I am channeling my inner 13-year-old this time around so that I can squeal about a couple of fantastic young adult romances. Okay. Maybe not my
inner 13-year-old who was more into Stephen King
and Lois Duncan
, but you get the idea.
Stephanie Perkins wrote her first novel, Anna and the French Kiss, during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, or November as it's more commonly known), which is, in and of itself, quite an impressive feat. Not only that, but it was good enough to get published by a Big Name Publisher, which is super duper impressive. And, to top it all off, it's good. I mean really good.
Anna gets sent off to attend a school for Americans in Paris, which sounds glamorous on the surface, but it means she has to leave behind her best friend and her boyfriend and her family, and she doesn't speak French, and she really just doesn't want to go, thankyouverymuch. But, there's this guy (because this is a romance and there has to be a guy) who pretty much becomes her best friend at school and then he becomes something more and then there's some drama ? but it's fairly low-key drama ? and of course it all works out in the end, or it wouldn't be a romance. And never once does it slip into melodrama or angsty emo-teen territory. It's not all rainbows and unicorns, but the homesickness and heartbreak and sadness are all kept within the realm of believability. It's all very charming and sweet and touching without every getting cloying or sentimental. Yeah, I pretty much loved this book like crazy. Thankfully, there's a follow-up.
Lola and the Boy Next Door is a "companion novel" and was both better and worse than Anna. Anna and St. Clair (that's the boy) have moved to San Francisco for college and Anna works at a movie theatre with Lola, which is how the two novels connect. Lola, both the character and the book as a whole, is far quirkier than Anna. Lola also has a quirky family and a musician boyfriend and an extensive wig collection. There were times when the cutesy-quirky thing was almost too much. Lola was best friends (and a little bit in love) with her next-door neighbor before he and his family moved away. Naturally he comes back and things get confusing for Lola and then there's some drama and then there's this amazing school dance outfit and everything works out, just like it's supposed to. Again, Ms. Perkins kept the emotion and drama to a reasonable and realistic level and Lola totally earned her Happily Ever After. I just wish it wasn't with a guy named "Cricket." That's just not right.