October 21, 2017

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Summer Lovin’: 13 New YA Romances | SLJ Spotlight

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1604-YA-SL-SummerLovin-CVs1Looking for lighthearted romances to populate summer reading shelves? Take a look at the latest crop of beach reads that teens will be devouring come vacation time.

Armentrout, Jennifer L. The Problem with Forever. 496p. ebook available. Harlequin Teen. May 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780373212057. Pop

Gr 9 Up –Engaging characters and real-life drama make for a potential hit with teens, if they can overlook the stock, repetitive romantic descriptions. Mallory (aka Mouse) is living with successful, caring adoptive parents after a horrific childhood in foster homes. She decides to attend public high school after years of homeschooling. Her world is rocked when Rider enters her speech class; Rider was her lifeline in the foster home, taking many beatings for her and teaching her how to hide and stay quiet to avoid Mr. Henry’s wrath. While the protagonist seems shackled by her past, Rider appears to have moved forward, complete with a swagger and a laissez-fair attitude. They spend time together, and their relationship starts to grow from Mouse and her white knight to much more. Unfortunately, Rider’s lifestyle and family link him with some unsavory characters. Mallory and Rider must evaluate their relationship—who really has changed, and is it for the better? The situations are gritty but presented in an accessible manner. One frankly depicted sex scene makes this more appropriate for high school readers. VERDICT An easy sell to teens wanting to experience a frank if predictable coming-of-age romance.–Lisa Ehrle, Falcon Creek Middle School, CO

Bliss, Bryan. Meet Me Here. 272p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062275387.

Gr 9 Up –Thomas is set to leave for the Army from his hometown of Hickory, NC, the day after his high school graduation, as his family expects. His father was in Desert Storm, and his brother Jake recently returned from overseas, injured and a hero after saving two other soldiers. When his seven-years estranged friend Mallory punches her boyfriend at a post-graduation party and asks Thomas for a ride home, they visit an old hotel and attend a party, among other adventures. All the while, they must keep track of wandering Jake and avoid Mallory’s boyfriend. Throughout the novel, Thomas thinks about how he is tired of telling people he is excited about the Army, and worries that he will end up like his veteran brother, who always carries a mysterious backpack and appears aimless. Mallory is supposed to marry her boyfriend the day after graduation but has reservations. Bliss’s novel addresses the push teens may feel after high school to do what is expected of them and not what they want, as well as stereotypes of masculinity and femininity, and the stigma surrounding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Teens may find the small-town setting or the feeling of expectation familiar. With a 24-hour intense time frame and thoughtful discussion of PTSD, this title has elements of Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon and Trish Doller’s Something Like Normal. VERDICT With its positive depictions of mental health and message of following your passion, this work is a general purchase for teen collections.–Liz Anderson, DC Public Library

Constantine, Robin. The Season of You and Me. 352p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062438836.

Gr 9 Up –Constantine’s latest is a teen journey of exploration, choice and consequence, and love. Cassidy, a soon-to-be senior in high school, feels hurt and betrayed by her ex-boyfriend but finds that she still loves him. Bryan, a camp counselor at a summer resort town, struggles to adjust to life in a wheelchair since his ill-fated choice. They share their stories and conflicting emotions and meet when Cassidy moves in with her dad at the resort town. Is she escaping? Or does she really want to spend a whole summer instead of her usual week with her dad? The dialogue, both internal and with friends throughout the book, is authentic and sets a fast pace. Readers will love the decision-making process of both main characters and appreciate their interactions with friends and family members. Moments of peril, comedy, and heartrending realizations will engage readers until the very end. VERDICT A great teen love story about growing up and making difficult choices. Fans of Sarah Dessen and Jodi Picoult will eat up this novel.–Cathleen Ash, Manor High School Library, TX

Ellen, Tom & Lucy Ivison. A Totally Awkward Love Story. 320p. ebook available. Delacorte. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553537321; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780553537345.

Gr 10 Up –A fun romantic comedy set in the UK featuring teens who keep missing a true connection. School is over, and Hannah is looking forward to university in the fall, but first, she needs to get rid of that pesky virginity thing she’s been carrying around for her whole life. Her trio of friends encourage her to choose Freddie, but she knows in her heart that he’s just not “the one.” Regardless, Hannah goes through a totally embarrassing and painful waxing and readies herself for the big night, only to unexpectedly meet “the one” in the purple bathroom at the big party. Immediately, both teens know that this is it—but they don’t have the chance to exchange names, and poor Sam becomes “Toilet Boy” in Hannah’s head. Chance encounters over the next few weeks are full of misunderstandings and complications. While the plot is formulaic, the main characters are anything but. Hannah is quirky, insecure, and deep, while Sam is sensitive, impulsive, and frustrated. A little bit raunchy with frank sexual discussion, this title will be a big hit with older teens. VERDICT This surprisingly smooth, well-crafted, and enjoyable dual-narrative rom-com should be added to collections looking to expand their YA romance offerings.–Susan Riley, Mamaroneck Public Library, NY

1604-YA-SL-SummerLovin-CVs2Garcia, Mia. Even if the Sky Falls. 304p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062411808.

Gr 10 Up –A fun and light summer read that is rife with Shakespearean references. Shipped off by her parents to New Orleans to help rebuild homes, Julia becomes fed up with her Christian youth group and the weight of problems she left back home. In a moment of inspiration, she decides to run away and join a midsummer Mardi Gras parade. Her decision to live in the moment leads her to an attractive and mysterious boy, whom she nicknames Miles. The two are immediately smitten, and slowly throughout the day they unload their burdens on each other, making a deeper connection. Their romance peaks as a hurricane descends on the city. Can their love survive even when nature itself is tearing them apart? In her debut novel, Garcia constructs a love story that captures the mysterious and beautiful spirit of New Orleans. The plot itself unravels like a hurricane, building and surging along with the storm. The story plateaus and tensions relax during the eye of the storm, but as quickly as the storm returns, so does the building action, which rages on until the final page. While underage drinking, discussion of sex, and a mild sex scene may make this book inappropriate for younger or more sensitive readers, it could be incorporated into a more mature teen book club, as it encourages discussions of post-traumatic stress, Shakespeare, and natural disasters. VERDICT Give to fans of Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Tempestuous by Kim Askew, or When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle.–Ellen Fitzgerald, White Oak Library District, Lockport, IL

Kapur, Saba. Lucky Me. 568p. ebook available. Amberjack. Apr. 2016. Tr $17. ISBN 9780692536391.

Gr 8 Up –Gia Winters, a high school senior in L.A., is living the high life. When Gia’s movie star father informs the spoiled girl that she must have a bodyguard for protection, she is worried it will cramp her style. But the bodyguard, Jack, looks like a Calvin Klein model, and Gia is instantly attracted to him. Her father reminds her to keep the relationship professional. Besides, Gia has a boyfriend: pretty but dumb Brendan. In his duty to protect Gia, Jack has to go everywhere with her—but they must keep his true identity a secret. Acting as a family friend, Jack attends a raging party with Gia the first weekend on duty. There, Brendan is poisoned by a dumpling meant for her, and Gia starts to take the bodyguard business a little more seriously. Gia and Jack decide that they need to figure out who is after her, and the pair begin some reconnaissance. A series of stunts, disguises, and haplessly stumbled upon clues lead the pair to the LAPD, where Gia meets yet another attractive guy, named Milo. Meanwhile, Gia is nominated to be “Miss Golden Globe” (she gets to wear an amazing dress and hand the winners their awards), and she does not want anything to get in the way of her big break. While the plot deviates far from believability and the characters’ motivations are not always clear, fans of chick lit will enjoy this light romantic mystery. VERDICT Add to YA collections in need of light beach reads.–Tara Kehoe, New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center, Trenton

Karalius, Kimberly. Love Charms and Other Catastrophes. 368p. ebook available. Feiwel & Friends/Swoon Reads. May 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781250084040.

Gr 7 Up –This sequel to Love Fortunes and Other Disasters follows Hijiri Kitamura, an aspiring love-charm maker, as she competes to become the official love-charm maker for the city of Grimbaud. Hijiri feels that while she excels at making charms, her heart has no room for love. To prove her wrong, Love gifts her the perfect boy. Now in addition to preparing for the competition, Hijiri also struggles to figure out where Love’s “charm boy” came from and whether her heart is large enough to accept him. Add in a love-charmed robot infecting the townspeople with lovesickness, and you have a recipe for catastrophe. Fans of romantic fantasy will enjoy watching Love personified meddle in people’s lives and seeing the different charms that people possess. The neglectful behavior of Hijiri’s parents also adds an element of realism that young adult readers can sympathize with. The lack of swearing and sexualized romance makes this an excellent choice for middle schoolers. Karalius provides a unique fantasy that combines elements of romance, mystery, and family drama. Reading the series in order is suggested due to frequent references to past events and characters that can be difficult to follow without reading the first book. VERDICT Recommended for collections where the first book is popular and for younger fans of the romance genre.–Ashley Leffel, Griffin Middle School, Frisco, TX

Klein, Jen. Shuffle, Repeat. 336p. ebook available. Random. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780553509823; lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780553509830.

Gr 8 Up –June and Oliver are complete opposites. Oliver is reveling in his glory days of high school and enjoying football and senior year traditions. June is just trying to get through to graduation. To her, real life starts after high school. Since their mothers are friends, Oliver has been drafted to give June a ride to school every morning. At first things are awkward, but as the days go on, they begin to joke and make bets and become friends, or maybe more, despite the fact that neither is single. Plenty of details make this title a realistic portrayal of today’s high school scene, including drinking and sex, but nothing is gratuitous or graphic. Excerpts from prom night (near the end of the book) sprinkled throughout the narrative provide just the right amount of foreshadowing, and the story quickly becomes addictive. Fans of Deb Caletti and Sarah Dessen will enjoy this sweet romance. VERDICT A perfect choice for those seeking more YA romance.–Kelly Jo Lasher, Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ

1604-YA-SL-SummerLovin-CVs3-rMatson, Morgan. The Unexpected Everything. 528p. ebook available. S. & S. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481404549.

Gr 8 Up –Andie Walker had planned to spend her summer in the Young Scholars Program at Johns Hopkins with other aspiring doctors. Unfortunately, when her politician father gets caught up in a minor financial scandal, the campaign contributor who recommended her for the program pulls his support and Andie is left facing a long summer at home in Connecticut. All of the internships and summer jobs that could have helped bolster her college applications have long since been filled, so Andie takes a job walking dogs to fill her days while her friends give tours at the local museum and manage community theater productions. Andie and her dad haven’t spent much time together since her artist mother’s death, and navigating their new day-to-day routine is difficult for both of them. And though the teen has long had an ironclad rule about keeping relationships with guys under three weeks, cute, awkward Clark has her rethinking it. The most interesting things tend to happen when plans are upended, and Andie’s story is no exception. Though the outcomes will hold few surprises for most readers, it’s a genuine pleasure to watch Andie explore her relationships with her father, her friends, and Clark (especially once his delightful secret is revealed) and to see her channel her smarts and ambition into new career goals. VERDICT Recommended for libraries where light realistic fiction is popular.–Stephanie Klose, Library Journal

redstarPerkins, Stephanie, ed. Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories. 400p. ebook available. St. Martin’s/Griffin. May 2016. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250079121.

Gr 10 Up –In this latest anthology and follow-up to 2014’s My True Love Gave to Me, Perkins returns with an enthralling collection of steamy summer love stories penned by an all-star cast, which includes Lev Grossman, Veronica Roth, and Libba Bray. The stories are by turns bittersweet, unexpected, and unapologetically hopeful, and themes of endurance, bravery, and determination emerge as the teens navigate issues such as broken families, ending relationships, life after high school, and identity. Standouts include Brandy Colbert’s “Good Luck and Farewell,” a realistic look at two Chicago teens who have lost family members, one to South Side violence, the other to depression, and Grossman’s “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things,” the story of two teens who live the same day repeatedly, which enables them to create the titular item. Francesca Lia Block offers up a gloomy look at love lost, but the vast majority of the selections end on a hopeful, if not an altogether happy, note. Fantasy, soft horror, science fiction, and paranormal all take their place beside the prevalent realistic pieces, and it seems that the authors took the call for diversity to heart, providing not only racial but sexual and developmental diversity as well. There is a fair amount of cursing and sexually charged language, Block’s story presents a matter-of-fact sexual encounter, and not all tales will appeal to all readers, but there is something for everyone here. VERDICT This title is a sizzling must-have that will be too hot to keep on the shelves.–Alea Perez, Westmont Public Library, IL

Schneider, Erin L. Summer of Sloane. 304p. ebook available. Disney-Hyperion. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484725252.

Gr 8 Up –Just before 17-year-old Sloane McIntyre leaves Seattle to spend the summer with her mother in Hawaii, she learns that her boyfriend Tyler and best friend Mick slept together and Mick is pregnant. Sloane punches Tyler in the face, breaking his nose and her hand. It looks like the start of the worst summer ever. But everything gets better once Sloane is in Hawaii, especially as she finds herself falling for Finn, a good-looking, fun-loving boy whose father owns the local hotel where Sloane gets a summer job. Then, everything falls apart when an accident brings Sloane back to Seattle. Although the novel begins and ends on serious notes, the majority of the protagonist’s summer is lighthearted, leisurely, and romantic. Teens who love reading about gorgeous locations will love Schneider’s descriptions of Hawaii and Sloane’s mother’s house, which allows her to enjoy “the rolling of the ocean mere feet” from her room. The pace picks up at the end of the book, so much so that the final chapters seem to lack closure. However, the message of forgiveness is well delivered, and Sloane is a likable, well-rounded character who exhibits a variety of personality traits, such as anxiety and vulnerability, which lead to panic attacks, and free-spirited independence, which results in her getting a tattoo on a whim and speaking her mind to her boyfriend’s overbearing father. VERDICT An enjoyable beach read for fans of teen romance.–Magdalena Teske, Naperville Public Library, IL

Stevens, Jessica. Within Reach. 246p. ebook available. BookSparks/SparkPress. May 2016. pap. $17. ISBN 9781940716695.

Gr 9 Up –Seventeen-year-old Xander Hemlock is dead—or is he? He has 30 days to prove to his girlfriend, Lila, that he is not, but it seems impossible, as he is trapped in another realm with a mentor named Wes. Meanwhile, he must endure witnessing Jason, Lila’s childhood best friend, comfort her and take advantage of her vulnerable state of mind. Lila has a hard time accepting Xan’s death and feels his presence. She goes to great lengths—meeting with clergy and a medium—to make a connection with him. Xan’s situation is explained in depth, which helps readers believe that what Lila is experiencing is possible. Told in alternating perspectives between Lila and Xan, this narrative will help readers understand Xan’s desperation to prove that he is alive and Lila’s grief. Readers who enjoy a good love story will latch onto this one, as will those who like paranormal as well as a bit of mystery. VERDICT An unexpected ending may leave teens questioning what they understand about existence and starting to look for a true soulmate. An additional purchase for true romance fans.–Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

Strohmeyer, Sarah. This Is My Brain on Boys. 352p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062259622.

Gr 9 Up –Addie Emerson attends a private high school, Academy 355, near Boston. She and her lab partner, Dexter, are competing for the prestigious Athenian award, which would finance Addie’s college education. She and Dexter are trying to manipulate the human brain to make their subjects fall in love. After researching and conducting one trial, Addie believes she has successfully guided two students to fall in love by placing them in life-threatening situations. She needs to prove this theory by conducting one last experiment. Kris Condos enters the picture. He is on probation and is working off his crime against the school—vandalism. The dean of students has assigned Kris to Addie’s experiment. Addie, however, seems to be the only person attending Academy 355 who does not know about Kris’s involvement in wrecking the school’s science lab. As the trials take place, Addie gains a new understanding of the world around her. Through her struggles, Addie grows and perseveres. Readers will enjoy the twist at the end of the story. Strohmeyer has created an enjoyable realistic fiction title with a believable, smart protagonist who has a difficult time interacting with the world around her because of her intellect. Although the writing style is complex, the theme is universal. The scientific approach the author injects into this romance puts a new spin on this overtaxed genre. Because the vocabulary is reflective of the main character’s intellect, this would probably not be a book to recommend to reluctant readers. VERDICT Give to teens looking for a refreshing twist to their YA romance.–Jeni Tahaney, Duncanville High School Library, TX

These reviews are published in School Library Journal’s April issue.

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Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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