Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Three Cybils Reviews: The Clunkers

I really enjoyed being on Round 2 of the graphic novels category for the Cybils this past year, and part of what made it so nice is that I had nearly double the number of books to read (not a hardship for graphic novels). With ten books, you get a nice variety of topics, targeted age groups, and artistic styles. With ten books, there are also bound to be a few clunkers. These three titles didn't impress me for various reasons - sometimes it boiled down to my own personal reading tastes, sometimes not.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale
Big Bad Ironclad is about the ironclad steam warships that both the North and South used in the Civil War, and the pioneering men who designed, used, and fought in them. I like history and historical fiction a lot - when it's about certain topics. The Civil War? Fascinating! The naval history of the Civil War? Not so much. The story is told in a jocular style, with some people represented as animals and a few (obvious) liberties taken with the facts for laughs. It's clearly meant to be funny, but the humor fell mostly flat for me. 

I also quickly tired of the Nathan Hale gimmick (Nathan Hale is both the name of the author/illustrator and the name of an American spy who was hanged during the Revolutionary War. Spy Nathan Hale tells this story to his would-be executioners - though it hasn't happened yet in his timeline - as a way to put off his execution, much like Scheherazade). For kids interested in naval history (and I know there are many), this should fit the bill, and I know the humor will be a good fit for other readers, but this just isn't for me.

Marathon by Boaz Yakin and Joe Infurnari
This story of Eucles, the Athenian man who ran the first "marathon" from Sparta to Athens in 490 BC, has such high appeal, but the art prevents it from really succeeding. The book's main focus is Eucles' run, but it also relates a lot of his childhood as well as necessary context for the fighting between the Greeks and the Persians. It skips around in time and place a lot and multiple characters are introduced. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, but the art is so sketchy that it's impossible to understand what is going on. Characters cannot be distinguished from one another and there's no real sense of place or time. The art may be stylistically very good, but it doesn't work as a vehicle for storytelling. The only reason I was able to understand some of what went on is because I knew some of the story already.

Ichiro by Ryan Inzana
Ichiro's American father was a soldier who died overseas many years ago in the Iraq war, and his father's father has cultivated in Ichiro a love of war and a distrust and even hate for anything non-American. (Ichiro has a shirt he is rather fond of that reads "Kill 'em all and let God sort them out.") Then Ichiro's Japanese mother takes him to live with her father in Japan, and it is there that Ichiro first starts to explore his Japanese heritage and reject some of the ideas his American grandfather has inculcated in him. His adventure truly begins, however, when he falls through a hole in the ground into a fantasy realm of warring gods...and this is where the story lost me.

Inzana uses these mythological elements to explore the complex ways that race, war, and heritage impact our lives, but it doesn't quite work for me. I found these sections a bit jumbled, though the message is earnest and important. (Some may say the book is a little too message-heavy.) I did enjoy the art, with its bold colors and clean lines (always the kind of art I like best). I think there's a lot to unpack here, which may be better appreciated with multiple readings. Still, it was not a favorite.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

So You Want to Read YA?: Guest Post by Kate Testerman, Literary Agent

Today's contribution to our series comes from an entirely different side of the book world: the agent side. And it's our first -- but not our last -- agent who is contributing to the series this time. Welcome Kate Testerman!

Kate Schafer Testerman moved to Colorado and formed kt literary in early 2008, where she concentrates on middle grade and young adult fiction. Bringing to bear the experience of working with a large agency, she enjoys concentrating on all aspects of working with her authors, offering hands-on experience, personal service, and a surfeit of optimism. Her clients include Maureen Johnson, Ellen Booraem, Stephanie Perkins, Trish Doller, Thomas E. Sniegoski, Amy Spalding, and Matthew Cody, among other exciting and acclaimed authors. Kate is a graduate of the University of Delaware’s Honors Program, a former cast member of the New York Renaissance Faire, and an avid collector of shoes. Her interests cover a broad range including teen chick lit, urban fantasy and magical realism, adventure stories, and romantic comedies. She is an active member of the SCBWI and AAR.

Before I represented YA (and MG), I devoured it like some sort of book dinosaur. Every week found teenage me in either my local library, or, when that got too small for me, in the county library, diligently pouring over the shelves and carousels for new books to read. I was voracious, but was I discerning? Not exactly.

I read dozens of Sweet Valley High novels, every Nancy Drew I could find, anything with horses on the cover or promised inside, and piles of titles by Paula Danzinger before I started dipping in to the adult books, skipping from Judy Blume straight to Judith Krantz.

As a freshman in college, when other students were knuckling under the pressure of organic chemistry and engineering classes, I lucked into what remains my favorite college class I ever took – “Popular Fiction and its Literary Antecendents.” In it, we looked at some of the top genre titles of the time, and traced them back to their forebearers – from Heinlein and LeGuin back to Mary Shelley, and from Sandra Brown to Charlotte Bronte.

In looking at today’s Young Adult field, so much wider than the meager shelves that contained what was considered YA when I was a teen, I want to pay homage to that English professor at the University of Delaware back in 1991, and pick a few old and new classics to get you on your way.

So you want to read YA? Awesome! Start here:

Contemporary classics 

Those Paula Danzinger and Judy Blume titles I read as an awkward teen? Still fab. Their literary heirs today include E. Lockhart (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and the Ruby Oliver series, starting with The Boyfriend List), Maureen Johnson (start with 13 Little Blue Envelopes), and Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door). And of course, John Green’s entire oeuvre, especially Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-written with David Levithan, which takes awkwardness and coincidences to a new level.

Wish fulfillment 

Heir to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries brought the princess in every girl to modern San Francisco, and turned her into a Greenpeace activist who still found time to crush on her best friend’s brother. Princesses not your thing? Maybe you’d like to be a god instead? Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & The Olympians starts as MG, but takes our half-blood hero up to age 16. Or how about a spy? Try I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter.


If you were more interested in Tinker Bell than Peter Pan in J.M. Barrie’s classic, today’s urban fantasy puts the spotlight directly on fairykind, with all their quirks, odd habits, and continuing interest in us regular folks. I still push Tithe by Holly Black into the hands of everyone I know who likes reading about humans and the fae, and if all you know of Laini Taylor is her international Daughter of Smoke and Bone, you’re in for a treat with her Fairies of Dreamdark books.

Otherworldy adventures 

If you haven’t stepped through a portal into another world since that wardrobe opened into Narnia, ring a bell and step into Garth Nix’s The Old Kingdom in Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen, or visit Katsa’s Seven Kingdoms in Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue.


Even if Esther Forbes’ Johnny Tremain wasn’t your cup of tea (dumped in Boston Harbour), historical novels kept being assigned, and every once in a while, if you were lucky, one of them would turn out to be The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare or Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. Scratch that historical itch with Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T.Anderson, or Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. And if you want a dose of magic in your historical fiction, dive into Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty series.

Classic retellings

The final entry on our list takes the classics and retells them directly, adding a modern spin on a treasured story. I love Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows The Stars, a retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen, and can’t wait for her new one – Across a Star-Swept Sea, a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.

Enjoy reading!

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Friday, April 26, 2013

A Pair of Cybils Reviews

 Drama by Raina Telgemeier

I love Telgemeier's style - her art is so bright and colorful, it's immediately attention-grabbing. Each of her characters is distinct, with easily understood (and frequently funny) facial expressions. 

Drama explores the lives of a group of middle school kids putting on a production of Moon Over Mississippi, focusing on Callie, the set designer. The book touches on a lot of topics aside from the issues that come with putting on a show, which I think broadens its accessibility beyond drama geeks: crushes, sexuality, friendship. And of course, it's nice to see the focus placed on the behind-the-scenes crew (who are refreshingly diverse) rather than the actors. 

What makes the book really shine is its treatment of homosexuality. While Callie herself is sure she likes boys, at least one of her friends is proudly interested in members of the same sex - and one other is struggling more quietly. The situation is complicated by Callie's own crush on one of these boys.

I've read many reviews by people who believe this topic is too mature for its audience, but I couldn't disagree more. Middle school is just the time when many kids are learning what it is they like (and some learn years earlier). Telgemeier presents Callie's and her friends' situations with sensitivity and understanding. I think kids will see themselves in the characters.

Hilda and her mother are being plagued by elves. These elves live in tiny, invisible houses in the same area where Hilda does, and they claim they were there first. Moreover, they say that Hilda and her mother are always stepping on their houses, which is a great annoyance. The elves demand that Hilda and her mother leave, or they will take action.

Hilda thinks this is ridiculous and sets out to talk to the elf in charge in hopes of convincing him they can live together peacefully. On her journey, she meets a giant with his own story to tell, and she decides to help him out as best she can.

This is a weird one (the word "quirky" could have been coined to describe it), but I liked it. It's a larger book, allowing for some nice full-page landscapes highlighting the contrasts between the tiny elves, medium-sized Hilda, and the giant. The colors are mostly muted, nothing at all like the bright and cheery ones you find in Drama. It sets a nice mood, enhancing the feel that maybe this story is not taking place in our world at all.

The story is more than a little strange, and the ending - which is abrupt and arrives with no foreshadowing - may turn some readers off. But it's certainly in keeping with the book's whimsical feel, and I appreciated reading something a little different.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

By now, I've learned I don't particularly care for ghost stories, but I keep trying them, usually when I read a glowing review. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters was my latest experiment, and it wasn't much of a success. 

It's 1918, and Mary Shelley Black (a name I never warmed to - it seemed just too much for this type of story) saw her childhood friend and sweetheart Stephen go off to fight in World War I. She worries for him, fighting in France, but she's also facing a horror at home: the Spanish flu, which has swept the globe, killing most people it affects. Though she and her aunt (whom she is living with, her mother dead and her father in prison for protesting the war) have not yet been afflicted, they live in terror of it. 

Because of the war and the flu, spiritualism flourishes. (Winters mentions in her author note that the average life expectancy dropped to below 40 during this time.) People are desperate to connect with loved ones who have passed on, leading to a rise in spirit photography, where convincing charlatans photograph bereaved people and then present a photo with the loved one's "spirit" standing near them.    

Stephen's older brother Julius is one of these photographers, and he claims Mary Shelley is his muse. He convinces her to sit for him, and presents a photo of her with Stephen's ghost hovering near her. Immediately after, Mary Shelley learns that Stephen has died on the battlefield. She is so stricken with grief, she goes out in the middle of a storm and is struck by lightning. She is dead for several seconds, and when she is resuscitated, she finds she is...changed. Previously a skeptic, she can now see Stephen's ghost, and he is tormented. He claims he's being tortured by murderous blackbirds, and Mary Shelley soon realizes that the accounts of his death aren't quite right. She sets out to determine what happened to Stephen and allow him to rest.

The setup is intriguing, and Mary Shelley's haunting look on the cover drew me in. But ultimately, I found the book disappointing. The first misstep was the inclusion of the flashback right at the beginning, which threw the timeline off for me for a bit. This flashback is important, since it establishes Mary Shelley's and Stephen's relationship, as well as Stephen's relationship with Julius, but I'm just not a fan of flashbacks in general.

Yes, it's a fairly atmospheric story (thanks in large part to the period photos sprinkled throughout), with some interesting historical details. Yes, the romance is nicely sensual for a change (as opposed to many historical teen novels where holding hands is the farthest either party wants to go). And yes, it does get quite creepy at moments. But the main plotline involving Stephen's ghost never completely grabbed me. I feel like most ghost stories rely on the ghost either being unwilling or unable to reveal what's distressing it, and that's the case here, too. How compelling of a mystery can it be if it can be solved by the ghost just letting go of its stubborness and sharing the information it has? I understand that Stephen's ghost was not necessarily able to share, but it seems like a cheat. 

This is not a situation particular to In the Shadow of Blackbirds, and to be fair, many people enjoy this aspect of the ghost story, where the ghost is so tortured it simply cannot act rationally. Alas, I am not one of those people. This is a case of "It's not you, it's me." In addition, I found the mystery fairly easy to solve (there was not a large pool of suspects), though I have to admit, Winters surprised me with some of it.

I did enjoy reading about how the flu affected the population. That era is not one I've studied much, so I was surprised to learn how large the death toll was (larger than the death toll from the war), and it was fascinating to read about the home remedies desperate people resorted to (onion soup and garlic).

For established fans of ghost stories, this should fit the bill, but I'm not sure it will convert the uninitiated. (Since, you know, it didn't convert me.) For a different take on this book, check out Lenore's and Christina's dual reviews (and, incidentally, the place where I got the review copy).

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April Debut YA Novels

Ready for your monthly dose of debut novels, YA style? I've been trying to keep track of everything Kim and I have read through these posts, linking to reviews where relevant. Last month's debut post will link you to the debut posts in prior months,. 

As always, summaries are from WorldCat, unless otherwise noted. Debut is defined as the first published novel by an author within any category, confirmed to the best of our ability; we include first-time publication in the US as debut (meaning if it published in Australia or the UK prior to this month, but it's the first publication in the US, it's a debut). If we're missing a traditionally-published title for the month of April, let us know in the comments. And if you've read anything here we should make sure we don't miss, we'd love to hear! 

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters: In San Diego in 1918, as deadly influenza and World War I take their toll, sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort and, despite her scientific leanings, must consider if ghosts are real when her first love, killed in battle, returns.

Taken by Erin Bowman: In the isolated town of Claysoot, every male is mysteriously "Heisted" on his eighteenth birthday, and seventeen-year-old Gray Weathersby is determined to figure out why. 

That Time I Joined the Circus by JJ Howard: After her father's sudden death and a break-up with her best friends, seventeen-year-old Lexi has no choice but to leave New York City seeking her long-absent mother, rumored to be in Florida with a traveling circus, where she just may discover her destiny.

The Ward by Jordana Frankel: Set in a futuristic Manhattan after a catastrophic flood called the Wash Out, sixteen-year-old Ren must race against a conspiracy to find freshwater springs and a cure for the deadly disease that has stricken her sister and many others in the Ward. 

The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf: When you're a hypochondriac, there are a million different things that could be wrong with you, but for Izzy, focusing on what could be wrong might be keeping her from dealing with what's really wrong--with her friendships, her romantic entanglements, and even her family. 

Vengeance Bound by Justina Ireland: Amelie Ainsworth longs to graduate from high school and live a normal life, but as an abused child she became one of the Furies, driven to mete out justice on the Guilty, and lives on the run from the murders they commit.

Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce: When Megan, thirteen, arrives for her first cancer treatment, she is frustrated to be on the pediatric unit where the only other teen is Jackson Dawes, who is as cute and charming as he is rebellious and annoying, and who helps when her friends are frightened away by her illness.

Arclight by Josin L. McQuein (via Goodreads): No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be. The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it. When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?

The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise: Seeking to win a scholarship offered by global computing corporation Public, programming genius Audrey McCarthy writes a matchmaking app but discovers her results may be skewed by a program Public is secretly using to influence teens.

Hammer of Witches by Shana Mlawski: Fourteen-year-old bookmaker's apprentice Baltasar, pursued by a secret witch-hunting arm of the Inquisition, escapes by joining Columbus's expedition and discovers magical secrets about his own past that his family had tried to keep hidden. 

The Loop by Shandy Lawson: In New Orleans, Louisiana, star-crossed teens Ben and Maggie try to find a way to escape the time loop that always ends in their murder.

My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi: When she loses a leading role and her leading man to another girl, sixteen-year-old Lucy, a member of the high school drama club, does something completely out of character that has life-altering consequences.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos

James's sister Jorie got kicked out of their house by his parents. She'd been expelled from school and that was the last straw. She didn't get another chance.

Now, he has no way to get in touch with her and he wants nothing more than to be able to read Jorie. She gets him. She gets what's going on in his mind.

More than that, she gets why he needs the help he needs. She gets their parents.

Evan Roskos's debut Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets starts with what seems like a mystery, but it's not a mystery at all. This is a story about mental illness and about what it takes to survive in a family that's anything but stable. More than that, though, this is a story about loving despite the challenges, and it's a story that incorporates all of these themes through the voice of an authentically funny and insightful male main character, James.

Also, this is a book full of the wisdom of my favorite American poet, Walt Whitman. We're talking Leaves of Grass here. Where Emily Dickinson gets her fair play in YA fiction, it was refreshing to read about a teen obsessed -- utterly obsessed -- with Whitman.

So how we get from the starting point of Jorie's being kicked out to James ultimately coming to terms with the fact he suffers from depression and anxiety is what makes this story great. It's not obvious. It begins with James getting in an accident as he's imagining what it would be like to date the girl he's always had a crush on, Beth. But rather than laugh at him or shrug him off, Beth asks James for a little help. Jorie had been a hell of a poet, and Beth was wondering if it was possible for James to track down any more of her work, now that Jorie was unable to submit it herself. Obviously wanting to impress Beth, James decides to sneak into his sister's now-abandoned bedroom and look for something.

But he finds much more than her poetry.

Fast forward a bit. James heads out with friends one night, and he runs into his sister at a diner. They reconnect. It's good for him not only because he can address what it is he found in her room, but it's good for him because James has hit critical levels in terms of the thoughts that won't escape his head.

Enter Dr. Bird.

Dr. Bird is the imaginary pigeon James believes acts as his therapist. Because, see, pigeons and the way they bow and crane their necks are much the same way that someone who is truly listening to you does. It's through the imaginary Dr. Bird that James has shared his innermost thoughts and fears, but now Dr. Bird isn't helping. In fact, Dr. Bird -- James -- realizes that these thoughts he's having are not normal and they are not going to go away. And with Jorie gone, James is taking the brunt of his parents' arguments and abusive behaviors. But being a teen and being unable to access money easily and certainly unwilling to ask his parents for the cash, James takes on a part-time job in order to save up and see a therapist. On his own.

This is more than a story about the depression and the anxiety. It's more than a story about abusive family situations or the power of sibling relationships. Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets is really a story about relationships and connections in a much broader sense. Just as Whitman saw the common man as beautiful, as worthy, as capable, James sees the same thing. Despite the fact he's had crap handed to him over and over, and despite the fact he has little to be positive about, he is. He sees the beauty in the world around him and in the people around him. Even when he realizes that he can't have Beth in the way he wants to (and for a bit feels used by her), he loves the fact he can have that relationship and have it on the level he's having it. He loves the way he's able to have a relationship with himself, even if it's through the image of Dr. Bird. He comes to realize that art and nature are full of beauty and wonder and that to appreciate them, he has to love himself and accept himself first and foremost.

And James is entirely capable of that now that he's admitted -- and accepted -- his weaknesses.

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets is a mix of the humor and insight of Jesse Andrews's Me & Earl & The Dying Girl, along with the heart and optimism of Matthew Quick's Sorta Like a Rock Star and Boy21, with a hearty dash of Felton Reinstein from Geoff Herbach's Stupid Fast series (I thought this especially true when it came to the sweet relationships developing between the male lead and their female romantic interest -- even though Felton's connection with Aleah plays out differently than James's with Beth). This book will appeal to readers who loved any or all of those books, without doubt. The pacing is spot-on, and because James doesn't fixate on his issues but instead fights against them in order to see and raise the good in other people, the plot itself is a ride. I didn't know when I would see James face his own monsters, and I didn't know if or when I'd see James confront those in his life who were the source of these monsters. It is impossible not to root for him all along the way.

Roskos's debut has great appeal to male and female readers looking for a strong contemporary title. I'd list it as one of my favorites of the year to date because of James's memorable, witty, and positive voice and his utter passion for art, for new experiences, for relationships, and for himself.

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets is available now. Review copy received from the publisher.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

So You Want to Read YA?: Guest Post from librarian/blogger Sarah Bean Thompson

This week's post comes from librarian and blogger Sarah "Greenbean" Thompson!

Sarah Bean Thompson is a Youth Services Manager and loves being a librarian. She served on the 2013 Printz Committee and blogs at www.greenbeanteenqueen.com. When she's not reading she enjoys playing board games.

Kelly asked me to write a post about reading YA and I jumped at the chance. As a librarian, there’s nothing I love more than talking about books. But can I admit something? When I was a teen, even though I was an avid reader and loved going to the library and getting books, I had a hard time finding books I wanted to read. Plus, add in the fact that I was told over and over again in school that I could read at a higher than grade level reading level and I was convinced I had to be reading adult lit, which I hated. I could never find what I wanted. And I really wanted to be reading romance. I think that’s one reason why I love YA today-they are publishing the books I wanted to read as a teen. 

So you’re wanting to read YA Romance? Here’s what I suggest:

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

This is the book I wanted to read as a teen. Fantasy, strong female character who kicks butt and is generally awesome, and Po who shares in great witty banter with our protagonist and can hold his own against strong Katsa. Katsa doesn’t need to be with Po but she chooses to be and that makes her even more awesome.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If If I Stay doesn’t break your heart and put it back together again, you must be made of stone. This is the story of Mia, her family, and her relationship with her boyfriend Adam. It’s beautiful, romantic and gorgeously written and the sequel is the sequel you didn’t know you needed but always wanted.

The Luxe Series by Anna Godbersen

Before Downton Abbey took over the swooning over historicals world, there was The Luxe, a gossipy, soapy, historical series that is the perfect romantic guilty pleasure. It’s tons of fun with lots of pretty dresses, pretty boys, and lots of drama.

Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt

This is a book I want to give to girls who think love happens at first sight and it’s all swoony and paranormaly. I love, love, love Payton and Sean and how they grow from random classmates to friends to something more. It’s realistic and I appreciated that it’s not just about the romance but about Payton dealing with difficult family issues as well. It also has one of the cutest flirting scenes ever.

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Road trips and romance? Yes please! Plus add in awesome playlists made the author, hilarious dialogue and characters and a great friendship first that becomes something more as the novel goes on-it’s one of the books where in my head the characters stay together forever.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Ok seriously, who can resist a romance set in Paris? Anna loves movies, she’s in Paris for school and Etienne St. Clair is irresistible. It’s also a book where the friendship develops so much before the romance and I love that.

The Georgia Nicholson Series by Louise Rennison

Oh Georgia, you’re just too funny! I love her crazy antics and how she’s torn between Robbie the Sex God and Dave the Laugh. You can’t help but laugh out loud at these books each time you read them.

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell

A historical novel in verse set in the world of King Arthur with a nice twist on the usual tale. Told from the point of view of Elaine of Ascolat (the Lady of Shalott) is a fantastic retelling and a great historical romance.

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

A fantastic mystery/romance told in verse that made me believe in the one special day romance. It’s also one of the few books that I would happily ask for a sequel and stay in the world with the characters much longer if I could.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

This was one of the first books I read when I became a librarian and I was hooked on YA. I love the romance aspect of this book as the main character begins to fall for a boy that’s thought of as a bit of a nerd and not popular. Very sweet and the sequel, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know, also rocks. It was also the book that introduced me to the novel in verse format which I love.

Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott

I love all of Elizabeth Scott’s books, but there is just something so wonderful about the romance in this book. Maybe it’s because Hannah is at times a bit awkward and I love her for it. I also love that as readers we totally know who Hannah should be with, even if she doesn’t, and it’s so fun reading about her getting there.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

I don’t know if I can explain how much I loved this book. I think what sold me was that there was somewhat of a love triangle happening in this book, yet I didn’t hate it and it didn’t annoy me. Instead, I liked both guys and the love triangle made sense in the story. It’s also a fantastic best friends turned crush story.

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

I’m a sucker for sappy holiday romances, but this one is my favorite. I love how all three stories weave together and the whole book is just so darn cute, you can’t help but curl up with hot chocolate when it’s snowing outside and swoon over the romance.

I could go on and on, but I’d love to hear what romances everyone suggests. I need to add to my reading pile!

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