What I Did Over Christmas Vacation…

I read. A lot. I stayed up until 3 or 4 AM finishing books that I’d started the previous afternoon. I love to read but don’t always have time for a lot of recreational reading during the school year. The good news is I get to read Fahrenheit 451, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Romeo and Juliet four times a year every year. 🙂

I definitely stuck to a single genre over break: Young Adult Fiction. Some were more specifically YA romance, and one was Dystopian, which I love. I devoured everything so easily because it was all wonderful, so books that I have small issues with, I enjoyed and felt were worth my time and money.

Crossed by Allie Condie – Overall, this book was very character-driven, which was good. I like great description, and I was dying to know where Cassia was headed with her growing curiosity over The Society after Matched. I got to learn a lot more about Ky, which was equally wonderful. I’m definitely Team Xander, but I appreciate Ky’s intelligence and sensitivity. I could picture the setting so easily (having been to the red rock canyons of Utah). I didn’t like this book as much as Matched, but I am waiting desperately for the third book (coming in November!). Read more on my Goodreads review (4/5 stars).

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler – On Goodreads I gave this book 3/5 stars (see it here). I really did like the book, but found myself thinking there’s so much more that could be done with this premise. Emma was a character that I found flawed, but realistic. What would you do as a teenager who stumbled upon your past? Emma, although selfish at times, seemed to be consistent with what a high schooler would do. I am a 90s child and loved all the late 90s references (I remember getting free CDs of AOL hours!). I found my self liking and appreciating Josh more than Emma, because he seemed more mature and grounded and less frivolous than Emma. His kindness and sense of humor were more relatable for me.
PS – I’ve always loved the name “Kellan” for a girl and am so jealous someone else apparently thought the same. 🙂

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins – ADORED this book. I know I love a book when I can’t stop thinking about it after reading and I want to know more, and that was true for Anna. Luckily I got to read the companion novel and that desire was satiated a bit (see below). 🙂 It felt a little too good to be true and predictable in the beginning: girl shipped off to Paris boarding school, girls meets fabulous, exotic and rich people, girl is the luckiest girl alive but doesn’t realize it. BUT, I gave this book 5/5 stars on Goodreads because it was actually  enchanting for all those reasons and more (read the review here).

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler – This book was part of my “I want to read some great YA romance over vacation” trifecta (along with Anna and Forget You). This book felt so authentically teen. The relationships are sweet, special and real. The friend who is in some ways just like you but in others so different–spot on. The friend you’ve had forever but the relationship is strained as you mature and go through life–been there. Sarah Ockler has a gift for writing authentic teen relationships (friendships and couples) and realistic pacing. I immediately purchased another Ockler book (Bittersweet! But that’s for another time, another post).

Forget You by Jennifer Echols – Oh, my. I loved this book and although I thought the main character was shrill at times, her fixation on her boyfriend actually sounded like something a high school girl would obsess over (especially in the light of a forgotten period of time). Zoey’s relationships with her parents and her controlling tendencies were interesting to follow, and well written. She’s flawed and frustrating, but her tenacity and inherent intelligence make her engaging and relatable. This novel was a pretty…explicit…romance novel. I mean, the hottest scenes I’ve read in YA, but it fits and doesn’t feel over the top. It was definitely what I was looking for in a vacation read. 🙂

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – How rare is it to like a second book as much if not a smidge more than the original? I loved Lola. She’s a cool girl who’s not a popular girl. Her creativity and talents are enviable. Stephanie Perkins is gifted in writing deep characters (main and supporting) who make you feel angry, sad, impulsive, adoring, etc. right along with them. It takes her time and a slew of complications–Lola is edgy and makes some poor decisions–but she discovers her true self in the most  non-cliche, unpredictable situations. I don’t know how Perkins makes Lola’s relationship with a 22-year-old feel genuine and special, but it works. Of course, seeing Anna and Entienne again was wonderful. Cricket is so…typical in a completely not typical way. He’s quirky and kind, and struggles with his past with Lola (all pretty typical) and has a great sense of style and complicated relationship with his sister (not so typical for a teenage boy). He’s lovely! I also appreciated the couple references to Pushing Daisies (a show I loved and wish was still on TV). This book has all the charm and whimsy of Pushing Daisies, actually!

The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols – I had to read more Jennifer Echols after Forget You. I think Echols has an affinity for Japanese boys and backseats of cars (and I’m not complaining!) but that was a common thread in these two books of hers that I read. I liked Forget You more, but I still gave this book 3.5/5 stars on Goodreads–the love-hate relationship between Gemma and her closest friend felt reminiscent of high school and college friendships I’ve witnessed. Gemma is a bit self-conscious and self-depricating but doesn’t realize all the good things in her life. I looooved Max. His banter with Gemma was so fun and authentic. There was a situation at the end of the novel that, as a teacher, I was thinking was not realistic, but the rest of the novel was so sweet and the characters endearing, so it wasn’t distracting. The end does feel rushed but I still liked the characters and storyline enough to read, read quickly, and enjoy!

I’m happy to say the Echols, Perkins, and Ockler do such a wonderful job of changing things up. The different books I’ve read in their catalogs are not so similar that the authors feel like one-trick ponies. Settings change, the characters have different interests, the supporting casts help shine, and the plots differ. I continue to add their books to my “to-read” list!

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