Monday, March 26, 2012

Lola and the Boy Next Door (Stephanie Perkins)

Title: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penquin)
Length: 338 pages
Rating: 3.5/5

Lola is a budding fashion designer who never wears the same outfit twice. She’s a dutiful daughter with a hot rocker boyfriend, and her biggest concern is that her two gay dads don’t approve of him. Then the Bell twins move back in next door: perfect figure skating champ Calliope, and tall, inventive genius Cricket. With them they bring the baggage of the past and flip Lola’s life upside down.

I didn’t like Lola and the Boy Next Door as much as I loved Anna and the French Kiss. However, I did love that Anna and St. Clair were characters in this novel. Age is a big factor in the plot because of the how much older Lola’s boyfriend is, but I found it harder to connect to such a  character who is emphasized as being younger. Lola is only 16, and kudos to the writing for making her 22 year old rocker boyfriend (who is still younger than me) still seem like such an older guy. Cricket of course, is just a little older than Lola, but can she forgive him for the past?

Stephanie Perkins likes to write romances from an inner conflict point of view. Lola must decide which boy is “the one” when she feels that she loves both. At the same time, she must figure out who she is, with or without all her outfits. It all boils down to: who is the real Lola, and who does she belong with? (classic YA finding who you are)

There were some cute moments- I loved that Lola had two dads, and who doesn’t want a cute boy who loves them living right across from their window? (Taylor Swift anyone?)

I’ll leave you with this quote: “it’s a person’s imperfections that make them perfect for someone else.” Adorable.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Saving Juliet (Suzanne Selfors)

Title: Saving Juliet
Author: Suzanne Selfors
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Length: 256 pages
Rating: 2.5/5

Mimi Wallingford, of the famous Broadway Wallingfords, lives and breathes theatre, and is the star of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Scratch that. Mimi hates the theatre, but has no other choice than to act, forced by her mother as she tries to keep the Wallingford theatre afloat. And teen-heartthrob Troy Summers is the real star of the show, or at least the real money-maker. Cue from stage-left some magical ashes, and Mimi and Troy are transported into Verona, Italy, where they meet Romeo and Juliet, characters who are even more unhappy than their actors. Can Mimi write a happy ending to the greatest tragedy?

This was a cute PG romance and typical YA coming of age story. Maybe a little predictable or cliché, but great for younger readers and Shakespeare aficionados. I’m a bit of a Shakespeare buff myself, and loved all the quotes and characters coming to life.

I also liked that Mimi, as narrator, talked directly to the reader. “You won’t believe this story, but this is what happened to me…” was a good way to handle Mimi’s transportation into another world. This also provides perspective on the situation, and less time is spent with the main character trying to cope with the premise of the book (you all know this is a pet-peeve of mine).

Overall, a cute story for younger readers. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor)

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Length: 418 pages
Rating: 5/5

In the human world of Prague, Karou is a talented art student with bright blue hair who creates fantastical drawings of monsters and storylines to go with them. She’ll tell you with a quirky smile that they’re real, and you won’t believe her. But the monsters are real, and they’re her only family. When scorched hand prints start appearing on doors all over the world, Karou is drawn into a brutal other-worldy war. Who is Karou, and what side is she on?

Everything about this novel is utterly gorgeous. The European setting, the characters- from chimera made of different animal body parts to winged angels- and especially, the writing. Beautifully crafted from the first sentence, I occasionally got lost in the words, but was scared to get too lost in Karou’s world, where there is no exact line between good and evil, and dangerous beings spilled from another world, pulling Karou into their battles.  

Karou, more than anything, desires is to know who she is. She feels like part of her is missing. The story is artfully constructed backwards, so that all is revealed as Karou discovers it- much like a mystery. One must read at least two-thirds of the book before the significance of the title and cover alone are revealed. Even though Karou and the reader don’t know who she is, we still love her. She’s smart, tough, funny, and flawed because nothing of the other world has been explained to her.

I WANT MORE (yes there will be a sequel). By far the best book I’ve read yet this year, and would have definitely been included in the Top Books of 2011 had I read it in time. Seriously, treat yourself and go read this book. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Delirium (Lauren Oliver)

Title: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 441 pages
Rating: 4/5

In a futuristic United States, deliria is a disease. At age 18, everyone is given the cure and lives their life free from the fear of love. Lena counts down the days until she’ll be safe from love and can overcome the shame of her mother killing herself because of love. But love turns out to be more deadly than Lena ever imagined, both when you have it and when you don’t.

I expected a lot out of this book and it produced. Heart-wrenching in so many ways, this book will make you take another look at the value of your life and the people you love. My eyes refused to stay on the page and kept jumping ahead to see what would happen next.

Another YA dystopian journey of self-discovery, the narrative was somewhat predictable, but in all the right ways. Lena must learn who she is, not just who society says she is, and she does this through changing personal relationships with her best friend Hana, and the boy who changes everything when he enters her life, Alex.

I love that Lena is as ordinary as they come, but someone sees something special in her, and it changes everything. A great read if you’re looking for romance, dystopia, and maybe even a little self and societal reflection. It's sequel, Pandemonium, just came out and I can't fathom why I haven't read it yet...please excuse me while I go do that.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins)

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penquin)
Length: 372 pages
Rating: 4.5/5

Anna is shipped off to a Parisian boarding school for her senior year, far away from her hometown of Atlanta, where her crush who was just on the verge of becoming more still resides. Anna is not thrilled. She doesn’t even know French! But then she meets Etienne St. Clair: handsome, funny, and with a British accent, he’s hard to resist. Unfortunately, he’s already got a girlfriend. Misunderstandings occur, friendships are tested and many films in French theatres are viewed. Can Anna find love in a city known most for its romance?

This book started off like “eh” and ended like “WOAH.” The premise of Anna being shipped off seemed a little flimsy at first: her dad is an awful yet famous writer who wants to seem cultured, so he ships his eldest daughter to boarding school in France. Who does this?

But after this, I found myself really relating to Anna and her situation. Anyone who has experienced being on their own for the first time (whether it be college, studying abroad or hey, attending boarding school) can relate to Anna as she struggles to fit in with a new style of living and a new culture. Anyone who will eventually do these things can gain a lot of insight from how Anna deals with living away from home- Stephanie Perkins nails it perfectly. There’s the drama that comes from living with your friends, the anxiety of not knowing how to behave in another culture/new situation, and even the struggles of returning home a changed person for breaks.

Anna is a great strong, contemporary female lead who doesn’t just sit around waiting longingly for a boy she can’t have. She discovers her own agency, and uses it not to manipulate boys, but to explore Paris. While at first the novel seems just about the romance, there is some wonderful character growth, and who doesn’t like the scenery of Paris as a backdrop? I also appreciated that both Anna and Etienne are good-looking in unconventional ways. A tribute to Stephanie’s writing that I liked Etienne even though he was short (I once decided Daniel Radcliff and I couldn’t date because he is shorter than me).

If you want a contemporary romance that’s more than just fluff, Anna and the French Kiss is a great read. (Special thanks to my cousin for loaning me this book!)