Google+ YA Romantics: April 2017

Friday, April 28, 2017

Freebie Friday: And We're Off!

Happy Friday!

Today's giveaway is a finished copy of a new YA book about a summer road trip -- perfect since summer is around the corner!

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

#ReadaDessen Dreamland

by Sarah Dessen

Originally published on September 1, 2000
by Penguin Speak

Synopsis from Goodreads: Ever since she started going out with Rogerson Biscoe, Caitlin seems to have fallen into a semiconscious dreamland where nothing is quite real. Rogerson is different from anyone Caitlin has ever known. He's magnetic. He's compelling. He's dangerous. Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else--her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lackluster life. But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?
Source: library

My take: I'd actually never read this Sarah Dessen before.  Probably because I use her books as escape reading and this seemed like a darker book than I wanted to read. Yes, it's darker and less romantic than the rest of her books, but I thought its portrayal of an abusive relationship was gripping.

Caitlin's family is in turmoil after her perfect, Yale-bound older sister Cassie runs away from home. While Caitlin's parents focus on trying to find their older daughter and bring her back, Caitlin flounders. Her friend Rina convinces her to join the cheerleading squad. And she meets a guy named Rogerson. At first he seems like just what he needs -- a rebellious private school student who's the exact opposite of the perfection that Cassie ran away from.

I'm not an expert on domestic violence or the psychology of abusive relationships, but I thought the way that the book portrayed Caitlin's slow descent into the nightmare of abuse felt real to me. Rogerson begins to isolate Caitlin from her friends and family, to blame her for his violence and anger. And I was happy that the book took the time to show what happens to Caitlin after she leaves the relationship and seeks counseling.

This post is not officially part of #ReadaDessen, but be sure to enter to win the Penguin contest for a full set of Dessen books here!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing April 24-May 1

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

LAST CHANCE to enter the April giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Saint Death Lucky Girl Sunkissed Wonder of Us
Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook)
Lucky Girl by Amanda Maciel (Balzer + Bray)
Sunkissed (Ladybirds #4) by Jenny McLachlan (Feiwel and Friends)
The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson (Point)

North of Happy This Is Really Happening Looking for Group
North of Happy by Adi Alsaid (Harlequin)
This is Really Happening by Erin Chack (Razorbill)
Looking for Group by Rory Harrison (Harper)

Legion The Whole Thing Together Maud Between Two Skies
Legion (Talon #4) by Julie Kagawa (Harlequin)
The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares (Delacorte)
Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery by Melanie Fishbane (Razorbill Canada)
Between Two Skies by Joanne O'Sullivan (Fewer and Friends)

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Monday, April 24, 2017

#ReadaDessen Keeping the Moon + Trivia

Keeping the Moon
by Sarah Dessen

Originally published
on Sept 1, 1999
by Penguin Speak

Synopsis from Goodreads: Colie expects the worst when she's sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast -- first for being fat and then for being "easy" -- Colie has no friends at home and doesn't expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina. But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along.

Source: Library

My take: Keeping the Moon retains some of the cynicism toward romance of That Summer and Someone Like You but adds a new theme: self-image. Colie was formerly overweight and her mom is an infomercial exercise guru. Since her mom's traveling, Colie goes to Colby to live with her aunt Mira. (This is also the first Dessen set in Colby!)

Mira is eccentric and, since Colie was bullied in high school, it's painful for Colie to watch the locals mock Mira's weight and crazy outfits. She can't believe that Mira doesn't care what others think of her. Some other major characters are Morgan and Isabel, two polar opposite best friends who wait tables with Colie at the Last Chance Bar and Grill.  Isabel is pretty and pragmatic, while lanky Morgan hides her vulnerability under a cranky exterior.

When Colie meets a cute, preppy visitor to Colby, she wants to date him just to prove to her bullies that she's worthy of love. But maybe she's really attracted to Norman, an artist who's more on the unconventional side, like Mira.

Having worked in food service, I loved the scenes at the Last Chance. And though this romance takes the whole book to really get started, it was sweet.

This post is not officially part of #ReadaDessen, but be sure to enter to win the Penguin contest for a full set of Dessen books here!

KEEPING THE MOON quiz: how much do you remember?

1. What is Aunt Mira's job?
A. She writes jingles for commercials
B. She writes condolence cards
C. She writes games for the back of cereal boxes
D. She writes fortunes for fortune cookies

2. What is the band Norman listens to on the radio?
A. The Vixens of Varina
B. The Bros of Biscoe
C. The Sweethearts of Shalott
D. The Fierces of Fuquay

3. What type of athlete is Morgan's boyfriend?
A. Baseball player
B. Racecar driver
C. Hockey player
D. Golfer

4. What do Morgan and Isabel order in the mail?
A. The Thighmaster
B. A Topsytail
C. Columbia Records and Tapes
D. Rejuvenique Electric Face Mask

The answers and more quizzes are on my Sarah Dessen trivia page!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

#ReadaDessen Someone Like You + Trivia!

Someone Like You
by Sarah Dessen

Originally Published May 1, 1998
by Penguin
Synopsis from Goodreads: Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett. But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she's carrying his baby, she was devastated. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Their friendship may bend under the weight, but it'll never break--because a true friendship is a promise you keep forever.
Source: library

My take:  After my re-read, I think this book fits into what I call "early Dessen": a younger character learning about life and love with a minimum of romance and a hint of disillusionment.

Scarlett and Halley are best friends, but the summer before their junior year, Scarlett's boyfriend is killed. A few months later, Scarlett discovers she's pregnant and has to figure out what to do. Halley has problems of her own: Macon, the new guy she likes, seems to have a lot of ex-girlfriends and he's pressuring her to get more physical.

Given that this book has a more serious aspect, with the teen pregnancy plotline, I expected it to feel angstier than it did. Yes, the pregnancy is a major part of the story, but it felt to me like just another thing that the girls had to deal with, along with boy trouble and annoying parents. But overall, it's a great friendship story.

Be sure to enter to win the Penguin contest for a full set of Dessen books here! Giveway courtesy of Penguin Random House.

SOMEONE LIKE YOU Quiz: how Much Do You Remember?

1. Lakeview, the town where Halley and Scarlett live, has a motto. What is it?
A: Lakeview: One Community Around the Lake
B: Lakeview: Live Where You Play
C: Lakeview: A Community of Friends
D. Lakeview: Gateway to the Lakes

2. In what situation does Macon suggest that Halley use the Jedi Mind Trick?
A: Her school schedule is completely messed up
B: She's turning her homework in late
C: She's missed curfew again
D: She needs a day off from her job at Milton's Market

3. What does Halley's father call the family lawnmower?
A: Old Rusty
B: Chopper
C: The Green Machine
D: The Beast

4. What's the name of the pregnancy book that Scarlett reads throughout the story?
A: You're Pregnant - What Now?
B: The Pregnant Mother's Companion
C: The Expectant Mother
D: Yeah, Baby!

5. Scarlett goes into labor during 
A: Graduation
B: Prom
C: The school musical
D: The SATs

Find the answers and more Dessen quizzes on my #ReadaDessen page!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing April 18-24

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

Enter the April giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Bang Grendel's Guide to Love and War Meg & Linus Fireworks
Bang by Barry Lyga (Little, Brown)
Grendel's Guide to Love and War by A. E. Kaplan (Knopf)
Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski (Swoon)
Fireworks by Katie Cotugno (Harper)

Missing The Adjustment Sky Throne Vincent and Theo
Missing by Kelley Armstrong (Crown)
The Adjustment (The Program #3) by Suzanne Young (Simon Pulse)
The Sky Throne by Chris Ledbetter (Month(Books)
Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heligman (Henry Holt)

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Monday, April 17, 2017

#ReadaDessen That Summer + Trivia + Giveaway!

This week kicks off #ReadaDessen,  a six-week celebration of all things Sarah Dessen and a countdown to the publication of Dessen's new book, Once and For All.

I'm officially reviewing two Dessen books as part of the promotion, but I'm also re-reading and re-visiting ALL the books on my own, so watch for those posts as well, which will include my own Dessen Trivia!

Finally, as part of the #ReadaDessen promotion, Penguin is offering up a complete set of Dessen books -- enter in the Rafflecopter below!

That Summer 
by Sarah Dessen

Originally published by Viking
on January 1, 1996

Original synopsis from Goodreads: For fifteen-year-old Haven, life is changing too quickly. She's nearly six feet tall, her father is getting remarried, and her sister—the always perfect Ashley—is planning a wedding of her own. Haven wishes things could just go back to the way they were. Then an old boyfriend of Ashley's reenters the picture, and through him, Haven sees the past for what it really was, and comes to grips with the future.

Source: I received a copy of That Summer as part of the #ReadaDessen campaign. But was a Dessen fan long before that!

My take: Here are some things I'd forgotten about early Dessen:

1. It's the 90s -- no technology. No cell phones, no Facebook, no Insta. For me, this gives theses early books a timeless feel!

2. These earliest few books feature younger characters and just a hint of romance. Haven is only fifteen and her life is in turmoil -- her father's getting remarried, her older sister Ashley is in the midst of planning a wedding on her own, and her mom is embracing single life with a new BFF.  So Haven feels a little lost and left out.

Enter Sumner, an ex-boyfriend of Ashley's who is holding down multiple jobs, including one at the mall where Haven works. Haven always liked Sumner and can't really figure out what went wrong between him and her sister. As Haven looks at all this coupling and uncoupling, she tries to figure out what love means.
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Prizes provided and shipped by Penguin Random House. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on April 17, 2017 and 12:00 AM on May 29, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about June 1, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

THAT SUMMER Quiz:  how much do you remember?

1. Haven's sister Ashley is NOT worried about which ONE of the following things ruining her wedding to Lewis:
A. Haven growing out of her dress.
B. Whether their cousin Carol will be in the wedding
C. That Lewis' parents don't like her
D. That Sumner will crash the wedding

2. Haven's dad has a new fiancee, Lorna. What is Lorna's job?
A.  Kindergarten teacher
B.  TV Weather forecaster
C.  Marine biologist
D. Clinique salesperson

3. Haven's job at the Lakeview mall is at:
A. Little Feet
B. Yogurt Paradise
C. The Candy Shack
D. Dillard's

4. Haven runs away from her job after she:
A. Gets caught kissing a boy in the storeroom
B.  Shows up late every day for a week
C. Throws something at a customer's head
D. Gets caught giving free merchandise to her friend Casey.

5. Sumner does NOT do which one of these jobs:
A. Mall security guard
B. Dog walker
C. Encylopedia salesman
D. Dance partner at the senior center

How did you do? Answers are here on my #readaDessen page

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Just Finished Reading ... The Upside of Unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli

Published on April 11, 2017
by Balzer + Bray

Source: eARC for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful. Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back. There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?
My take:  If you're a regular blog reader, you know that I prefer my stories on the streamlined side. As The Upside of Unrequited started out, it definitely didn't feel streamlined to me. Main character Molly has two moms, a twin sister and a baby brother. She's very self-conscious about her weight. Her twin sister is suddenly head over heels in love and Molly feels abandoned. Then her moms start planning a big event that causes family drama, her twin tries to fix her up with a guy, her cousin Abby (Simon's Abby!) is also in love (with Nick!) etc. etc. For me it was a lot.

I did like the fact that certain aspects of the story were presented as just a part of regular life, without a lot of fanfare. Molly has a white mom and a black mom. One mom is bisexual and the other is a lesbian. Molly and her siblings are sperm donor babies. Her twin sister's new girlfriend is pansexual. Molly's on an SSRI. While I was happy that these things weren't made out to be Big Issues, I did sometimes wanted to know more.

Another big part of the story is Molly's feelings about her body and her fears of rejection by guys because of her weight. This part of the story felt fully developed and very poignant. On a related note, because everyone around her is paired up, Molly desperately wants to find someone. When her sister tries to set her up, she tries desperately to make it work. At the same time, she's drawn to her co-worker. (This wasn't triangle-y, but Molly did spend time with both guys trying to sort out her feelings.)

When Molly's romance finally got on course, I absolutely loved this book. Watching this too-cute-for-words couple inch slowly together was a delight. And Abby, Simon, and Nick make a guest appearance in the book!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing April 11-17

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come.

NEW April giveaway! Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Takedown Cheesus Was Here Upside of Unrequited Duels and Deception
The Takedown by Corrie Wang (Disney Freeform)
Cheesus was Here by J. C. Davis (Skypony)
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (Balzer ++ Bray

Alex and Eliza Literally Fireworks
Alex & Eliza: A Love Story by Melissa de la Cruz (Putnam)
Literally by Lucy Keating (Harper)
Fireworks by Katie Cotugno (Balzer + Bray)

Unearthly Things Run the Risk Freemason's Daughter
Unearthly Things by Michelle Gagnon (Soho Press)
Run the Risk by Allison van Diepen (Harper)
The Freemason's Daughter by Shelley Sackier (Harper)

Spindle Fire Blacksouls Given to the Sea
Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer (Harper)
Blacksouls (Blackhearts #2) by Nicole Castroman (Simon Pulse)
Given of the Sea by Mindy McGinnis (Putnam)

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Just Finished Reading: The Takedown

The Takedown
by Corrie Wang

To be published by Disney/Freeform
on April 11, 2017

Source: eARC for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Kyla Cheng doesn't expect you to like her. For the record, she doesn't need you to. On track to be valedictorian, she's president of her community club, a debate team champ, plus the yummy Mackenzie Rodriguez has firmly attached himself to her hip. She and her three high-powered best friends don't just own their senior year at their exclusive Park Slope, Brooklyn high school, they practically define the hated species Popular. Kyla's even managed to make it through high school completely unscathed. Until someone takes issue with this arrangement. A week before college applications are due, a video of Kyla "doing it" with her crush-worthy English teacher is uploaded to her school's website. It instantly goes viral, but here's the thing: it's not Kyla in the video. With time running out, Kyla delves into a world of hackers, haters and creepy stalkers in an attempt to do the impossible-take something off the internet-all while dealing with the fallout from her own karmic footprint.
My take:  I expected The Takedown to be a glossy and superficial, like a Pretty Little Liars set in the future. I was partly right - this is a fast paced, provocative story of mean girls and revenge peppered with futuristic SMS slang. But it's more than that -- it's also a sharply observed, unapologetically honest look at girls and friendship and sexuality and social media. It's set in the not-too-far future, a world where social media and technology have eroded privacy and wormed into our lives to an even greater degree.

Kyla's not a "nice" girl. She doesn't apologize for being pretty unlikable. She's a Queen Bee who rules her foursome of friends with an iron fist and a sharp tongue.  One day during senior year, Kyla sees a weird countdown on her phone. After the minutes tick down, a mysterious someone releases a video of Kyla having sex with a teacher.

Kyla may be guilty of social crimes, but she's not the person in the video. Somehow it's been faked, presumably by someone who hates her, and she admits there's a list. One interesting thing this book pulls off is making Kyla completely unsympathetic until the video drops. After everyone turned on her and believed she's guilty, I started feeling sorry for her and rooting for her to succeed. If anyone could track and trap someone guilty of revenge porn, it's a tough-as-nails, take-no-prisoners person like Kyla.

A few weeks ago, I read another book that dealt with issues of female friendship, female sexuality and revenge. I thought that book alternated between recycling stale notions of women and sex, and repeating stale platitudes.

Unlike that book, The Takedown takes lots of commonly-held ideas about women and sex and friendship, then turns them around and around so that the reader can examine them from a multitude of different angles. Kyla's role model in the book is a (future) female president of the United States. But an equally famous character is an anonymous girl who posts "bra and panty" videos of herself online. Kyla thinks that girl is a slut. The book asks us: is a woman who willingly releases her own sexy videos a feminist heroine, or a victim of a culture that objectifies women? When a mean girl gets her comeuppance, are we supposed to cheer about that? Why is there a double standard that forces women to a "nice girl" or be deemed unlikable? To be a "good" girl or be deemed a slut?

I cringed sometimes at Kyla's interactions with others, but really enjoyed watching her pursue her tormentor with ruthless determination. As she fights to find the person who faked and posted the video, she learns a lot about how others view her and has to come to terms with her own strengths and weaknesses as a person.

Really enjoyed this and look forward to what Corrie Wang writes next!
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