All tagged Harlequin Teen

Romance, Post-High School Paths & Sexism in Stir Me Up by Sabrina Elkins

Sabrina Elkins' debut novel, Stir Me Up, has a lot going for it: a charming romance, a positive undertone regarding female sexuality and a great portrayal of how the college track right after high school isn't the best thing for everyone (more of this, please). Unfortunately, just as many frustrating, unnecessary and un-nuanced plot and character issues kept Stir Me Up from being that satisfying read I hoped it would be. 

High school senior Camille (Cami) grew up in her father's French restaurant in Vermont, and dreams of a career much like her father's. Becoming a chef is truly her passion, and over the years, she's slowly earned her father's trust as she's worked her way up from prepping vegetables to making the restaurant's soup du jour once a week. While her father wants her to attend University of Vermont so she can keep her future options open, Cami knows what she wants: a future in the kitchen of a top restaurant. 

Her world is disrupted, though, when her stepmother Estella's nephew (whom she raised), Julian, moves into Cami's house. Julian is a 20-year old Marine who was severely injured in an IED explosion in Afghanistan. He's lost part of one of his legs and sustained numerous other injuries. Understandably, he's angry and hostile.

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It's Not You, It's Me - Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Note: You’ll be amused that this started out as part of a group of mini-reviews. Whoops.

While I wasn't enamored with Katie McGarry’s Pushing the Limits as seemingly everyone else was, the character who intrigued me the most in that novel was Beth. Beth’s surly personality piqued my interest as a side character in that book, and her unusual dynamic with Isaac, another secondary character in that novel, made me curious about her story.

So, despite that Pushing the Limits wasn’t a hit for me, when I learned that Beth would be one of the two points of view in the companion novel, Dare You To, I was tentatively excited.

Unfortunately, I am starting to suspect that with McGarry's novels, it comes down to the fact that these simply aren't the kind of stories I enjoy. They are very dramatic. The characters consistently make poor choices that don't make a lot of sense, which nearly always escalates the drama. There are big mistakes and equally big gestures. All of these elements are trends in contemporary, romance-focused fiction at the moment, encompassing young adult, adult and the enigmatic “new adult” categories. 

When it comes down to it, I prefer quieter, more introspective reading.

Not dry, mind you, but I often find the little missteps and subtle, internal conflicts more compelling than grievous misunderstandings.

Cover Chat: Hooked by Liz Fichera

Earlier this week, I reviewed (and recommend, with reservations) Liz Fichera's debut novel for teens, Hooked. However, I keep coming back to the cover--it just doesn't work, in either the U.S. or Australian edition.

Three things lingered with me after I finished reading Hooked:

  1. It's not a romance;
  2. Setting is almost a character in and of itself; and
  3. It's a rare YA novel in that it really got the "feel" of sports right.

Hooked by Liz Fichera - a review on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

It’s been well-documented that I’m on a quest for a quality sports-themed young adult novel, particularly one with a female main character. 

Unfortunately, much of the time my enthusiasm for the newest sports book is immediately tempered by the sports serving as mere window dressing to bring the protagonist together with a Very Attractive Boy. 

But I keep soldiering on, seeking one of these stories that really works. However, I almost passed on Liz Fichera’s debut, Hooked, which features a Native American girl in Arizona who makes a splash with her golf mastery while negotiating a burgeoning relationship with a boy on her team (I haven’t had great luck with Harlequin Teen titles). But, a short interview with Liz on Stacked piqued my interest and I thought I’d give it a try, and despite some flaws, it was a surprisingly compelling read.

Fredricka (Fred) Oday lives on the Gila reservation, which abuts the city of Phoenix, Arizona. Like many kids growing up on the reservation, Fred’s options after graduation are pretty limited. Except she’s got something special going for her: a killer golf game. She learned to play because her father works at the golf course. Over the years, she’s excelled to the point that her high school’s golf coach adds her to the boys varsity team (there isn’t a girls team). 

However, despite her phenomenal skills on the golf course, she’s not welcomed with open arms. A player with a bad attitude and mediocre game, Seth, is removed from the team to make a space for Fred and the boys aren’t happy. They’re furious that a girl is on their team, but they are even more upset about a girl from the reservation on their team that replaced their buddy.

Then my eyes lowered to my seat, the empty one at the front of the row. There was a folded newspaper waiting on my desk, maybe the same one that Ryan had shown me in the library, and my stomach somersaulted all over again. Quickly, I placed my backpack underneath my desk and slipped into the seat. My smile faded when I found the photo on page three of the sports section, the same one where I was holding my driver on the fourth tee. Someone had used a black marker to draw a band around my forehead with feathers on each side. A crude Indian headdress. My nostrils flared and my breathing quickened. The photo turned cloudy the longer I stared at it. I had to swallow back the bile building deep in my throat. I folded and then crumpled the newspaper and stuffed it inside my backpack. I wanted to shred it into a million tiny pieces.

Despite the tensions among teammates, there’s chemistry between Fred and Ryan, the team’s other top golfer with whom she’s paired at tournaments. 

Told in alternating points of view from both Fred and Ryan’s perspective, Hooked explores all of these tensions against a backdrop of the American southwest.

Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

I was terrified to move, breathe, exist in this moment. On TV, teenagers were portrayed as happy, carefree. Echo and I would never know such a life. My parents died. I got screwed by a system supposedly in place to protect me. Echo…Echo was betrayed by the person who should have laid down her life to protect her.

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarryWell… at least the cover depicts an actual scene from the book and no one’s decapitated.

Every once in awhile, I read a book for which I’m simply not the right audience. Katie McGarry’s debut, Pushing the Limits, is one of those books.

If I were an Actual Teen, I probably would have adored this book. If I were an avid adult romance reader, I would probably love this as a fresh young adult take on a traditional contemporary romance. But, I’m neither of those, so Pushing the Limits sits solidly in the same place as Simone Elkeles’ Perfect Chemistry series—that is, equal parts engaging and frustrating. 

Echo Emerson doesn’t know what happened to her the night she almost died at the hand of her mother, but it changed her life forever. The physical scars and psychological trauma transformed her from popular cheerleader to social outlast. She meets another outcast, Noah, thanks to their shared therapist at school (the therapist assigns Echo as Noah’s tutor). Noah has a reputation as a bad boy/troublemaker type. He’s in the foster care system because both of his parent died in a fire—and he’s separated from his beloved younger brothers because he protected another foster child from an abuser and is labeled as dangerous as a result. Naturally, opposites attract and sparks fly, which we see from both Noah and Echo’s first person points-of-view.