Tag Archives: YA romance

I Hated This Book Review: We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

we'll always have summer

We’ll Always Have Summer, Jenny Han

I felt slightly nauseous after finishing this. The Summer Series is a trilogy of bestselling young adult contemporary romances from Jenny Han, and this is the finale. I enjoyed though was irritated by the first, skimmed through the second, and then hit THIS.

The thought of thousands of impressionable teenage girls gulping this up makes me see RED. It’s romantically bankrupt, a novel that’s downright destructive in how it portrays romantic relationships, what girls should look for, and what constitutes healthy behaviour or interactions. It flies wildly in the face of every bit of hard-won knowledge we’ve gained about what makes marriages and relationships work and last, and as such, it’s INFURIATING.

Because it is a book about marriage. It ends with one.

It also tells you to be with the boy who makes your heart flutter, even if he has blown hot and cold with you your entire life, even if after dating you for a very brief span he dumps you, even if every single one of your friends and family are united in saying how badly he’s treated you. Marry HIM because you feel a gravitational pull and fascination with him and you just can’t quite get over it.

Oh, and break up with the funny, kind guy (his brother) whom you genuinely fell deeply in love with, dated for two years, and agreed to marry, the boy you work seamlessly with as a team, laugh with, and enjoy doing everything from ordering food to running errands to apartment-hunting with, and have a giant amount of tenderness and affection for. yeah, forget HIM. What terrible life-partner material. AWFUL.

Never read this. I’d gladly ban it from the hands of all and sundry teen girls because with its compelling prose it will tell them the opposite of reality re: romantic relationships.

Pop Culture Love Letter: Books, Kdramas, and more I’m Excited for in 2015

books kdrama paper towns collage

Books

  • Queen of Fire, Anthony Ryan (Raven’s Shadow trilogy)- July 2015
  • Doors of Stone, Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles) – 2015
  • Brown-Eyed Girl (Travis Family #4), Lisa Kleypas. Kleypas is one of the reigning queens of American chick lit, and her Travis Family series is her best: lightning-quick plots, a depth of character development and emotional complexity that’s rare in the genre, and giddy romance. I generally engulf these in one sitting and cannot wait for this next one
  • Vanishing Girls, Lauren Oliver – March 2015 – Oliver writes incisive, heady YA romance and sci fi, this should be another engrossing read
  • God Help the Child Toni Morrison- April 2015 – A mother learns about the damage adults do to children and the choices children make as they grow up to suppress, express, or overcome their shame.
  • The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro- Set in Arthurian England, Ishiguro’s first novel since Never Let Me Go follows an elderly, ailing couple making a journey to their son’s village.

Music

  • Wilder Mind, Mumford and Sons’ third album, dropping May 4th

Kdrama

  • Jeju Island Gatsby. The Hong sisters, who write some of the most addicting, funny, character-driven dramas of the past ten years and are pretty much the reigning queens of dramaland as far as fandom, have another drama out in May 2015. We don’t know cast or plot yet but we do know they’re pairing up with production director Park Hong-kyun, who worked with them on my favorite of their dramas, Best Love
  • Falling for Innocence – a drama with Kim So Yeon and Jung Kyung Ho? I am on this like a rabbit to carrots. Jung Kyung Ho is an investor looking for revenge against his uncle, who took over the family company and caused the death of his father when he was a boy. Kim So Yeon is the woman he falls in love with (there’s also apparently some nonsense about him getting a heart transplant and his new heart “remembering” Kim So Yeon’s character)

Film

  • Insurgent – March
  • Fast and Furious 7 – April 3
  • Far From the Madding Crowd – May 1
  • Age of Ultron – May 1

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Book Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door

lola and the boy next door reviewLola and the Boy Next Door is the second book in Stephanie Perkin’s loosely-linked young adult trilogy (Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Isla and the Happily Ever After)… it was good stuff, y’all. In fact, dare I say I liked it much better than Anna and the French Kiss? Lola is significantly more grounded than Anna, not emotionally, but just as far as personality and life situation – I had trouble fully identifying with both Anna and Etienne in French Kiss because their lives were so thoroughly privileged. Yes, they both had family troubles which made them more sympathetic, but I’ve never been a drop-dead gorgeous teenager who gets to attend boarding school in France, and I suspect most of the rest of us haven’t either. It was all just a little too much, a little too surreal and fairy-tale-like.

All of which is to say – Lola is much more identifiable – her family’s middle-class, she works a very average job at a movie theater, she’s pretty but not absolutely stunning, and she lives in San Francisco. (Side note: San Francisco as a setting was a delight, as I visit often and love that city. It’s under-utilized as a setting for American books).

Lola Nolan lives with her parents (two married men) in the Castro district in San Francisco, in a delightful if small house passed down by her grandmother. She has a smart, driven best friend and a steady boyfriend in the form of tattooed punk-rocker Max. Life for her is pretty good…until some old neighbors move back in and her life turns upside down. Calliope Bell was Lola’s best friend until she started becoming a star ice skater and dropped Lola for not being cool enough. Calliope’s twin brother Cricket, meanwhile, the soft-spoken, awkward foil to his sister’s shining light, was Lola’s first love. Their relationship ended abruptly (and, traumatically for Lola) almost before it began however, and Lola hasn’t seen either of the Bell twins for years.

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Book Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass

theeliteReading the Selection series is akin to watching Pretty Little Liars: you don’t know why you’re doing it, but somehow you can’t stop. The Elite is a very silly novel that replicates all the same weaknesses and limitations of the first novel, and yet is oddly entertaining despite that, mostly because there are bits of good romance.

America Singer lives in a future America dominated by a caste system. The government is not particularly oppressive, but the caste system is fixed, with every individual being born into a caste. Eights are the bottom, and do service work that no-one else wants to do; they are poor and often hungry. Ones are at the top, the wealthy, elite, and royalty. America is born into the creative caste, Five: musicians, singers, and entertainers. When her name is randomly chosen as one of 35 potential brides for the crown prince, she is ferried off the capital and a new life of glittering ballgowns and competing for the heart of the prince. 

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Book Review: The Selection

selection cvr

The Selection, Kiera Cass.

America Singer lives in a futuristic America in which, after a series of World Wars, society has been restructured as a class system. There are eight castes who each perform different duties. America is a 5, the artistic case, who earn their money by performing during national holidays and for the wealthier families. Intermarriage between castes is highly frowned upon and America’s mother hopes that she will raise their status and support them financially by marrying into a caste above her. America, however, has been in love with Aspen, the son of a family friend and a caste below her, for her entire life.

The country is governed by a regency and the state announces that it’s time for The Selection, an event in which 35 girls are chosen from a lottery and one of them selected by the Crown Prince to be his bride. America reluctantly enters the drawing at the pushing of her mother, and is shocked when she is chosen. Soon, she and 34 other girls are swept into the palace to live a life of luxury while getting to know the Prince.

This is a light and immensely readable book – I read it in two sittings flat. America is an immediately engaging heroine, mostly the story is told in first person and Kiera Cass makes America spunky and blunt but with believable fragilities and small selfishnesses that make her human. Oddly, however, it’s the first half of the book that’s the strongest – America, her relationships with the various members of her family, and her relationship with Aspen are all well-developed. The romance that develops in the second half, though….there’s exactly enough good romance in this book to make one compelling relationship, not too.

Cass attempts to set up a love triangle between America, Aspen, and Prince Maxon, and several of the scenes with Aspen and Maxom, respectively, are very compelling – but wholistically Aspen and Maxon each feel like half of a fully-rounded character. Aspen is too simple to be completely interesting – the two main drives of his life appear to be to survive and to be with America if he can, and he doesn’t have the complexity to grapple with the changes in America while she lives at the palace, or the broader social and political forces in the country. While Maxon adheres too closely to that “white prince/knight in shining armor” pattern – he’s painfully nice, formal, and innocent for much of the novel. Both male leads would have been more interesting if they had more bite to them, a little more of a rough edge.

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All Rainbow Rowell Up in Here

XTINEMay aka Christine, one of the most popular book vloggers on Youtube, has a hilarious and spot-on discussion of Attachments, Rainbow Rowell’s first (and my least favorite of her books).

Speaking of Rainbow Rowell….I am very late with this but she’s writing a graphic novel!!!!

Book Review: Fire (Graceling Realm #2)

firekristincashorereviewThe library didn’t have #1 in the Graceling series, but as I heard they’re only very loosely linked, I went ahead with #2.

I enjoyed this immensely. The world-building is fairly similar to George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and many other fantasy novels of the like, in that it’s built mostly on a medieval world of lords, ladies, courts, and stone castles, (and winter. is there some kind of rule that 70% of fantasy novels take place in winter?). Fire is the only human monster left in the world populated by humans and animal monsters. Unlike the animal monsters, she is intelligent, and she has essentially a human form, but she’s also gifted (or cursed) with two un-human qualities: an otherworldly, spellbinding beauty, and the ability to read, and influence, the minds of other living creatures (both animal and human).

This has the same emotional intensity, romantic center, and driving pace of plot as Cecilia Dart Thornton’s Bitterbynde novels, and for those I liked it very much indeed. Said plot is a little threadbare – one of the reviewers I read was completely right in saying that this oddly skirts around both young adult and adult camps without really falling into either. As far as emotional complexity and the unabashed, frequent references to very dark topics such as rape, this definitely falls in the adult camp. But the simplicity of the plot and world-building pull it back into YA, where overall it fits more comfortably I think. This is not at all an experimental or unique book, but it is BEAUTIFULLY realized and vivid and its characters leap off the page. Gripping enough that I finished it in one night. Definitely recommend for any fans of Thornton, McKinley, or Suzanne Collins.

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