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 Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

The Art of Lainey by Paula StokesThe Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 384
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: breakups, best friends, changing perspective
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)

Summary: Even though her boyfriend breaks up with her at work in front of her friends, she’s still determined to get him back. When her best friend suggests using THE ART OF WAR as a tactic to get Jason’s attention, Lainey enlists her coworker, Micah, to be her “pretend” boyfriend. They will help each other win back their exes. As she hangs out more with Micah, she realizes he wasn’t exactly who she thought and maybe she’s not exactly who she wants to be either.

The Art of Lainey was the pick-me-up book that I desperately needed after a rough day.

I started it after work, and stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it. I just didn’t want to go to bed without a happy ending of some kind. Thankfully, Paula Stokes delivered in so many ways — I laughed, I swooned, I got a little angry, and, in the end, closed the book, completely satisfied and happy I got to hang out with Lainey and Micah for a few hours.

What I loved most about this book was the growth of Lainey’s character. When we first meet her, she’s totally in love with Jason, kind of a slacker at work (even though her dad owns the place), makes fun of her mom’s tea readings, and is totally concerned with appearances, a.k.a. super judgmental, but when life throws her a curveball — a sudden breakup with Jason — slowly but surely Lainey starts to realize just how much she has changed in the past couple of years and how much she may have missed out on because of it.

It’s true that her time with Micah has a lot to do with this. His spiked hair, his smoking, his tattoos — Lainey is clearly letting what he looks like determine what she thinks she knows about him. But as they start going on different dates to psych out their exes and she learns more about him, she realizes she actually likes his hair and the music he listens to, that he is the hardest worker at her dad’s store, she is able to apply that epiphany to herself. Her “other” best friend and how strategic she can be about who they hang out with; how she might go a little overboard on the tanning because she was once told she was too pale. Who is she trying so hard for? It’s certainly not making her any happier.

I’m a sucker for these “let’s date and win back someone else” stories because MOST of the time the chemistry between the two characters pretending comes from somewhere very real, and, as much as they try to fight it, at some point, they can’t any longer. It was really fun to watch Lainey and Micah, both so focused on this goal, sort of break down and realize that maybe they weren’t fighting for the same thing anymore. Micah is genuinely a good guy — not everyone would help a girl with this kind of thing — and I was rooting for him the whole time.

Should I keep gushing about The Art of Lainey? Lainey has a great best friend in Bianca who has her back, day and night, and the rest of the supporting characters (Micha’s younger sister; their school friend, Leo) were well-developed and genuine, adding a fullness to the story. See? See? See? This book was such a surprise; I really enjoyed Lainey’s journey to learn from those around her and become a more compassionate and self-aware person.

Definitely pick this one up for your beach bag this year!

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Estelle: Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley

Don't Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn HeasleyDon’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 304
Target audience: Young adult
Key audience: parental relationships, the internet, friendship
Format read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss (Thanks!)

Summary: Imogene has been the subject of her mother’s popular blog, Mommylicious, since forever. As she starts 9th grade, she’s losing her patience with the staged outings, the products her mom wants her to review, and the people who recognize her when she’s out. So when her new English teacher assigns the entire class to starting up their own blogs, Imogene and her best friend, Sage, are determined to get back at their mothers with THE MOMMY BLOGGERS’ DAUGHTERS plan.

Reading Don’t Call Me Baby was an ironic experience. On one hand, I could totally understand where Imogene was coming from. She wanted her privacy; she didn’t want her mom to tell the world about every little thing going on with her. But on the other, as a blogger myself, I know there are so many positives experiences to come out of writing in your corner of the internet.

But Imogene’s mom definitely took blogging to a whole new level. I didn’t entirely blame her because she made a living by running her blog and had built quite a following. But she was distracted by her Mommylicious brand. She wasn’t sensitive to her daughter’s needs or even the needs of her mother (Grandma Hope) or her husband. She had a one track mind.

I’ll admit it, though. I can totally lose myself in my computer screen, and on my phone. To the point where I don’t even hear what the person next to me is saying. It’s not good. And it’s not something I’m proud of. But I have tried to put a cork in it, and be more conscious of how much time I’m spending around technology. That was one of the main themes of the Don’t Call Me Baby and in our internet-driven world, I appreciated it. Balance is so important when it comes to screen time vs. real life time. Imogene’s acting out had so much to do that, and her mother needed to take the time to realize this and do something about it.

Since Imogene was in ninth grade (and not yet officially in high school), the novel read a little young at points but I loved the friendship between Imogene and Sage (her mom also had a blog) and how their conspiring to take down their moms brings up a few conflicts between the two of them. They had a supportive, honest relationship and could lean on each other, but like any other friendship, they didn’t always agree with one another. And then there was Grandma Hope — a bright light and energetic gal who loved golf and didn’t understand the internet. She’s also gave Imogene the support she needed to be more honest with her mother.

From the authentic family dynamics to the commentary on the internet age, I had a great time reading Don’t Call Me Baby. While I had a few concerns about the logistics of the ending, the entire reading experience had me thinking about overexposure of children on the internet, the pros and cons of blogging (how dangerously easy it is to make your life look perfect), creating boundaries to ensure your life is about more than social media, and, most importantly, the delicate and tumultuous relationships between mothers and daughters.

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