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YA A to Z: Stephanie Perkins

Guest post by Mary Hinson

“I know you aren’t perfect. But it’s a person’s imperfections that make them perfect for someone else.” – Lola and the Boy Next Door

I’m visiting Teen Librarian Toolbox today (oh, my gosh, I just realized I’m an ACTUAL teen librarian now!) to talk to you about Stephanie Perkins, writer of swoony romance and all around awesome person.

I discovered Stephanie in 2012. I was in college and having a rough time outside of the classroom, which affected my performance in the classroom. I had been diagnosed with severe depression, and my only solace some days was the joy I got in visiting the local library (not the university library, which I actively avoided). Everyone on Goodreads had been talking about this Anna and the French Kiss book so I made sure to go find it at the library.

French Kiss tells the story of high school senior Anna who is shipped across the Atlantic and dropped into a super-exclusive boarding school for the children of various VIPs: politicians, the rich and famous, and, in Anna’s case, her best-selling Nicholas Sparks-esque author father. Anna’s story is sweet, fun, and utterly relatable, being at times simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming. Anna’s intense loneliness was a feeling I could understand entirely at that point in my life, and the hope I felt as Anna made friends and inched her way toward an adorable romance with Etienne St. Clair–a boy with a spectacular national identity crisis–made me hope for a happy ending of my own. As a tall girl, I like tall boys, but in vertically-challenged St. Clair’s case, I would absolutely make an exception because he is a charmer! Stephanie manages to incorporate so many facets of the teenage experience in her delightful debut: crushes, new friends vs old friends, mean girls, Parent Problems, and the changes created by both distance and time. There’s a lot going on, but it feels so true to the story that you never feel overwhelmed in reading Anna; instead, I guarantee there will be at least one thing that you will directly relate to.

“I don’t understand why things always go from perfect to weird with us. It’s like we’re incapable of normal human interaction.” – Anna and the French Kiss

Immediately after I finished Anna, I requested a copy of Lola and the Boy Next Door. This companion tale (yes, it’s not a direct sequel, although Anna and St. Clair make an appearance or two!) recounts the adventures of Lola, a vivacious San Francisco girl with a passion for costuming and some serious drama with Cricket, the boy next door who moved away but comes back. Even though I enjoyed Boy Next Door, I had a harder time relating to Lola and her world during my initial read. I’ve never been a teenage girl caught between my twenty-something-year-old boyfriend and my childhood crush. I’m not all that quirky or whimsical. However, when I listened to Lola on audio earlier this year, I suddenly LOVED the story. Somehow I had missed out on its beauty the first time around.

But let’s go back to 2012. I loved Anna, and I liked Lola so when I heard there was a third book in the works, I was READY. Stephanie kept teasing about this mystery book three, but there was very little information. Finally, in 2013, this blog post popped up on Stephanie’s website. My heart broke for Stephanie as she recounted her struggles with depression, but I also felt a sense of camaraderie with Stephanie because of my own depression. I really just wanted to give her a hug and say, “it’s okay!” because I had been there. Some days, I’m still there. But Stephanie’s books and her brave admission of her struggles really helped me through that time.

“Do adults realize how lucky they are? Or do they forget that these small moments are actually small miracles? I don’t want to ever forget.” – Isla and the Happily Ever After

I am really glad that in 2014 not only did we get TWO Stephanie Perkins novels–the long-awaited Isla and the Happily Ever After and My True Love Gave to Me, a lovely anthology full of holiday short stories written by ya heavyweights and edited by Stephanie–but I have also had the immense pleasure of meeting her three times. I can tell you that Stephanie is one of the kindest and sweetest people I have ever met, author or no. Also, to hear her talk about her husband Jarrod–on whom St. Clair, Cricket, and Josh are all modeled in one way or another–is the most darling experience. Save Will and Kate, I don’t know of another real couple that I ship so hard…unless it’s Stephanie and Kiersten, the bestest author besties of all time.

I just want to end by saying if you have not yet read Stephanie’s books, I highly recommend you do so, even if contemporary romance isn’t your favorite genre. Trust me; these books will make you ridiculously happy. Also, what’s next on Stephanie’s plate? A YA slasher. Because why not?

Meet Our Guest Blogger: Mary Hinson

Mary is a ya book blogger at Mary Had a Little Book Blog and a new teen services librarian at the Irving Public Library. When not reading or fighting Dallas traffic, Mary can be found at Half Price Books, usually with Karen and her kids (who adore her).