Will: A Review

Will by Maria BoydIn retrospect, mooning the Lakeside Girls’ bus was probably not the smartest thing to do.

But, at the time, seventeen-year-old Will Armstrong thought it was a brilliant idea. So did all of his mates.

Unfortunately the principal was not as impressed.

To make up for (once again) sullying the reputation of St. Andrew’s College, Will is sentenced to two months hard labor as a man of all work . . .

For the high school musical.

Will can play guitar fine, so it isn’t the music that’s the problem. It’s more the giving up all of his free time, hanging out with a bunch of geeks and generally being a laughing stock for being involved in a dumb musical production.

As if that isn’t bad enough, the trombone player from Year 7 seems to be permanently attached to his hip declaring Will his best friend, the male lead is annoyingly perfect, and the leading lady makes Will go soft in the head. It’s hard enough navigating high school as it is, Will has no idea how he’s supposed to negotiate all this extra musical nonsense in Will (2010*) by Maria Boyd.

First things first: Will joins the ranks of Australian books brought to the US by wise publishers. Unfortunately in this case, that means a lot of this book felt like reading a foreign language. A lot of the school culture is a wash in understanding. The grades for students seem to be different. The kids seem to play soccer and football–which I thought were the same things everywhere but in the US? And the  slang is often unknowable.** In other words, a lot of the nuances of this story were very likely lost on me.

Adding to the jarring nature was the book’s style (at least in the advanced reader’s copy I read): Instead of conventional dialog with quotation marks, the story features dialogue in bold. This approach gives a fast and loose feel to conversations, but it also makes it a bit hard to follow who is speaking. It was also, for me, just a bit . . . off putting.

Confusion aside, Will is an interesting slice-of-life book about the culture of an Australian boys school (I’d imagine) and also about putting together a musical (I’d imagine). But Boyd’s book is also a bit more than that as she explores Will’s relationship with his mother and his complicated feelings about his father. Will is a funny and compelling story about Will going, almost literally, from zero to hero in his own eyes and in the eyes of the St. Andrew’s community as he works on the musical.

While Will had its high points (and low, poignant, points), the writing was often repetitive with a lot of talk about Will’s gut churning in lieu of describing actual feelings. While the middle of the book was great, the start and finish dragged a bit with an ending that bordered on the trite. Boyd is at her best while writing the humorous parts of the story. The young trombonist who attaches himself to Will, for instance, is particularly funny and developed to a point not seen in many of the other secondary characters.

All told, Will is a genuine and amusing male narrator in a heartfelt and sometimes even hilarious story.

*This book was originally published in Australia in 2006. 2010 was the publication date of the first US edition.

**Racial slurs and curse words may have been thrown around at one point but not being Australian it’s impossible to say (1) if that was the case or (2) if any of the words were as “bad” as their equivalents in this country.

Possible Pairings: Skinny by Donna Crooner, Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Exclusive Bonus Content: Although I got the feel that this was a great “guy book” with an authentic male narrator and realistic depiction of male friendships, I’m not sure how many boys would want to read a book about a guy helping with the school musical. Similarly, although I love the magenta cover with the guitar partially shown (Will’s guitar is an important part of the story), it is still magenta. Not sure if there are any boys who would see this and think, “Ah, this is a book written for me.”

Miss Print Book Club: November Updates

As some regular readers all ready know, I run an online book club that discusses a new book each month. The club is located here: http://missprint.wikispaces.com/

I’m doing things a little differently starting in November in that MPBC will be having a four month Megan Whalen Turner Extravanganza. That’s right, starting in November the club will be working through all four of Megan Whalen Turner’s wonderful, critically acclaimed, crazy popular Queen’s Thief books.

Here’s the line up:

  1. November 2010: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
  2. December 2010: The Queen of Attolia
  3. January 2011: The King of Attolia
  4. February 2011: A Conspiracy of Kings

This is possibly my favorite series of all time and one of the best written, most finely tuned, series of books I’ve ever encountered. I’m crazy excited to talk about these books and I hope all of my regular members (and maybe some new members?) will come along for the ride with me.

I’m still going to have new pages for each book and post new questions each month. BUT since the stories are all connected I’ve decided I’m going to leave all of the threads open and “current” through February 2011 (like The Thief page will still be live when I post the page for The Queen of Attolia and so on).

I’ve been looking forward to this since the summer and fully expect it to be awesome!

TO JOIN: Go to the book club wiki (http://missprint.wikispaces.com/). Click Join this Wiki. When you get a welcome email from me (miss_print), write back with your name and the email you’ll be using with the wiki.

Facebook Free Works for Me

I’m not going to post any links mainly because it’s only stuff I’ve been hearing secondhand on Twitter, but there have been (perhaps unsurprisingly?) more issues with Facebook’s privacy filters. I also just recently saw an article (via Twitter) about employers asking for a link to your Facebook page when applying. My first reaction was to wonder why you would share such a link if you were worried about it making a bad impression; why not just say you have no page?

My second thought was to be glad that I legitimately do not have a facebook presence anymore.

As some of my regular readers and friends already know, I set my facebook account for deletion in August. By October I had confirmation that the account was actually, finally, completely gone.

Sometimes it’s a little frustrating to see an incoming link to the blog from Facebook and not be able to see what it’s actually saying, but I don’t really regret the choice.

I feel like I’m more in control of my online presence by sticking with twitter, my blog and my own website (more on that in a future post!) where I can actually keep track of the privacy settings and know exactly what is being seen and by whom–in my case that actually translates to everyone can see everything. Some people don’t like working with that lack of privacy but I find it easier to assume everything is public and just claim all of that content instead of trying to parse out who can see what and when and where they can see it. Not that I do anything “inappropriate” online but now that I can really track all of my information more easily I know there is very little chance of being caught unawares about information about me appearing online.

I also have been using my time online more productively now that I’m not wasting so much lurking on facebook and, weirdly, I feel like I’m more connected with people now that I don’t have an account at the ultimate social networking and connecting site.

On the one hand, I’ve “lost touch” with a lot of people from high school. On the other hand, we weren’t really in touch anyway. This might just be me but I was starting to feel like facebook gave me permission to not talk to people because I could find out anything with one profile view. Now that I can’t do that, I actually need to talk to people for real. And that’s resulted in seeing more people too.

The other side of that coin is that I also realize I’m not the easiest person to be friends with. I (probably) tweet too much, I don’t like to text, my feelings about talking on the phone are ambiguous at best, and I kind of hate Google Chat and gmail for complicated reasons I won’t get into here. I am great with email and I love AIM and Twitter, but a lot of people don’t. And of course now I’m not even on facebook. I’m trying to get better by keeping in mind how other people like to talk and am working on being more accessible (though making sense of google chat is proving harder than I’d expected).

Like everything else, navigating an online presence is a process and I think I finally have one that I really like. I’m happy with my website and social networking choices. (I cannot wait to show you guys my website! It’s fierce.) I think I’m finally using these tools for blogging and tweeting and just being online in the way I’d always envisioned I would be. And that makes me much happier than getting a bunch of “likes” on a facebook status ever did.

But that’s me, what are your thoughts on social networking and privacy online?

Rebel Angels: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Rebel Angels by Libba BrayThe more Gemma Doyle learns about her visions and the magic that allows her to enter the Realms–a world beyond our own usually seen in dreams or death–the more questions she has. Gemma finally knows the truth about her mother and the mystical Order that she once belonged to . . . and helped destroy with her closest friend, Circe.

Now the magic is loose in the realms and Circe is hunting Gemma, her only way back to all of that magic. Kartik, Gemma’s mysterious shadow since leaving India, insists Gemma must bind the magic before disaster strikes. Which would be fine if Gemma had any idea how to do such a thing.

Worse, is it the Christmas season–Gemma’s first since her mother’s death. While her friends Felicity and Ann talk of balls and other wonderful plans for their time away from Spence Academy, Gemma is left to wonder what the holidays can hold at home with her strict grandmother, her irritating brother, and her feeble father.

The holiday season promises a world of distractions in the form of balls and the most intriguing form of one Simon Middleton–not to mention an introduction to the rarefied circles of high society. But Gemma has no time for distractions.

Questions will be answered, enemies will be fought, and Gemma will have to take her stand in Rebel Angels (2006) by Libba Bray.

Rebel Angels is the second book in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy (which began with A Great and Terrible Beauty). It is also one of those books where it is very clear that it is the second book in a trilogy, which is fine. The beginning of the story provides almost enough recap of earlier events to make it possible to read this book out of sequence though, as ever, many nuances would be lost that way.

While Rebel Angels is a continuation of an already exciting story, this book lacked some of the verve and spark of the first. With all of the summarizing the story starts slowly, picking up when Gemma and her friends depart from Spence for their holiday. While Gemma and Kartik evolve and change especially throughout this story, it felt like a lot of the other characters were working through the same emotions and the same problems readers saw in the first book.

That said, the second half of the book is much more exciting and faster paced than the first. Bray once again provides a vivid window into the world of 1895 London from the eyes of a heroine willing and ready to think for herself. The underlying commentary on the roles of women in Victorian England and feminism is also fascinating in a book that is ostensibly a historical fantasy.

As a whole the story is very interesting and aptly sets up the conclusion of the trilogy, of course, but Rebel Angels just lacked that little spark to set truly set it apart as a book in its own right.

Possible Pairings: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, Chime by Franny Billingsley, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Exclusive Bonus Content: Although I really didn’t like this one as much as the first (and feel really really guilty about it!), this book did make me wish more academics read YA Lit. I love that academics can study popular culture and literature, but not everyone can write scholarly books and articles about Buffy and Harry Potter. Where are the articles about the feminist underpinnings of the Gemma Doyle books? Where is the commentary on this trilogy being a reflection of the evolution of feminism from the discovery of the Problem Without a Name in The Feminine Mystique to the Second Wave feminist movement? Where is the Feminist Theory/Women’s Studies class that has this series as assigned reading? No, seriously, where is it?

The Wyvern’s Treasure: A Review

The Wyvern's Treasure by R. L. LaFevers, illusrated by Kelly MurphyNathaniel Fludd has protected a phoenix and contained a basilisk as well as adopting a gremlin as his unlikely (and possibly unsuitable) companion. Nate is ten yeas old and he is a Beastologist-in-training; one of the last of the Fludd family line, charged with the responsibility of caring for and protecting some of the world’s more unusual beasts.

While Nate has grown to care deeply about Aunt Phil on their whirlwind travels across Africa, he misses his parents who were declared lost at sea. He hopes that news of a mysterious intruder tracking the beasts for ill purposes will lead to clues about their mysterious disappearance and possibly even reveal that they are alive after all.

But before Nate and Aunt Phil can make sense of his parents’ disappearance or the intruder, they will have to travel to Wales to appease an angry lair of Wyverns. An intruder (perhaps the intruder) is wandering their caves breaking an ancient Covenant that, once broken, will lead to Wyverns wreaking havoc across the Welsh countryside. There is less than a day left to restore the Covenant and stop the intruder, but by the end it all comes down to one question: Will Nathaniel Fludd be able to outsmart a Wyvern in The Wyvern’s Treasure (2010) by R. L. LaFevers with illustrations by Kelly Murphy?

Find it on Bookshop.

The Wyvern’s Treasure is the third installment in the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series. It is also probably my favorite of the three because I have a special fondness for Wyverns in all of their huge, dragon-y glory.

This was a fun installment in an already enjoyable series. Readers get to see a bit more of Cornelius the Dodo and learn more about the mystery surrounding Nate’s parents (though not much more). This volume also brings a new landscape and more background about the Fludd family. The only flaw, really, is that it was so short that there wasn’t much room for more information about the backstory of Nate’s parents where readers get more questions than answers. (Questions that will hopefully be resolved later in the series.)

The main story, of negotiating with the Wyvern’s and stopping the intruder is excellent; filled with action, humor and a fair bit of charm. Over the course of the series, Nathaniel is really coming into his own as a beastologist at the same time that his pet, Greasle the Gremlin, is learning more about how to deal with things in the human world.

Murphy’s illustrations are, as ever, wonderful additions to the story with representations of the beasts, the characters and the landscape as well as some of Nate’s own drawings for good measure.

All in all, a delightful read.

Exclusive Bonus Content: This might also be my favorite cover of the series so far.

The Talking Dead: A Book List

They might not always be walking, but in the books on this list the dead are always talking. Ten books, in no particular order, where the dead sometimes walk, sometimes talk, and always play a huge part in the story.

  • Generation Dead by Daniel Waters: The dead are walking in Oakvale, Connecticut–at least some of them are. No one knows why some teenagers come back and some don’t. The only certainty is that there are those in Oakvale who’d prefer to see the dead stay buried.
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: Hannah Baker killed herself two weeks ago. There are thirteen reasons that led to her suicide. All of them are explained in the cassette tapes Clay Jensen received in the mail–including what part Clay himself played in Hannah’s death.
  • White Cat by Holly Black: Cassel Sharpe is perfectly content being the straight arrow, ordinary guy in a family of crooked curse workers. That is when he’s not being followed by a white cat that reminds him a lot of his best friend Lila–the girl he killed three years ago.
  • Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta: The people of Lumatere are scattered, some trapped inside the kingdom walls while others live as exiles, haunted by the ghosts of their tragic past. But there might be hope. It all begins ten years after the five days of the unspeakable, when Finnikin of Lumatere climbs another rock.
  • Curses, Inc. by Vivian Vande Velde: Curses are bought and sold, magic is real, and the dead walk in this eerie collection of short stories.
  • Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough: Sadie is the new girl at school. Her brother keeps telling her to make friends. But it’s not that easy to fit in when you still talk every day to your brother who died four years ago.
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix: When her father, the Abhorsen, becomes trapped in Death Sabriel has to assume her rightful duties as the next Abhorsen and save her father, and perhaps many others, from the dead that would keep him and claim the world of the living for themselves.
  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier: Each full moon Jena and her sisters cross the wildwood to visit the enchanted glade of the Other Realm for a night of dancing and revelry. Everyone knows the wildwood is a dangerous place filled with witches, ghosts and all manner of other worldly creatures–and the lake that claimed Jena’s cousin years ago. But no harm can come from dancing. Or can it?
  • The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan: Libby’s older sister Kwan has yin eyes and can see the dead who dwell in the realm of Yin. At least, she says she can. When Libby travels to Kwan’s native village in China for work, Libby starts to wonder if there is more truth to Kwan’s ghost stories than she was willing to believe.
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray: Gemma Doyle doesn’t want to have visions or the power to travel between this world only visible in death or dreams. But this other realm might be Gemma’s only chance to make sense of her mother’s death and her strange new powers.

A Great and Terrible Beauty: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

A Great and Terrible Beauty coverAll Gemma Doyle wants for her sixteenth birthday is to go to England and to see London. Though she comes from respectable English stock, Gemma has never seen the country raised instead in India where it is too hot, too dusty and entirely too boring.

Gemma does get her wish, but not the way she had hoped. Instead of a glamorous return to England with her family, Gemma is sent to an austere finishing school after her mother’s tragic death under mysterious circumstances.

Spence Academy is meant to take Gemma and the other young students and make them into ladies ready for their first Season and, more importantly, ready to become respectable wives and make good matches for their families.

But Gemma has no desire to be finished if it means never knowing what really happened to her mother or, for that matter, what’s really happening to her.

Much as she tries, Gemma isn’t like the other girls at Spence. She has her own wants that go beyond a respectable husband and a quiet life as someone’s wife. She has her own thoughts. And she sees things; things she shouldn’t be able to see, places that shouldn’t exist.

A mysterious man has followed Gemma to Spence from India telling her she must stop the visions and close her mind to her powers. But her powers are also the only way to make sense of her mother’s death. A world of magic lies at Gemma’s feet, its great and terrible beauty there for the taking. But only if Gemma is ready to choose it in A Great and Terrible Beauty (2003) by Libba Bray.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first book in The Gemma Doyle Trilogy.

Set in 1895, this book is a satisfying blend of historical fiction and fantasy. Gemma is very thoroughly grounded in the daily life of Spence even as she learns more about her powers and the mysteries surrounding them. It is also a novel about choice as Gemma and, later in the story, her friends negotiate what it means to be a young woman in Victorian England and try to quiet their own misgivings about their places in that privileged world.

The fascinating thing about A Great and Terrible Beauty is that it’s also a novel about frustration and hopes and, surprisingly, a novel about feminism–set in a time when no one even knew what feminism was. As much as this story is about Gemma Doyle it is also about the silent scream so many women kept bottled in at being commodities to be married off and sent away like so much merchandise being bought and sold.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is part character study, part fantasy, and mostly good storytelling. Rich with historic detail, fantasy, and strong characters, this is the captivating start of a story that continues in Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing.

Possible Pairings: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, Chime by Franny Billingsley, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Grand Tour by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Printz Predictions/Hopes

It’s almost that time. The book award season is nearly here and in the tradition of many other fine blogs, I thought I’d offer some predictions for the Printz Award for YA literature of merit. I could, of course, offer predictions for other awards but as my regular readers probably have guessed YA is really my  area of expertise and where I do most of my reading. So, here are my predictions and hopes for the winner or honor books. (I tend to be late to catch the hype on some books so some of these are very wide of the consensus I’m seeing on other prediction posts).

  • Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta: Although Marchetta just recently won the Printz award with Jellicoe Road, I’d be extremely surprised to not see this one as the winner or among the honors. It’s an excellently done fantasy with great writing and literary merit in spades. It’s also the kind of fantasy that isn’t really about an imaginary world so much as a reflection of ours which I think could definitely make a difference. Honestly, if this one isn’t a winner or an honor book, I’d be shocked. (Find it on Amazon)
  • Incarceron by Catherine Fisher for a lot of the above reasons. It’s a smart fantasy that elevates the genre. And it’s insanely exciting. The excitement and the action might, sadly, be a drawback though since action doesn’t usually connote high literature. (Find it on Amazon)
  • A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner: My predictions reflect a lot more fantasy than you ever see in the actual winners/honors but a girl can hope. This is probably the best book I read in 2010. The plot is tightly woven down to the last detail. Turner’s world is fully realized and really this is just what a good fantasy looks like. This is what a good book looks like. The problems? It’s the fourth in a series and I’m not sure it will stand alone enough for the committee’s liking (the plot is also really complicated). Because the plot revolves around political machinations and the like I’m also not sure the brilliance that is Megan Whalen Turner will be apparent to everyone. (Find it on Amazon)
  • A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley: Now that I know books by non-American authors are eligible, I can’t imagine not having this one on the list. This book, right here, this is what good writing looks like. Crowley has captured the teen experience and makes the emotions in this book palpable in a way that I rarely see. She also juggles TWO first person narrators with two completely different narrative voices–which is really really hard. I was super impressed and kind of love this book and really want to see it on the list. The writing was so good it almost hurt, if you know what I mean. That said, I seem to be the only one around who is talking about it, so I’m a little worried this will slip through the committee’s radar. (Find it on Amazon)
  • Heist Society by Ally Carter: This was one of my favorite 2010 books and also one of the best written. It is so sleek and clever though, that I think a lot of people dismiss the quality writing. Carter tells the story so effortlessly that some of the literary merit could get lost in the shuffle. That said, this one reminded me a lot of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (a previous winner) in terms of structure and vibe. The committee is different every year, of course, but I think that might help get this book on the radar if nothing else. I think of this one as my dark horse. Along with A Little Wanting Song this might be the one I want most badly to see win. (Find it on Amazon)
  • Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson: This one is more pie in the sky than actual prediction. While the writing was brilliant, it was also funny. So much like Heist Society I think the quality of the writing might be missed because of the humor and wit. This one is also the second in a series and though it’s excellent and actually much better than the first, I don’t think it stands alone enough without the first book in the series to be a real contender. (Find it on Amazon)

So, those are my predictions. Some of them are longshots and qualify more as hopes than predictions. But you’re all readers too, what are you expectations for this year’s Printz Award?

Exclusive Bonus Content: I realize now that I’d actually love to see any of my top ten books from 2010 among the Printz winner/honors this year. There’s a lot of overlap with this list. That said, it’s just not happening for some of these books.

(I’m an Amazon Associate. If you use this links above to buy something, I receive a small percentage.)

Ten for 2010

In no particular order, my ten favorite books from 2010:

  1. Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson: Scarlett is still living in a NYC hotel and her life is about to get way more insane when her boss Mrs. Amberson gives her the unenviable job of befriending an annoyingly perfect young Broadway star. Add to that said star’s especially annoying brother, Max, and you have a recipe for disaster.
  2. Heist Society by Ally Carter: Katarina Bishop knows a lot about stealing. So much, in fact, that she managed to steal herself a normal life. That was before she had to leave that life to clear her father of the one robbery he really didn’t commit.
  3. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner: Sophos never wanted to be King of Sounis. But after he is abducted and presumed dead by his kingdom, Sophos realizes that responsibilities very rarely care about wants.
  4. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta: The people of Lumatere are scattered, some trapped inside the kingdom walls while others live as exiles, haunted by the ghosts of their tragic past. But there might be hope. It all begins ten years after the five days of the unspeakable, when Finnikin of Lumatere climbs another rock.
  5. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher: Nothing leaves Incarceron and nothing enters. No one knows where the prison is or how to get to it. So why does Finn suspect he has a life Outside the Prison? And why does Claudia have a key that seems to let her talk to Finn–a prisoner Inside?
  6. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: Tessa Gray travels to London wanting to find her brother and start a new life. Instead she is dragged into the world of Shadowhunters and London’s Downworld–people with mysterious powers not of this world.
  7. A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley: Charlie Duskin and Rose Butler have nothing in common but by the end of the summer they might help each other get everything they’ve been longing for.
  8. The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan: Mae struggles to protect her brother Jamie from the warlocks who want to exploit his power. The enigmatic Ryves brothers are willing to help–if they can overcome their own demons first.
  9. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: Duh, who doesn’t have this one on their list? Do I even need to blurb it?
  10. White Cat by Holly Black: Cassel Sharpe is perfectly content being the straight arrow, ordinary guy in a family of crooked curse workers. That is when he’s not being followed by a white cat that reminds him a lot of his best friend Lila–the girl he killed three years ago.

Is it still early in the year? Yes. That said, these are my favorites so far. Maybe before the year is out there will be more but I’m not expecting it simply because there isn’t that much time to read more books from 2010. Who knows? Maybe this will end up being my top eleven or twelve.

The Unwritten Rule: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth ScottSarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He’s smart, funny, and he understands her. He’s also really cute.

Sometimes it even seems like he might like her back, although Sarah can’t imagine why since she isn’t pretty or all that interesting–just ask her best friend Brianna.

Brianna is everything Sarah isn’t: beautiful, tall, and confident. She’s the perfect girl with the perfect life–if you don’t know about her parents (Sarah is the winner there).

Really, it makes sense for Ryan to date Brianna instead. They look good together, they like each other. It makes sense.

But then why does it feel like Sarah and Ryan are the ones with a special connection? Why does she still want him so badly?

Why does it seem like he wants her too?

Sarah liked him first, but it doesn’t matter. She still likes him. That doesn’t matter either.

At least, it’s not supposed to.

The only problem is, it does in The Unwritten Rule (2010) by Elizabeth Scott.

Find it on Bookshop.

At 210 pages (hardcover) The Unwritten Rule is short and sweet and surprisingly original for a book that veers into familiar territory especially with a lot of the recent epic romances in young adult books. (I’m looking at you, Jacob. You too, Edward. Heck, Bella, I’ve got my on you too.)

I was excited for this book after reading Living Dead Girl which was kind of traumatic and just . . . bizarre. I kept hearing excellent things about Scott but I didn’t see any of it in that book because she lost me at child abduction. But I also heard that book was a bit of an anomaly so I was eager to give her another chance. That said, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book since my fellow blogger Nicole at Dog Ear was unimpressed by the book.

Weirdly, this is the second book I’ve recently discovered I kind of love only after finishing it and writing up the review.

A lot of the plot points here have been done before, but what really got me was the emotion Scott captures on every page. This book is potent. I was right there with Sarah. Her wanting Ryan, her eagerness to please Brianna, even her concern about her parents; it was all palpable to me as a reader. Sarah is torn up by her conflicting emotions and the fact that what’s best for her might not ultimately include Brianna.

The other great thing about The Unwritten Rule (despite what the cover might suggest) isn’t really a romance. Yes, there is romance. Yes, there is heartache. But really this is the story of a friendship and sometimes those stories are hard to find. While Sarah’s feelings for Ryan are a catalyst The Unwritten Rule is so much more than a love triangle or a romance. It’s a little snapshot into a normal girl’s life. It’s a character study. It’s an examination of a friendship.

I can’t even explain it that well, but Scott captures so much here that The Unwritten Rule is really a must read not so much for the story but for every thing else because so many elements come together here in such interesting ways.

Possible Pairings: Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, After the Kiss by Terra McVoy, Stealing Henry by Carolyn MacCullough, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

Exclusive Bonus Content: Sarah was also a really interesting heroine. She sees herself as plain, the second fiddle to Brianna’s flashy electric guitar, a girl on the margins. But throughout the story we see her own interests (one word: sneakers), her delightfully routine yet quirky homelife (I also loved Sarah’s parents. Where was this book when I was writing on my Good Parents kick? Here’s a book that shows the best and worst of parental units in YA Lit all in one tiny package.) and her humor and loyalty. We also, tragically, watch Brianna constantly tear her down. I could go on but it becomes pretty obvious that Brianna sees Sarah more as a prop in the facade of her perfect life than as a true friend.

To anyone who read the book: Was anyone else torn up by the homecoming dance scene? I was crushed right along with Sarah.