Almost 5 years ago, Estelle & Magan met at a wedding — where M was the photographer and E was a bridesmaid for her best friend's big day. We talked about books for under five minutes, and a friendship was born.
Since then, we’ve shared our love of books, Zac Efron, and shopping on this blog, changed jobs, had babies, moved, visited DC and Disney World together, and constantly stayed connected -- despite the miles between us. RBR has been the our own version of a coffee date, our way to mark the time before we can hang out and gab in person again. Thanks for spending time with us. xoxo
I’m a big believer that the things you love when you are a kid don’t necessarily have to disappear once you get older. Hello — I’m an adult reading young adult books all the time, I’m a frequent visitor to Disney World and it’s not because I’m a mom, and I’d always prefer to spend money at the movies to support a Pixar or Disney film over an Oscar-nominated drama. (That’s what RedBox is for!)
Since I turned 30 in February, I’ve used the word OLD so much to describe myself and I know it’s a word I need to eliminate from my vocabulary. I shouldn’t care. I still get carded when I buy beer. My desk at work has plenty of Muppet-y knick knacks. I listen to Disney music every single week. But I’m still insecure about my age. I’m not even sure if it’s about the number. It’s more about knowing you are in a different place in life than others, and not knowing how to bridge that gap exactly — worried that they think you are an old lady when you really spent your weekend watching segments from The Muppet Show and comparing your cooking skills to Elmo’s. (For the record, I’m better.)
Anyway, while I work through this unforeseen, totally self-inflicted thing, I’m super in love with the fact that so many pop culture obsessions from my teenage years have survived the test of time and still exist! It’s like that rule about fashion. Style is cyclical. It all comes back around. Isn’t life cozy? It’s so surreal to have the opportunity to revisit these familiar things, and realize — hey it’s totally okay to still love this and you know what — it’s still awesome.
This is EXACTLY how I feel about these three things:
girl meets world: I cried all through the first episode of this Boy Meets World companion series. Cory Matthews is a dad and a teacher and the series follows his daughter with a great dose of nostalgic nods to the original series. It’s been hard for me to keep up with the show in real time but I caught an episode (“Girl Meets Pluto“) last weekend and, if possible, it made me adore the series even more. The new cast is putting together a time capsule, and Cory is determined to dig up the one he, Shaun, and Topanga put together when they were kids. I cried. (Also if you are a “Boy Meets World” fan, you have to follow @BenSavage on social media. He posts some awesome pics.)
hilary duff. It’s been seven years since Hilary Duff came out with a new album, but it’s really been eight since her last original album. I remember rushing over to Target that morning, sitting on my parent’s front porch and writing a review for one of my college classes. This week has been like reliving my college years and then some because HER NEW ALBUM IS AMAZING AND WORTH WAITING FOR. It’s basically the only thing I’ve listened to all week, and then some. (See: “My Kind” and “Breathe In. Breathe Out.”) Hilary is the ultimate life role model. She takes a break, does her thing, and returns stronger than ever. (I’m very tempted to rewatch The Lizzie McGuire Movie soon.)
vanessa hudgens. Another Disney Channel kid. I loved Vanessa in the High School Musical franchise, I shipped her with Zac Efron so so much, and I was obsessed with her first album. (So so good.) This year, she made her Broadway debut in Gigi and I was finally able to catch the show this past week. Despite lackluster reviews (the writing! the writing!), Vanessa was completely charming and her voice sounded amazing. I was sort of overwhelmed with pride afterwards like I was watching a friend I grew up with accomplish something wonderful. Like with Hilary, I was thinking: look how far we’ve come, Vanessa. LOOK HOW FAR WE’VE COME.
Look how far we’ve come indeed. I love when life becomes this mishmash of things I used to love and can learn to love again. Up next: this Full House reboot. Who else is excited?
The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller ( web | tweet ) Published May 26, 2015 by Harlequin HQN Pages: 304 | Target: adult Keywords: remarriage, small towns, single parents, best friendship
Summary: Bex is always taking care of someone else; it’s about time she starts paying attention to the good looking single dad she keeps bumping into (whether it’s accidental or because of her best friends).
The Brides of Bliss County series is so fun because it centers around the lifelong friendship of three girls living in Mustang Creek. They all made a pact to find their happily ever afters, and now it’s Bex’s turn. Here’s 5 reasons you should toss this book into your beach bag:
True friendship: Bex might be fiercely independent but she knows when she needs her girls. She also knows to be prepared for hang out time with snacks (can you imagine the darling bakery they probably came from). That’s what I call a friend. These girls know each other so well, and especially know when to call each other out on their crap.
Two people just about/almost kinda ready to move on: Bex’s love, Will, died Afghanistan and Tate is a widow, raising two young boys on their own. There’s more to both of their stories (I love where Miller went with Tate’s) but as the reader, you know from the start these two can help fill the void in each of them — even they were both already established as people who embraced the detours they’ve hit, and lived satisfying lives.
There’s no right way to fall in love. Miller’s a classic romance writer, and I love that familiarity but she also pushed and pulled our characters together in a way that didn’t fulfill some of the more traditional timelines in romance novels. I loved that. Definitely an emphasis on maturity, and less on drama — which fit Bex and Tate’s characters perfectly.
Kids! I never realized quite how much I love having kids a part of a story like this one. You get to watch a character fall in love with more than her partner. She has to click with the kids too. Loved having these rascals (including Bex’s nephew, Josh) involved in the story too.
A log cabin. Normally a log cabin would bring to mind images of Abe Lincoln, but this place was so important to this couple’s story… even if there were a little hiccups along the way.
You know you really enjoyed a trio of characters when you get choked up at the final chapter. I hope you’ll take some time to know this loyal threesome soon!
Allow me to take you back to the days of Tiger Beat and Teen Beat for a revival of Attention, Attention. Estelle reviewed Wild Cards over a year-and-a-half ago on the blog, but I recently had the pleasure of listening to the audio book. I really, really enjoyed my experience and the book, despite how often it made me blush. (So, so much.) My only semi-major complaint is that the narrator did not pronounce Ashtyn’s name correctly 98% of the time. Derek does have a Southern drawl, but he shouldn’t have sounded like he was saying “Ash-jin.”
Hopefully these details will be reason enough for you to hit your local library to check out Wild Cards ASAP!
Celebrity Casting: Wilson Bethel (image source • image source) because he was cocky and arrogant as all get out on Hart of Dixie, but could make absolutely any girl swoon after him.
Celebrity Casting: Jessica Biel – she’s athletic and tough-as-nails (or so I assume), just like Ashtyn.
So what do you think? Wanna give Wild Cards a try?
Did you already read it? What did you think?
Another month, and more time to diversify your bookshelf. We’re thrilled to have debut novelist (a.k.a. that tall guy who used to sell me books at my favorite bookstore) Adam Silvera on the blog today! His highly-praised release, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT, turns ONE WEEK OLD today (aww) and Adam is sharing some thoughts about timing and introducing homosexuality in books. Hope you enjoy Adam’s Dive Into Diversity stop, and add his recent release to your reading lists! (Also, challengers, don’t forget to add your DID) links below!) Take it away, Adam!
I don’t understand why people mistake homosexuality as a choice, but they do. I’m sure a lot of the misconception revolves around wanting the world to spin a certain “normal” way, but let’s dismiss that idiocy for a few minutes (and for the rest of our lives) and take a look at why homosexuality may feel foreign to well-intentioned others.
Teenhood is that time of independence and discovery that can be both exhilarating and frustrating, and for a lot of teens, it’s the first time they’re reading something that may involve gay characters. Homosexuality in middle-grade fiction exists on a very small scale, but you’re always more likely to see a wizard struggling with his magical life than you are a kid pondering his sexuality. Sure, some pre-teens are developing loveless crushes on each other, but for the most part they are chasing each other around the jungle gym, tattle-telling on some little nemesis, or playing Pretend, so you could argue it’s not necessary to roll out homosexual presence just yet. Except I did all these things and still had feelings for boys and knew not to talk about it because it wasn’t being talked about. I’ll admit to being the kind of reader far more interested in Harry Potter dealing with all his problems, both Muggle and magical, but seeing an outed Dumbledore, or even another Hogwarts student who’s gay, could’ve changed the game for me. But we shouldn’t be including homosexual characters just for those who are gay–it should be for EVERYONE.
My point to all of this is I believe we’re introducing homosexuality FAR TOO LATE to people by only addressing it in young adult novels, and it may be why it’s so alien to others who aren’t experiencing these feelings themselves. I would love to see a greater presence of LGBT characters for younger readers, and introducing them as young as the picture book crowd so they aren’t surprised by the different ways to love.
I totally understand more authority comes with teenhood, but we shouldn’t have to be a certain age to declare who we are, even if some of those declarations turn out to be wrong. Sexuality may not always be a choice, but how we define ourselves is.
Thanks for stopping in, Adam!
MORE HAPPY THAN NOT: The Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto — miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can’t forget how he’s grown up poor or how his friends aren’t always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough.
Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind talking about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he’s can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is (Soho Teen, June 2, 2015).
Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth ( web | tweet) Published August 26, 2014 by Scholastic Press Pages: 256 | Target: middle grade Keywords: foster siblings, urban settings, summer school, friendship
Eleven year-old Jarrett is pissed off, and it has nothing to do with his mother taking in more foster kids. He’s not too psyched to have to share his room with a 12-year old stranger, Kevon. Why does the newest addition to his family have to be older than him, better looking, great at basketball, and able to make new friends almost immediately?
Jarrett finds out soon enough that Kevon is less than imperfect. He has no trouble raising his voice to Jarrett’s mom when it comes to the best way to care for his younger (special needs) sister. He’s prepared to do whatever it takes to escape this foster home and be back where he belongs — living with his dad on the other side of Newark. This is okay with Jarrett because he just wants his room back.
Both boys learn a lot about patience, because Kevon’s stay is not as short as either of them are prepared for. Soon Kevon is encroaching on his time at the center and with his best friend, Ennis. Jarrett decides to impart his supreme spy skills to find out the real story about Kevon and his little sister but something just isn’t adding up.
I really enjoyed reading about foster care from this angle. Jarrett is proud of what his mom does, but he also feels like she cares a bit more about all the babies coming and going than him. He’s learned to detach himself from the kids the more and more she fosters, because he’s gotten so sad when children have left their home in the past. Like his mother, he’s extremely empathetic and can’t help but feel angry at the parents who mistreat their children.
In addition to the fostering process, Kinda Like Brothers has Jarrett reacting from hearing his teachers talk poorly of his academics. He’s having a lot of trouble concentrating in school, he was absent a lot during the year because of his asthma attacks, and nothing is clicking. He’s totally frustrated because his mom doesn’t seem to be paying enough attention to his, and he’s not sure what the point of applying himself is when everything thinks he’s “dumb” anyway.
All this heaviness is sprinkled with the standard qualms of an 11-year old — the girl he desperately wants to impress, how annoying it is to remember to put on deodorant (and how equally annoying it is to be reminded to wear some by his mom), the recent changes in his best friend, and getting down all the moves for step team. I can’t forget his passion for making movie trailers either. Jarrett may have trouble believing he’s smart but you have to believe he’s going to make it through his school difficulties because the kid is charmingly ambitious. There’s nothing “stupid about that”.
Despite the young audience for this book, I love how we are given some insight into Jarrett’s mother and her own tendencies to push happiness away. There was also the stark (and all too timely) observation that kids in Jarrett’s neighborhood would regularly be targeted by the cops without having done a thing — all because of what they looked like. Certainly a moment that would elicit a ton of discussion in the classroom, in the home, and beyond.
Kinda Like Brothers was funny, smart, and explored the many meanings of family. It touched upon the not so great things we do when we are feeling threatened and how we make up for them; how we protect ourselves and the ones we love; embrace the things we do well and use them to get through the things that are still a work in progress.
Nothing beats the feeling of falling in love with an author’s work for the first time…except maybe revisiting that work and realizing you’re just as enthralled as you were that very first time. With so many new books being released every week, it’s not always as convenient to go back and spend time with those old favorites. Part of it is the sheer volume of books in the world, sure, but I think there’s also this teenie tiny fear that you won’t connect with a certain title quite as strongly as you did the first time. Time passes, circumstances change, and so does the way we read and interpret these stories. It’s entirely possible but true love is forever and this is certainly true of my relationship with Trish Doller’s books.
I remember exactly where I was when I read Something Like Normal (it took a round trip between home and work on the train) and the same with Where the Stars Still Shine(on a plane ride — with a layover in Chicago — heading back home from a wonderful visit in Austin with Magan). Apparently transportation plays into reading time with Doller’s books. I really must like crying in public. But in all seriousness, any reader would want to be holed up in a closed space with one of these delectable contemporaries. The girls are genuine and strong and different degrees of broken. The boys are real and emotional and just as messy as any teenage girl is expected to be. (In real life, we know this is how the story goes but too few young adult books make it known.) Family is around and either great or not, which is majorly reflective of real life too.
Since I’m writing this on a public platform and not disguising any titles or names (Drish Toller?), I’m sure you can guess that I decided to re-read both titles recently (to build up to my excitement of the long awaited The Devil You Know) and well, you would have thought it was a 2015 release that wasn’t actually covered in a bit of dust. (It gets really dusty in this apartment; I swear I’ve moved my copy since I bought it!) I eased right into Something Like Normal and didn’t let a massive headache stop me from finishing. Where the Stars Still Shine was practically burning a book-sized hole in my purse when I wasn’t able to pick it up. (Somehow I didn’t think my mom would accept it if I chose a book over one of our rare visits.) I know how both of these ended, and I remembered the massive moments but with Dollar, it’s all about the details — Travis’s friendship with Charlie and his love of thrift shops; Callie’s guitar, the lights in her Airstream, how her nickname became Peach. They makes these stories so familiar, so alive, and so distinctly her.
A few more observations:
I forgot how lovely the relationship between Travis and his mom is. He’s feeling guilty because she was so dedicated to being a great Marine mom while he was in Afghanistan and he barely called home but she understood. She didn’t hound him or make him feel guilty, and on the flip side, when she needs someone, he’s there in a huge way. Their relationship wasn’t always perfect (by a long shot) but time away gave him perspective and changed how they relate to each other forever.
Water can heal. Both books are set in Florida (which I love) so it’s no big surprise that there are some beachy scenes in both. I’m an Aquarius. I believe in the power of water. In Something Like Normal, Travis spends the day on a boat with his Marine pals and an old school friend, Harper. A day like that makes him trust that he can work through what’s ailing him. Where the Stars Still Shine features one of my favorite scenes in a book ever — Callie and Alex snorkeling. It’s so overwhelmingly beautiful, and it has nothing to do with the chemistry between these two but all about the intimacy of nature and the two of them getting to know each other.
Strong female characters who know what they want (or don’t) who like sex (or don’t) who believe in shooting straight with a guy even if it seems silly not to be “over” a certain situation all these years later (Harper) or succumb to attraction and teeter around the possibility of something more (Callie). Those who want friendships but don’t always know how to be friend; who want acceptance from others and themselves for all their messy parts in addition to all the good.
For all of the tough moments (PTSD, kidnapping, abuse, etc.), Doller never forgets to inject the little joys into the lives of her characters. From friendship to family to newfound indie bookstores and a night watching sea turtles, there is so much for each of these characters to embrace as they work to overcome their own battles. The exact ups and downs we face every single day.
This is what I know after diving into these worlds again: these books need to be dog-eared, highlighted, and embraced over and over again by young adults who want to be talked to with respect and maturity and adults who are undoubtably facing so many of the same challenges as these characters. Loss, misunderstanding, betrayal, happiness, belonging, and taking the necessary steps toward renewal and peace with a side order of forgiveness. Most of all, it’s a shame that coming across these books in my local bookstores is a challenge. I wish it wasn’t because I know so many could benefit from these stories — whether it’s because they felt similar pain or because they’re looking for the full reading experience.
So while new books and voices are wonderfully impossible to avoid, there’s something to be said for the ones that are always waiting patiently in the shadows of our outrageous piles, ready to welcome you back and unlock more of their layers.