Saturday, August 20, 2016

Romantic YA Reads for Summer's End: Suffer Love, Tell Me Three Things and P.S. I Like You

If teens are looking for a quick romantic read before required reading for school begins, or just an escape between loftier reads, I can recommend three new books that are a cut above.  Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake involves two teens, struggling with family problems, who meet when paired on a Shakespeare class project. Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum focuses on Jessie, a girl who is still grieving her mother's death and has to move from Chicago to L.A. when her father remarries.  She gets a little help in navigating the ins and outs of her new life from a secret email friend identifying himself as Somebody/Nobody.  In  P.S. I Like You by Kasie West, aspiring songwriter Lily also begins a secret correspondence that fuels her creativity when she finds a response to graffiti she doodled on her desk in chemistry class.

Suffer Love is a tale of star-crossed lovers, Hadley and Sam, who meet in Shakespeare class and find they are both struggling with family problems caused by a parent's infidelity. Hadley's university professor father had a year long affair with one of his students. Unbeknownst to Hadley, her dad's affair was with Sam's mother. Both Sam and Hadley are missing their respective parents who moved out when the affair was discovered, and are also dealing with the depressed parent left behind.   When Sam finds out the truth about the affair, he is afraid to tell Hadley, thinking he'll lose her. Complicating matters is Sam's fragile little sister Olivia, whom Hadley befriends. As they work on their Shakespeare project, the irony of his Shakespearean dilemma is not lost on Sam.  The plot tangles and references to Shakespearean literature make this a smart romance that readers will devour. If teachers wanted to use this in class, they could pair it with reading Much Ado about Nothing.

 Tell Me Three Things opens when Jessie, who is still grieving her mother's death, is abruptly moved from her Chicago home to the mansion of a wealthy LA widow her father met online and married. Suddenly she is trying to adjust to a new home, a stepbrother (Theo) and an elite private high school where she feels like she is swimming with sharks. When she gets an anonymous email from a boy calling himself Somebody/Nobody (SN), offering to be her "virtual spiritual guide" to navigating her new school, she reluctantly accepts his help, while wondering about her secret correspondent's identity. Is it Ethan, the cool but aloof guy in her AP English class who picks her as a study partner?  Is it Liam, the son of the owner of the bookstore where she works? Or is it Theo, who having recently lost his own father, at first treats her like a stranger at school, but slowly warms to her. As the email correspondence evolves into a game of "Tell Me Three Things," Jessie begins to get clues as to SN's identity, and at the same time begins to work through her grief, because SN is dealing with the death of a loved one, too.  The smart funny virtual conversations, filled with literary references, and the suspense as to SN's identity, as well as the sympathetic exploration of teens dealing with death, make this a compelling read that teens will love.

P.S. I Like You similarly involves a secret correspondence that blossoms into love. When aspiring songwriter Lily scribbles some indie music lyrics on her desktop in chemistry class, she is surprised to find a reply the next day. Soon she and the mystery correspondent are communicating in greater depth through notes hidden beneath the desk.  Not only does Lily enjoy getting to know him, his personal revelations seem to fuel her songwriting.  Suddenly she can't wait to get to the class she used to dread.  As she struggles to discover his identity, she crushes on Lucas, a hipster musician, and feuds with Cade, her sworn nemesis, who teases her mercilessly.  After her guitar is destroyed, ruining her chances to enter a songwriting contest, she is devastated.  Then in her role as office aide, she is sent to her pen pal's class with a note for the teacher and is shocked when she discovers his identity. She struggles to reconcile the personality in the notes, with the actual person, She can't seem to make herself stop corresponding with him and begins to realize she needs to make some changes in order to become her "best self."  Although it's fairly obvious who the pen pal is, Lily's road to discovery and reinvention of herself is the real story.  Kasie West (The Fill-In Boyfriend and The Distance Between Us) can be counted on to deliver sympathetic characters, clever dialogue and sweet romance, and in her latest offering she does not disappoint!