Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I would have Read: Contemporary Romance

Katie stops by to tell us about her teenage reading habits and what she wishes she'd added to them: 

When I was a teenager I spent most of my time reading historical fiction or mysteries. Stumbling across a historical mystery on the shelves was a bit like finding the holy grail of library books (hello, Sally Lockhart). I didn’t give much thought to other genres. I knew what I liked and that was that. Branching out? That was like asking me to eat my vegetables. No thanks. So when Nico asked us what books we wish our high school selves had read, I started looking at my bookshelves, and I immediately noticed that some of my most loved books these days were not all that historical and rarely mysterious in the traditional sense of the word.

Which brings us to the question at hand and:

Part 1 of 2 of What I Wish Teenage Katie Had Read: Contemporary Romance.

You have no idea how long I fought this one. A part of me must not have believed that real (fictional?) romance could exist without English aristocracy or Anne breaking a slate over Gilbert’s head or an epic war waging in the background. Sarah Dessen was just emerging on the scene when I was in high school, and the options were slim (or maybe I was just oblivious). Today, though, there is a smorgasbord to choose from. Here are a few of my favorites (most of which have been reviewed on this blog in more detail elsewhere):

Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (more on this author)
Please don’t ask me to choose between these two books. I mean if push came to shove I might choose Anna because Paris is like my third or fourth home and maybe the most romantic place ever (yes, the cliches are true), but I’ve never been to San Francisco, so I reserve the right to change my mind on this one at any moment in the future. The point is I adore these two debut novels from Stephanie Perkins--the characters are so richly drawn that there might be moments that I forget that they aren’t real and that we aren’t all friends (alas). And the romance and drama so compelling that I find myself returning to these books again and again. Anna and Etienne. Lola and Cricket. I would have loved to have them around in high school. And college. And for brunch this Sunday....

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (more on this author)
I’m throwing this book into the contemporary romance category but that’s really just a small part of it. Yes, Francesca and Will Tromble are reason enough to pick this book up, but what keeps me coming back to it is the realistic friendships between Francesca and her circle of friends and the remarkably heartbreaking portrayal of the impact that depression and mental illness has on Francesca’s family. It’s kind of perfect.

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (more on this book) (even more)
It took a lot of convincing to get me to pick this one up. Stories about dead sisters are right up there with vampire tales for me. But there are exceptions to every rule, and this is the ultimate exception--gorgeous writing, stark emotion on every page, quirky characters, and, of course, the marvelous Joe Fontaine (otherwise this book would be all contemporary and no romance). Nico told me time and again that this was one of the best books of 2010. Lesson learned: Always listen to your librarian. She was so right.

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