Archive for Romance

Booktalk: Invincible by Amy Reed

Invincible cover

Are you and your teens looking for #sicklit books?  Are you looking for books that are filled with happiness and sadness and sickness and romance and dashed hopes?  Would you like to read one of my top tearjerker contenders of 2015?  Well, check out Invincible by Amy Reed, and get ready to be crushed by ALL THE FEELS.

Seriously, though.  This book made me cry so much that it was embarrassing.



Evie knows that her days are numbered.  She has to deal with the cold hard fact that she’s living in the cancer ward, that she’s NEVER going to get better, and that she’s nearing the end of her life.  She’s growing apart from the people she used to know, and the girl she used to be.  As each day passes, she’s pulling further and further away from her friends, her boyfriend, and even her family.  Because she isn’t that pretty, popular, loving girl anymore.  She’s not the Evie that they used to know.  Now she’s a different girl altogether, a girl who hangs out with other sick kids like Caleb and Stella in the cancer ward.  Now she’s a girl who’s waiting to die, or a girl who’s waiting to see which of her friends die first.

But here’s the thing — Evie doesn’t die after all.  She gets better.  On the one hand that seems like the best news in the world.  But on the other hand … it isn’t.  Because Evie already spent a huge part of her life saying goodbye to everyone who used to be important to her.  The more time passes, Evie is going to realize that she’s not the same person she used to be.  And that living can be even harder than dying.

Evie gets her life back.  But what kind of life is she going to have?  And what kind of person is she going to be?

Booktalk: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places cover

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is a poignant and heartfelt story that made me cry every time I read it.  Give this book to any of your teens who are looking for realistic fiction about real-life problems, for books that give an honest portrayal of death and grief, and for books about friendship and love.


Finch and Violet have known about each other for a while, but they don’t really KNOW each other.  They both go to the same school, but that’s about all they have in common.  Violet is a beautiful, popular girl.  Everyone knows her and everyone likes her.  Finch, on the other hand, isn’t popular at all.  He only has a few friends, and everyone else just thinks that he’s weird and he’s a loner.

In fact, one of the weird things that Finch does is go to the bell tower at school, climb to the top, and hang out on the ledge.  He never jumps, he just THINKS about jumping.  He hangs out by himself on the ledge of the bell tower, and he thinks about ending his own life.  He thinks about what it would be like to die, and to escape this life that makes him so unhappy.

And that’s why when Violet climbs the steps of the bell tower and steps out on the ledge, Finch happens to be just a few feet away.  Because he was already there.  Now, Finch has been up on the ledge several times before, and no one’s ever tried to stop him.  Maybe it’s because he’s weird, or unpopular, or forgettable.  But Violet is none of those things.  When she goes out on the ledge, people notice right away.  When Violet’s friends come over to see what’s wrong, Finch decides to save her, or at least to save her reputation.  He tells people that the reason Violet came up to the ledge of the bell tower was to try to save him.  Even though they both know that’s not true.

Up until now, Finch and Violet didn’t know each other, they had nothing in common, and they definitely weren’t friends.  But ever since they met on that ledge and actually spoke to each other, things started to change between them.  As the days turn into weeks and months and they get to know each other better, they’ll realize that they have more in common than they ever imagined.

Booktalk: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Darkest Part of the Forest cover

I’ve been a fan of fantasy books since I was a kid.  While I admit a certain fondness for high fantasy stories featuring princesses, castles, and unicorns, I have a special place in my heart for the stories where fantasy and reality blur.  Because (of course) those kinds of stories were more likely to really happen to me!

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black is an awesome fantasy story set in modern day featuring some characters that feel like they just stepped out of a fairy tale and others who feel like your childhood friends or the kid you used to be.  And because I always like books that cross genres because then I can use different hooks to appeal to different readers, I should also mention that this story blends fantasy with adventure and suspense AND it also features numerous romantic angles!


The town of Fairfold seems like a modern place that fits into the 21st century.  But the town has very old roots, and those roots are filled with magic.  Most of the magic is invisible, but there’s one magical thing in the town that you CAN see.

That magical thing is a boy — a very unusual boy.  And tourists will come from miles around just to see him.  This boy has horns on his head and pointed ears, but other than that he looks human.  The boy is lying in a glass coffin in the woods.  It’s a very special coffin, because it can’t be opened and it can’t be broken.  The boy appears to be asleep … at least, no one’s ever seen him open his eyes.  And there’s one more unusual thing about the magical boy.  Even though he’s been there for as long as anyone can remember, he never gets any older.

Hazel and her brother Ben grew up in the town of Fairfold, so they both spent a lot of time hanging out in the woods and visiting the magical boy.  Like generations of kids before them, they’ve spent time talking to him and wishing he would wake up.  Hazel and Ben have seen pictures of the magical boy from years ago.  And in every picture he looked EXACTLY the same.

Hazel and Ben don’t know it yet, but the town of Fairfold is about to go through some major changes.  And one of those changes is that the magical boy is going to wake up.

Booktalk: Nil by Lynne Matson

Nil cover

Nil by Lynne Matson is a suspenseful book that blends adventure, romance, and the challenge of survival.  I’m a big fan of books that open with someone being dropped into a strange environment and being forced to adapt to this strange new place and learn its rules in order to survive.  That’s why I would recommend this book to any readers who enjoyed House of Stairs by William Sleator or The Maze Runner by James Dashner.


Charley went to Target to return a couple of skirts she’d bought the day before.  She parked her car in the lot, got out, and started walking towards the store.  But then she suddenly saw the air start shimmering in front of her.  It was like a wall of wavy glass, and that shimmering wall was moving towards her. Suddenly Charley felt a blinding, burning heat all over her body.  She tried to scream, but it was so hot that she couldn’t get enough air into her lungs.  Within seconds, she felt hot, and then she felt cold, and then she felt nothing.

Charley woke up somewhere, but she had no idea where she was.  She was lying in a huge field that was filled with red rocks as far as she could see.  The sun was shining down overhead, strong and hot.  Target was gone, the parking lot was gone, her car was gone … and her clothes were gone.  Charley was naked and alone, and she had no idea where she was or how she got there.

Charley is going to learn that she’s on an island called Nil, and it’s a place that doesn’t appear on normal maps.  She’s going to learn that there’s food and water on the island, so she’s not going to die … at least, not right away.  She’s going to learn that she’s not alone on the island, but that being around other people won’t always mean she’s safe.  She’s also going to learn that there are rules on this island, and one of those rules is that she has 365 days to escape, or else she’ll die.

The clock has already started ticking … but Charley just can’t hear it yet.

Booktalk: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

An Abundance of Katherines cover

I’m guessing that all of you have already heard of John Green, but on the slight off-chance that you haven’t …

Now most discussions of YA literature rebound back and forth between “Hey, why is John Green getting all the attention on the bestsellers lists when more diverse authors aren’t being recognized the same way?” and “Hey, check it out!  John Green is the best thing ever, and I love his books more than anything in the whole wide world!”  FWIW, I lean towards the “best thing ever” view myself.

If you want to learn more about John Green, you will discover that he’s a very social network-friendly / multimedia-savvy kind of guy.  You can start by checking out his website, his tumblr, the YouTube videos he makes with his brother, the videos they make explaining all kinds of smart stuff, and then go on from there!


Colin has just graduated from high school, and he has just been dumped by a girl named Katherine.  Graduating from high school is something new, but being dumped by a girl named Katherine isn’t.  That’s because this is the nineteenth time that Colin has been dumped by a girl named Katherine.  Some of his Katherine relationships have lasted for only a few hours, some for days, and the last one, K-19, for almost a year.  But they all ended the same way, with Katherine as the Dumper and Colin as the Dumpee.  With nothing to do over the summer but feel sorry for himself, Colin joins his friend Hassan on a road trip, exploring the country and meeting new people, anything to get his mind off of you-know-who.

Along the way, Colin reads lots of books and works on his theorem – the Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability.  He hopes this theory will be able to plot the history and predict the future, not just of Colin and all nineteen Katherines, but of dumpers and dumpees everywhere.  On their road trip, though, Colin finds a lot of things to distract him from his misery, including the grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and a hunting trip for feral pigs.  They’re a lot larger and a lot meaner than you might expect – the pigs, that is, not the Archduke.

Colin also meets a girl named Lindsey, who is pretty and smart and has a crazy sense of humor … in fact, she’s the first girl NOT named Katherine that he’s ever found attractive.  Unfortunately, Lindsey is already taken … by another boy named Colin.

Booktalk: September Girls by Bennett Madison

September Girls cover

I first picked up September Girls because I was searching for new books with classic themes.  What I didn’t expect to find (and what the cover didn’t prepare me for) was that it was primarily told from a boy’s point of view.  I also didn’t expect that behind the magical/romantic elements was a deeper story about family dynamics and family tensions.  I wish that boys would read this book, although for many of them the title and the cover would probably be a dealbreaker.  For any teens who DO read this book, though, I think they’ll find an unusual story that is memorable on many levels.  This is also a excellent candidate for a booklist I’ve been compiling in my head called “Romance Books For Readers Who Think They Hate Romances.”

Check out Bennett Madison’s website to learn more about September Girls!


When Sam’s father decided to take Sam and his brother Jeff to live in a beach house for the summer, it seemed like a good idea.  It was a chance for the three of them to get out of the house and just relax.  It was a chance for them to forget for a while about how Mom left them a few weeks after Christmas, and how she didn’t say when or IF she was ever coming back.

Once they got to the beach, it was pretty easy to forget about how lousy things were at home because there were so many beautiful girls there.  And as Sam started noticing, there were girls and then there were Girls.  With a capital G.  All of these Girls were beautiful in an almost identical way.  All of them were blonde.  And as Sam learned when he started talking to them, they all had the same accent.  It was a strange accent that was very difficult to place, but the Girls said they were from Russia.

As the days turned into weeks, Sam and Jeff started spending more time with the Girls.  Jeff was hanging out Kristle and Sam was hanging out with DeeDee.  The more Sam talked to DeeDee the more he learned about her, but he was also frustrated because of all the things she wouldn’t tell him.  She wouldn’t tell him what happened to her parents, why she was so afraid of the ocean, why the Girls acted so strangely around him, or where they were really from.

They don’t know it yet, but by the end of the summer, Sam and Jeff are going to discover the secret of this beach and the mysterious Girls who live there.  And that secret will be stranger than they ever imagined.

Booktalk: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling cover

Graceling is an exciting and dark fantasy story featuring a conflicted female protagonist who will alternately make readers root for her and fear her.  Now, while I happen to be a female reader who enjoys fantasy novels, I know that books that are perceived as “girl books” and “fantasy books” have the potential to turn off prospective readers (especially boys).  Which is why I happen to be a big fan of this cover — yes, there’s a girl on the cover, but we can only see one of her eyes, and that eye is reflected in a shiny weapon!  So I’m pretty sure that a boy could be seen reading this book without risk of being thrown out of the testosterone club.

Oh, and BTW, my prep work for this episode led me to a very handy website that I’d like to share.  When browsing around on Kristin Cashore’s website to double-check the pronunciation of her name (I had two guesses, and they both turned out to be wrong), I followed her directions to this lovely author name pronunciation guide!  It’s very handy if you’d like to find out just how many authors’ names you’ve been mis-pronouncing all this time (oops!) so that you can correct those mistakes in the future.  And it’s why I now know that “Scieszka” rhymes with “Fresca” and that “Riordan” uses a long “i” sound, like in “rye bread.”


Katsa is a very unusual girl.
She is strong-willed and independent.
She has one blue eye and one green eye.
And she can kill a grown man with her bare hands.

Usually she doesn’t kill them, though.  Usually she tortures them, these men who don’t meet the demands of her uncle, the king.

When Katsa first showed signs of having two-colored eyes, everyone waited to see what her Grace would turn out to be.  Some people with different-colored eyes were natural experts at something practical, like cooking or sewing.  Some had a less impressive ability, like being an expert in swimming.

But when Katsa was a little girl, she killed a man with her bare hands.  That’s when everyone realized what her Grace was … and that’s when everyone became afraid of her.

Booktalk: Darkness Before Dawn by J.A. London

Darkness Before Dawn cover

Okay, so do you see that cover?  The one featuring the pretty girl in the long pretty dress?  Well, now you know the #1 reason that my eyes slid right over this book when it first came out.  Because, as I may have mentioned before, there are way too many YA books published nowadays featuring pretty girls in long pretty dresses, and I started getting sick of them after a while.  It wasn’t until I was recently compiling a list of scary books that I discovered, really looked at, and finally READ this book.  And that’s when I learned that it defied my expectations.

Yes, in answer to your follow-up question, Darkness Before Dawn is about a pretty girl who sometimes wears a long pretty dress.  But since Dawn is a human delegate who meets with one of the most powerful vampires in the world, and since part of the etiquette is that she has to dress in a formal, old-fashioned way whenever she goes to meet him, the cover kind of makes sense!  What I liked about this story is that it’s about a modern girl who is being pulled in different directions romantically, all while dealing with danger, betrayal, and REALLY dangerous vampires.  Oh, and when I showed this book to my Teen Advisory Group, their first reaction was to ask me (in an eye-rolling way) if it was about vampires that sparkled in the sunlight.  I told them that while there was romance in this book, that these were the kinds of vampires that would burn to ashes if the sunlight hit them.  And that seemed to be a very satisfactory answer.

Check out J.A. London’s website to learn more about this book and the others that complete this dystopian/vampire/romantic trilogy (Blood-Kissed Sky and After Daybreak).  And if you visit J.A. London’s Twitter feed, you’ll learn something very unusual about the author’s identity!


Dawn has plenty of reasons to hate vampires.  Years ago, her brother died while saving her from a vampire attack.  And just three months ago, her parents were murdered while returning from an official visit to Lord Valentine, one of the most powerful vampires in the world.

Now Lord Valentine has selected Dawn to be the new human delegate to the vampires, continuing the job her father held until his untimely death.  It’s Dawn’s job to bargain with the vampires, and to set a balance between vampires and humans.  She needs to encourage people to donate enough blood to keep the vampires satisfied, so that humanity can be safe once and for all.  But bargaining with vampires is going to be hard, and trusting vampires is going to be even harder.

Dawn doesn’t know it yet, but even as she starts learning to trust people and starts hoping that a human-vampire peace can be achieved, the people she loves most in the world are in more danger than ever before.

Booktalk: Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian


When you start booktalking, you’ll discover that some books sell themselves while others are a little harder to push.  Based on this cover, Not That Kind of Girl definitely sells itself.  Between the title and the picture, girls who are looking for romance novels will pick up this book even if you don’t say a word about it.  In fact, this is a book that probably doesn’t NEED to be booktalked at all.  That being said, I decided to write a booktalk for it because it was a romance novel that I actually enjoyed, which puts it into a very exclusive club.

If you want to learn more about this book and lots of other realistic fiction with strong and memorable female characters, check out Siobhan Vivian’s website!

ETA: I’ll be out of town on vacation next week, so please tune in for the next episode of Be a Better Booktalker in two weeks!


Natalie Sterling should know better.  She’s a senior in high school now, and she’s spent the last several years avoiding guys who are jerks.  She’s seen lots of girls get their feelings AND their reputations hurt by the boys in her school … lots of girls including her best friend.

Natalie is busy keeping her grades high enough to stay on the honor roll and campaigning to be the next student council president.  She is not concentrating on boys, she is not concentrating on boys who are jerks, and she is DEFINITELY not concentrating on Connor, who is one of the biggest jerks in the whole school.

So …you see where this is going, right?

Booktalk: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park

I’m going to start by pointing out that I generally dislike romances, which is something you might have heard me say a few times in the past.  However, the few romance books that I do like, the ones that don’t make me drop the book and walk away laughing, usually have something pretty special to make me overcome my dislike of the genre.  For a while, the only books with romantic elements that I enjoyed were books that blended romance with genres that I usually read, like fantasy, science fiction, mystery and horror.  So if teens in my library asked me for a “good romance,” I was likely to steer them towards fantasy-filled stories with romantic elements, like The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause, Look For Me by Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn, or Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.

But every once in a while I come across a romance that doesn’t have any vampires (sparkling or otherwise), ghosts, werewolves, or other supernatural elements but which I still find enjoyable because of its well-drawn plot and characters.  One of those books is Not That Kind of Girl by Siobahn Vivian, which I will be telling you about very soon.  Another one of those books is Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, which I just finished reading last week and I had to share with you RIGHT NOW.

I first heard about Eleanor & Park from an unusual source — Linda Holmes from NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast.  She recommended this book several times on the podcast, and I thought that if a teen book had that much appeal to an adult reader I should definitely check it out.  Well, it was definitely worth the read, and absolutely worth recommending to teens who are looking for a “good romance.”


Eleanor and Park are like oil and water.

Park is small for his age, he’s half-Asian with straight dark hair, and he’s kind of a dork.  Eleanor is big for her age, she has curly red hair, and … well, a lot of kids are afraid of her because they don’t know what she’ll do next.  Eleanor and Park also have very different home lives.  Park’s home life is pretty close to perfect — his parents and grandparents love him, and he lives in a beautiful house where everything is neat and clean and in the right place.  While Eleanor’s home life … well, the less said about that, the better.

Eleanor and Park are so different that they don’t even belong on the same planet.  But when Eleanor gets on the school bus and needs a seat, the only one available is next to Park.  And so begins a relationship that starts slowly, by sharing comic books and music, and grows into something deep and amazing that has the power to change both of their lives forever.