Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Review: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

What You Need to Know:  This book is a little heavier than Perkins' debut, but is still a fun, unabashedly romantic read.

Summary:  Lola, just barely 17, has 3 goals in life.  1) To convince her two dads that her (much older) boyfriend is THE ONE; 2) To create and wear a full Marie Antoinette costume for the Winter Formal and 3) to never see the Bell twins again.

However, Dad and Dad are not warming up to Lola's perfect punk boyfriend Max, the costume is way more work than she thought and Cricket and Calliope Bell just moved in next door.  Cricket Bell, inventive, sweet and super tall, was Lola's best friend and first love, until he rejected her and left.  But now he's back, and Lola is going to have to learn to deal.

What Worked:  Lola acts, sounds and behaves like a precocious 17 year old.  Like most of us at 17, she thinks she has everything figured out and knows everything.  When she finds out she doesn't, it shatters her.  Perkins totally nailed Lola's voice.   So much so that  I wanted to give her a big hug, or ground her, or both.

The background characters are equally well drawn.  Lola's two dads are fantastic, sweet and supportive but not perfect.  I really hope that Lola's BFF Lindsey gets her own book one day, because a Chuck Taylor wearing Nancy Drew fanatic is the kind of girl I want to know better.    And, then, there's Cricket.

Cricket Bell, will you be my (completely platonic) YA Lit boyfriend?   I love you and your hipster clothes and weird contraptions.  You could come over and we could watch How It's Made and bake.

Seriously though, Cricket is a great character.  Sweet, thoughtful, inventive but not so perfect that he defies realism.  He's exactly the kind of guy a girl has a hard time getting over.

Overall, I would describe this book as sweet and girly.  However, Lola has to deal with some heavy issues, such as her homeless biological mom, and a not entirely healthy relationship.  This gives the story more gravitas than your typical YA romance, but not so much that it falls into misery porn territory.

What Didn't:  It's hard, as an adult, to read a Teen Romance as a teen would.  Because any adult woman would take one look at Max and say "Oh, honey, no!".  He's a douchebag.  A faux-rebellious punk-wannabe with stupid flash tattoos and a bad bleach job.   However, at 17, he probably looks pretty tasty.

Because Mac is a jerk and Cricket is adorable, it's hard to see why Lola hangs on to her relationship with Mac for so long.   Again, maybe this is one of those things that makes sense as a teen, but mystifies an adult.  

Who Would I Give This Book To:  This one's all about the girls.  Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han, would eat this up.   Teens looking for a light and fun read would also enjoy.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

What You Need to Know:  This YA Dystopian is the best contender for the "next Hunger Games" and an amazing book on its own, and one of my Best Books of 2011.

Summary: Saba lives in Silverlake, a small piece of (kind of) sustainable land carved out of the ever shifting dust that has taken over the world.  She lives with her father, broken since the death of her mother, and her baby sister.  Most importantly, she has Lugh, her twin brother and other half, who provides the hope and happiness in her life.  When strange men ride up out of a storm and steal Lugh, killing her Pa, she swears she will find him.  Saba sets off into the wastelands, and runs afoul of those who prey on travelers in the dust.  Literally forced to fight for her survival, Saba discovers her own strengths and feelings she didn't know she had.

What Worked:  Girl/Girl cage fights!  Amazon-like warrior women! Bitchy heroine!  Smug-Jackass love interest!  Quasi-western setting!  This book is practically Merideth-crack.

Young is an outstanding writer, who does an excellent job of creating a sympathetic but imperfect heroine.  Saba is a fighter, but her single-mindedness in getting Lugh back makes her not terribly likable sometimes.    Her devotion is admirable, but maddening.

Young weaves some slight touches of magic-realism into her story, with destinies being written in the stars*, and stones that will lead you to your heart's desire.  These are very subtle, and add another layer of mystery to the book.

I've said it before, the best Dystopian fiction doesn't waste a lot of time telling us how things got this bad.  Young doesn't tell us at all, choosing instead to focus on her story and characters.

And what a story it is.  In addition to the already mentioned cage fights, there's a prison break, giant killer worms, a suicidal raid... lots and lots of action.

What Didn't: This book starts very slowly, and readers may be put off by the unusual patois that Young develops.   Also, the magical elements of the book are an unusual touch for a dystopian adventure, and could be jarring.

Who would I give this book to?  Teen fans of the Hunger Games.  Adults looking for a good example of the dystopian trend.  My brother (seriously, he's very picky).

There be spoilers ahead, so quit now if that sort of thing bothers you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Blatant Self Promotion: My Book, On Sale!

Hey Look!  I wrote a book!

And it's on sale!

Just in time for the holiday gift-giving season!

Celebrate Teen Read Week with Special Savings.  

Oooooh!  Look, a gift with purchase!  Ladies love the gift with purchase!