Buxbaum, Julie. What to Say Next.

NY: Delacorte, 2017.

This is a much deeper and more thoughtful examination of high school romance than most I’ve seen. David Drucker is a very high-functioning borderline autistic whose life has long been made hell by classmates sneering at him as a “retard,” when he actually has the highest IQ of any kid in the school. He copes with the outside world by wearing headphones that surround him with music as he walks from one class to another, and by referring regularly to his notebook of rules and character sketches of everyone he interacts with.

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Stratford, Sarah-Jane. Radio Girls.

NY: New American Library, 2016.

It’s the fall of 1926 and young Maisie Musgrave, born in Toronto and raised in New York by whomever her actress mother was able to dump her on, has returned to her adopted home of London. Moreover, after several years as one of the barely-working poor, she has just been hired as a secretary at the four-year-old BBC up on Savoy Hill. Mostly, she’s the typing assistant to the executive assistant to the Director General, John Reith, who hates being forced to hire so many women.

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Dessen, Sarah. Once and for All.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Dessen’s latest YA novel easily maintains the high standards set by its predecessors. The protagonist in each of her books is usually part of an unusual setting, which adds interest for the reader in addition to her romantic adventures. At seventeen, Louna Barrett has been deeply immersed in the wedding business for nearly a decade, thanks to her mother’s busy schedule. “A Natalie Barrett Wedding” is always a big deal and usually pretty expensive, so the pressure is always on.

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Published in: on 29 December 2017 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Colgan, Jenny. The Bookshop on the Corner.

NY: HarperCollins, 2016.

Colgan has turned out a number of thematic romances — the story being set in a cafe, or a bakery, or a chocolate shop, or whatever — but this one caught my eye because the setting was apparently a bookstore and the protagonist a librarian. Actually, the original British title, The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After, is much more accurate, since there’s no corner to be found, and the “shop” is actually a large ex-bakery van fitted out with bookshelves.

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Published in: on 14 November 2017 at 10:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen, Sarah. Dreamland.

NY: Penguin, 2000.

I’ve been working my way slowly and sort of randomly through Dessen’s Young Adult novels, all of which have been well above average in many ways. This is one of her earlier ones (she’s published thirteen books now) and it’s much darker than any of the others I’ve read. I can’t even say I enjoyed it, exactly, though it certainly has a powerful impact.

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Published in: on 7 November 2017 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen Sarah. The Truth About Forever.

NY: Penguin, 2004.

I’ve become a fan of Dessen’s books, which are marketed as “young adult” but the themes of which are of interest to all readers. While there’s always a romantic element, it’s never cut-and-dried and absolutely never clichéd. Certain themes recur, too: The sibling who is either much more perfect than the narrator, providing a role model it’s impossible to live up to, or else a complete disaster, which reflects on the sibling and makes her life more difficult.

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Bowen, Rhys. The Twelve Clues of Christmas.

NY: Berkeley, 2012.

This is the sixth entry in the “Royal Spyness” mystery series featuring Lady Georgiana Rannoch and set in Britain in the early 1930s. Georgie is 34th in line to the throne — well, 35th, now that her brother the duke has had another son — but she’s also completely without funds. What her father, the late previous duke, didn’t waste gambling went for death duties, so Georgie frequently finds herself casting about for ways to earn a living. Not easy when you’re part of the upper aristocracy, actually. She can hardly work as a shop girl. But she manages — usually. Now the Christmas season of 1933 is fast approaching and she’s looking for some way to escape Castle Rannoch.

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Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl.

NY: St. Martin, 2013.

Rowell gets strong reviews for her YA novels, especially this one, so I thought I should take a look. Here we meet Cath from Omaha, a new freshman at the University of Nebraska, who is not at all sure she’ll be able to adapt to it. She doesn’t do well at all with new places, new people, or new experiences. She isn’t all that crazy about the Real World, for that matter.

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Dessen, Sarah. Just Listen.

NY: Viking, 2006.

I’ve become hooked recently on Dessen’s highly literate YA novels, and this one is one of her best so far. Even though I’m a grandparent, I’m also a lifelong librarian and recommender of books to all sorts of readers, and that includes teenagers, so the purported target readership doesn’t faze me. A book is either well-written or not.

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Published in: on 22 June 2017 at 11:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dessen, Sarah. Along for the Ride.

NY: Viking, 2009.

I only recently discovered this author, whose books are marketed as Young Adult, but I’m very impressed with her work, period. She considers themes and issues of interest to teenagers, but they should also actually appeal to any reader who is interested in people and how they interact with each other. And Dessen never, ever writes down to her readers. She expects you to pay attention and think about what you’re reading regardless of your age.

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