Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I knew I could predict the future!

Perfect Chemistry won the RITA in the YA category, just as I predicted! I still haven't read it, because it's chronically on hold. So technically, the prediction was based on nothing. Well, it was based on the book's popularity. (Memo to RI librarians: there are 12 holds on only 10 copies!) But I'm still taking credit.

I did read three of the other nominations and ended up buying all of them for the library, despite their boring, grown-up covers. Seriously, do these look like teen books?

No. OK, maybe the middle one does. But the one on the left screams "Where's my poodle skirt? I want to go to the sock hop!"

Anyway, short reviews after the jump.

The ABCs of Kissing Boys by Tina Ferraro. What makes this book so fun is, surprisingly, not the romance: it's the girl politics. When junior Parker Stanhope doesn't make the varsity soccer team, her so-called friends cut her loose. She devises a crazy plan to get back on the team which involves a kissing booth ... now all she needs are kissing lessons. You can see where this is going.

This book had some crazy, cringe-inducing make-out scenes, but I kept reading because Parker and her ex-friends turned out to be a bunch of scheming, jealous queen bees, and I loved it. I didn't really buy Parker's reformation, but whatever. So it's far-fetched.

The book has a lot of plot--family feuds, cradle-robing crushes-- and made-up kisses like the caterpillar kiss and the steam kiss (those are made up, right?). And I like that our heroine, although she has never been kissed, isn't a bookish prude. She's just a normal junior who hasn't had a proper boyfriend. That single bit of realism was refreshing.

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols.
Although the romantic heroine in this novel is a blue-haired teen wild child with debilitating claustrophobia who is forced to accompany a hot cop on his beat for a week (What? It's a community service project. It's totally plausible), the novel avoids always having the man in the dominant position by making the girl the emotionally distant one. I guess.

Our girl is arrested by a cop who she thinks is like, 40, but turns out to have graduated from high school only one year ahead of her. After her arrest, she has to ride around with him for a week instead of going on spring break, so she can witness where her reckless behavior will lead. The novel consists mostly of heated conversations between our girl and the cop.

The good stuff: I was truly surprised by one of the characters' revelations (partly because it was soooooooo melodramatic), and the sexual tension is written in such a way that I could enjoy it without feeling embarrassed for the writer. And, finally, the narrator doesn't lie about the fact that she's attracted to the male lead. Thank you for not forcing me to roll my eyes until I was in danger of falling over backwards.

Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick. And this one was heart-breaking. Sometimes you hear about the stupid things people do, and you think: how could you screw up your life like that? And then you read a book like this, and the screwing up seems totally inevitable.

OK, so your first clue that this is all going to end in a awful train wreck is the awkward sex scene it starts with. Holly's mourning her mother's death in strange ways, apparently, like losing her virginity in a car at the beach with a guy she barely knows. But then the guy keeps coming back for more, and Holly starts to think that what they have is more real than what he has with his girlfriend.

Then Holly becomes friends with his girlfriend. Holly experiments with different roles: scorned woman, empowered mistress, disinterested friend-with-benefits, home wrecker, true love. The writing so clearly communicates her isolation and distress--the strange glassy wall that separates her from everyone--that we never stop sympathizing with her, even as she hurts everyone around her. Because she does it without malice or even forethought. It's so sad.

So, to sum up, the RITA nominations seem like a pretty good selection tool, and they defy what I usually think of as romance, so ... interesting.

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