Books for the Beast: Romance October 14, 2011Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
Books for the Beast is a one day Young Adult Literature conference first started in 1991 as a way of honoring young adult librarian Margaret Alexander Edwards. The title comes from a book by Edwards called The Fair Garden and the Swarm of Beasts, but the only creatures I’ve met the two times I’ve attended are crowds of rapacious librarians and teen readers, eager to talk to authors, debate the merits of different books and generally revel in the wonders of the genre known as YA. Each participant chooses two ‘discussion groups’ to be part of, which are divided by genre, and reads five books for each one. This year, in an attempt to break out of my somewhat narrow fantasy/historical fiction comfort zone, I signed up for Romance and Multicultural. Below are some basic impressions of the reading for the Romance group.
I’ll start with the one book in the group I didn’t actually finish. I picked up this book awhile ago, I think because a reviewer compared it to Sarah Dessen, an author I enjoy. Unfortunately, I found the protagonist passive and her situation (older sister back home with a new husband, a habit of trying to fix everyone’s life) just not that compelling. Maybe I will check it out again before October 22 and actually finish it. Or I might just let other people in my group discuss this one.
I bought this one for Ana when it came out, in an attempt to explain to her what I like most about Dessen’s work–her conversations and depiction of friendship. Although she is often pegged as a romance writer, I would argue that Dessen’s greatest strength is writing the romance of friendship: how a tight knit group of teens can support, infuriate and amuse each other even through the difficulties of dating and family drama. The characters Esther, Leah, Maggie and Auden in Along for the Ride have just such a bond and my favorite part of this book is watching how that bond forms and grows.
In some ways, this book had the least amount of surprise in it. You know that when bad boy Carlos gets busted with drugs at school and is sent to live with the family of his older brother’s professor that he will end up falling for the professor’s daughter. And he will insist he’s not the type for a relationship, and she will try to prove him wrong and they will end up getting married and perpetuating the stereotype that SO many people meet their soulmate in high school. All ranting aside, I did enjoy this book. Great chemistry between the two leads, and just enough violence to keep the suspense going (don’t ask me how believable it is in terms of drug and gang operations, I don’t know these things).
Ok, I admit it: secretly, I signed up for this group just so I could discuss this, a book I love, by two of my all time favorite YA authors. I may have screamed out loud, in a public place, when I found out they were writing a book together. Green and Levithan alternate chapters, each writing from the point of view of a boy named Will Grayson: one straight, one gay, one with no friends, one with one giant, dominating friend named Tiny Cooper. My favorite part of this book was watching Green’s Will Grayson come out of his shell and take some risks. As a person who is very risk-averse, it gives me hope to read about characters who overcome this particular hurdle.
The other reason I chose this discussion group was so I had an excuse to find this book as quickly as possibly. It was nice to have a real-life romance, with all it’s challenges, to contrast with the admittedly sometimes too-perfect storybook romances. As you may have gathered from my earlier review, I loved it. Enough said.