(And even more YA books!)
Julie Anne Peters – She Loves You, She Loves You Not
As Alyssa moves in with her estranged mother, who her father heavily implies is a prostitute, she reflects on her relationship with Sarah, the discovery of which has led to this exile. There’s a nice mix of family stuff alongside the relationship stuff, and it’s good to see a LGBT character for whom this wasn’t her first relationship, just the first serious one. Sarah is a little more problematic – the book does seem to take the ‘bisexuals are not to be trusted!’ line, which is pretty disappointing from a writer who’s done so much good stuff in terms of lesbian and transgender characters. Sigh.
Alex Sanchez – Boyfriends with Girlfriends
I didn’t read this immediately after the Julie Anne Peters book, but it may make sense to review it after, as it is one of very few YA books with bisexual characters who are actually ackowledged as such and aren’t presented as evil or promiscuous or indecisive or whatever. When Sergio and Lance go out on their first sort-of date, they bring along their female best friends to minimise the weirdness. Lance’s friend Allie has a boyfriend, but when she meets Kimiko – who identifies as a lesbian although she avoids relationships – they immediately hit it off, and Allie starts to question whether she might be attracted to her. Meanwhile, Lance has never quite believed that bisexuality is a real thing, until Sergio explains it to him. This feels like early gay YA, in a way – like it’s got so much to do about its subject matter, in this case bisexuality and questioning of sexual identity (without ‘picking a team’), before it can start being a good story. It feels a little shallow at times, and the shifting viewpoints can be a little confusing at times, but it does move along quickly and has a lot of nice moments.
Sarra Manning – Adorkable
Delighted to see Sarra Manning return to YA fiction with this clever, pop-and-nerd-culture-soaked she-said/he-said romance. Jeane is an internet superstar – celebrated as the voice of her generation, etc – while Michael is just the ordinary good-looking and nice and achieving-type boy at school. They don’t get along, but when their respective other halves seem to be sneaking around behind their backs, they get talking. And kissing. There’s a lot to love about this – the internet stuff is a little sketchy at times, but still compelling. Jeane is frequently irritating and obnoxious and yet somehow by the end of it very appealing. I do like that she’s sexy without undergoing some kind of magical makeover or ‘she was traditionally beautiful all along’ reveal – the sex parts in this book are so well done. (There is also a gorgeous moment where Jeane calls Michael out on the male tendency to call girls crazy just for having feelings. I wanted to applaud.) Really, really, really liked this book.
Sara Bennett Wealer – Rival
Kathryn and Brooke are the rivals of the title – both competing for a prestigious music prize. In their senior year of high school, they’re not speaking – but as we see their junior year, and their unfolding friendship, we begin to wonder just what happened to make them hate one another so much. This is a terrific look at competitiveness and female friendships.
Veronica Roth – Insurgent
The follow-up to Divergent sees Tris and Four deal with the repercussions of the attack and we learn much more about the factions – as well as the factionless – in this book. There’s plenty of action, but also plenty of the skilful emotional development of the characters and careful use of language that marked the first book. I’m very interested to see how the reveal at the end plays out in the third volume.
Donna Cooner – Skinny (via NetGalley)
In this Cinderella retelling, the heavily-overweight Ever undergoes gastric bypass surgery but still can’t get Skinny, the cruel voice telling her what everyone else thinks, out of her head. I found the motivations for undergoing the surgery slightly odd – her eating is represented very much as an emotional/psychological thing, tying in with her mother’s death, so it seems odd that doctors would be so quick to opt for the surgical option (there isn’t a huge amount about what else has been tried) – but it is good to see both the positives and negatives represented. The coming-out-of-one’s-shell is done well, though the romance plot is predictable. A good read but not one which lives up to the hype. Available October 2012.