from the realm of predictable and lightened the mood significantly, buoying it on toward the happy conclusion.

The promise of hope and healing is strong here.  Put this on your list of books for teens with “issues”, recommend it to those who might like other books about teens struggling with mental health issues but might want something a little lighter.  This book is more about the process of understanding that a problem exists than delving deeply into the complexity of one specific disorder as is done in Wintergirls or Cut.  Keep in mind that though there’s lots of talk of sex, there isn’t actually much physical contact at all between the main characters, whose relationship builds slowly after many fits and starts, and progresses in a really mature way with self-awareness and good sense.

Booklist (July 1, 2013) says, “The bawdy, witty, and sarcastic style balances out the intense therapy discourse and the pensive self-reflection found elsewhere in this irreverent take on mental health, recovery, and wellness.” – Jones, Courtney.

A Really Awesome Mess by Tish Cook and Brendan Halpin.  Published July 23 by Egmont USA.  ISBN: 9781606843642.

More on Body Image and Eating Disorders in YA Lit at TLT
Body Image and Eating Disorders
Top 10 teen titles dealing with body image and eating disorders
The Girl in the Fiberglass Corset; a story about scoliosis and eating disorders
Sex Sells, but what are we selling?
Let’s Hear it for the Boys 
Pop Culture and Body Image Issues for Gay Teens, a guest post 
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: True confessions from a recovering anorexic

Teen Obesity and Body Image:
Every Day by David Levithan, a book review
Butter by Erin Jade Lange, a book review
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, a book review
Skinny by Donna Conner, a review
A Second Opinion: Every Day by David Levithan
10 Titles that deal with Obesity and Body Image (with links to some good articles)
Today is Love Your Body Day
The Effects of Pop Culture on the Body Image of GLBT Teens
Body Image and Weight Loss 
Sex Sells, but what are we selling? Pop culture and body image issues in tweens and teens 
Take a Second Look: Books that encourage teens to look beyond body image 
Abercrombie and Fitch, Brave and Body Image: Part 1 and Part 2   

Love is in the air: teen romance (guest post by Jennifer Rummel)

With love in the air, it’s a great time to settle down with a romance book. I’m a sucker for a great teen romance novel. Since I’m a HUGE Jane Austen fan, it seems natural that my love of her work would transfer into historical romances, especially of the Regency Era.

Some of my teen historical romance favorites include . . .

The Season: Sarah MacLean
Lady Alexandra is set to make her first societal debut, amidst ball gowns , parties, and suitors.  She wants a husband who doesn’t frown upon intelligent women.  She talks about the latest gossip and fashion with her three best friends. Suddenly, her feelings take a turn when she looks deeper at her brother’s friend. He’s mourning the loss of his father. Alex overhears something that might be a clue to the unexpected death.

Ransom My Heart by Princess Mia
I’m cheating a little with this one as it’s technically an adult book, but it’s a cross-over too because it’s by Meg Cabot and mentioned in Forever Princess. I love how the two books blend together. Mia writes this historical romance set in 1291. Finn is the daughter of a miller, whose pregnant sister needs a dowry and fast.  She agrees to kidnap an Earl returning from the Crusades, but she never expected him to be quite so…handsome.

La Petite Four by Regina Scott
Days before she’s set to make her societal debut, Emily’s father tells her that she’s to be married- in eight days. Emily’s disappointed at missing her season with glittery ball gowns and parties at the side of her three best friends. She wants to gossip over fashion, dances, and potential suitors. She’s certain there’s something lurking behind Lord Robert’s desire to marry her. She, along with her three best friends (la petite four), vow not to stop until they uncover his scandal and cancel the wedding! 

Other Eras:

Fantasy Historical Romances:
Alanna by Tamora Pierce
Alanna changes places with her twin brother in order to learn how to become a knight. He’s pretending to be a girl while learning magic. Because of her size, she’s having a rough time, but she’s determined to make it.  The other boys aren’t fond of her. Then she meets the prince. He becomes her friend instantly. As their friendship grows, so does the danger surrounding them. Could there be someone who doesn’t want the prince to live?

Aurelia by Anne Osterlund
Princess Aurelia’s life is in danger. There have been at least three attempts on her life, but her father doesn’t want her to know the truth. Instead, he acquires the help of the royal spy to find the culprit and the mastermind behind these attempts. Robert, the son of the spy, went to school with Aurelia and never stopped thinking about her. There’s no way he can keep this secret from her. The two question people and devise plans to flush out the responsible party. However, they missed one crucial detail – and it could cost them both their lives. 

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle
Persephone and Penelope are set to make the debut into London society when their governess goes missing. As the two 17 year olds dig into her disappearance, they uncover more than just a kidnapping, but a magical plot that could foil Princess Victoria’s reign.

Graceling by Kristen Cashore
Katsa is graced with the ability to fight. She can kill a man with her bare hands, per instructions of her Uncle. As she grows older, she declines to work for him. She meets Po, one of the only men who can challenge her fighting skills. She finds herself drawn to him. He must leave to uncover answers in a deadly plot. She can’t bear the thought him going without her, so she travels with him. Their path is as dangerous as their enemies. Can they survive the journey and face the truth about the threat of the seven kingdoms?

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder (A/YA crossover)
Avry’s a healer, with a price on her head. All healers have been wanted for capture since the plague hit.  Avry lives on the run, moving from city to city. If she stays in one place too long, she inevitably finds a sick child. Unable to help herself, she heals the child.  This time, before she can run, she’s caught.  Avry’s not certain, but the more she learns about the land and the politics, the more scared she becomes for the future. Can she really be the one to save everything?

Jennifer Rummel is the YA Librarian at the Otis Library in Conneticut and she blogs at YA Booknerd.

Book Review: The Goddess Inheritance by Aimee Carter

I struggled to take a breath. She wasn’t listening. She didn’t understand- or maybe she did, and she just didn’t care. “What about my son? He’s Henry’s too, you know. And he’s your grandson. His name’s Milo, and he’s not even a week old. Why does he deserve to be raised by Cronus?”

Rhea said nothing, and I couldn’t stop the flow of words that poured from me now.

“He’ll never know me. He’ll never know his father. He’ll grow up calling the bitch who kidnapped me his mother, the egomaniac who’s killed millions of people his father, and he’ll never know that I’m out here loving him ore in a moment that they could in an eternity. What could he have possibly done to deserve that?”

“Nothing,” said Rhea softly. “Your son has done nothing to deserve it, as the people of this village have done nothing to deserve brutality and starvation.”

Then help him like you’re helping these people,” I pleaded. “Please, I’ll do whatever you want me to do-“
“I want you to leave me in peace,” she said.

“Okay.” I took a shaky breath, and the world spun around me. She wasn’t going to help the council with the war. If she wouldn’t do it for the billions of helpless people in the world, then nothing I could possibly say or do would change her mind. “I’ll go away, I promise. Just-please. Help Henry. At least vie my son a chance to know his father.”

Once again, Rhea was quiet. Her eyes grew distant the same way Cronus’s had in the nursery, and her hands stilled mid-pick. I glanced at James. Was that our cue to go? He shrugged, and together we waited.

“Very well,” she said at last, breaking the silence. “It is done.”

“What’s done?” I said, giving James another bewildered look, but his brow knitted in confusion as well. “Rhea, please-what’s done?”

“Give your mother my love,” she said, touching my shoulder. The pain in my arm from the dagger vanished. “You are strong, Kate. Stronger than you know. You do not need me to have what yo most desire. As long as you resist my husband, you will have it.””It isn’t about what I want,” I said, seconds from bursting. How could she heal me but not help save the people who really needed her? “he’s going to kill everyone, this village included.”

She didn’t respond. Instead she picked a few more blossoms and turned to reenter the clinic. I started to go after her, and James grabbed my wrist with an iron grip.

“Don’t,” he said. Before I could protest, another voice whispered through the garden, hoarse and cracking. But real. So, so real.


My heart hammered, and I spun around, yanking my hand from James’s. Nestled between a gnarled tree and a patch of ferns stood Henry.

The Review:
In the final book of the Goddess Test triology, Kate is yet again faced with tests, but this time may be the breaking point.  Forced to abandon their son to Calliope and Cronus, Kate and Henry are planning for battle with the rest of the council.  Yet Kate has a secret- she has promised Cronus that she would become his queen if he would spare Milo and humanity, while destroying Henry and the rest of her new family. Yet Henry and the rest of the council are firm that they can defeat Cronus, even after he proves that he can destroy millions of lives within minutes.  How can she choose: the end of her family, or the end of the world?

The Goddess Inheritance twists and turns poor Kate in all different directions, testing her in ways that readers couldn’t possibly imagine.  Her baby taken from her right after giving birth and being raised by Calliope and Henry on the brink of death, Kate does the unthinkable and promises herself to Cronus in order to save them both and give the council time.  Yet nothing goes according to plan, and everything seems to be standing in her way.  Plots and traitors twist, what was once clear seems murky, and what she thought she knew about people is not at all what really happened.  There are tons of character development within the rest of the council throughout the book, and readers get to see sides of James, Ava and the others that reflect them in many different pools of light.  Twists at the end will break series readers hearts.  3 out of 5 stars. 

The Goddess Inheritance will be released on February 26, 2013 according to Barnes and Noble.  To keep track of it’s rating on Goodreads, click here.

I really wanted to love this book- I loved the cliffhanger at the end of Goddess Interrupted, and was primed to fall into this one.  The prologue was perfect, and the first part was wonderful.  And then, I realized that I’m missing Kate. Kate in The Goddess Test was not only compassionate and empathetic, but she was smart, and tough, and was going to do things no matter what.  It took almost the entire book of The Goddess Inheritance to get that Kate back, and I realized while reading that I miss that Kate.  Yes, she has to make an impossible choice (and yes, that’s a huge theme in the Greek mythos): her son and humanity, or Henry and her family. And yes, she’s just had Milo and Henry is in a death-coma, but I’m thinking that would make you fight more, not just weep.  I (my personal feelings, not professional reviewer feelings) wanted her to get her act together sooner.

I really enjoyed the development of Ava and James in this book, and the death of one of the main characters at the end is heart-wrenching.  It does leave open the option for more within the series (spin-offs maybe), so that’s something to be considered.  Definitely a worthwhile read.

Also something to think about is whether or not this would fit within the older YA/New Adult boundaries.  A lot of the questions/themes within this book are what would sacrifice for your child/husband/family, and that seems to fall more in an older teen viewpoint than most YA books you encounter.

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Listen to Your Hearts

Conversation hearts: that chalky sweet reminder of Valentine’s Day that lingers (in your molars) long after the chocolate has melted away. Their phrases are by turns charming and mystifying, but we love them just the same. So much so, that it’s time we do a little Reader’s Advisory love match for these desperately seeking sweets. Here, I do my best to match the title to the treat.

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
The last night of school, Lucy is determined to meet Shadow, the graffiti artist and underground celebrity in her town who she is sure would be her soul mate. Ed, a guy with whom Lucy had a disastrous first (and last) date with knows where he is. All night they hang out, bond over art and poetry and life, looking for what is already there.
Graffiti Moon
Au Revoir Crazy European Chick / Perry’s Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber
You know that person you just can’t give up, even though you know it’s totally not in your best interest? Yeah, Gobi is that person for Perry. You don’t need to read the first before the second, but it’ll help, it’s a page turner, and it’s a heckuvalot of fun. This pair asks the question: exactly how many times can love overcome death?
BEMYBABY Hooked by Catherine Greenman
When New York teens Thea and Will meet at their prestigious high school, settling down with a baby is the last thing on their minds. They’re so in love… but when baby makes three, things are bound to change.
pic name Belonging by Karen Ann Hopkins
In this forthcoming sequel from Harlequin Teen, Amish Noah and “English” Rose have met and fallen in love. Now Rose has decided to uproot her modern life and become Amish so she can be with Noah. Her father expects she won’t last, but Rose is determined that this will be forever. What she finds within her new community and within herself is surprising in many ways.
pic name
pic name After Hello by Lisa Magnum
Like a scene in a movie, Sarah snaps a photo of Sam finding a book at the beginning of her one and only day in New York City, and the two strike up an adorably flirtatious friendship as Sam trades one thing for another in hopes of finding exactly what his hotheaded celebrity employer wants and Sarah discovers a world of possibilities.
pic name
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Both Aristotle and Dante are just completely solid guys. The kind of guys you want in your life, the kind of guys you’re lucky to meet and hope to hold on to for a while. As their friendship grows and develops into something more, the two discover that they are, indeed, lucky to have one another.
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Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
She’s a brilliant piano prodigy. He’s a troubled student with an artistic flair. She’s headed on a European tour. He’s from Argentina. She’s missing. And he is… well, I’ll let you figure that one out. This is a beautiful book, and a compelling love story told almost exclusively through photographs.
The Difference Between You and Me by Madeline George
What could be more romantic than finding love and lust in the library bathroom? Well, probably lots of things, but when Jesse and Emily sneak off together to make out each week, those kisses make it all seem just about perfect… until the girls find themselves on opposite sides of a community conflict.
Going Vintage by Lindsay Leavitt
When you find that your boyfriend is cheating on you with a cyber wife, there is only one thing you can do – swear off all technology and return to a time where life was simpler. That’s right, Mallory is Going Vintage. Back to 1962, to be exact, to complete her grandmother’s unfinished to-do list from Junior year.
The Immortal Rulesby Julie Kagawa
Oh come on, we had to have at least ONE vampire book on here, right? Well this is a good one. Allie lives on the outskirts, trying to stay hidden, in a future society ruled by much reviled vampires. But when she makes the decision to let a vampire turn her instead of dying, her secrecy takes a new direction. This first in a promising and much anticipated series has both action and romance that both build slowly, forcefully, and very darkly.

Want to make your own hearts? I used this brilliantly simple site and you can too!
Want to build on this and host a conversation heart fest? Here are Fourteen Conversation Heart Crafts, and you can always just see who can stack them the highest too.

Happy Valentine’s Day, from everyone here at the Teen Librarian Toolbox!


Book Review: The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

“I didn’t agree to any tests.” I paused. “What happens if I pass?”
He stared at his hands. “You will become one of us.”
“Us? Dead, you mean?
“No, that is not what I mean. Think – you know the myth, do you not? Who was Persephone? What was she?”
Fear stabbed at me, cutting me from the inside. If what he claimed was true, then he’d kidnapped Persephone and forced her to marry him, and no matter what he said, I couldn’t help but wonder if he would try to do the same to me. But the rational part of me couldn’t look past the obvious. “You really think you’re a god? You know that sounds crazy, right?”
“I am aware of how it must sound to you,” said Henry. “I have done this before, after all. But yes, I am a god – an immortal, if you will. A physical representation of an aspect of this world, and as long as it exists, so will I. If you pass, that is what you will become as well.”
Feeling dizzy, I stood as quickly as I could while still in those damned heels. “Listen, Henry, this all sounds great and everything, but what you’re telling me is from a myth that people made up thousands of years ago. Persephone never existed, and even if she did, she wasn’t a god, because there’s no such thing-“
“How do you wish for me to prove it?” He stood with me.
“I don’t know,” I said, faltering. “Do something godlike?”
“I thought I already had.” The fire in his eyes didn’t fade. “There may be things I will not – cannot – tell you, but I am not a liar, and I will never mislead you.”
I shrank back from the intensity of his voice. He really did believe what he was saying. “It’s impossible,” I said softly. “Isn’t it?”
“But it is happening, so maybe it is time for you to reevaluate what is possible and what is not.”
I thought about kicking off my heels, heading down the path to the front gate, and leaving, but the thought of my dream with my mother stopped me. As the part of me that wanted to stay for her overruled my skepticism, the temperature dipped twenty degrees, and I shivered.
I froze, my feet glued to the ground. I knew that voice, and after yesterday, I’d never expected to hear it again.
“Anything is possible if you give it a chance,” said Henry, focusing on something over my shoulder. I whirled around.
Not ten feet away from us stood Ava.

The Review: Kate and her mom have always been together, and when her mom’s dying wish is to return to the town of Eden, Kate makes it happen, leaving behind her friends and the life that she knew.  And she’s not eager to make new ones- especially when it’s a choice between being social and spending the last moments with her mom.  When Henry offers Kate a chance to extend her mother’s life, Kate grasps at the chance- and finds out that the Greek pantheon isn’t found just in the history books after all.  Henry is the Ruler of the Underworld, and Kate enters into a twisted bargain: move to his estate, attempt the tests of the council, and if she passes, become his bride and co-ruler of the Underworld. However, someone is working against Kate; can the traitor be found before it’s too late?

Aimee Carter’s The Goddess Test is an interesting updating of the Greek myths.  Kate, created to be perhaps the last possible mate for Henry (who is the modern day Hades), learns that the bargain she strikes for delaying her mother’s death is a tricky one: she must live at the estate, and pass the seven tests of the council in order to become Henry’s bride and co-ruler of the Underworld, and then be in the underworld like Persephone was, six months out of the year.  If she succeeds, she will have time to say goodbye to her mom, who has been dying of cancer; if she fails, she will be returned to the normal realm with no memory of her time at the estate.  Yet, no one mentioned til after she agreed that there have been 11 other candidates, and all have died in one way or another, and that if Kate fails, Henry will fade to nothing and one of his brothers will take his place.  Twists upon twists ensue, with enough romance to make readers’ hearts skip beats.  Trying to figure out which character is what god in the pantheon without skipping to the key in the back is a fun twist as well.  3.5 out of 5 stars.  Goodreads currently has The Goddess Test as 3.9 stars as of February 11, 2013.

The Goddess Test was a really fast read for me, and a very entertaining one as well.  I liked the way Kate was standing up for herself from the very beginning, and how she wouldn’t back down to anyone.  Her rescue of Ava despite her fears was something that showed her uniqueness, and that plays out throughout the book.  I also liked that she wasn’t into the fancy dresses and make-up, that she was always herself, no matter what.  It made Kate seem more believable that way.  And the fact that she wanted time to say goodbye to her mother made everything more poignant.

I caught on early that every named character was part of the pantheon, but I didn’t cheat and look at the chart in the back until the end.  I figured out Ava pretty quickly, as well as Kate’s mother, but didn’t figure out Ella and Theo until it was mentioned they were twins- that clicked but whether it was from astrology or Battlestar Galactica references I’m not sure.  I didn’t figure out any of the other pantheon, and really am not sure I would have if not for the key- I’ll have to go back through and see if there were subtle clues I missed.  I admit I’m not strong on my mythology, so it could be semi-obvious and I wouldn’t pick up on it.  They were fun twists, and an interesting premise, although those who are serious about their mythology may not be be impressed.  

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Book Review: Hooked by Liz Fichera

Hooked by Liz Fichera ISBN: 9780373210725

Seth leaned closer when I didn’t answer him. He lowered his voice. “Then let me say something.” He jabbed his forefinger at me, “First, don’t lie. I am not a tool. I know why you flaked out Saturday night. I saw you.” It was as if he’d prepared for this. “I saw what you did.”

I glared at him.
A glint of satisfaction settled on his face. “We both did.”
“Who?” I blurted. But then I remembered the truck, the one that had peeled away in the dark.
“Gwyneth. We followed your ass to Pecos.”
“You followed me?” My voice rose is disbelief.

Seth began to stutter. I hadn’t heard him do that in years either. It only happened when he got really pissed. “And, s-s-s-second…” He stopped and drew in a breath to steady his speech. “Do you realize that you’re screwing your life by hanging out with that Indian?”

My body froze. “Shut. Up. Seth,” I said through clenched teeth. “Just shut up.” By now, half of Homeroom was listening, or trying to. Fortunately, the overhead speakers were turned up pretty loud.
“What do you have in common with her, anyway? Have you thought about that? And have you forgotten that she’s the reason I’m off the g-g-golf team?” Seth began to stutter again. I knew that he also was itching to remind me how his dad had been killed, but thankfully, he left that unspoken.
“You know the only reason you’re interested in her is because it’ll piss off your dad. Admit it.” Seth’s eyes grew dangerously dark, daring a contradiction.

My breathing got louder as I drew it between my teeth, glaring back at Seth.
Seth lowered his voice. “Are you going to start hanging out on the reservation now, going to powwows and shit? Have you gone totally lame?”

The Review:

When Fred Oday gets the chance to start on the boys’ varsity golf team, she knows that it won’t be easy. She’s a girl, she lives on the Reservation, and she can barely afford the clothes, let alone the fancy clubs the other guys have. The chance on the team could lead to a scholarship to college, however, which is the only way out of her otherwise dead-end future. 

Ryan Berenger cannot understand how the coach has lost his mind- letting a girl take a spot on the varsity team, without a try-out? And now Coach expects him to be her partner?  Never mind that she has a good (well, awesome) game, it’s going to be impossible, not only on the green but also in school as well.
Liz Fichera’s Hooked is much deeper than a star-crossed love story.  High-schoolers Fred and Ryan go to the same school, and are in same classes, but are never in the same circles until the golf coach discovers Fred’s natural talent at golf, and convinces her that scholarships and college await if she joins the varsity team.  However, Fred knows going in that it will be a challenge:  taking someone’s spot, being female, and being from the Gila River Indian Reservation are all strikes against her. It’s the themes of bigotry and racism that make Hooked stand out from others.  From the start, Fred is called all sorts of racist names, and the economic differences between Fred and Ryan stand out starkly.  Unlike a lot of recent female characters, though, Fred never strikes back at her tormentors, which could possibly be a result of her abusive home life.  This is also a very realistic portrait of a shy sixteen year old girl.  Readers will get engaged in Fred and Ryan’s stories, realize that not everything is perfect in either world, and wish that they will find happiness with each other.  This definitely could be paired with books like Dairy Queen or Shut Out for the sports aspects, or Perfect Chemistry or Boy Meets Boy for romance. 3 out of 5 stars.  (Rated 3.67 out of 5 stars on Goodreads as of February 10, 2013- please be aware Christie is a hard grader.)
I really liked Hooked, and enjoyed the look at golf as a high school sport.  I liked the fact that Fichera took the time to show that no one’s families were perfect- while we knew from the start that Fred’s was a little screwed up, as readers we learned pretty quickly that Ryan’s picture perfect family was as fractured as a dropped water glass.  I also enjoyed the accurate depiction Fichera painted of the Gila River Indian Reservation- we’re always lacking POC in teen fiction, and to have it brought to the forefront is refreshing.  
I thought that Fred’s reactions to the racism and bullying that she received throughout school and the team to be quite on point for a contemporary teen.  I know that we, as teen services librarians, and me personally, always want to see strong female role models, but Fred reacted exactly how a teen would react- she wouldn’t bring it up to anyone because to bring it up would make it worse, especially to a coach who lectured for a good portion the first day on how they were lucky to have a girl on the team.  There were no adults that could make her situation better, and by standing up in her own way (not quitting the team, not giving in) she was making her stand against the bullies.  And she was being a role model for those to follow after.
Ryan I had less sympathies for, and was glad that he finally got his act together near the end of the book- I could wish that he would have stood up to his friends sooner, but again, this is completely normal for a high school boy trying to figure out where he stands. 

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But is it love? Romance in YA Lit (guest post by Jennifer R. Hubbard)

When writing romantic story lines, I like to differentiate between the various shades of infatuation, obsession, lust, and love. It’s easy to mistake one for another, and it can be especially confusing for people who are dealing with these emotions for the first time. Also, human emotions are not always purely one thing or another, but can be mixtures.

I think of obsession and infatuation as intense, often fleeting, fascinations with an idealized version of another person. This fills a need in the infatuated person, and if the infatuation is mutual, the attraction can burn white-hot. But as illusions crumble and the real people involved fail to live up to their idealized images, the infatuation gives way to something more genuine—whether it’s dislike, indifference, friendship, or a longer-lasting love. 
Lust, which is physical attraction, often confuses people. Many have grappled with attractions to people they don’t even like, or have begun a physical relationship to discover, at some point, that the relationship has nothing else to sustain it. 
Love, on the other hand, is the whole ball of wax. It’s attraction, affection, and connection. It tends to be more reality-based than infatuation: flaws in the other person are acknowledged and accepted. The partners support one another and value each other’s strengths. Another aspect of love is that it enriches each partner: while love can involve some sacrifice, neither partner has to tolerate abuse nor a diminishment of self in order to sustain the relationship.

He loves me, he loves me not?
Any of these kinds of relationships can be the basis for a good story. I think of Wuthering Heightsas a classic obsession/infatuation story: Heathcliff and Cathy are miserable, selfish, and jealous, tormenting one another into the grave (and, arguably, beyond). Pride and Prejudice is more of a love story, with Darcy and Elizabeth finding that their attraction to each other’s finer qualities can overcome negative first impressions.
Some interesting explorations of the whole romantic spectrum appear in recent YA literature. Here’s just a sampling: The Stalker Chronicles, by Carley Moore (a girl confronts her own tendency for her crushes to go way overboard); Flash Burnout, by L.K. Madigan (a boy’s loyalties are divided between his girlfriend and a girl who’s a friend); But I Love Him, by Amanda Grace (girl struggles with an abusive relationship); David Inside Out, by Lee Bantle (dishonesty destroys relationships); I Heart You, You Haunt Me, by Lisa Schroeder (girl grieves her boyfriend’s death); Good Girls, by Laura Ruby (overwhelming physical attraction proves difficult to handle); Nothing Like You, by Lauren Strasnick (girl seeks physical relationship for comfort); and Struts & Frets, by Jon Skovron (friends become more). The love interests in Willow, by Julia Hoban; Shrinking Violet, by Danielle Joseph; and Some Girls Are, by Courtney Summers, are especially appealing.
In the reader guide to my own first novel, The Secret Year, I include this question: “Is this a love story?” It has led to some great discussion at the book clubs I’ve visited. It’s a question that can be applied to many texts—and even to our own lives.
 Jennifer R. Hubbard is the author of YA novels The Secret Year (After his secret girlfriend’s death, 17-year-old Colt finds the notebook she left behind, but he is unprepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship) and Try Not to Breathe (After his suicide attempt, 16-year-old Ryan struggles with guilty secrets and befriends a girl who’s visiting psychics to try to reach her dead father). The Secret Year was on YALSA’s 2011 Quick Picks list; Try Not to Breathe has been nominated for the 2013 YALSA BFYA list.
Twitter: @JennRHubbard
blog: http://jenniferrhubbard.blogspot.com/

What are your favorite ya love stories? Tell us in the comments.