First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Children
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: summer, opposites attract, first love, Arizona
Format read: Borrowed from the library.
Summary: Gray never thought he would be hanging out, much less falling for, Dylan, a quirky girl in town for the summer who enjoys photographing geckos and naming everything she comes across (her freckles, her car, her slippers). For Gray, she’s a breath of fresh air and for Dylan, Gray is a challenge — someone who needs to break down the walls he’s built.
I know the cover of this book is very dramatic and sensual (and gee — can we stop with these kissing covers, please??) but wow, this book was seriously uplifting, adorable and funny, and completely lyrical.
After reading Katie Kacvinsky’s Awaken and knowing how her sometimes dense description caused me to gloss over passages, I was worried about this happening again. But the author filled First Comes Love with crisp description (there were a lot of scene changes) and this natural flow between two people who were connecting with one another.
Dylan was just about one of the most original characters I have ever come across. She’s so incredibly free spirited and optimistic and selfless. I found myself jealous of her, to be honest. I wished that I could be so inhabited and not worry so much about others thought of me. I mean, gosh, I would have wanted to spend a whole summer with her going on random adventures and listening to her crazy stories and answering her questions.
And I was so glad that Gray gave her a chance. Life had been pretty rough since tragedy rocked his home, which felt even emptier than it should with his mom always off to bed early and his dad away on business trips. Gray himself gave up a baseball scholarship to stay home and watch over his family, but, instead, it was like he was floating and not living much at all.
Dylan sensed something was up with Gray. She never pushed, never overdid it. She managed to distract and open him up at the same time. And I liked that the author gave one of the characters this tough backstory but allowed Dylan to have an average upbringing (even if she wanted to live like a gypsy, as my grandma would say). And tell me why every time I read about a brooding, trouble male character I picture Channing Tatum? Because he was so Gray to me!
And the romance? Slow and steady, organic, hold your breath, fall over yourself goodness. Dylan and Gray knew each other for a short period of time but their relationship is so convincing and genuine; Kacvinsky intertwined both the lightheartedness of love and the more serious moments in such a true way. I could not get enough. (I also couldn’t stop snapping pictures of passages I absolutely adored.)
First Comes Love shared a story of healing, opening yourself up to all the world’s possibilities, making choices, and the utter excitement and giddiness and uncertainty of getting to know someone and falling so hard… you can’t get up.
Goodreads | Amazon
P.S. Kacvinksy did self-publish a sequel to First Comes Love that can be downloaded from Amazon as well: Second Chance.
The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver
The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them
The Treasure Map of Boys: Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon—and me, Ruby Oliver
Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren’t Complicated, I Wouldn’t Be Ruby Oliver
The Ruby Oliver Series by E. Lockhart
Publication Dates: 9/26/2006 | 4/22/2008 | 7/28/2009 | 12/28/2010
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 229 | 208 | 248 | 225
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: high school, friendship drama, seeing a therapist, dating relationships
Format read: First three borrowed from my library, the fourth purchased for my kindle.
Summary: Ruby Oliver is just a normal girl with two best friends — until she begins having panic attacks and has to see a therapist because her boy life is out of control and her best friends are no longer speaking to her.
Things I Know About Ruby Oliver and Why You Should Read This Series:
- Ruby is a little bit (okay, maybe a lot) crazy. She is boy crazy. She doesn’t interact with people well because she is so self-conscious and feels like she’s doing and saying the wrong things all the time. She blurts out whatever comes to mind and doesn’t think before she speaks. (This makes for some great laugh out loud moments while reading.)
- Ruby just doesn’t understand boys. She wants to date them, but is pretty judgey and particular about them. She gets herself in awkward situations and The Boyfriend List portrays how it seems like she’s had lots of crushes on boys and really gotten around, but that’s just not the truth. When she finally does get a boyfriend (hello, Jackson!) — things are anything but easy. Especially when…
- Ruby’s best friends aren’t super trustworthy. Her BFF Kim? Yeah, she kind of gets in the way and steals Ruby’s boyfriend. And you know what? She turns things around and makes Ruby seem like the bad person. So what happens to poor Ruby? She has panic attacks because school starts to suck so bad when all of her friends turn on her. And that leads to…
- Ruby begins to see a therapist. She doesn’t really know what to talk about and she’s a bit ADD in her thought process, jumping (leaping) from one topic to the next, but her therapy sessions are quite entertaining (especially as she begins to understand herself a bit more and doesn’t want to listen to what she knows needs to happen). She begins to realize that she’s got way more than just boy issues. For instance…
- Ruby’s parents are also crazy. Her mom is extremely self-involved and is always experimenting with some new diet. She dapples in Ruby’s life in the worst possible ways, and while she thinks she’s being helpful, she’s really not. Her dad is really into plants and has a greenhouse and Ruby’s just not into that, but does connect with him more. (It’s really easier if Ruby just avoids her mom because their relationship is just… complicated.)
- Ruby’s seclusion leads her to make a new friend. Or two. Noah and Megan are two people Ruby doesn’t ever socialize with much, but while she’s got no one else to talk to because her life is crap, she is kind of forced to get to know these two better. Turns out Noah’s got a lot of attractive qualities and Megan’s not the person Ruby pegged her to be (funny how that happens, right?).
- Ruby is relateable, funny, sarcastic, self-depricating, pure, and original. There’s really been no other character for me that has rivaled Ruby Oliver. I could have breezed through all four books in one day because I just ate them up. After waiting (months) for the last book from my library, I finally broke down and purchased it for my kindle because I just had to know how Ruby’s story ended. Each book dictates a year of Ruby’s high school life, beginning freshman year.
- You’ll only grow to love Ruby more throughout the series. Sure when Rub is a freshman and she’s going through all the stupid things she’s done, you might shake your head and say, “SILLY GIRL!” But, she grows up, she gets wiser, and becomes more comfortable in her own skin. She becomes a bit more daring and bold. (If that’s possible — she has some guts, I tell ya.) The more I read, the more I wanted to continue to read.
If you want a fun series that you’ll breeze through quickly and laugh out loud multiple times while reading, Ruby Oliver is your girl. These books made me remember all those times when I didn’t know what I said wrong that made my friends upset with me. It made me laugh at how naive I was when it came to boys, and how monumental every emotion seemed to be back in high school. You’ll remember what those times were like for you, but from Ruby Oliver’s humorous perspective.
The Boyfriend List (Goodreads | Amazon)
The Boy Book (Goodreads | Amazon)
Treasure Map of Boys (Goodreads | Amazon)
Real Live Boyfriends (Goodreads | Amazon)
Male readers, I apologize in advance for today’s topic being so … girly. (Actually, maybe take note and make one of these for your significant other. You could win major bonus points for thoughtfulness.)
I’m not sure if you ladies are like me, but when I’m all PMS-y and hormonal, there are a few things I find myself needing every. single. month. It’s like a pattern. I get ragey-pants, sad, and have to stay away from sad/depressed people who are woe-is-me all the time because I’m already flipping out because OH MY GOSH I HAVE SO MANY THINGS TO DO and MY TO DO LIST IS OVERWHELMING and THERE’S NOT ENOUGH TIME and ALL I WANT TO DO IS CURL INTO A BALL AND ROCK BACK AND FORTH.
I make one monthly trip to Walgreen’s to grab a few of my PMS staples. A few weeks ago, I was doing just that very thing and realized that, no pun intended, of course, it’s this big cycle. After my trip, I drove home thinking, “Oh, if only I could get Dustyn to make me a survival kit because being a woman sucks.”
I went home and stacked all my purchases into a neat little pile and started gathering a few more things that should be there, and viola!, my completely inappropriate post was born. Here’s what would be in my monthly PMS survival kit:
So what you see above is:
+ Sprite. Because apparently caffeine will only make us feel worse.
+ Midol Complete. Um, this doesn’t really need an explanation other than HOLY MOTHER I HATE PAIN.
+ Nail polish. Let’s talk about femininity? I feel ugly and disgusting and gross. Painting my nails helps cheer me up and feel a little better. (Yes, yes, I admit — serious polish addict. I know.) This helps me feel a bit more girly and appreciate SOME aspect of womanhood. Pictured here are my Essie Top Coat and Essie Base Coat. And I obsess about this frequently on twitter, but I’m sharing my one of my favorite Julep nail polish colors, Eloise. (In case you’re interested in their Julep Maven program, here’s where you can find out more.)
+ Sour Punch Straws. These are my favorite, favorite treat. Some girls choose ice cream or chocolate, but GIVE ME THE SUGAR. (Yes, I’m aware that I snack like a 10 year old kid.)
+ A Big Ol’ Glass of H2O. Apparently water helps us feel better. As much as it can be (seeing as how 95% of my work is done on my computer) my right hand is glued to my glass of water.
+ Books. I also really want to read a specific type of book during this hellacious week. I want something like Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker (Clem is a little bit emo, I’m a little bit emo. It works.) Or something by Sarah Dessen. (She’s always makes me fall in love with her characters. Shown in these photos is Lock and Key, but I haven’t read it yet. Next month. ;)) Or maybe a book that’s going to break me into a million pieces and let me get out ALL OF MY CRYING. You know, like Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer.
I looked down while I was taking these photographs and realized I also dress like a frump. My old lady moccasins are glued to my feet, I wear my favorite old t-shirts and the comfiest pajamas a girl can buy from Target. I snuggle up in blankets and don’t really leave the house (*except for my Walgreen’s trips, I swear).
Things I Thought About After Taking Photographs:
+ Music. This is usually when I’ll change the station in my car 100,000 times because nothing fits my mood and everything is just too sad. But! If I find someone I like, I listen to them over and over and over again. Usually this person is uplifting and happy to pull me out of my self-loathing funk.
+ Take Out Dinner. Because a) I don’t feel like cooking and b) I look like a frump and c) I’m doubled over in pain.
+ Flowers. Sometimes I buy myself cheap little $5 bouquets of flowers just to cheer myself up.
+ Movies. Anyone else think this is a good time to watch The Notebook over and over and over again?
*I just realized the people at Walgreen’s must laugh at me when I leave the store. I’m always all “hey, yeah, these sour punch straws aren’t for me….” in my head, but I’m sure my Midol purchase is a dead giveaway.
- – -
So, yup. I just like to be holed away and remind myself that the world isn’t ending (even if it feels like my uterus hates me). What would you add to my Survival Kit? Any book recommendations that seem like they’d fit the bill for me?
This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Poppy (Hachette Books)
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Summer, fate, celebrities, secrets
Format read: ARC paperback from Publisher. (Thank you!)
Summary: A wrongly addressed email leads to an unlikely friendship between Graham and Ellie, who share a ton of details with each other but never their names. While Ellie lives in a small town in Maine with her mom, Graham is actually a huge Hollywood heartthrob. When his next filming location falls through, Graham decides to test fate and gets the production to move to Ellie’s hometown, where they will hopefully meet once and for all.
It’s kind of surreal to think one tiny blunder could have the power to totally change your life, isn’t it?
This is exactly what happens when Graham’s email about his pet pig accidentally pops up in Ellie’s inbox. A funny whoops leads to an unexpected friendship, where Graham and Ellie eagerly swap emails about small details of their lives, intimately getting to know each other without exchanging names.
Because if they did exchange names, Ellie would immediately recognize Graham as the Graham Larkin and really, what’s the point of names anyway? It’s not like they will ever meet, or these emails will amount to any more than a total highlight to their days. Right? But Graham uses his status to his advantage and when the opportunity comes up to spend a summer shooting a film in Ellie’s hometown, he makes it happen. It’s almost farcical when we find out Ellie’s frustrated that a film crew is disrupting her beloved town’s summer, and Graham is wondering what is going to happen when he finally introduces himself to the girl, the only girl, he feels really knows him.
(Oh, the pressure and zany missteps that lead to their meeting!)
In Jennifer E. Smith’s fourth YA novel, she takes a once in a lifetime occurrence and writes it as if it is the most natural thing in the world. Lyrical prose transported me to that small (“where everyone knows your name”) sea town and had me salivating for all the sight and sounds and feels of summer: the unbearable heat, the relief of a swim, the ice cream, the stars, and the bubbling possibilities. There’s a delicate yet smooth rhythm to this book that reminded me much of her second, You Are Here. Graham and Ellie are two characters who are both going through an internal exploration: the aftermath of his fame and what he really wants for himself while she is haunted by a secret that her and her mom have buried and her need to stay in control, even when she needs to ask for help. (This secret? Not a fan of this sub-story line, and kept me wondering, right through the end, how necessary it really was. Didn’t Graham and Ellie have enough hurdles without this?)
One common thread between Smith’s work, one I believe sets her apart in the young adult genre, is the way she crafts relationships between her characters. They are not solely based on chemistry and attraction, and much of the time, are built upon something so much more: shared interests and bonding over silly yet important details; there is a certain amount of maturity given to these characters and friendship becomes the root of any romance. The possibility of Graham and Ellie working out feels that much truer because of it.
It’s true that This is What Happy Looks Like is not The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. It took some time for me to adjust my own expectations accordingly because timing wise, that 24-hour window we had in Stat doesn’t exist here, making the feel of these books so unbelievably different. The urgency, the intensity softens in Happy to more of a lull, to gorgeous, quiet moments that encompass a lot of introspection from both sides, as well as off-camera communication through emails (an added layer I loved).
I have the utmost respect for Smith’s writing and I don’t mind calling myself a Jennifer E. Smith cheerleader. Last year, I read every single one of her books and I found them each to be so refreshing and more delightful than the last (Great settings, personal challenges, romance, and dimensional family dynamics!). I appreciate that she took some risk in Happy, especially after coming off the (well-deserved) success of Stat. I love how she builds on such serendipitous instances, while steadily writing about relatable themes without underestimating her reader.
Goodreads | Amazon
Oh, hello there. It’s been a while since I did a vlog for Shelve It. My weekends have been disgustingly busy since January, but here I am — enjoying a nice, quiet, rainy Saturday at home. (Hooray!!!) I just finished up one of the books I bought this week (Sean Griswold’s Head) last night so I need to figure out what to start next! For all of you on Spring Break, I hope your week is filled with awesome books, lots of rest, and NO homework! (What will you do with your week off?!)
Shelve It Vlog:
For those of you who maybe don’t want to watch me talk about the books, here’s what I got this week:
Books I Purchased (on the left):
+ Requiem by Lauren Oliver
+ Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally (Estelle’s Review)
+ Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt (Recommended to me by Lori of Pure Imagination)
Received for Review via Netgalley (on the right):
+ The Academy: Game on by Monica Seles and James LaRosa (Bloomsbury, 6/4/2013)
What Happened on the Blog:
+ Big Kids’ Table — Authors Who’ve Written Adult and YA Books
+ A Review of Trinkets by Kirsten Smith
+ A Review of Being Henry David by Cal Armistead
+ Estelle’s Anniversary Post about Marriage, Magic + Books
+ A Review of Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo
Thanks for check out this week’s Shelve It! What books did you guys get?
Hope you have an awesome week!