Book Report: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

Today we are diving into another BOOK REPORT, a feature that we share every month. We both read the same book, chat about it, and post it here. With minor spoilers, we introduce Miranda Kenneally’s awesome debut novel, Catching Jordan.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Release Date: December 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 288
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover for Magan and Paperback for Estelle
How we found out about it: It was one of Magan’s most wanted reads of December & Estelle had yet to read a sports YA book so why not?
Summary: Jordan lives and breathes football. Her best friends are her teammates and despite the lack of support from her pro-football player dad, she dreams of playing football on a college team. Then gorgeous Ty walks onto her football field, who shares the same position as her, and suddenly she’s a little (A LOT) distracted…

Estelle: Helloooooooo! This is me on zero sleep & very little caffeine!

Magan: HI! I’m still in my PJs, but super anxious to talk about this book!

Estelle: I’m jealous of your PJs. Even tho my boss isn’t around, I don’t think I would get away with that.

Magan: Haha! So, in three words, how would you describe Catching Jordan?

Estelle: That’s a tough one.  Sexy, strong, and sporty! It sounds like a cologne.

Magan: Oh, my gosh. You just made me crack up. That’s awesome.

Estelle: (I want to add in smart, too.)

Magan: I would add unpredictable to the mix! I didn’t anticipate how things were going to go down and I was so THANKFUL it wasn’t like that.

Estelle: I agree with you! “It” threw me for a loop.

Magan: Ha! I think this might be a good time to remind everyone that we might talk about a few spoilers, so they should maybe read this with caution.

Estelle: Yes! It’s going to be hard not to!  I want to start talking about Jordan and the kind of character she was.  I really loved her “one of the guys” personality and how she was sort of mystified by being friends with girls.

Magan: YES! Right off the bat, I loved her. She had this guy-ish attitude and talked just like them. The guys she surrounded herself with weren’t just teammates, but her best friends. The girls she described – the cheerleaders – made me cringe, too.

Estelle: I agree. I liked how a few of them surprised me though.  So did the football players. I mean, I know there are all those stereotypes about football players who don’t care, and aren’t emotional. But I think this book is about uncovering those stereotypes. Here we have a girl playing on a football team, and wanting to play college football. That’s one, and then step by step… we see the other sides of all these people.

Magan: You’re right, it’s something that occurs throughout the book, but I didn’t feel like I was reading through tons of self-discoveries. People changed and evolved naturally. I will say that because people were changing, there were characters I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to trust. I felt very confused about Ty.

Estelle: Did you? I was kind of confused too.

Magan: Yeah. We knew that Ty moved to TN from TX, but didn’t really know why. I was worried he was out for Jordan’s position and was going to be extremely upset if he tried to take it. Girls can be extremely emotional, and I feared that Jordan would become mixed up in a relationship and lose sight of her goals. Maybe I just didn’t have enough faith in Jordan to keep it all straight.

Estelle: That definitely would have been the easy way out for the author, but the book became so complex. Especially with Ty coming into the picture, and she’s totally attracted to him or whatever. It’s like it was all meant to happen.

Magan: Definitely. Looking back at some of the beginning chapters, she [Kennealy] subtly dropped hints about things that would come out, but she wrote everything so well that I didn’t know what to expect.

Estelle: It’s true. I thought that Ty and Jordan would stay together but there would be some conflict about the position or school that would sort of steer their realtionship. I didn’t know if I thought they would end up together, per se, but I still did NOT forsee it ending the way that it did.

Magan: Neither did I. There’s so much I’m excited to say about the ending, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise! I will say the cover makes more sense to me now, though.

Estelle: Her hair is still the wrong color.

Magan: That does bother me. Couldn’t they have just swept it up into a pony tail so we couldn’t tell?! I do want that girl’s legs though…Oh, and to be six feet tall like Jordan.

Estelle: She also looks so tan. Jealous. Haha.

Magan: And tan…

Estelle: She sounds beautiful. Another thing I loved was her poems.

Magan: Wow, you just read my mind.

Estelle: (As always.)

Magan: One thing I didn’t expect from this book at all was that [poetry]. The infusion of poetry was so unexpected. It added a completely new dimension to this book. Her mom (a secondary character I particularly loved) gave her the notebook because she could see that Jordan wasn’t talking about her life to anyone. As close as she was to all the football players, she needed them to take her seriously so she left out all the emotional things she was going through. It was lovely to see how they all cared for her though and really did want to listen.

Estelle: I felt the same way. I loved watching them sort of be normal and let go of these tough exteriors. I guess all of them were doing that in a way though.  Her mom was great.  This book was just oozing with awesome characters. We should probably mention Henry. It reminded me of a Dawson and Joey relationship. And I liked this! (Even if I’m a huge Pacey fan. Haha.)

Magan: (Ha! Dawson’s Creek is next on my list of shows to rewatch.) It was definitely very Joey/Dawson. Henry is the best friend who has been through everything with Jordan. I must admit that I was turned off by him in the beginning because he was pretty sleazy. Jordan was super worried and knew he was keeping something from her, but he was sleeping around with all those girls to deal with his problems. I felt so sorry for him.

Estelle: He is sort of a whore. Haha.

Magan: Yep, he was. What was your first impression of him (other than the above)?

Estelle: I could tell he had a crush on her. The whispers, the touching. I just didn’t know what to do with it. It’s funny though because she pushes him away in the beginning, and then he pushes away from her later?

Magan: There’s a lot of tension…

Estelle: Honestly, I felt like he was doomed to sleep with all these girls forever because Jordan was so obsessed with Ty.

Magan: I felt the same way! I really thought this book was going to be about the struggle between Jordan and Ty vying for the quarterback position while falling in love.  I had no idea there would be the added best friend element and that I would ultimately love Henry as much as I did. Kenneally wrote two very successful guy characters. There was no reason for me to dislike either Henry or Ty. They were both awesome guys – despite Henry’s sleeping around I loved everything about him.

Estelle: And Ty being controlling?

Magan: Oh, there was that.

Estelle: I understood why he was like that but I wasn’t sure if that was going to come into play? (Pun!) I have to say. I really loved how generous and wonderful Jordan’s parents were. They just wanted to help everyone. It was nice to see that happening.

Magan: Ok, yes. BUT, I loved the use of typography to describe the great Donovan Woods [Jordan’s dad]. Her dad made me so uncomfortable and I just wanted to shake his shoulders and tell him to snap out of it!

Estelle: Oh yes. Me too. That was genius. I mean, here we go with a girl with daddy issues. Which some people might call cliche, but I’m sorry. I know a lot of people that have them. And even though we don’t all have dads who are big football players, all we want is our parent to show us support and be interested in our lives and our dreams. I think she had very valid issues and dealt with them pretty well. She was straightforward with him about it… and yet she pushed him away when he wanted to be alone with her.

Magan: Definitely! I connected with this element a lot. My dad was super busy when I was in high school trying to build a business, and while I understood, Jordan’s story hit home with me. I wasn’t as vocal as she was about her desire to have him involved though.

Estelle: My dad was never very good about expressing himself, so I could get it too.

Magan: Ultimately, there were a lot of ways people could connect to something in this book.

Estelle: I don’t know if you noticed this but in a lot of YA novels, there are huge issues with family or the family is MIA. I liked how this family was close knit with down-to-earth problems. There were not perfect. They were all working on things. And this sibling dynamic was great too.

Magan: Yeah, I don’t quite understand that weird characterization or trend in YA.

Estelle: Me neither because my family has always been very involved in my life.

Magan: I will say that one of the things I notice in the books I’d say I love most is that they all have strong family values.

Estelle: I don’t know if that reflects real life when the family is just nowhere to be seen. A family is sometimes the foundation of a character.

Magan: Stephanie Perkins does a fabulous job of making her characters well-rounded and family involvement shapes the character.

Estelle: She does! I’m trying to think of someone else. I’m reading The Cardturner right now by Louis Sachar and the family thing is huge.

Magan: Jordan’s dad needed to get a clue and not be a sexist pig.

Estelle: I don’t know if I would call him sexist? I just felt like he couldn’t get a handle on his daughter’s identity. Just like any parent who has a child who is going through all of these experiences and can’t get a handle on them not being little girls or boys anymore. Ultimately, he wanted to keep her safe.

Magan: Okay. I got it. Over-protective, to the point that he wasn’t involved enough because he couldn’t see her get hurt. So the cheerleaders. I had a love/hate relationship with them. Mainly loved a few and despised another.

Estelle: I feel like that about cheerleaders in general. What were your thoughts?

Magan: Again, I never knew who to trust. I wanted to like Marie and Carrie …but they were friends with the terrible Kristen. I was so glad to see Jordan’s tough exterior peeled away as she learned that not all the girls were against her.  The jealousy ran so rampant in Kristen, and that was obvious to me, but Jordan was super hurt by it.

Estelle: Did you think that was developed enough – the story with Kristen?

Magan: I think I would have liked more of it. It was there enough that I wanted to tell Jordan the only reason she was so jealous is because of her daily interaction with all the football players. BUT, I didn’t see a ton of face to face time between Kristen and Jordan that built the tension. Actually, during the truth or dare game, Kenneally used Kristen’s dare as a way for Ty and Jordan to get together. So in a way that was meant to hurt Jordan via Kristen, it developed the story.

Estelle: Let me look at that part. (I do remember the lake. That was like eek! Very hot. Haha.)

Magan: Um, yeah it was. Kristen dares Jordan to jump in the lake in just her underwear. She accepts the dare and Ty comes out to the lake with Jordan. Their first kiss happens there.

Estelle: Okay, I’m reading that over. I love that scene. Haha.  High school was not that intense for me!

Magan: NOPE, me neither! That scene? It’s where my heart really began to flutter over Ty.

Estelle: I agree. Control! This book is a lot about that too. Henry trying to control his feelings, Jordan trying to control her life, Ty trying to control his family, Jordan’s dad trying to control her future. It’s a vicious cycle.

Magan: Oh, wow. Excellent point. Every one of them comes full circle by the end of the book, but not all with the happily ever after that they each expected.

Estelle: I love realistic endings. Such truth in this book! And it revolves around football! I’m not a huge football fan. I don’t even understand the game but it never distracted me. Haha.

Magan: No, it wasn’t overwhelming. I actually enjoyed those parts because I thought that’s where Ty’s true self was revealed the most.

Estelle: And you saw Jordan’s passion for the game.

Magan: And how protective all the guys were over her. Honestly, that was probably one of my favorite parts of the entire book – her relationship with each one of the guys. Not all of them were major key characters, but they added so much truth, depth, and reality to the story.

Estelle: I agree with you. They were all so different. I keep repeating myself.  Ha ha. I AGREE WITH YOU MAGAN.

Magan: HA! So, we both agree that this book was just wonderful. I am thrilled that I was gifted with this one because I think it will be one I adore as much as Perkins’ books. One I will want to re-read and I’ll definitely be telling friends to read.

Estelle: If we could, we would buy copies for everyone who read this joint review. Not only because we are generous people, but because we think it’s a great way to end an awesome year of reading. Or to jumpstart January.

Magan: How about we do a giveaway of this book? One copy?

Estelle: I think that’s an awesome idea!

Magan: Sweet! What are the rules?

G I V E A W A Y   R U L E S 

Let’s keep this one easy! Leave us a comment and you are automatically in the running to win a copy of Catching Jordan. It’s an easy question too: What’s the first book you started THIS year? We’ll keep the contest going until Friday, January 6 at midnight.

Can’t wait to see who wins!

But in case you can’t wait until Friday – Buy Catching Jordan on Amazon | Goodreads

Bookish Resolutions for 2012


Ornament on Magan's Christmas tree

Hello, friends!  We hope you had a wonderful Christmas! Under our Christmas trees, we found lots of bookish goodies – Barnes & Noble gift cards and books from our wishlists.  We’ve discussed resolutions and 2012 goals with a few people via twitter and definitely a lot between the two of us.  It made us think – what do we hope to accomplish next year? Maybe you’re thinking about next year, too. We’d love to hear what your plans are for 2012 – in your personal life and all things book related. If you feel like doing a post like this, link your post at the bottom so we can read what you hope for the new year.

Happy New Year,
Estelle & Magan


I am nervous to write these down and make them blog-permanent. One thing you should know about me is how I’m terribly afraid to fail. I am going to try to keep these as realistic as possible, but I also want to continue to push myself as a reader and blogger.

  1. Next year I’d like to read at least 115 books. That will allow me to stay on schedule with my posts here at Rather be Reading. We each write approximately 8 reviews a month. Considering I’m currently at 90 books and I didn’t begin until mid-May of 2011, I know I can hit that. (Yikes. This still scares me!)  I need room to read books that maybe I won’t review on here so we don’t have duplicate content and I need to allow for books that maybe I just won’t like or want to review.
  2. It’s time to tackle the books on my bookshelves – I want to read at least one book / month that I already own.  I utilize the library a lot, buy new books frequently, and receive books from NetGalley. That leaves little room for finding something on my perfectly organized bookshelves that I’d care to read. I admit I get sucked into wanting to read the latest and greatest release, so sometimes it is difficult to go back to something that was…gasp… published 10 years ago.
  3. If I don’t want to read a book I already own… ever.. it is either a) going to be taken to Goodwill, b) sold at Half Price Books, or c) put up for grabs on the blog so I can mail it to someone who would like to read it.  Why clutter my

    Magan's Bookshelves in the Living Room

    bookshelves when I can fill them with my favorite books?  It’s time to stop being a hoarder.

    (Oh, and PS, I’m including a picture of my recently completed bookshelves (to the right). We moved into our house January 1 of this year and this project took me waaaaay longer than it should have.  I’m glad my favorite books and some of our favorite knicknacks have a home now.)

  4. I don’t want to be the blogger that gets super caught up in a schedule and quits reading for herself. I love following book blogs. LOVE it. I add so many books to my lists from them and they inspired me to start sharing what I think about books. I want to make sure that I’m reading things that make me happy, that are written well, and to not get frustrated when I shouldn’t be spending more money on books and can’t get the book I want immediately. This book-reading thing is expensive. Books aren’t cheap, so I need to utilize the library when I can…
  5. or learn to swap books between bloggers. I would love to find people who are interested in sharing books so we can do kindle shares or lend out books via snail mail.
  6. This is really silly, but I want to have at least one author listed for every letter of the alphabet on our list of reviewed books. (Who said goals had to be all serious?)
  7. And last but not least, I want to become a better writer throughout the next year so I cam more effectively communicate how I felt about a book. I don’t want to become stale or repetitive, but I do want to be able to share a negative review with you when something doesn’t speak to me. I have trouble sharing negative feelings, but I just need to get over it.


I was never one to believe in making resolutions for the new year. But this year I started making little goals for myself. Reading a certain number of books, writing a certain amount of pieces, working out a certain number of times a week — and it really helps. I only answer to myself (which is sometimes difficult) but I have found this year has been so fulfilling because of these tiny goals I’ve been setting. I’ve been so lucky to welcome so many amazing people into my life because of the first two (and I never thought that would happen) and with the third one, well I feel a whole lot better about myself too. When it comes to setting some sort of “rule” for the year, I do think it’s important to remain flexible and not freak out about it. (Hard for me because I love to freak out.) But it does help. Just take your time and it’ll happen. So here are some of my guidelines for 2012:

  1. Read 100 books again. I don’t want to set the bar SO high because I want to make sure I have time to:
  2. …read 6 classics and concentrate more on contemporary adult fiction. We all know those two will be more time consuming.
  3. I also must get into the habit of writing a few notes and finishing a book review before reading 5 other books. I do this ALL the time, and it gets very hard to go back and remember what I read when my mind is infiltrated with more characters, plotlines, and writing styles. This will also cause me to…
  4. Get ahead on reviews. Magan is really super at this and because I spend more time reading than writing my reviews I’m sometimes cramming my monthly reviews into one week. I don’t want to do that anymore. Because sometimes I will come across books I do not want to review at all (2 come to mind at the moment) and some that just don’t fit what our blog is all about (Mary Todd Lincoln bio, anyone?). I never want to feel like I can’t be reading for me. That’s just crazy talk!
  5. In other non-blogging resolutions, I would love to balance my time better so I can make time for blogging, the gym, and my husband without feeling like I’m going nuts. This should be fun. It’s a hobby!
  6. Find every single book in my house that I have not read and make it a priority! It’s getting a little out of control. It’s just so easy to buy books on the Nook or on my lunch break but NO more. (Or at least, less of this please.)
  7. I also… big drum roll … would love to start writing a young adult novel. At some point this year. I don’t have to finish it but I would like to have a few chapters written.

Over the course of this year, this list might get a little bit longer. But I think for now it’s a great start. Hope all of you enjoyed your holiday (and are continuing to enjoy them). Here’s to a fantastic 2012!

As a fun bonus, here's what my sister painted me for the holidays!

We’d love to hear what your plans and goals are for 2012. Write a post and link up so we can read, follow along, and encourage you to hit your goals!


Top Ten Tuesday: Merry Christmas, Happy Book-adays

This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is ten books to give as gifts. With Christmas just around the corner, this is perfect timing to scour all the lists over at The Broke and The Bookish because we’ll all be posting about the BEST of the best. We are both bringing you five favorite books that we want to gift because we thought this week’s topic was awesome!  Don’t forget to check out Jen and Jamie’s picks over at TBatB.


I’ll kick things off today. I absolutely, without a doubt, love giving gifts.  I always want to go above and beyond what I should (ya know, budget wise) because I want to shower the people I love with things I think they’ll love. I told a friend of mine recently that books aren’t just a form of entertainment for me – they’re an escape.  I want them to make me emote and feel and take me on a journey. I want to completely get lost in the words and for the characters to feel like my best friends. The books I’m bringing you today are books I’ve read in 2011 that were some of my favorites.

If you’ve been following my tweets or reading the blog, you’ll see how much I gush about Stephanie Perkins and Suzanne Collins. Please note that without a smidgen of a doubt they are two of my favorite authors in the whole wide world. You should absolutely check into their books, but for today’s purposes, I’m trying to mix things up to share some books I haven’t previously raved about.

1.    Forgotten by Cat Patrick : A girl forgets the past and remembers the future. How does that even happen? It was an obscure concept to me, but MY GOSH Patrick’s writing was so incredibly beautiful. I adored this book. Mourned it when it was over.

I’d gift this to: someone who was a fan of Hourglass by Myra McEntire or Unforgettable by Loretta Ellsworth. Someone who likes to read things that are based on reality, but have a slight twist to them. (This isn’t a paranormal book.)

2.    Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: This was an incredible story of a girl finding her place in the world, defining her friendships, falling in love for the first time, and discovering the truth about her family’s history. I appreciated the writing so much and as all the stories were so cleverly intertwined, I felt myself slip into the pages and want to be friends with everyone.

I’d gift this to: one of my best friends and I’d include a personal note to let them know how thankful I am for him or her. I’d let the person know I’ll always have their back no matter what amount of drama arises.

3.    The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, and We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han: I know I cheated and that’s three books, but they’re a series! They go together like wine and cheese. These were the perfect beach reads for me this summer. Loved the sweet love stories and the family drama.

I’d gift this these to: My friends who love happy endings and love stories – the girls who love fairy tales (though this isn’t one) and reading about first love. These go to the girls who love love.  (Or greatly miss summer and yearn for the days of warmth and sand between their toes.)

4.    Small Town Sinners by Melissa C. Walker: This book is about a girl who is searching to understand Christianity on her own terms – not to just accept what her parents have taught her to believe. Though this wasn’t an easy read for me because there were some things that blew my mind, I do think it has a specific audience.

I’d gift this to: someone like my younger sister or brother who is going through the stage in life where they are questioning a lot and trying to find their own footing.

5.    Populazzi by Elisa Allen: you can read my full review here, but I think this book is an excellent demonstration of what it’s like to be a teenager in today’s society. Teenagers tend to feel a bit indestructible – Cara is no different as she tries to break into her new school’s social scene to climb the ladder to become the Supreme popular girl.

I’d gift this to: a girl in high school who yearns for popularity. My cousin went through a ton of bad things in her last year of high school, and I’d like to think that if she read something as well-written, funny, and relateable as this, she would have felt better about reaching the end of her senior year not being on top of the social ladder.

 E S T E L L E

Hi! Happy Tuesday everyone! I’m going to go about this list from a slighly different angle than Magan. Every year, for the past few years, I’ve made a point to gift my two best friends from college books. They are both science people, heavily involved in academia and don’t always have a chance to do fun reading during the semester. I’d like to think of it as my task to give them the best of the best to enjoy on their breaks. Unless they were playing a trick on me, they seemed to always love the selections and even traded with each other after they were done. Come to think of it, I did this book exchange with two other girls from college at one point and now my longtime buddy, Rachel, and I are about to do the same for the second year in a row. Sometimes I think a book is one of the most personal gifts you can give someone. While you may have a large pile of favorite books to choose from, you have to take in account the other person’s tastes and personality. It’s not easy. But I love a challenge. Here are some of my favorite books to gift others:

1.    God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie deBartolo: (Contemporary Adult Fiction) Beatrice, a cool jewelry designer living in Los Angeles, answers a personal ad on a whim. “Seeking a friend for the end of the world.” (Chris Cornell lyrics.) Instead of the freak she was expecting, it leads her to Jacob Grace, a passionate writer.

I know this sounds like typical chick lit but it’s so far from that. I can’t tell you the amount of lines I highlighted or folded down in my original copy from 10 years ago. I found this look on a new writers table, and I have never looked back. In fact, I started my own GSH trend when I got a ton of people to read it in high school. This book is raw, dark, lovely, happy, idealistic, hopeful, sexy, and romantic. These characters are so realistic, and go on quite the journey together.

I’d gift this to: Someone who can appreciate a REAL love story. A music lover. A fan of really good writing. A person who loves to dream of going to other places, and doing other things.

2.    The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank: (Contemporary Adult Fiction) Coming-of-age story that follows Sophie from seventh grade to adulthood. Relationships, moves, the works.

I had the opportunity to listen to Melissa Bank read chapters from this book at my college. I remember how exciting it was because the book hadn’t been published yet, and when I finally read the whole thing cover-to-cover I was floored. I love books that span a good chuck of time in a characters book and Sophie is such a relatable character. In fact, I have to reread this very soon!

I’d gift this to: Probably any female in her 20s who again, appreciates good writing and likes a good mix of humor and drama.

3.    How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer: (Contemporary Adult Fiction) A collection of nine moving short stories.

I think this is a book that someone gifted to me, and now I’ve given it to at least 2 different people. I love a short story collection every now and then. You can stop and go as you please. Although if you pick this one up, I’m not sure you are going to want to take that much of a break in between each. Warning: these stories deal with some extremely tragic and depressing moments. But at the same time, the writing is so obsessively awesome… There are bright spots too, don’t get me wrong but some of the stories will leave you saying “whoa.”

I’d gift this to: A person who appreciates the craft of writing. (There are many different styles in this collection.) Someone who wants to get a lot out of a few pages and may not have the time for a few novel.

4. Autobiography of a Wardrobe by Elizabeth Kendall: (Memoir) A life story told through the eyes and ears of her closet.

I absolutely love books with a creative format, and this is one of them. Kendall takes us through her life through the clothes she wore, the clothes her mother wore, what she bought, what she coveted, and what was popular during the time periods of the book. I also love to hear about how writers get into writing, and there’s a lot of that here as well. I love the flow, and the cover is pretty. (Big plus!)

I’d gift this to: A lover of fashion or shopping. Fan of memoirs, and someone who would appreciate a story told in an refreshing format.

5.    North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley: (Contemporary YA) Terra is determined to leave her her small town for college as soon as she can. She can’t stand the way some people look at her because of the port-wine stain on her cheek. Her dad is controlling and unsupportive of her art and her mom gives into his every whim. During a secret mission with her mom during winter break, Terra gets in a car accident and meets Jacob and his family. He and his mom provide the push Terra and her mom need to embrace new experiences and come to some intriguing conclusions.

I can’t say enough amazing things about this book. I could not put it down. The characters were so real to me and the author expertly crafts some intense family dynamics plus there is a good amount of traveling in this book which I absolutely loved. You learn a little bit about a new place, and it really plays such a role in the turning point in the lives of many of these characters.

I’d gift this to: Any female in any age bracket. I think anyone can relate to Terra’s plight to some degree. She’s an awesome, strong character with a lot of ambition. Jacob is pretty handsome and wonderful himself. And I love the relationship between Terra and her mother even if it is difficult at times. A must read. Beautiful, poetic writing the whole way through.

…anyone else love our NSYNC Christmas album title? Only the best, classiest Christmas tunes EVER.

BOOK REPORT: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Today we are diving into our second BOOK REPORT, a feature that we share every month. We both read the same book, chat about it, and post it here. With minor spoilers, we introduce one of our favorite authors and books…

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Release Date: September 29, 2011
Pages: 338
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: Kindle download for Magan; Nook download for Estelle.
How we found out about it: We’re both huge (HUGE) fans of Stephanie Perkins; we pre-ordered Lola after finishing Anna and the French Kiss.
Summary: Lola’s life couldn’t be any better. She’s dating hot musician Max. (Who cares if her Dads don’t like him and make her check in every hour on the hour?) She’s planning on making an entrance in a self-made Marie Antoinette dress at Homecoming. Until one day, her old neighbor, Cricket Bell, moves back into the house next door with his family. She can’t help but remember what happened between the two of them, but is she sure she has moved on. Or has she?

Magan: So, our second Book Report – all bout Lola and the Boy Next Door!  And our favorite author, Stephanie Perkins! I swear, I. LOVE. HER.

Estelle: I absolutely love her too. I really think she opened me up to contemporary YA.  Before that I was always looking for YA books from when I was a kid.

Magan: Yeah, and I guess I assumed that YA had to mean paranormal, fantasy, or sci-fi.  It’s nice to read something that’s easy to relate to and realistic. …Though I’ve never met a boy named Cricket before. 🙂

Estelle: Exactly. I felt like I could have written these books myself and they were a reflection of my own experiences even if Anna and Lola are so different than I am.  Me neither! But now we all want to. 🙂

Magan: Yes!! I am not a crazy outfit wearer like Lola (though my husband does think I dress outrageously sometimes), but despite that I understood her so well.

Estelle: It’s funny that she felt like such an outcast because I thought she was really cool.

Magan: I think that was definitely one difference between Anna and Lola for me. We saw so much of Anna AT school because that’s where she lived, too. With Lola, a lot of the story takes place in her neighborhood because she and Cricket were no longer attending the same school.  A lot of how Lola felt was not how I perceived her – she seemed way cooler than she gave herself credit for.

Estelle: That’s a great point. I never thought about that.  Also both characters had very few friends.  That might be totally unrelated to what you are saying, but I thought that was interesting.

Magan: Oh, definitely a valid point.  I was so anxious to understand why Lola wasn’t wanting to interact with Cricket when he moved back to San Francisco.  Of course that only made his appeal that much greater. He was mysterious and I couldn’t wait to find out the back story.

Estelle: I agree. Lola was sort of living every girl’s dream – getting a second chance to deal with this old “relationship”.

Magan: Yeah! It definitely made me think about what that would have been like to run into a guy from my past.

Estelle: Yes, me too. Which is why books like this are super dangerous. Haha.

Magan: I don’t think it would have evolved as beautifully as Lola’s story did…not for me.  I saw Cricket as such a kind, good guy. There was so much miscommunication between him and Lola, though.  His sister only complicated things even more. Oh, and her older boyfriend…Max.  Oh, Max. I couldn’t stand him. I was so anxious for Lola to see what seemed apparent to everyone else – he wasn’t all that interested in her, he wasn’t very nice…

Estelle: I understand that it was about attraction. For both of them.  And I could relate to that too.  I understand so much of what she was saying. This is why I love Stephanie because it is all so true.

Magan: I didn’t have a bad relationship with an older guy – I met my husband when I was 16 and he was 4 years older than me. I couldn’t connect with every aspect of Lola’s relationship in the same way because I met an older guy who turned out to be amazing for me.

Estelle: That would definitely be different. I mean there were so many warning signals. Like how they always wanted to be alone with each other.  They didn’t fully enter each other’s lives.  It’s like this selfish kind of love. But also full of this insecurity from both of them.

Magan: The thing that was hardest for me was that they had eyes only for each other, but yet I felt how Lola wasn’t completely in love with him. I could tell there was unfinished business with Cricket that needed to be addressed.  She had to hide her friendship with Cricket from Max which only complicated things more.

Estelle: Very true.  I mean, when you hide things, it really means something.  Not that that something always means the right thing. i.e. Max and then Cricket.

Magan: She just wasn’t ready to be honest with herself.  In a lot of ways – Lola hid a lot – she dressed up in costume to avoid being honest about how uncomfortable she was in her own skin.  She hid her relationship with Cricket.  She only had one best friend and didn’t want to get close to anyone else.  [Sidenote: I’m listening to the Anna and the French Kiss playlist Stephanie Perkins created while we work on this!]  So, as much as I loved St. Clair in Anna, I think Cricket was my dream boy.

Estelle: I could see that.  I think Cricket was more down to earth and quieter.

Magan: Yeah, and his style – gosh, if I could get my husband to have a fraction of his style …

Estelle: Haha! I was thinking the same exact thing.  My husband is a lot better than he used to be but could never reach Cricket’s level.

Magan: You brought up a brilliant point about Cricket – he was quiet. There were times that I just wanted to shout at Cricket and Lola to tell them to speak their minds. They waltzed around each other a lot.  They had a big communication problem.  They were young and I knew they weren’t going to be perfect at saying what they needed to, but they had so much hidden from each other. If the truth had just gotten out there, they wouldn’t have wasted so much time.

Estelle: I think Cricket was scared to say so much. I loved the moment of them on the bus after Lola gets her glasses smashed. Their silence seemed to speak volumes for me.  He was a gentlemen.  Other people might not have been quite as patient with Lola about this whole Max thing and his feelings for her.

Magan: You’re absolutely right. I just wanted them to spend time talking instead of skating around everything.  His sister made things a million times more complicated than they should have been.

Estelle: It’s true.  I did like her inserted her in there. It’s nice to see that sometimes family can complicate things because so many of these YA novels focus on stupid bitches in school or all this me me me stuff.  Family has value in these books.

Magan: That is a lovely part of the books – her Dads mean a lot to Lola, Cricket drops almost everything for his sister, and they spend time baking pies together to help out.

Estelle: I loved that pie scene! Especially since I wanted some of those pies.

Magan: YES! I was reading this so late one night and hit that scene. Geez – midnight craving, much?!

Estelle: That’s another thing about Stephanie’s books. There are such specific moments. Like the pies, and Anna going to the movies with St. Clair. How Lola felt about her Dads, her mom and the tea reading, and then Anna’s thoughts about her Nicholas Sparks-like dad and the love for her brother.

Magan: I feel so connected to them.  Ultimately, both Anna and Lola hit home with me because Stephanie does a beautiful job of making her characters have more than just the hots for each other.  Anna and St. Clair were in love with each other forever, just like Lola and Cricket.  But it wasn’t love at first sight, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t 0.2 seconds and they were dating.  Her relationships are based on something more fundamental – a friendship – long before the characters ever begin to date.

Estelle: It’s true. With many YA novels, I get sad because I’m like how is this going to last? All through college? C’mon. I think that’s just because it never happened to me and I really wanted it too. I met my husband at a very strange time in my life. But I totally believed that L&C and A&E were forever. They each knew what was important in relationships, after all their shit calmed down. Communication and just trying. Listening to one another.

Magan: YES! I did meet my husband really young, but before then, I’d always told my mom I wanted to marry my best friend.  We would see movies together, hang out with friends, play games, and got to know each other so well. All the emotions come rushing back to me when I read Stephanie’s books – what it was like to meet Dustyn and to fall in love so young.  A friend of mine saw Stephanie at the Austin Teen Book Festival and Stephanie talked about how she believes in young love. She met her husband at a young age, too.

Estelle: I love that.  She manages to write about it in two books, so differently which is awesome.

Magan: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Estelle: Me me me me too.

Magan: So when it comes down to it – who are you? Lola or Anna?

Estelle: I’m definitely Lola. I think she questions things I can relate to a lot more.  This part: “Am I only fixated on Cricket because of our traumatic history? Because he was my first crush? Or does something about him transcend that?”  I’ve thought that so many times. Although never as nicely as Stephanie put it here.

Magan: Yeah, that was a beautiful part. I think it is very insightful for someone as young as Lola, too.

Estelle: I can relate to her relationship with Max, no matter how unhealthy it is. It reminded me of the mistakes I made.  I think Lola was always trying to discover herself too. Her relationship with her mom, her Dads, Max, even with Anna. But at the heart of it, she knew who she was.  It just takes some time to get there.

Magan: Did reading about Lola’s mistakes and self-discovery make you realize anything about yourself?

Estelle: …I think it taught me I’m still figuring it out.

Magan: Yeah, for sure.  Not many things are black and white.  I’m just so glad that Cricket was patient and kind and that he waited for her to figure it all out.

Estelle: That’s another thing: while I totally relate to Lola, she was a whole lot more grown up than I was.  She made him wait until she was happy, until she was whole, and I was like, crap. If I had just done that once in awhile…Haha.

Magan: Hahah.  I think that was probably a result of a few things in her life though – a mom abandoning her, having two gay dads, etc.  She had to grow up fast.

Estelle: Very true.

Magan: I am more of an Anna.  That story hit home on so many levels. I had a close knit group of friends just like she did once she got connected at the school. The boy I crushed over was just like St. Clair – my best friend in every way. We fought and joked back and forth just like them.  When I was lusting over him, he was dating someone. I’d get over him and be okay with just being friends and he would fall for me all over again. The relationship was confusing and hard to navigate.  Our ending, of course, isn’t like Anna and Etienne’s, but that’s okay. I ended up with my Cricket. 🙂

Estelle: A very happy ending, indeed.  I was thinking about Anna a little bit and how it was nice to see her come into her own as an independent woman.  Even if it meant being shipped off to France. That wasn’t something I could relate to, exactly, but I liked seeing this change in her.

Magan: I was such a people pleaser – and sometimes still can be – that I felt a lot like her. Who I was was very much a reflection of who I was around.  Do you remember the scene in Anna where her friends talk to her about how selfish she was – that she couldn’t see the problems others were going through because she was so focused on herself?  That was a big “OH GOSH – that was me!” moment for me.  One of my best friends in high school emailed me and told me exactly the same things. I turned every conversation into one about me and even though I was just trying to relate to the other person, I just seemed selfish.  I didn’t know how to just listen and not actively participate.  It was so weird to see a character going through that. In my life, I’m glad that really happened. It took me a long time to see the truth in it, but it’s one of the most honest, helpful things someone has ever told me.

Estelle: I love that you can find a moment like that in Anna.

Magan: Though YA is my go-to favorite, I find it hard to relate to a lot of the books. There are a lot of sexy characters, and I find a lot of it to be unrealistic.  I’m so thankful for Stephanie. She’s putting something out there that is just so real.

Estelle: I agree with you. It takes me so long to find a book that is relateable. I’m not sure if it’s because we are in our mid-20s or whatever but still… some of it is just so superficial and full of bullshit.  It’s a fun read that passes the time but very very few hit home with me.

Magan: Yeah, exactly. I wish I knew of more authors that were like Stephanie, but I think she’s just one-of-a-kind.

Estelle: There are few that come close but still don’t have the full package. I’m anxious to read everything I can in pursuit of another author who makes me feel the same way!!  Haha!

Magan: I know! I definitely see a change happening in YA literature right now – there is a lot more contemporary fiction than there used to be, and I’m so excited about it.

Estelle: Me too. I think it’s so important to be truthful in these books. I mean, kids needs something and someone to relate to even if it’s a fictional character. Books were always my source of comfort, and as an adult, I still find that same comfort in these books and others.  Even though I’m well past when I felt certain things — like Lola & Max’s situation — it still makes me feel good that someone felt that way too or it wouldn’t be written as convincingly in these books.

Magan: You’re so right. I think that it’s great to see relationships that aren’t easy, idealistic, or perfect. Not many things in life are (ever) that way and it’s refreshing to see someone who can put it out there so honestly.

Thank you for joining us for our BOOK REPORT on Lola and the Boy Next Door. We hope you’ll share your thoughts with us below. Who are you – Anna or Lola? If you haven’t read this book yet (gasp!) you should add it to your list!

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BOOK REPORT: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Hi! Welcome to our shiny, new blog: Rather Be Reading. We’re so excited to be coming to you live after a month of preparation, and a few months of brainstorming!

Before we get into our individual book reviews, we wanted to launch with our first BOOK REPORT, a feature that will be recurring every month. Basically we read the same book, chat about it and post it here. Because we are sort of experimenting with this format and double-reviewing a book, this is subject to change. But for today, with minor spoilers, we discuss:

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ocklerjoint book review of twenty boy summer by sarah ockler, discussion of twenty boy summer book, young adult books dealing with death
Release Date: June 1, 2009
Pages: 290
Target Audience: YA
Format: Library book for Magan; Estelle owns a hard copy.

How Estelle found out about it: Found it by chance on the YA table at Barnes & Noble.
How Magan found out about it: Browsing for more books by Sarah Ockler; I’d already read Fixing Delilah and wanted more!

Summary: Anna has been best friends with siblings Frankie and Matt forever. She’s also been in love with Matt for as long as she can remember. On her fifteenth birthday, it seems like her dreams are coming true — Matt kisses her and she discovers he likes her too. Before they can tell Frankie about their “whatever-it-is”, Matt dies in a car accident. A year later, Frankie and her family, along with Anna, are still reeling from this loss and Anna still hasn’t divulged her secret to Frankie. On a trip to California, Frankie decides the two girls will meet 20 guys and that Anna should lose her virginity. But Anna still cannot forget Matt…

Magan: Let’s go!  I’m just opening my notes.  My first thoughts were that Anna was so hung up on Matt that it made me really connect with him.  I liked his character and I really felt sad that he died, leaving no chance for there to be a future between the two of them.
Estelle: Me too. It was sort of like an ache that didn’t leave me throughout the whole book.
Magan: Yes!
Estelle: I was really upset we didn’t get to see more of their stolen moments, but happy when they were sort of woven throughout the book. It also really brought me back to my first relationship, too.
Magan: Yes! Stolen moments – when she wrote her first letter to Matt, I had tears streaming down my face… and when she met other boys, I felt so disappointed. I think I compared all of them to Matt and never really connected with Sam as much.
Estelle: With Sam, I liked him immediately but still felt sad that she would never get to talk to or spend more time with Matt again. I felt proud of her for taking the plunge with a new guy and not buying into Frankie’s mission too much.
Magan: Yeah, and repeatedly throughout my notes, I kept writing “Just tell Frankie! Just tell her about Matt!”  I wanted Frankie to understand why she wasn’t jumping into all those relationships.
Estelle: Frankie wouldn’t have wanted to understand anyway.  The family dynamic post-death was very terrifying to me. Anna was totally the anchor for everyone.
Magan: Oh, yeah.  My heart felt so heavy for Anna. The way she kept saying, “Don’t worry about me. I’m fine.”  That was hard.  She was so not fine.
Estelle: I agree. I think Anna’s character was so well-developed and even though she was the most rational, the way she dealt with death was avoidance and sort of burying it.
Magan: …but at the same time, she wasn’t really moving forward.  Granted, I didn’t want her to have moved on beyond Matt, but I felt like she was stuck.
Estelle: She was. I think about her age though. She was young when that happened.  Maybe an older person would have moved on more swiftly; her head would have been in a different place. Like if she was distracted by college or something.
Magan: I think that’s why Frankie’’s challenge bothered me the most.  They were so young, Frankie was dealing with something tragic irrationally, and all she cared about was Anna losing her virginity.  It made me hate Frankie’s character. I knew I was supposed to laugh at all of the words she mixed up, but I really, really disliked her character.
Estelle: I thought Frankie had a learning disability.  Honestly.  The effects of a traumatic event occurring in her life. I didn’t get it really.  I thought we were going to find out just how messed up she was especially because they kept pointing out how she was failing all the school stuff. But it ended up being nothing.
Magan: Right, but in actuality she just LIED about everything.
Estelle: Maybe it would have worked better if we got another moment between Anna and Frankie before the accident. We only got Anna and Matt.
Magan: I agree. I wish we had seen more of Anna and Frankie pre-accident.  We didn’t really see as much of how Frankie had changed. We were told, but I didn’t feel it was convincing.  I just thought Frankie was an airhead.
Estelle: She wasn’t a character I was that invested in. I was just waiting for her to quit playing her game.
Magan: Not at all. In fact, Anna and Matt were the only two I cared about.
Estelle: I wondered when the breaking point was going to be.
Magan: Me too.
Estelle: You know what bugged me?
Magan: What?
Estelle: They never went full circle with the mom/aunt conversation [As in Frankie & Matt’s mom].
Estelle: I was hoping Anna would have a chance to talk to Jayne again or even resolve it later, but nothing comes out of it.  It just sort of hangs there.
Magan: I typed at the end of my notes that I wished they’d talked again. I wrote, “Part of me feels like she needs motherly love and for someone to tell about she and Matt’s relationship.”  Anna told Sam, but like that conversation would have really went down like that.  I don’t think so.  Anna: “Oh, hey Sam. I’m dealing with some really heavy stuff. I lied about Frankie not having a sibling. She had a brother. I kind of dated him and then he died, but Frankie just found out. And she’s mad at me now.” Sam: “Oh, that sucks. Must have been hard. Who cares that you lied? Let me comfort you.”  Yeah right!
Estelle: He [Sam] really didn’t bother me.
Magan: No, but I didn’t care about him at all.  I didn’t like him. I didn’t see the appeal.  I wanted to. I wanted Anna to meet the best boy and for me to love him. But, I didn’t.
Estelle: She couldn’t meet the best boy though.  She was leaving.
Magan: Yeah, the best boy died.
Estelle: Ha! You can’t make it seem like she would never meet another boy again.
Magan: Oh, I know.  And I know that I would’ve been ticked if there had been a perfectly happy ending with butterflies and rainbows and promises to stay together.  So during the huge climax where Frankie finally finds out – who were you rooting for – Anna or Frankie?
Estelle: Umm, definitely Anna.
Magan: Yeah, me too.  I wanted to punch Frankie so hard.
Estelle: The journal thing was heartbreaking. I would have gone nuts.
Magan: Oh gosh.  I would have, too. I would have tried to save that thing.  I probably would have pushed Frankie in the ocean.  I just couldn’t help but dislike Frankie even more after that. All I could think about was how bratty and immature she was.

Estelle: They were just a bunch of extremes of how they dealt with Matt’s death, I guess.   I think Anna was a loyal friend even if she couldn’t tell Frankie about Matt. She stuck with her even if she was a totally different person.
Magan: I loved that. I have a really hard time with change, so I hope that I could respond in the same way if something in my life happened like this. With a huge life altering change – to be so loyal.
Estelle: Especially when that person you are loyal to is 1) acting like a nut 2) was the sibling of the dead boy you loved. Tough stuff.
Magan: Yeah.  I kind of wish that the whole journal thing hadn’t been dealt with the way it had. I wish maybe Anna had given Frankie the diary to say, “This is what I’ve been going through. This is what happened and I want you to know.”  Especially since Frankie was being so selfish. Maybe Anna had been able to draw some attention to her pain for once.
Estelle: I think they needed a drama.  What else would have been the climax?
Magan: Frankie would have still blown up, but maybe the diary wouldn’t have been tossed into the abyss of the ocean. Ha!
Estelle: I still think they needed something big like maybe the parent’s found out they had been sneaking out and there’s a big shakeup.
Magan: Oh, yeah. I didn’t like that they got away with that stuff.
Estelle: They may not have gotten away with it. I still feel like my mom [sorry Mom!] knew all the times i snuck out even if i thought I was being crafty.  So it’s Sarah [Oakler]’s debut novel, would you consider reading more of her writing?
Magan:  Hmm. I think I would. I do hope that more of the characters would be fully developed in her future novels. I loved Anna so much and just wanted that from all the characters.  What about you?
Estelle: I think I definitely would. Her style… with the italics … and the shifts in time totally reminds me of something I would like to write or have experimented with in the past.
Magan: *laughs*  Yeah, good call. Any final thoughts on the book?  What would you rate this one?  I’d say it’s a 3 for me. I’m glad I read it, but I won’t re-read it.
Estelle: I would probably say 3 also. I think it would be a book I would take with me on vacation and read again. It felt like a Baby-Sitter’s Club book to me sometimes too, specifically any time the gang traveled to Sea City. Either way, I’m a sucker for a beach/summer vacation setting.
Magan: I am, too.  I guess I’d just pick something a little less heavy for a beach read.
Estelle: I still thought it was light even if it was heavy, if that makes sense.
Magan: *laughs*  Yes, it does.
Estelle: I liked all the associations with the sea glass too. I liked that she got to hear a final moment about Matt from Frankie and get the necklace.
Magan: Ah.  That was a nice wrap-up.  Have you read Moonglass by Jessi Kirby?
Estelle: No!  I’m looking it up now!
Magan:  You should read Moonglass if you liked this book.  A beach setting. A cute love story. A bit of family drama.  Oh, and sea glass references.
Estelle: Perfect! Added to the list!
Thank you all for joining in on our first BOOK REPORT chat. We hope you’ll think about adding Twenty Boy Summer to your must-read list!