Tag Archives: stephanie perkins

A New Wave of YA is Coming

After several years of being less engaged with the world of young adult books, I find myself looking forward to new releases from many of my favorite authors. 2017 has already been a brighter year for YA with a new book from Sarah Dessen and the discovery of Sabaa Tahir’s series-in-progress. Join me in nerding out over four upcoming books and admiring beautiful cover art.

There’s Someone Inside Your House on September 26!

There's Someone Inside Your House

Stephanie Perkins is a delight in her Anna and the French Kiss trilogy. Having briefly met her at NerdCon: Stories, I can also vouch for the fact that she’s a delight in person. She’s been teasing this book for a while now: like a teen slasher flick but with plenty of kissing and googly eyes (she promises!). It took some time for me to warm up to the idea, but now I’m pumped. I love that she’s willing to work outside of her established patterns. Given the humanity that she can bring to a teenage romance in Paris, I predict that There’s Someone Inside Your House will have more emotional resonance than the average horror story.

Turtles All the Way Down on October 10!

Turtles All the Way Down

By the time this book comes out, it will have been almost six years since the release of The Fault in Our Stars. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if John Green would ever publish again, at least in the YA genre. He’s certainly been keeping busy with creating educational online video. In this case, I’m glad to be wrong. Turtles All the Way Down deals with mental illness, which according to John himself, is inspired by his own experiences with OCD. Although I keep up with John through his online content, I look forward to learning what his brain has been working on these past six years. It’s sure to be thought-provoking.

Truly Devious on January 16!

Truly Devious

As blog readers probably know, my deepest wish is for Maureen Johnson to publish the fourth Shades of London book. Well, it’s vying with a few other literary wishes, but it’s right up there. Luckily, Truly Devious sounds like it has the potential to fill the void. It continues Maureen’s trend of boarding school settings, this time at an American school with ambitious students and a mysterious founder. If I can’t have ghost detectives in London, I’ll take a regular teen detective in Vermont. Not to mention, the cover art is on point!

A Reaper at the Gates on April 10!

A Reaper at the Gates

This is the third book in Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series. Since I just caught up with the series this spring, a year isn’t too long to wait for the next installment. However, there was much confusion when I saw the cover. A quick search revealed that the entire series is be re-released with new cover art. I’m not a huge fan of the high fantasy mood of the new designs, not being a frequent fantasy reader myself, but this interview with Sabaa explains her motivation for showing the faces of her diverse characters. The second book left the three main characters in unexpected places, so I’m excited to see where she takes them.

It’s worth noting that only one of these books is a sequel. There are fresh ideas brewing in the YA world, and I’m all about it.

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NerdCon: Stories, Day One

Bright and early on Friday morning, my fellow nerds and I flocked to the Minneapolis Convention Center to hear from some of our favorite storytellers. Although the crowd skewed toward teens and young adults, there were people of all ages in attendance. I saw more cat eye glasses and brightly dyed hair than you would find in a random sampling, as well as an abundance of nerdy T-shirts.

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Each day opened with a mainstage show, followed by several time slots for discussion panels and book signings, then another mainstage show in the afternoon. Hank Green kicked off the Friday morning mainstage by explaining why he organized the convention and why he thinks stories matter. There were separate (but hilarious) history lessons from the musical comedy duo Paul & Storm and games played with some of the guests. Book people are generally a decent sort, but it was nice to start off on a positive note with the whole group.

Next on my agenda was the Stephanie Perkins signing. Remember how I love her? For signings they set up a room with four sections of chairs. In theory, after a guest’s section was full, the signing was closed. This was my first exposure to the popularity of fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss. He was signing at the same time as Stephanie, and there were a bunch of people who couldn’t even get in. We were a more subdued group on the Stephanie Perkins side of the aisle. That made it possible for her to take photos and chat a bit with each person.

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My biggest mistake was probably not caffeinating beforehand. I found myself a little surprised and awkward when I actually met her. Thankfully I had written a card to give her so that I wouldn’t feel pressured to be brilliant on the spot. She’s a very sweet person, not to mention adorable. I had her sign my copy of Isla and the Happily Ever After because it’s the only one that I have in hardcover. Her inscription is a reference from the book. I was a little frustrated with the dim lighting in the signing room, but they rectified the situation the next day.

In the afternoon I went to two panels. The first was the Nerdfighter Q&A with Hank and John Green, which was mostly silly but also touching at times. Maureen Johnson moderated with her dry sense of humor, pretending to get angry if the men would go off on tangents. There were running jokes about An American Tail and the fact that John owed Maureen a dollar. In one of the serious moments, John got choked up talking about how much he appreciates the support from the community that’s built up around the Vlogbrothers videos.

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My second panel was the “So How Do You Make Your Money?” panel. This topic may have been a little broad for a one-hour discussion, or else it just wasn’t what I was expecting. At least I got to see Hank Green and Stephanie Perkins at close range. Stephanie talked about how she felt pressured to write serious fiction when she was studying creative writing in college, even though her true passion was for children’s literature. I definitely felt that pressure as well, although a lot of it was self-inflicted, so I was hardcore relating to her story.

When I was planning my NerdCon adventure, I intended to go to an event during every time slot and probably stay for the evening performances. The problem with this plan is that it ignores basic needs like eating and rest. Being an introvert, I get exhausted by crowds after an extended period of time. After the afternoon mainstage show, I decided to head home. I went to everything that really mattered to me, and I needed to rest up for the bananas day that was Saturday.

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The Stephanie Perkins Admiration Society

I have mixed feelings about romance in young adult novels. I mean, I love it, but I have mixed feelings. When romance is well-written, it can make your whole world seem brighter. Yet when I read about teenagers finding true love, I can’t always forget that in the real world this experience is the exception, not the rule. I think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer when he confronts his coworkers at the greeting card company: “It’s these cards, and the movies and the pop songs, they’re to blame for all the lies and the heartache, everything. We’re responsible. I’m responsible. I think we do a bad thing here.” His character is speaking from a broken heart, but he makes a compelling point about the romantic expectations created by stories and songs.

I certainly don’t think it’s wrong to tell love stories in young adult novels (or anywhere else). Love is a wonderful part of life, and escapism is a perfectly valid reason to read a book or watch a movie. I just hope that young people can internalize the fact that these stories aren’t reflective of all high school experiences. (Then again, that unreality is probably one of the reasons we enjoy them.) Despite my moments of cynicism, sometimes I come across a YA romance that turns my heart to mush. Anna and the French Kiss and its sequels are the best example of the past year. And if loving Stephanie Perkins is wrong, I don’t want to be right!

Anna and the French Kiss

I was feeling a little down recently, and some reread therapy seemed like the perfect antidote. I picked up Anna and the French Kiss and then Isla and the Happily Ever After about a month later. In an uncharacteristic decision for me, I skipped Lola and the Boy Next Door, the second book in the series. Each book has a different narrator, and some characters reoccur between books. Lola is an outlier because it takes place in San Francisco, rather than the School of America in Paris. On the other hand, the male lead of Isla is one of Anna’s friends in the first book, so there’s much more crossover between the two. Even though I’m not much of a Francophile, in these books I’m a sucker for the Paris setting.

Since the characters are in boarding school, their lifestyle is closer to college than seniors in high school. It makes them seem older and probably keeps some of my cynicism at bay. More importantly, the interactions and development of relationships feel so genuine. As Rainbow Rowell put it, “Stephanie Perkins’s characters fall in love the way we all want to, in real time and for good.” Anna and the French Kiss shows particularly pleasing relationship growth, with all the awkward moments and miscommunication that are typical of young adult relationships. (And okay, some adult relationships, but let’s not go there.)

Isla and the Happily Ever After

Isla and the Happily Ever After warms the cockles of my heart for somewhat different reasons. Isla has always had a crush on Josh, and a painkiller-fueled encounter in the summer before their senior year finally brings them together. Throughout Anna and the French Kiss, Josh is in a tumultuous relationship with a different girl, and Isla deals with insecurities about his ex that are all too real. I find my younger self hardcore identifying with some of their issues, at a level that I can only compare to Cath in Fangirl. Josh is also an aspiring graphic novelist, which is both relevant to the story and an enjoyable nerd factor.

Sometimes I like to put my finger on why I love something. What sets it apart? Even though some reasons are probably intangible, it’s fun to articulate a few.

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Best of 2014: Book Edition, Part 2

You guys, these books are so good. I hope you enjoy my top 5 books of the year, and when you’re done enjoying, maybe go check one out. (Or, you know, all of them. Whatever.)

5. Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss is the first in a series of related books, and I could easily have included any of them on my favorites list. However, there’s something special about Anna, the story of a high school senior sent to a boarding school for Americans in Paris. It has just the right balance of wish-fulfillment and relatable characters. I love Anna’s interest in cinema, not to mention her swoon-worthy Paris romance. Stephanie Perkins creates a world that I was all to happy to live in for two more books.

4. Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places

While reading Dark Places, I was constantly trying to solve the mystery, even when I wasn’t actually reading. Libby is the lone survivor of the night her brother killed her mother and sisters, a childhood trauma that has turned her into a less than functional adult. However, an unlikely alliance with real crime enthusiast/nerd Lyle leads her to rethink what she thinks she knows about the night that changed her life forever. The plot unfolds with fiendish tenacity between Libby in the present and her brother Ben on day of the murders. I defy you to stop turning the pages. (Click here for further discussion.)

3. The Other Typist, by Suzanne Rindell

The Other Typist

Friendship can be a transformative influence, as several of the books on this list attest, but The Other Typist deals with a darker transformation. Rose Baker is a by-the-book typist for the New York City police department, until a new typist joins her precinct. Odalie is a Roaring Twenties daydream worthy of Jay Gatsby. Beneath the trappings of speakeasies and flapper haircuts, this novel is an engrossing study of identity. Is it truly possible to change who we are? (I had plenty more to say in my full review here.)

2. Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell

Attachments

Reading Attachments is like watching a really good romantic comedy, one that’s genuinely romantic and funny. In the early days of office internet, Lincoln is hired to monitor employee emails for a newspaper. In the line of duty, he reads the messages between two women and falls in love with one of them. The premise may sound far-fetched, but Rainbow Rowell has a knack for bringing realism to any scenario. One of my bookstore coworkers asked which Rainbow Rowell character would be my ideal boyfriend, and I had to say Lincoln. He’s the perfect combination of sweet, awkward, and self-deprecating.

1. Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity won the Printz Award for good reason. It opens with a British spy writing her confession in a French Gestapo prison. However, she uses the time and paper to tell about her best friend Maddie, the transport pilot who flew on this already-doomed mission. The story is absolutely gripping, made all the more so by the fierce bond of friendship that the reader can feel between the two friends. Code Name Verity has everything going for it: strong writing, characters, and plot. It’s also covers two of my favorite genres (young adult and historical fiction), making it an easy pick for my favorite book of the year.

Thanks for joining me on this year-end retrospective. Catch you in 2015!

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Quick Takes on Teen Romance

In my By the Book post, I mentioned buying three YA paperbacks to enjoy this summer. Overall I was pleased with my picks and wanted to share some brief thoughts on each. There’s a heavy dose of teen romance here, but also some great stories about how we love our friends.

Forever

I bought Forever because it’s a classic teen book (and because I like the new Judy Blume covers—not that I’m swayed by packaging or anything). Since its publication in 1975, this book has been controversial for its frank discussion of teen sexuality. Even by 2014 standards, the sexuality was more explicit than most contemporary fiction for teens. That’s not to say that the situations are sensationalized or exploitative, just very matter-of-fact. Actually, Blume’s whole writing style is straightforward in the extreme: heavy on the dialogue and light on the description. Although Forever won’t make its way onto my list of favorite teen reads, its honesty makes me glad that the book exists.

Anna and the French Kiss

Sometimes I worry that I will lose my ability to find joy in a simple love story. Then a book like Anna and the French Kiss reminds me that I am still perfectly capable. The book’s premise has wish-fulfillment written all over it, but Perkins delivers it with enough good humor to seem plausible. Anna is sent by her newly-rich-and-snooty father to spend her senior year at a boarding school for Americans in Paris. (One of my favorite details is that Anna’s dad is clearly a spoof on Nicholas Sparks.) Life in Paris has its challenges, such as her adorably British, inconveniently taken new friend. Anna and the French Kiss is a well-crafted romp, and I can’t wait to read more from Stephanie Perkins.

Will Grayson x2

I became a John Green fan in 2011, yet somehow I let three years pass before reading this book. Was I turned off by the presence of a co-author? Could be, but I shouldn’t have been. This is the hilarious story of worlds colliding when two Chicago teens named Will Grayson meet. Each author writes chapters from the perspective of one of them. Although I found John Green’s chapters more appealing initially, I soon became interested in both characters, especially at hints that the two storylines would soon intersect. And really, if one Will Grayson has a physically imposing gay friend named Tiny Cooper, who happens to be writing a musical autobiography, you’ve captured this girl’s attention.

Ah, teen fiction. Sorry I’ve been neglecting you this year. Thanks for still being awesome.

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