LaZebnik, Claire. The Last Best Kiss.

NY: HarperCollins, 2014.

Among other things, LaZebnick likes to do modern spins on the themes of Jane Austen novels, and her model this time is Persuasion. It stars seventeen-year-old Anna Eliot of Los Angeles, who wonders if there’s really such a thing as second chances. Back in 9th Grade, she was one of the movers and shakers in the school, but that came at a price.

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Published in: on 2 June 2020 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gurtler, Janet. I’m Not Her.

Napierville, IL: SourceBooks, 2011.

I’ve read a number of YA novels that deal with the protagonist’s struggle to come back from the death of a sibling or best friend, and some of them have been quite good. The death is usually sudden, from a weak heart or a car wreck or something, and it’s always shocking. One moment someone is there and the next instant they’re not. But this one is rather different.

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Published in: on 27 May 2020 at 6:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tamaki, Mariko & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me.

NY: First Second, 2019.

This is the other kind of graphic novel, the kind that’s as far from a “comic book” as it’s possible to get. The kind that could as easily be a text-only novel, but in which the story really is enhanced by the art. The protagonist is Frederica Riley, a seventeen-year-old Berkeley lesbian, who has been in love with Laura Dean, the most popular girl in school, for a year now. And Laura is a crappy girlfriend.

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Yoon, David. Frankly in Love.

NY: Putnam, 2019.

This debut novel is a YA romance, but with a considerably different slant than most. Frank Li is a California-born Korean-American nerdish teenager whose grasp of his ancestral language is rudimentary at best. He thinks of himself, most of the time, as simply “American.” His mostly unassimilated parents only ever think of themselves as “Korean.”

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Morgan, Rachel. The Faerie Guardian.

np: Amazon Digital Services, 2012, 2015.

I confess I got a little confused when I first saw this book. Kim Harrison, who hails from the Cincinnati area, has done a series of mostly quite good fantasy novels about witches and demons and vampires and whatnot, and there’s a fair amount of romance to be found in them, too. The main character’s name in that series is “Rachel Morgan.”

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Rowell, Rainbow & Faith Erin Hicks. Pumpkinheads.

NY: First Second, 2019.

I’ve read and mostly enjoyed several of Rowell’s off-the-wall novels, and I’m a fan of Hicks’s graphic fiction, so I picked this one up with some optimism. And it’s . . . okay. But not much more than “okay,” I’m afraid — the awards it has won notwithstanding.

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Two Maureen Johnson novels

Johnson, Maureen. 13 Little Blue Envelopes. NY: HarperCollins, 2005.

Johnson, Maureen. The Last Little Blue Envelope. NY: HarperCollins, 2011.

Johnson is one of the most dependable authors of “light” YA fiction and these two books are arguably her best work so far. They’re both received top reviews and a number of awards, and even though they were published six years apart, they’re best read one right after the other, as a single story.

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Goslee, S. J. Whatever; or, How Junior year Became Totally F$@ked.

NY: Roaring Brook Press, 2016.

This is the author’s debut novel, and it’s the sort of book that couldn’t even have been published as recently as the 1980s, when the realization of being gay, much less bi, was something a teenager had to keep a desperate secret if he wanted to survive high school. But things are different now, especially among most young people, and this pitch-perfect story of sexual discovery and the nerve-wracking process of figuring out who you are and of coming out to family and friends is very well done indeed.

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Mills, Emma. Foolish Hearts.

NY: Henry Holt, 2017.

Mills is another above-average author of Young Adult fiction, and this is one of her best. The themes here are not just romance, though there’s plenty of that, both straight and gay, but also the real meaning of friendship.

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Telgemeier, Raina. Guts.

NY: Scholastic Books, 2019.

In 2010, Raina published her first original graphic novel, Smile, based on events in her own childhood in northern California. (She had already been illustrating the “Babysitters Club” series.) It won her the Eisner, the most important award there is for author-artists. In 2014, she did a sort-of sequel, Sisters, also based on real events. That won another Eisner. This new book makes it a trilogy and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she pulls off a hat trick.

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Published in: on 13 March 2020 at 4:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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