Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass | Magan Reviews

Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass

Love & Other Theories by Alexis Bass [twitter | website]
Publication Date: December 30, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 384
Target Audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: girls’ rules for dating, girl code, sex and teenagers, senior year of H.S.
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (A BIG thank you!)

Summary: Aubrey and her girlfriends think they have dating, relationships, and guys all figured out. There are certain dos and don’t that you must follow or else everything falls apart. But what if you’re following those rules and your relationships still crumble? Aubrey’s beliefs are put to a test when Nathan unexpectedly bursts into her life.


Rules: Aubrey and her three best friends live and breathe by them. They (think they) know precisely what makes guys want them because they don’t get super caught up in labels and being too needy like girlfriends do. They don’t fall in love and they let the guys think they’re always in control.

Aubrey’s been very dedicated to the rules; she has only a few more months to get through until she’s off to college. She’s focused and all things are going according to plan until Nathan transfers to her school from sunny San Diego. Aubrey is instantly attracted to him…so much so that they skip part of their first day of school together and spend it driving around and getting acquainted in the back seat of Nathan’s BMW. For both, this seems out-of-character; they both have goals and dreams and are headed to a top-notch college. As they continue to fool around, Nathan seems to want to classify their relationship, but Aubrey can’t refuse the rules so she pushes him away, thinking that’s what he really wants.

As a reader, I could tell that Nathan wasn’t one of those guys who just wanted to have sex and move on to the next girl. He was so genuine and good. (Mostly.) But I’ll be damned. Aubrey’s rules made it feel like I was watching two people struggle against a bungee chord — they kept pushing and fighting to be these people that they just weren’t. I was dreading the moment the chord snapped and sent them flying back to reality. (And oh, did it snap.)

The rules made life so overly complicated for Aubrey and her girlfriends. They felt appalling because the girls think they’re empowering women, but at the heart of it, each of them was repressing feelings and being used. They didn’t allow themselves to say how they really felt, didn’t give guys the opportunity to really get to know them, and didn’t take the chance that someone would want to listen to what they had to say. They neglected to realize that maybe, just maybe, there would be a guy out there who had the same interests as them and not all guys see every girl as a piece of ass.

Aubrey’s life was imbalanced as she fell for Nathan but tried to act like she didn’t care. Nathan misinterprets Aubrey’s aloof attitude, doesn’t push her to figure out what they both want, and makes some terrible decisions. She had big lessons to learn that belittling herself to attract a guy wouldn’t be the key to keeping him around, and it wouldn’t be beneficial for her well-being either. Did she really want to be with someone who never knew the real her?

I’m positive there are girls and women who need to read Love and Other Theories because they could benefit from Aubrey’s story. It was painful to see her struggle and the rules really infuriated me. But I also wondered: Where were her parents? Why weren’t they keeping closer tabs on her (sure, she’s a senior, but they were so incredibly distant)? Who was there to teach Aubrey that empowerment doesn’t equal martyring your wants and needs.

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Estelle: The Lost Summer by Kathryn Williams

The Lost Summer by Kathryn WilliamsThe Lost Summer by Kathryn Williams ( web | tweet)
Publication Date: July 14, 2009
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 253
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: summer camp, growing up, friendships
Format read: Borrowed from the library.
Other book I reviewed by this author: Pizza, Love, and Other Things That Made Me Famous…

Summary: Another summer, another couple weeks of summer camp – a tradition that Helena looks forward to every year — only this year she has been promoted from camper to counselor. While she’s excited about this change, the one downer is her best friend, Katie Bell, still has one more year left as a camper. Though Helena is determined to overlook this difference as best she can, soon she has no choice but to accept that her job title is just the beginning of change occurring this summer.

While Terra Elan McVoy’s The Summer of Firsts and Lasts made me fall hard for summer camp, Kathryn William’s The Lost Summer had me practically smelling the fresh air and hearing the bugles opening every morning.

But oh, the innocence, of summer doesn’t last forever when Helena arrives as a counselor and her best friend, Katie Bell, is still a camper. At first, Helena tries to make it seem like every other summer but when the afterhours meet-ups start happening and she thinks her long-time crush, Ransome, might actually notice her, a whole new world opens itself up and she can’t turn back.

Inevitable changes in an otherwise routine summer are what start to push Helena and Katie apart. In fact, Helena is kind of helpless because she has no choice but to do her job and the prospect of spending more time with Ransome is practically a dream come true. Katie doesn’t take it too well either, starts to act out and we see how naturally growing pains can come between even the closest of friends.

Williams is so spot-on with this familiar problem. Friends growing apart and there is nothing you can do about it. An age-old issue where distractions and time come between the two of you and you’re not so sure you can overcome it. It was painful to read because you could see how much these two girls loved each other, and yet it was so understandable – sometimes it’s no one’s fault and things like this just happen.

But can it be fixed?

The Lost Summer hits on that awkward summer, when you are on the cusp of adulthood but so much want to crawl up on the couch near your mom and have her solve all of your problems. It’s a great mix of fun, and first love, and feeling out friendships and learning a little about trust.

There’s a big game changer of an event that occurs toward the end of the book, and I’m still up in the air about how it popped out of nowhere and changed things even more drastically for the main character. In the end, this event brought many truths to light… even if it was a harsh way to learn a life lesson.

After reading Pizza, Love… and enjoying it for its fluff and lightness, I was very satisfied with all the mature situations Williams presented in this novel and how real the emotions felt. I was so wrapped up in this inviting setting with multi-dimensional characters who face a life-changing summer that I read most of it in one sitting. rather be reading worth it icon

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Estelle: The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren MyracleThe Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 336
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: high school graduation, summer before college, sex, friendships, secrets
Format read: ARC Paperback from BEA via Elena at Novel Sounds!

Summary: Post-graduation life brings Wren and Charlie together the summer before each of them go off in separate directions. Wren is wrestling with making a choice that (for once) her parent’s did not make for her, and Charlie isn’t sure he’ll ever be able to move on from his past and put himself and his needs first. It’s a summer of first love, discovery, heartbreak before a new life journey begins for each. Will their relationship survive?

The summer before I left for college was pretty intense. Between getting used to the idea of leaving my childhood home for college and falling pretty desperately in love with someone who was not going with me, it was quite a summer.

The Infinite Moment of Us really encapsulated so many of those emotions I remember feeling. Fear of moving forward (with a little bit of excitement thrown in), how difficult it was to break away from my parents (and vice versa), and most prominently, how addicting and all-consuming falling in love for the first time could be.

Wren and Charlie come from totally different worlds, and have led vastly different lives up until the moment events seem to naturally fall together and they become inseparable. Suddenly, Wren has someone to share her dreams with, someone who will encourage and support her without laying down the rules for her, and Charlie has someone in his life who truly truly cares for him and makes him feel loved. Their relationship couldn’t happen at a better (and worst) time, really. Throughout my reading, I kept wondering how it would all end in three months. Would they go in their own directions or would their love for each other cause them to realign their futures so they could be together?

Myracle’s writing style is so unique in this book; it seesaws between beautiful euphoric passages and the rawness of sexuality. But she relies on telling the reader most of these characters’ feelings, instead of showing them and those missing pieces made it hard for me to connect with Wren and Charlie’s story sometimes. It felt a little convenient, a bit too easy and romanticized and I know in my reading I really like my relationships to feel grounded. Wren and Charlie’s story felt so dreamlike; I kept losing my grip on it.

What I absolutely loved was watching a main character unleash her sexuality. Wren felt so brave because of Charlie’s attraction and his feelings for her, and I loved watching this other part of her come free. It was so uncomfortably relatable and I could feel just how powerful Wren’s passion for Charlie made her. She was truly discovering a new part of herself that summer and it was really moving to see them bring their relationship to a whole new level. (Though the use of the word “cock” from Charlie’s perspective was so jarring. Why is that word so harsh?)

While certain plotlines (Charlie’s ex, in particular) and the exclusivity of Wren and Charlie’s love bubble left me a little bit torn over The Infinite Moment of Us, it was really the nostalgia factor that I liked most. Even when it meant remembering some of my own embarrassing and over-the-top experiences and all the blunders that came along with them. Plus I really enjoyed Wren’s best friend, Tess, and her boyfriend, P.G. Seperately they had so much personality, and together, well, they had the kind of relationship I wished I could have had when I was 18.

I think P.G. actually sums up The Infinite Moment of Us best at one point: “Leave the poor kids alone. They’re young and in love. What more do you need to know?” rather be reading borrow from the library icon

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book cover of fifteenth summer by michelle dalton

Magan: Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton

book cover of fifteenth summer by michelle daltonFifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton ( twitter )
Also known as Elizabeth Lenhard.
Publication date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 272
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: death in the family, first love, close family relationships
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thank you!)

Summary: Chelsea’s fifteenth summer is going to be one full of adventures and growth — she’s learning how to move on after the passing of her grandmother, but she’s also becoming a responsible young adult by holding her first real job. Oh, and she’s also falling in love for the very first time.

Allow me to set the stage: Fifteen-year-old Chelsea’s grandmother has just passed away. Her family is road-tripping from California to Michigan to spend the summer in her grandmother’s house, as they normally do each year. Except this year, everything’s different. Chelsea can’t look around without being overwhelmed by memories; it doesn’t seem right to be at the lake when her grandmother isn’t around to enjoy it with them. How will Chelsea make it through the summer and what will they decide to do with her grandmother’s house?

To pass the time and allow themselves to put their grieving on pause, Chelsea’s family does a ton of family activities together when they first arrive at the lake. That’s all well and good, but when you have three boy crazy teenage girls, they’re going to want to explore on their own so they can find their summer flings. (Am I right?) As Chelsea’s two older sisters are chasing down the boys they’ve got their eyes on, she meanders into a new bookstore that’s opened since she was at the lake last year. (It’s called Dog Ear. How cute is that?!) Her e-reader very inconveniently broke so she’s in need of a few physical books. As she rounds the corner of the YA section, she sees a young (cute) boy ripping the covers off of books. Chelsea’s first interaction with Josh, the owner’s son, is awkward to say the least.

Much of Chelsea’s coming weeks are spent trying to figure out Josh. Does he like her? He seems to be interested, but after he does something somewhat forward, he backs away almost entirely. This being her first foray into a relationship, Chelsea is completely boggled. My gosh, how this brought me back to those days when I read too much into every interaction, when I replayed a kiss over and over and over again in my head, or when I would forget what I was doing because I was simply too wrapped up in being in love. This, friends, is where Dalton really shined; she captured the essence of first love so perfectly. It’s not easy to navigate the choppy waters of falling in love. Who knows what to do instinctually? (I certainly didn’t.)

Fifteenth Summer is such a lovely portrayal of what it’s like to grow up and lose someone important to you. It’s about the whirlwind of falling in love for the first time and all the sweet firsts that accompany it. There’s a great depiction of what it is to have strong family ties, but to learn to bend the rules a little bit as you become independent of your family and pave your own road.

In case you need further prodding, be sure to check out the excerpt from Fifteenth Summer that I shared for the Fourth of July.

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Book Cover for Winger by Andrew Smith

Magan: Winger by Andrew Smith

Book Cover for Winger by Andrew Smith

Winger by Andrew Smith (Website | Twitter)
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 448
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: boarding school, rugby, male POV, friendship, love, bullying
Format read: ARC received from S&S (Thank you!)

Summary: Ryan Dean, a 14-year-old rugby-playing high school junior, is determined to make something of himself instead of just being the skinny kid. And he hopes that his friendship with Annie will blossom into more if she can look past their two-year age difference.

I have to be honest. I’ve kind of felt like Debbie Downer around here on the blog. Why? Well, I’ve read a few “meh” books lately that have really just left me feeling a little let down. I’ve been needing something well-written and addictive. A five-star book.

Well, friends, I found it.

Winger by Andrew Smith was all of that and more for me. The story is about a boy, Ryan Dean, who attends a boarding school. He’s a fourteen-year-old junior. Yep, that’s right — he’s smart and was able to skip ahead a few grades. His best friend is sixteen-year-old Annie, and he’s also extremely in love with her. (Will she ever go for the younger guy?!) At the end of last year, Ryan Dean was caught doing something that was against the rules. That means he’s exiled to O-Hall, away from his best friends JP and Seanie, to live with his Rugby teammate, Chas, who is an extreme bully. And somehow, Ryan Dean has decided that junior year will be the year he quits being a skinny nobody. How will things play out for him when his friendships get complicated, he finds himself in trouble (again), and Annie refers to him as a “little boy”?

In a nutshell, that’s all the information I feel you should have going into Winger. So, so, so many things happen, but it wouldn’t have the same effect if I blabbered on and on and ruined all the surprises for you. This was my first Andrew Smith book, and now I feel like an addict who needs to devour absolutely everything else he’s written. He taps into the mind of Ryan Dean so well — he’s funny and a little perverted, but very self-aware and insecure, too. Shamefully, I was a bit nervous about reading from a 14-year-old boy’s perspective. I’m a girl who likes the older, more mature YA books. Never fear! His age didn’t turn out to be a problem for me at all. In fact, I sometimes had to remind myself he was so young.

And for those of you that appreciate books that told in a completely original way, I think you’ll love what you find in Winger. Ryan Dean’s voice will suck you in, but the drawings and illustrations (!!!) done by Sam Bosma add a little something extra to the story that pushed my love for Winger over the edge. Their inclusion seemed so fitting and necessary. I can’t imagine the story without the comics or the bar graphs.

I really try not to make too many book comparisons, but I say the following because I have so much respect for Andrew Smith and Stephen Chbosky. Winger, in many, many ways, reminded me of Perks of Being a Wallflower. Please don’t think I’m saying the stories are the same (because they’re not), but they both consist of characters that you embrace and want to protect, friendships that feel so full and authentic, character growth that makes you proud, moments that simultaneously make you want to laugh out loud and cringe, and the desire for there to be many, many more pages so the story can continue once you’ve reached the end. Winger is an amazing coming-of-age story that made me wish I knew all of the characters in real life and all of the emotions I felt while reading (and watching) Perks came flooding back to me.

Really, friends, you all MUST read this book. Have a friend do a read-along with you because you’ll NEED that person to talk to when you’ve reached the last page. If you need me to be that person, I absolutely will be. Now go… order Winger already so you can meet one of my favorite male MCs ever.

(And hallelujah! My reading drought is over!)

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book cover for manicpixiedreamgirl by tom leveen

Magan: manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen

book cover for manicpixiedreamgirl by tom leveenmanicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen (website | twitter)
Publication Date
: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Pages: 256
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: conflicted emotions, male POV, past and present, contemporary fiction
Format read: ARC received via NetGalley (Thank you!)
Other Books Read By Leveen: Zero

Summary: Tyler’s first short story is soon to be published in a literary journal where everyone will find out the truth — that while he’s been dating Sydney, he’s secretly been in love with Becky.

There are a handful of you that will be turned off by the premise of Tom Leveen’s new book, Manicpixiedreamgirl.

You won’t want to read about a boy, Tyler, who is dating one girl, Sydney, but is in love with another, Becky.
You’ll be worried that he’s going to cheat. And cheating isn’t fun to read about.
But you’ll be unnecessarily worried.

Because even though Tyler should let go of Sydney, there’s something so incredibly gripping and magnetic about Leveen’s writing. He lures you into the story with breadcrumbs of information that make your mouth salivate in anticipation for the next bite.

Manicpixiedreamgirl alternates between the past (beginning the first day of freshman year when Tyler first lays eyes on Becky) and the present (when his first short story is being published in a literary journal and he’s in a relationship with Sydney). Tyler’s immediately drawn to Becky; she sits alone at lunch, sorts her animal crackers into interesting piles, and happens to be reading one of his favorite Stephen King books. She’s an enigma. He loves watching her from afar (because he’s too timid to actually talk to her in person).

One day in English class when Sydney mentions that she knows Becky, Tyler bombards her with questions to gather any snippet of information he can. And somehow, weeks later, Tyler finds himself on a non-date with Sydney … which leads to them becoming a couple without an official proclamation ever being made. It just sort of happens.

Tyler’s in an odd position because he never fully intended to date Sydney. He still daydreams about Becky and wants to find ways to spend time with her. Out of respect for Sydney, he’s very cautious when he does interact with Becky and is ever the gentleman.

But in the privacy of his own home, he writes stories. Countless stories are written and revised.

About Becky.

And it just so happens that one of those is being published in the literary journal. Where surely everyone (especially Sydney) will be able to put together that Tyler is in love with Becky.

The only other book I’ve read of Tom Leveen’s is Zero, which I loved so much because of how well Leveen dove into his character’s minds. Tyler’s character was no different. Every struggle he felt seemed so authentic and real. How could he have allowed himself to fall into a relationship with Sydney? How can he love Becky and not hurt Sydney? His best friends were the perfect, humorous balance to the anxiety-ridden Tyler that seemed to always be toeing the line between what he wanted and what he was forced into.

Often I’m frustrated with characters that are pushovers and don’t stand up for themselves. I don’t know how he did it, but Leveen never angered me with Tyler’s passiveness. Tyler was still kind and thoughtful, intelligent, and aware of how all his decisions would affect those around him. I suppose the correct term would be mature. He didn’t make quick, erratic decisions, but instead let things play out naturally.

Leveen’s writing is stimulating and ever so engaging. Just as Tyler was drawn to Becky, so will you be seduced by Manicpixiedreamgirl, desperately hoping to untangle the messy web Tyler finds himself caught in.

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