In the last five weeks I’ve read at least a half dozen YA romances that have all impressed me to some degree and for varying reasons.
Let’s start with Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik
I liked this rendition of Pride and Prejudice, mostly because it did not read like a rendition of the old classic. Certain voices were familiar. Elizabeth in Elise was certainly very apparent. But while the premise remained loosely the same – the twists followed faithfully – the situations, dialogues, emotions and setting were too different for me to keep recalling that I’m reading a modern-day re-write of Pride and Prejudice for young adults.
For one thing – and this is very important to me – no one can bring back Darcy.
While Elizabeth may transcend times, Fitzwilliam Darcy was himself because of that period, because of the accepted way of thinking and perceiving the world back then, and also for the social barriers that – while they still may exist and be successful obstacles to young love – today no longer sound the dreadful and ominous gongs of doom that the protagonists of Georgian literature needed such courage and/or wealth to ignore or overcome.
Derek is a very different hero. Yes, he is aloof like Darcy was; yes, he seems to hate Webster (Wickham) for no reason what-so-ever; and yes, he even has a really nice guy for a best friend and a sweet younger sister he is very protective of. But he is not Darcy.
He is a young guy who likes a girl who is pretending she doesn’t like him back, and is determinedly flirting with his archenemy. To him this girl is unexpectedly refreshing, her family surprisingly unusual (and not in a good way), and her determination to think the worst of him even after they shared a happy hour over the ping-pong table bewildering. Also, he is no son of a wealthy Lord.
Ah, no, he is worse. His parents are famous movie stars, and if he doesn’t keep to himself, sticking only with Chase (Bingley) and tolerating his sister Chelsea (Caroline), he would have to deal with even more fawning and adoring than he already has to and be hurt when people he likes abuse his trust to claim a little fame.
So. Yes. I like the hero, I like the heroine and I like the detailed cast that draws a nice arc over all the characters from P&P.
Author blog – Claire LaZebnik
Next in line is So Over You by Gwen Hayes
I didn’t like the cover much. But then I didn’t really pay any attention to it till long after I finished the book. I thank Amazon book samples. The story’s first few pages got me so involved in it that I never even glanced at the cover, simply ordered it.
What struck me first was the dialogue. The protagonists speak as if they are in that 1940s Cary Grant movie about two reporters in a news paper. These are eighteen year old students in a modern day high school but you wont think that to listen to them.
They are witty of course, and very funny. But the wit is the clever stuff that spouts from the mouths of people obsessed with words, with writing. In their fictional personas as two dedicated editors of their school paper – which unfortunately now exists only on the virtual sphere (the school having refused to keep paying for the printing) – they pull off the slightly heavy exchanges very well. It suits them and it highlights all that they have in common.
Layney Logan and Jimmy Foster (I love the guy’s name, again very 1940s) have been best friends for a long time, then a couple for a short while and finally enemies for the last few years. Now they are stuck as co-Senior Editors of their nearly non-existent school paper that they are determined to revive and keep running.
They hatch an advertising idea. Well, Jimmy hatches it and Layney doesn’t like it. And she is sure that he suggested it to their enthusiastic team with the sole purpose of tormenting her because the idea involves the reclusive Layney Logan dating twelve guys in twelve weeks – sight unseen. And who chooses these dates for Layney? Why, Jimmy, of course!
She’s not sure what he’s up to but she’s sure it’s no good.
You can’t help but like these two. They have always loved each other and they still do, though their feelings have nearly been buried until a large pile of unspoken apologies and unheard explanations.
Something happened to Layney in middle school. Something after which she couldn’t face Jimmy. She needed only an excuse to push him away and he provided that unwittingly at some other girl’s birthday party. Furious with Layney and hurting at her injustice Jimmy decided he didn’t need her when Layney needed him the most. But neither brought it up again. They competed against each other and parried words when they were in the same room – but neither said what they needed to and too much time passed by.
And now Jimmy and Layney were about to be given a second chance. Read to know how they go about grasping it.
A final comment on the story. Layney’s voice was always dry and only some times bordering on wistful. The narrative didn’t really delve too deeply into what happened all those years ago and it felt like Layney never really wanted to go into it. You learn most of the details near the end when she bursts out and confesses everything to a startled Jimmy. This was both a relief to me – too many authors linger on descriptions of the girl’s feelings when she recalls the incidence and go on and on about it – and a surprise (for the same reason). I had expected the author to go more into the cathartic effects of finally talking about what was eating her up inside. But she didn’t and it worked for me, because by the end of the book I knew Layney well enough to guess how she would deal with it.
Author blog – Gwen Hayes
The third is Major Crush by Jennifer Echols
The book is adorable, the boy is cute and the girl is funny. The plot moves smoothly, the romance develops slowly, the sweet moments come in hiccups but are savory and the conflict is unforced and timely.
It’s a good YA romance and probably underrated. I’ve read Ms Echol’s other books and while this one is more light hearted than her usual fare it is actually a lot better written. The characters are more engaging and when discord interrupts the couple’s developing romance it is for a reason I can understand and empathize with.
There are a few ridiculous characters thrown in for laughs – for instance, our hero, Drew, is dating another girl at the beginning of this story. The problem is the girl has a twin and while he knows he is dating one of them he isn’t sure which one that is.
Now come on, don’t judge him too harshly. It isn’t that he’s a jerk – it’s just that his easy going life had been severely disrupted over the summer and when he started dating the girl he was overworked, confused, angry and hardly had time for her. The comedy in it all is how creepily attached the twins are to him when he’s barely spent any time with either of them.
The heroine, Virginia, has her own bag of problems. She has a best friend who has a huge crush on her, a father she can’t quite forgive and a co-drum major who pretends she doesn’t exist and treats her like an incompetent idiot.
But after a disastrous performance in front of the whole school they now need to work with each other to bring all parts of the fractured band together and ready themselves for a major inter school marching band competition. So, under the strict aegis of their new band coordinator/coach they start afresh and try to be friends. It takes only half a day of being a little nice to each other to realize that they already have more than friendship brewing between them.
And they rest as they say is…in the book. Read it.
Author blog – Jennifer Echols
And finally, Forever Mine by Elizabeth Reyes
This is the first book of a series and quite frankly, the best of it. Maybe, it’s because the author is more gifted with the YA genre than she thinks. The rest of her books, although very good on their own, deal with contemporary romance between young twenty-somethings and don’t really measure up to this one.
Sarah has just moved to California to live with her aunt and cousin and enrolled in a new school. She hadn’t wanted to move and is determined to head back home as soon as she can. The only thing stopping her is the fact that her mom is in jail and she promised her that she would stay in California.
To Sarah, home is Flagstaff AZ. That’s where her real family is- Sydney, her best friend and his parents. Not the aunt and cousin she barely knows.
But then she meets Angel Moreno. The second youngest of the Moreno siblings and the hottest boy in school. And for some reason beyond her understanding he takes one look at her and finds himself hooked.
So Angel starts pursuing her and she’s happy enough to be caught. But on their very first date she makes it clear to him that at the end of the year she’s heading back to Flagstaff, and nothing will change her mind.
So with that axe hanging over his head, Angel decides he has just enough time to convince her that she never wants to go away from him.
I really did like this book a lot. The narrative edged on Contemporary Adult, but never quite. Angel is strongly attracted to her and while he doesn’t hide it he never pressures her in anyway. He is sweet, considerate and knows he has a streak of possessiveness so he tries his best to tamp it down for her sake. Sarah is a sensible girl except for her one hang up about going back home. She’s strongly tempted to stay with Angel but in the end starts feeling guilty about thinking of breaking her promise to Sydney. They are sweet, conflicted and very passionate about each other.
And finally, the main conflict. Sydney. The boy-best friend. As I mentioned, Angel can be possessive and jealous, sometimes overbearingly so. We are given to understand that it’s a strong family trait and that his is actually quite mild compared to his brother Alex. But unfortunately for Sarah – who allows Angel to assume that Sydney is a girl – when Angel meets Sydney, it’s under very inauspicious circumstances.
And then things get fun. No, not really. But the author describes their longing for each other quite well, while allowing the reading to watch the rest of their families move on in their own lives.
The length of this review doesn’t mean I love this book the best in the bunch, but it does tell you that there are actually more number of things that struck me in this story, even though I’ve done a poor job of explaining them.
Author blog – Elizabeth Reyes