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  • Dahlia Adler 5:35 pm on 2014/12/23 Permalink
    Tags: , amy finnegan, , , , julie cross, kasie west, liz czukas, , paula stokes, , stephanie perkins, , ,   

    The Best Contemporary YA Romance of 2014 

    Stephanie Perkins' Isla and the Happily Ever AfterConfession: contemporary young adult romance has the most special place in my heart of all YA genres. It encompasses so much of what I love about reading (and writing) young adult as a whole—all the experiences of “firsts” and all the ups and downs that come with them. Some of them are sweet, some are steamy, some are intense, and some are hilarious, but what all the good ones have in common is the butterfly-inducing magic that cannot be denied.

    Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins
    It was a long wait for the final book in Perkins’ trilogy of romances, but well worth it. Passionate, artsy Isla has had a crush on Josh for years, but it takes a Vicodin-induced semi-stupor to get them together. Once she learns the feelings are mutual, it’s full speed ahead into exactly the kind of all-consuming, enchanting romance no one does better than Perkins. Dramatic, engaging, and surprisingly sexy, this was a most satisfying conclusion to one of contemporary YA’s most popular series.

    Everything Leads to You, by Nina LaCour
    To be honest, LaCour’s grocery lists could probably make any post I write at this point—she’s just that good. This book is full of beauty: in the screenwritten vignettes, in main character Emi’s passion for set design, in the way Emi views enigmatic and struggling love interest Ava, and in LaCour’s writing in general. Those looking for LGBTQ YA romance sans coming-out angst particularly need to put this story about two already-“out” girls falling in love at the top of their shopping lists, but this is an all-around great read for any fan of YA and/or romance and/or books in general, really.

    Open Road Summer, by Emery Lord
    Reagan needs some time away, and there’s no better way to get it than by accompanying her country star BFF, Dee, on a national tour. But she doesn’t expect the perks that come along with it, in the form of the talented and adorable Matt Finch. Matt is that rare YA love interest who places a strong emphasis on friends and family, and makes a fabulous sweetheart counterpoint to Reagan’s thorniness. His songwriting skills don’t hurt one bit, either.

    The Art of Lainey, by Paula Stokes
    Soccer star and general has-it-all girl Lainey Mitchell has a pretty awesome high school life going, until her long-term boyfriend dumps her out of nowhere. Lainey isn’t the type to take it lying down, so armed with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and an excellent best friend, she sets out with a plan to win him back. In this case, the plan involves mohawk-sporting, similarly-broken-heart-suffering coworker Micah, and a fauxmance intended to win both of their exes back. But it turns out the only romance worth fighting for is the one sparking between them, and watching them figure that out is oh-so-delightful.

    Whatever Life Throws at You, by Julie Cross
    Annie Lucas knows baseball—her father is the brand-new pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals. Jason Brody is baseball—the sexy new Royals’ rookie with a heartbreaker reputation to spare. There are so many reasons they need to keep their distance, but none of those compete with the chemistry they share. There’s something about sports-themed romances that just make them that much more swoon-inducing when done well. Maybe it’s the sheer amount of testosterone around, or maybe it’s just the baseball pants, but when it’s good, it just works, and it’s definitely good here. (Bonus points to Cross for all the frank sex talk, far too rare between partners in YA.)

    Ask Again Later, by Liz Czukas
    Heart LaCoeur has a ridiculous name and a ridiculous problem: two dates for one prom, neither of whom she’s interested in. Alternating timelines show the night playing out with each, but don’t be fooled by the premise—Czukas’ debut otherwise reads completely contemporary, and the romantic ending is beyond satisfying. It’s also charming, funny, and real, and one of my favorite recs for when you just need something to put you in a good mood, ASAP. (Which is also true of Czukas’ unrelated follow-up, Top Ten Clues You’re Clueless.)

    Not in the Script, by Amy Finnegan
    Emma Taylor’s been in Hollywood too long to believe there’s potential for true love there…until she meets her new costar, Jake Elliott. Jake is sweet, thoughtful, hot, and family-oriented, and the slow burn romance in this book is completely and wholly earned in the best way. Those who love the healthy pacing and fully fleshed development in books like My Life Next Door are sure to adore this one, and those looking for Hollywood YA with a heavy emphasis on insider Hollywood would do well to pick this one up, too.

    On the Fence, by Kasie West
    A truly adorable book about a girl named Charlie who’s surrounded by testosterone and starts to find her feminine side while falling for the boy next door. West stole my heart with her first contemporary YA romance, The Distance Between Us, and though this cute, fun summer read feels a little more light and predictable (as the friends-to-lovers trope tends to be), I loved the family dynamics even more. Most importantly, West holds up as one of the queens of romantic YA banter, which ensures I’ll be buying all her contemporary romances from here on out.

     
  • Sabrina Rojas Weiss 7:00 pm on 2014/10/03 Permalink
    Tags: , a separate peace, , , , , , , , , , , john knowles, , , , , , , stephanie perkins, the disreputable history of frankie landau-banks, , , ,   

    Belzhar and More of Our Favorite Boarding-School Novels 

    Meg Wolitzer's BelzharIs there any teen out there who doesn’t occasionally fantasize about being sent off to school far, far away from their parents? Sure, there are rules and teachers and things, but a boarding school is also a microcosm completely devoted to high-school students, sheltered from the outside world, ripe for all kinds of trouble and adventure. No wonder they’ve made great settings for novels from Jane Eyre to The Catcher in the Rye, A Little Princess to Harry Potter. This isn’t a definitive list of the “best” in the genre, but a smattering of favorites, each fulfilling a different literary need:

    A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
    Forget for a second that John Knowles’ story, about a New England boarding schooler named Gene who thinks his charismatic best friend, Phineas, might be secretly sabotaging him, is a universal favorite of English teachers. This is a great example of how boys’ friendships can be just as messed up as girls. Also, don’t take dumb high jumps off of trees, everyone.

    A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray
    The world was still deep in the midst of Harry Potter mania when Bray published this very different tale of 19th-century boarding school girls dabbling in magic. While they’re learning how to be proper Victorian ladies at Spence Academy in London, Gemma Doyle and her friends are also exploring a magical realm that lets them fulfill their real (rather libidinous) desires for knowledge, love, power, and freedom.

    Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    If no one told you Ishiguro’s novel is actually a cautionary sci-fi tale, you’d never know until the end. All you know at first is that Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are in a boarding school for special students, and their love triangle is one of the most restrained and tense relationships you’ll ever read.

    Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    By now, you know that no one does teen loss like Green. No one does crushes like him, either. His debut novel features both, as we follow Miles “Pudge” Halter to a boarding school in Georgia, where he meets troublemaking but golden-hearted scholarship students Alaska and Chip. Naturally, he falls in love with Alaska. Naturally, she is unattainable. But we readers fall right with him.

    The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
    Unattainable is no longer a word in Frankie Landau-Banks’ vocabulary when she comes back to her elite prep school newly hot and confident. Even when she finds out her boyfriend’s secret society won’t allow girls, she finds a way not just to infiltrate it, but to direct it from behind the scenes. Lockhart was a National Book Award finalist for this fine bit of feminist fun.

    Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
    The one big flaw in this story about a girl coming of age in a French boarding school is the fact that Anna is really pissed off her parents are making her go to a French boarding school. Wha? And yet, the charm of Perkins’ books is also how much we’re dying to be in her characters’ shoes.

    White Cat, by Holly Black
    We’d probably never want to be in the shoes of Cassel Sharpe, the protagonist of Holly Black’s Curse Workers series. The scholarship boarding school student comes from a long line of con artists. He thinks he doesn’t have the same magical powers—the ability to control others’ emotions, wipe their memories, or give them good luck with a mere touch—as the rest of his family, who are caught up in a crime organization run by the father of his best friend and love of his life, Lila, who he suspects he killed years ago. This is a love story, a noir thriller, and a paranormal high school drama all in one.

    The Raven Boys trilogy, by Maggie Stiefvater
    The majority of Maggie Stiefvater’s series takes place in the rural town of Henrietta, Virginia, home to Aglionby Academy, the kooky psychic ladies of Blue Sargent’s family, and perhaps a long-buried Welsh king who will grant a wish to whoever finds him. We barely see the school, but we fall in love with its students Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah, as they team up with firecracker Blue, who’s pretty sure she’s going to kill her first love with a kiss. In Stiefvater’s hands, each of the characters’ inner conflicts is every bit as important as the story’s rich-kid/townie tension and mystical goings on.

    Winger, by Andrew Smith
    It feels like a privilege to be inside the head of a Smith character, even one as insecure as Ryan Dean “Winger” West, a 14-year-old junior at Pine Mountain Academy. The intermittent witty illustrations and internal (relentlessly horny) dialogue make this one of the funniest (and most Salinger-esque) of this group, but there’s a deeper theme, too, as Ryan Dean learns what it means to be a good, honorable friend—to his BFF/crush Annie, his gay friend Joey, and his other rugby teammates. We can’t wait to see how he navigates senior year in Stand-Off, out January 2015.

    Belzhar, by Meg Wolitzer
    Meg Wolitzer has often included elements of adolescent coming of age in her novels, but this is her first crack at a truly YA story. Jam Gallahue has been sent to a boarding school for emotionally “fragile” students after the death of her boyfriend. There she’s placed in a special English lit class, where she’s one of just five students doing a close study of Sylvia Plath’s work. Inexplicably, when they write in antique journals their teacher has given them, they’re thrown into a dream world where the horrible circumstances that brought them there are reversed.

    What’s your favorite novel set in a boarding school?

     
  • Melissa Albert 3:56 pm on 2014/08/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , stephanie perkins, , , ,   

    4 YA Series You Should be Reading Right Now 

    New YA series When autumn starts peeking around the corner, it’s time to lay in stores of soup recipes, sweaters, and enough books to make yourself a little house built of chapters, because stay-in-the-house-reading weather always comes quicker than you think. Summer’s end is the perfect time to jump into a great series, with their built-in guarantee against going bookless any time soon. Here are three fantastic YA series that have just ended, and one that’s just begun, all of which you should be hoarding right now:

    Anna and the French Kiss trilogy, by Stephanie Perkins
    In her trio of highly edible romantic novels, Perkins throws funny, quirky, articulate hotties together in some of the most beautiful cities in the world, starting with Anna and Étienne (Anna and the French Kiss), moving on to Lola and Cricket (Lola and the Boy Next Door), and ending with Isla and Josh (Isla and the Happily Ever After, released last week). Perkins doesn’t desert her characters when their love story ends in a kiss, instead carrying them as supporting characters into the following books—because the only thing more fun than watching beloved characters fall in love is watching them stay in love.

    Prep School Confidential trilogy, by Kara Taylor
    When Upper East Side blueblood Anne Dowling is banished from her prestigious academy for, well, burning part of it down, her parents pack her off to boarding school, where she quickly finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery…and a love triangle. But the school’s web of secrets stretches further than she first believes, happily necessitating a whole trio of thoroughly delightful, voicey suspense novels, ending earlier this month with Deadly Little Sins. Anne is the right kind of heroine for the job: fearless but not stupid, privileged but accessible. You’ll want to devour these books in a week.

    Shadowlands trilogy, by Kate Brian
    In the earliest pages of this trilogy, which culminated last month with the release of Endless, teenaged Rory is targeted by an obsessive, brutally efficient serial killer who’s set on making her his 15th victim. She fights him off, he escapes, she’s sent with her father and sister to live in an isolated beachside town under the auspices of the witness protection program. Juniper Landing is equal parts hotspot and fever dream, full of sexy boys and new friends, dark edges and strange weather. When townspeople start disappearing, Rory’s first fear is that the killer has returned, but the truth in this hair-raising suspense story is far stranger.

    Illusive series, by Emily Lloyd-Jones
    Will you forgive us for making you fall for a series that’s just begun? Illusive dropped earlier this summer, combining daring acts of criminality with superpowered characters in an effervescent book that gets its hooks in you quick. Lloyd-Jones impeccably imagines a world where a superplague vaccine has left a small subsection of humanity afflicted with one of seven kinds of superpowers; the new order that’s shaken out in its wake finds the superpowered treated as criminals, freaks, or pawns. Protagonist Ciere Giba is a teen newly adept in the art of supernatural camouflage, on the run after her lawless lifestyle attracts the gaze of the wrong people. We can’t wait to see what Lloyd-Jones will dream up for book number 2.

    What series are you reading right now?

     
  • Melissa Albert 3:56 pm on 2014/08/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , stephanie perkins, , , ,   

    4 YA Series You Should be Reading Right Now 

    New YA series

    When autumn starts to peek around the corner, it’s time to lay in stores of soup recipes, sweaters, and enough books to make yourself a little house built of chapters, because “stay in the house reading” weather always comes quicker than you think. Summer’s end is the perfect time to jump into a great series, with their built-in guarantee against going bookless any time soon. Here are three fantastic YA series that have just ended, and one that’s just begun, all of which you should be hoarding right now:

    Shadowlands trilogy, by Kate Brian

    In the earliest pages of this trilogy, which culminated last month with the release of Endless, teenaged Rory is targeted by an obsessive, brutally efficient serial killer who is set on making her his 15th victim. She fights him off, he escapes, she’s sent with her father and sister to live in an isolated beachside town under the auspices of the witness protection program. Juniper Landing is equal parts hotspot and fever dream, full of dreamy boys and new friends, dark edges and strange weather. When townspeople start disappearing, Rory’s first fear is that the killer has returned, but the truth in this hair-raising suspense story is far more strange.

    Anna and the French Kiss trilogy, by Stephanie Perkins

    In her trio of highly edible romantic novels, Perkins throws funny, quirky, articulate hotties together in some of the most beautiful cities in the world, starting with Anna and Étienne (Anna and the French Kiss), moving on to Lola and Cricket (Lola and the Boy Next Door), and ending with Isla and Josh (Isla and the Happily Ever After, released last week). Perkins doesn’t desert her characters when their love story ends in a kiss, instead carrying them as supporting characters into the following books—because the only thing more fun than watching beloved characters fall in love is watching them stay in love.

    Prep School Confidential trilogy, by Kara Walker

    When Upper East Side blueblood Anne Dowling is banished from her prestigious academy for, well, burning part of it down, her parents pack her off to boarding school, where she quickly finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery…and a love triangle. But the school’s web of secrets stretches further than she initially believes, happily necessitating a whole trio of thoroughly delightful, voicey suspense novels, ending earlier this month with Deadly Little Sins. Anne is the right kind of heroine for the job: fearless but not stupid, privileged but accessible. You’ll want to devour the series in a week.

    Illusive series, by Emily Lloyd-Jones

    Will you forgive us for getting you hooked on a series that’s just begun? Illusive dropped earlier this summer, combining daring acts of criminality with superpowered characters in an effervescent book that gets its hooks in you quick. Lloyd-Jones impeccably imagines a world where a superplague vaccine has left a small subsection of humanity afflicted with one of seven kinds of superpowers; the new order that’s shaken out in its wake finds the superpowered treated as criminals, freaks, or pawns. Protagonist Ciere Giba is a teen newly adept in the art of supernatural camouflage, on the run after her lawless lifestyle attracts the gaze of the wrong people. We can’t wait to see what Lloyd-Jones will dream up for book number 2.

     
  • Dahlia Adler 5:00 pm on 2014/08/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , lola and the boy next door, , , stephanie perkins, , , ,   

    Stephanie Perkins on Creativity, Genre Jumping, and the Long-Awaited End to her YA Romance Trilogy 

    Stephanie Perkins and Isla

    This month marks the release of Isla and the Happily Ever After, the long-awaited final book in contemporary YA romance’s most popular trilogy. I was lucky enough to talk to Stephanie Perkins about all three books (including Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door), the upcoming compilation of holiday stories she’s editing (which features contributions from the likes of David Levithan, Holly Black, Laini Taylor, and Rainbow Rowell), and what comes next.

    Now that all three books are out, and we’ve gotten to know all three girls and guys, I feel confident I’m an Anna, married to a Josh. Which girl are you, and which guy would you say most closely resembles yours?

    More than one of the girls, I’m probably a Josh. I’m married to a Cricket.

    If you were crafting a world tour based on your books, what would your “must” stops be? (Feel free to throw in anywhere you imagine any of the couples heading in the future!)

    My characters are tied to Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco, D.C., London, and Paris. An additional stop should be made in Barcelona to admire the works of Antoni Gaudí. Isla and Josh would insist!

    You must get some amazing fan art, given your colorful characters and dreamy settings. Any particularly memorable ones? What made them so?

    I do. I’m incredibly fortunate. I love the artwork of Simini Blocker, especially her illustration of Cricket Bell, which can be found on Tumblr. She GOT him. Completely. I also love the reader from the Philippines who drew every single one of Lola’s costumes and bound them together like a fashion magazine.

    So much imagination goes into writing, but not everything makes it onto the page. What’s something that’s “canon” to you but didn’t make it into a book?

    Oh, wow. What a great question! I used to have a scene in which we see Cricket behind the wheel of a van, and we find out that he’s a spectacularly bad driver. I loved that. And as much as my readers will dislike it, Lola’s ex-boyfriend Max does end up having a successful music career. Anna’s almost-boyfriend Toph, however, does not.

    How did you choose Isla to be girl #3? Was it always her from the beginning, or did Meredith ever have a shot? (I will forever be looking for more dirt on Meredith. Just putting that out there.)

    Yeah. Isla was created specifically for Josh, and he was always going to be the boy in book three. I felt a great deal of kinship toward him. I’m happy you like Meredith! She has such a kind heart. She certainly gets her own happy ending, but I’m keeping it to myself for now. It’s not out of the question for me to write about it someday.

    My True Love Gave to Me sounds like an amazing compilation. What details can you share about your contribution, and the book as a whole?

    Thank you. It was my first time editing an anthology, and I’m so proud of how it came out. It’s a collection of twelve winter holiday romances, and the stories are phenomenal—smart, swoony, funny, sad, magical. Mine is the first story that I’ve set in my own hometown of Asheville, NC. It features a girl named Marigold, a boy named North, and a beautiful Christmas tree lot.

    You’re going totally outside your usual genre with a YA horror for your next solo book. How did that writing experience differ, and how big of a shock will it be to your romance fans?

    I’ve been warning my readers about it for the last two years, so hopefully it won’t be a shock. I don’t expect many of my regular readers to follow me with this book, and that’s okay. I understand that horror isn’t for everyone. But it’s definitely still a Stephanie Perkins novel—the types of characters, the dialogue, even a bit of romance in between the killing! But yeah. There’s a lot of blood. I’m still working on it, and it’s been a blast. Refreshing, as creepy as that might sound. I’ve always had a dark side.

    Your characters always have such strong passions for their creative pursuits. If you weren’t writing, what would you be throwing yourself into?

    Primatology. I always thought it would be cool to be Jane Goodall. I wanted to study bonobos. They’re peaceful, hypersexual, and they live in matriarchal societies. Not too shabby.

    Isla and the Happily Ever After is on shelves now!

     
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