Solo Lisa Reads: March 2017

I'm so happy to report that since my last book round-up in January, I've continued to read voraciously in the past couple of months. "Love, love, love" seems to be the underlying theme of my latest round-up as my tastes tended towards lighthearted YA and uplifting romances. Here's a look at the books I enjoyed in February and March.

1. To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han. I have to admit, I only bought this book because it was on sale for $2.99 on Kobo and I was intrigued by the Asian model on the book cover and her girly bedroom. Protagonist Lara Jean (who is half-Korean, as it turns out) writes letters to boys she's had crushes on as a "I'm finally getting over you" gesture and stashes these unsent letters in a vintage hat box in her room. One day these letters are accidentally sent to their intended recipients and Lara Jean must deal with the emotional consequences that ensue, including embarking on a faux relationship with former crush Peter Kavinsky ("the handsomest of all the Handsome Boys") to disguise the fact that she has feelings for her sister's ex-boyfriend. Any teen comedy/romance aficionado worth her salt will, of course, predict that Peter and Lara Jean's relationship develops into something more, and there is definitely a love triangle at some point. But in Jenny Han's deft hands, the narrative journey is a sheer delight and delivers all the feels of an excellent K-drama. Props also go to Lara Jean's feisty little sister Kitty, who manages to steal every scene she's in.

2. P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han. This sequel to To All The Boys I've Loved Before picks up right where the first book left off. Lara Jean and Peter are in a happy enough relationship, albeit dealing with a cyber-scandal and insecurities about how much time Peter is spending with his ex. Another of Lara Jean's previous loves, John Ambrose McClaren, re-appears in her life as a rival for her affections. Love triangle alert, and more K-drama-esque thrills! Oh, and the fact he's described as a younger version of Robert Redford already has me trying to dreamcast the movie version of these novels. I can't wait until May 2 when the third and final Lara Jean book, Always And Forever, Lara Jean, becomes available.

3. Where We Belong by Emily Giffin. Continuing on my Emily Giffin binge from the beginning of the year, I dove into Where We Belong on my Kobo app and I was not disappointed. As always, Giffin offers a heartfelt story with winning characters. This time we meet Marian, a television producer in New York who seems to have it all, and Kirby Rose, the baby she gave up for adoption years ago. Now a teenager, Kirby—who feels increasingly alienated from her adoptive family—sets out to find her birth mother and shows up unexpectedly at Marian's doorstep. The surprising reunion sets both women on a journey towards reclaiming family, finding where they belong, and ultimately discovering their true selves. At times I felt that the story tied up all the emotional loose ends too neatly, but the characters were so appealing I couldn't help but root for their happy ending.

4. Same Love by Tony Correia. It's not every day that I get to review a book written by a coworker on this blog! Having heard Tony talk about his YA novel project for ages, I was so excited to finally get my hands on an advance copy. Same Love tells the story of Adam, a closeted high-school student and talented artist whose parents force him to attend a Christian camp in the hopes it'll straighten him out. Once there, he develops a crush on fellow camper Paul and starts questioning his religion's teachings. This is a quick and breezy read, but full of moments and one-liners that made me laugh out loud (like when Adam's phone is confiscated by a camp counselor who declares "Screens get between you and God"). As a first-person narrative told from the point of view of a gay character, Same Love also made me realize how hetero-normative YA fiction can be—certainly most of the stuff I've been reading and the other books featured in this post. If diversity and representation matter, and one of the benefits of fiction is that it puts you in another person's shoes and fosters empathy, Same Love and books like it are a valuable contribution to the YA landscape.

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