In Real Life: A Review

In Real Life by Jessica LoveHannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since eighth grade. They chat and text constantly. They talk on the phone for hours. They know each other better than anyone.

They’ve never met.

After years of following the rules and doing what everyone expects, Hannah’s summer plans are ruined. Instead of spending her last high school summer on a trip to DC, Hannah has no plans whatsoever. With nothing holding her back and a sudden desire to be reckless, Hannah decides to take the ultimate risk and road trip from California to meet Nick in Vegas.

With her older sister and best friend on board, Hannah expects it to be the perfect summer trip. But when the trio arrive in Vegas to surprise Nick everything starts to go wrong. Instead of being able to admit her more-than-best-friend feelings for Nick, Hannah finds out that Nick has been less-than-honest with her.

Hannah still thinks the Nick she’s known online can’t be that different from Nick in real life. But she only has one night in Vegas to figure that out and decide if she’s ready to risk her heart trying to make their friendship into something more in In Real Life (2016) by Jessica Love.

Hannah is a guileless narrator in this story about stepping out of your comfort zone and taking big risks. Although the night is filled with adventure (and some kissing and drinking) the story reads young enough that it can easily appeal to the younger end of the teen reader spectrum.

Hannah and Nick are an interesting pair but missed connections, white lies, and intentional misinformation from both often leaves this couple lacking in chemistry or much of a connection once they’re face-to-face.

Hannah is accompanied by her (much more adventurous) older sister and best friend. Unfortunately any potentially empowering friendship moments quickly vanish as each girl is abruptly paired off with a guy and effectively disappears from the narrative. This leads to more than a few hurt feelings and a solid heart-to-heart before the novel’s end. It also leaves Hannah in her own head for most of the novel.

Like many road trips the path from start to finish is messy for Hannah and filled with bumps in the road. Readers looking for a story that addresses the merits and value of online friendships realistically (even with some madcap adventures) will find a lot to enjoy here. In Real Life is a funny novel with a romance that ends on a sweet note.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, The Romantics by Leah Konen, The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, Analee in Real Life by Janelle Milanes, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, Don’t Hate the Player by Alexis Nedd, If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

City Love: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

City Love by Susane ColasantiSadie has lived in New York City her entire life but when she moves into summer housing before her first semester of college, it feels like she’s discovering a whole new city. She is so ready to meet her soulmate and fall in love. When she finally meets the perfect boy at her summer internship it’s almost too good to be true.

Darcy decides to use her move from California to New York to embrace Summer Fun Darcy while she gets a head start on her classes. With rich parents backing her adventures, Darcy is sure that her summer is going to be unforgettable. The only problem is Summer Fun Darcy might not be prepared when the chance for something real with a new boy comes her way.

Rosanna knows moving from Chicago to New York is going to be hard–especially since her family can’t give her any monetary support. But moving to New York has always been Rosanna’s dream so she is determined to make it work even if that means a less-than-glamorous summer job. No one is more surprised than Rosanna when a handsome, rich guy breezes into her life ready to sweep her off her feet.

Sadie, Darcy and Rosanna are unlikely roommates and friends. But one summer in the city they all love will bring these girls together right when everything starts to change in City Love (2015) by Susane Colasanti.

Find it on Bookshop.

City Love is the start of Colasanti’s City Love trilogy. The story will continue in Lost in Love due out May 2016.

Colasanti delivers another fresh, fun romance in City Love. The novel alternates chapters with first person narrations from Sadie, Darcy, and Rosanna. At the start of the novel all three girls are at a crossroad waiting for things to happen and their real college lives to begin.

Each girl also has a secret–something they are running away from, coming to terms with, or hiding from–that they withhold from each other and the reader. This trope, which sometimes can only lead to frustration, is handled well in City Love where readers are ultimately rewarded with answers by the end of the novel.

City Love presents a shiny, elegant version of New York filled with fancy restaurants and expensive stores that locals might not often seen. The novel itself is imbued with Colasanti’s abiding love for New York and evocative scenes of popular destinations like the High Line and Union Square.

Set during the course of one tumultuous week for the girls, City Love is an exciting story of romance, new beginnings, and taking chances. This book reads as a contained story with a satisfying conclusion for most plot threads although hints of what’s in store for Sadie, Rosanna and Darcy will leave fans eager for the next installment.

City Love is a great choice for readers looking for a stylized version of college life with all of the freedom finally being an adult affords. An ideal choice for contemporary romance fans as well. Recommended.

Possible Pairings:The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, Golden by Jessi Kirby, Anna K.: A Love Story by Jenny Lee, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Summer in the Invisible City by Juliana Romano, The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Don’t forget to check out my interview with Susane Colasanti!

*A copy of this book was acquired from the publisher at BEA 2015 for review consideration*

Never, Always, Sometimes: A Review

Never, Always, Sometimes by Adi AlsaidThe summer before freshman year, Dave and Julia made a promise: They would never fall into the trap of a cliche high school experience. No hair dyed a color found in the rainbow. No hooking up with a teacher. No crazy parties.

With senior year about to end, Dave realizes he’s broken rule eight: Never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. Meanwhile rule number ten–never date your best friend–seems impossible to break.

Dave has loved Julia from afar for years. When she suggests they complete all of the items on the list of Nevers, Dave readily agrees. But as Dave and Julia work their way down the list, they realize they have been a lot by skipping the high school cliches even as they begin to understand that some rules shouldn’t be broken in Never, Always, Sometimes (2015) by Adi Alsaid.

Never, Always, Sometimes is Alsaid’s second novel.

Never, Always, Sometimes is a sweet blend of nostalgia for the quintessential high school experience (something Dave and Julia soon realize they have unfairly scorned for the past four years), fun hijinks and an unexpected romance.

While the premise is brimming with potential, the execution in Never, Always, Sometimes is often disappointing. Dave and Julia are, perhaps intentionally, unbearably pretentious at the start of the novel. While both protagonists do learn over the course of the story, it often comes too little to late in terms of making them sympathetic characters.

The novel is broken into three parts and alternates tight third-person focus between Dave and Julia. Some reviewers have mentioned having issues with Julia’s voice. I’d posit instead that the bigger issue is that Dave and Julia’s “voices” are often indistinguishable despite Alsaid often sharing the character’s inner thoughts throughout the narrative.

Alsaid does excel at creating a realistically diverse cast of characters while also letting them be characters (instead of talking points or part of a diverse checklist for the novel). Julia has two dads, Dave’s mother died when he was a child and his family is hispanic. Their high school class is as varied and diverse as readers would expect from a large California high school.

Never, Always, Sometimes is sure to appeal to readers looking for a new story about characters getting ready to start college. Readers looking for wacky hijinks and shenanigans will appreciate the list aspect of this story as Dave and Julia check items off their Never list with varying results.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, So Much Closer by Susane Colasanti, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein, The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales

*A copy this book was acquired from the publisher for review consideration at BEA 2015*

P. S. I Still Love You: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

*P. S. I Still Love You is the sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. As such there are major spoilers for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in this review.*

“You only know you can do something if you keep on doing it.”

psistillloveLara Jean didn’t know what to expect when all of her love letter’s were mailed. She knew she was upset and panicked. What she didn’t know was that the letter she wrote Peter K in eighth grade would lead to a fake relationship. She never would have guessed that it would lead to something more.

Lara Jean knows she loves Peter now. For real, not as part of their pretend dating. But she still doesn’t want to get her heart broken. She’s still afraid of getting hurt.

When another love letter makes its way back to her, Lara Jean is confronted with feelings from a crush she never quite forgot. Lara Jean might have feelings for two boys. But she can only be with one in P. S. I Still Love You (2015) by Jenny Han.

Find it on Bookshop.

P. S. I Still Love You is the sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and picks up shortly after the first book’s conclusion.

It’s hard to give this book a “real” review because there are a lot of spoilers–even with the summary because a lot of the driving plot mentioned above doesn’t come until after the first hundred pages.

P. S. I Still Love You was one of my most anticipated 2015 releases. While To All the Boys I Loved Before is a solid novel and functions perfectly as a standalone, I loved Lara Jean enough to want to read more. I also had a sneaking suspicion this book would have more John Ambrose McClaren* which I definitely needed in my life. (Not going to lie, he is my favorite character.)

This book does not disappoint. Although a lot of the plot focuses on Lara Jean’s romantic life, this story has a lot more going on. Lara Jean is still trying to be a good sister and live up to the standard set by Margot. She’s still taking care of Kitty and their father. She has to face cyber-bullying and changing friendships. Thanks to Peter (and her letters getting sent) Lara Jean has also come out of her shell and is trying new things.

It is particularly poignant to watch Lara Jean learn that the bonds that tie people together don’t always last forever and, more importantly, that sometimes that is the best thing for everyone. This story is imbued with a sense of nostalgia for the past as Lara Jean looks back on moments from her childhood but also immense optimism in terms of facing the unknown as she wonders what might come next.

Although Lara Jean doesn’t always make the decisions I would make in her position, she is such a well-written character that it doesn’t matter. Everything Lara Jean does and chooses makes perfect sense for her character in the moment so that the overall ending is deeply satisfying and absolutely perfect given the arc of both books.

P. S. I Still Love You is a must-read for fans of Jenny Han and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Also highly recommended for readers who enjoy slice-of-life novels with fun families, light (happy) romances, and especially for readers looking for a book that encapsulates nostalgia and optimism like no other.

*Follow me to my Exclusive Bonus Content if you want to talk more about John Ambrose McClaren (with some spoilers)!

Possible Pairings: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira, The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhatena, A Week of Mondays by Jessica Brody, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Nothing But the Truth (And a Few White Lies) by Justina Chen, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg, I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest, I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar, Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Analee in Real Life by Janelle Milanes, Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Exclusive Bonus Content: I loved John Ambrose McClaren just from the snippets we got about him in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Sometimes with a secondary character you can tell, by how they are written, that they are loved by the author and have a bigger story of their own. That was definitely the case with John and I was absolutely thrilled to find he played a bigger role in the novel.

While the romance aspect of P. S. I Still Love You didn’t go exactly how I had wanted (Team JAM in case I wasn’t clear) it still totally made sense for Lara Jean. I also feel pretty strongly that she and JAM will find their way back to each other, but I’m okay with having to imagine that part on my own–that’s the nice thing about open-ended conclusions to a favorite book.

So obviously I had strong feelings about these characters. Because of that, I made some buttons for any fans who want to declare their allegiance. You can see them all in my Buttons inspired by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before & P. S. I Still Love You post. Also you can tell from my blog’s sidebar which teams I have chosen.

Charlie, Presumed Dead: A Review

charliepresumedeadEveryone is going to miss Charlie. He’s young, handsome, rich and charming. A world-traveler who always knows the right thing to say and all the right people. It’s a tragedy when Charlie is presumed dead when his bloody jacket is found at the site of a shocking accident with no trace of a body left behind.

Charlie’s memorial service is filled with mourners despite the short notice–including Lena and Aubrey. Although the two girls have never met, they have one important thing in common: both of them are dating Charlie.

While Aubrey came to the memorial seeking closure and hoping to move on from her tumultuous year as Charlie’s girlfriend, Lena is certain that there is more to Charlie’s disappearance including clues that will lead them both on an international hunt for the truth.

Traveling from Paris to London, Mumbai, Kerala and Bangkok will teach Aubrey and Lena some hard truths about themselves and whether they can trust each other. Their trip will also reveal shocking truths about Charlie that are beyond anything they could have imagined in Charlie, Presumed Dead (2015) by Anne Heltzel.

Charlie, Presumed Dead is Heltzel’s first novel.

Lena and Aubrey are complete opposites with few reasons to trust each other and fewer reasons to like each other. Heltzel’s dual narration allows readers to understand more of each girl’s motivations as well as their secrets. Charlie, Presumed Dead is a tense thriller that will have readers questioning everything.

Charlie, Presumed Dead has a narrow focus on Lena and Aubrey as they unravel Charlie’s lies. What begins as a simple plot expands into a simultaneously creepy and surreal journey as their search is contrasted against vivid international locations inspired by the author’s own travels.

Filled with twists, jaw-dropping shocks and several genuinely scary moments, Charlie, Presumed Dead is a page-turning mystery guaranteed to keep readers guessing until the very last page.

Possible Pairings: Dial M for Murder by Marni Bates, Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu, Don’t You Trust Me? by Patrice Kindl, Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart, One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, After the Kiss by Terra McVoy, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

The Sin Eater’s Daughter: A Review

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda SalisburyTwylla has always had a destiny. Four harvests ago she chose a path that would lead her away from the fraught burden of following in her mother’s steps as the next Sin Eater for Lormere.

Now Twylla is blessed by the gods and serves at their pleasure as Daunen Embodied–the mortal incarnation of the daughter of the gods and the only one worthy of marrying the crown prince. The gods’ continued approval is confirmed each moon during the Telling when Twylla drinks deadly Morningsbane poison without harm.

But her blessing and survival come at a cost. The poison lingers in Twylla’s blood and on her skin so that her barest touch can kill–something the queen of Lormere exploits by making Twylla a reluctant executioner.

Twylla made peace with her role as executioner long ago. Until the return of the prince, Merek, and the arrival of a new guard named Lief when Twylla finds herself questioning many things about her role as Daunen Embodied and the motivations of the queen. Again Twylla will have a chance to choose her destiny, but first she must decide what to believe and who to trust in The Sin Eater’s Daughter (2015) by Melinda Salisbury.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter is Salisbury’s first novel and the start of a new series.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter presents a complex world comprised of three vastly different kingdoms including Twylla’s home in Lormere where the novel is set. While Lormere is a comparatively vast empire, it is also quite primitive with a seat of power traditionally held by siblings in a misguided effort to keep the royal line pure. On Lormere’s borders are Tregallan–Lormere’s chief supplier of goods that Lormere cannot produce itself and a new democracy that values science over religion–and Tallith–a fallen kingdom that once held vast wealth thanks to the closely guarded secrets of the science of alchemy.

Within Lormere Salisbury also offers a religious system that includes invented gods with numerous Christian undertones in addition to Sin Eating. Unfortunately the Eating is never fully explained as reader’s are left to wonder how certain foods are chosen to represent sins and how, exactly, a person’s sins can be cataloged properly after their death.

Despite being the castle executioner, Twylla is incredibly naive for the majority of the novel. At times this creates interesting moments of tension between science and faith as Twylla tries to learn more about her past. In others it only serves to make it easier for her to swoon over her new guard Lief.

Of the two male leads Merek, the prince, is far more compelling as he struggles to figure out how to bring Lormere out of its archaic traditions and move it beyond the ruthless rule of his mother, the queen. Lief is little more than a pretty face by comparison.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter is at its strongest when Salisbury details the machinations of the queen and the intrigue surrounding Twylla’s role as Daunen. The queen adds a lot of suspense to the story as an especially chilling villain.

Twylla’s development over the course of the story is fascinating as she comes to term with the choices she has made and acknowledges that having agency (choosing to accept her role as Daunen, choosing to not follow the path of the Sin Eater) is not the same as having power–something she craves as she hopes to garner some level of revenge for past wrongs.

Unfortunately, much of this The Sin Eater’s Daughter‘s promise does not come to fruition. Twylla’s character fizzles toward the end thanks to an epilogue that negates most of her previous growth during the novel. This book sets up a lot for the next installment in the series including a twist that upturns almost every conceit previously detailed in the story. Although exciting, this final twist diminishes previous shocks by rendering them largely irrelevant.

Since this book is the start of a series, there is still room for a lot of things to change but taken on its own the conclusion remains disappointing. The Sin Eater’s Daughter is an engaging fantasy but not without flaws. Ideal for readers who do not question worldbuilding and enjoy a balanced love triangle.

Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust, Frostblood by Elly Blake, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace

Life by Committee: A Review

lifebycommitteeIt isn’t Tabitha’s fault that her breasts are bigger now. It isn’t her fault that she likes wearing makeup as much as she likes reading margin notes in used books. It isn’t her fault that Joe seems to like talking to her more than he likes talking to his crazy-eccentric-special-snowflake girlfriend Sasha Cotton.

But it might be Tabitha’s fault when she kisses Joe. And when she does it again.

Normally, Tabitha would so not be that girl. But with the help of a website called Life by Committee, Tabitha starts doing a lot of things she wouldn’t normally do in the spirit of being more. At first sharing secrets and completing assignments to keep those secrets safe is easy. The assignments are empowering and push her limits.

When Tabby becomes more involved in the site, and the stakes get much higher, she has to decide how far she is willing to go, and who she is willing to hurt, to be more in Life by Committee (2014) by Corey Ann Haydu.

Find it on Bookshop.

Life by Committee is Haydu’s sophomore novel.

Tabitha is a great heroine. She struggles with a lot of things throughout Life by Committee. Obviously, there is the morality issue with cheating. But Tabitha is also trying to understand her place in a world where the rules are constantly changing not because of anything she has done but simply because of how she looks. (And sometimes not even that in the case of her changing home life.) The way Tabby, through Haydu’s prose, grapples with feminism and slut shaming and loneliness–problems she can’t always articulate, or even give a proper name–is shattering.

Tabitha is incredibly lonely at the start of the novel. She tries to reshape her life without the friends she had assumed were a given but it’s hard. Then Tabitha stumbles upon Life by Committee. LBC is an anonymous online community where users share secrets and complete assignments (more like dares) in the name of being more and leading their best lives. The wisdom in joining such a site is, of course, debatable. But Haydu does such an excellent job of bringing Tabitha and her hurt to life that it makes sense. Readers begin to understand how Tabitha might become this person who is completely consumed by people she has never met.

The great thing about Tabitha is that she knows exactly who she is and who she would like to be. When Tabitha gets involved with LBC, she starts to question a lot of the ideas she has about herself. Sometimes that leads to empowering moments. Unfortunately it also leads to some heart wrenching decisions that are so obviously Bad Ideas they become painful to read.

Those choices, the power and allure of LBC, are hard to understand at times. Unless you remember being that lonely high school (or college) student trying to find your way. Unless you remember the thrill that can come with telling everything that matters to someone who will never meet you, never be able to really judge you. Life by Committee captures that heady mix of connection and anonymity found on the Internet so very well.

Life by Committee also subtly highlights the pitfalls that can come from such a scenario. It’s wonderful to have friends online saying “yes!” to every risk you want to take. But without the context that comes from knowing a person in real life, it’s also difficult to ever adequately understand the consequences and the aftermath of those risks.

At the end of Life by Committee it’s safe to say that Tabitha comes out a little wiser and a lot stronger. Because this book is on the short side (304 pages hardcover) readers don’t get to see all of the payoff after Tabitha realizes she can find her own way, all by herself, but the development is there. The growth and the hint at something more–LBC-inspired or not–is there in the final pages.

Although she has her stumbling blocks, Tabitha remains a smart and capable heroine throughout. While she doesn’t always make the best decisions, she always learns. And that, really, is all anyone can hope for. Life by Committee is a shrewd, clever read that raises all of the right questions for its characters and readers. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhatena, Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anna Heltzel, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, Undercover by Beth Kephart, The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, In Real Life by Jessica Love, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, Kissing in America by Margo RabbThe Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith, Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

*A review copy of this book was acquired from the publisher at BEA 2014*

Something Like Fate: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Something Like Fate by Susane ColasantiLani knows that fate is the real deal. She and best friend Erin are spending their junior year of high school learning about all different tools of fate from astrology to numerology. All of these things that other people dismiss or call silly bring order to Lani’s world and help explain who she is and why.

Erin couldn’t be more different from Lani, but she feels the same way. Bound together after a dramatic childhood event, Lani can’t imagine her life without Erin. And Erin feels the same way. What could possibly come between them?

Lani is sure the answer is nothing.

Until Erin starts dating Jason.

The more Lani and Jason start talking, the more they connect. But how can Lani be connecting with her best friend’s boyfriend? How can something feel so fated when it is so the wrong thing in Something Like Fate (2010) by Susane Colasanti?

Find it on Bookshop.

I’m a big fan of Colasanti’s books. Although her novels always focus on soulmates, Colasanti always brings something new and original to the table. Unfortunately in the case of Something Like Fate that original spin is something that already came up in The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott.

Both books have their strengths–what Something Like Fate does well is examine changing friendships and high school dynamics. The story is a satisfying, if sometimes familiar, romance with the added touch of a narrator who is as passionate about astrology as she is about the environment.

The main problem with Something Like Fate is actually that Colasanti wrote her peripheral characters too well. Instead of rooting for Lani and Jason, I found myself wishing Connor played a more prominent role.

Possible Pairings: How to Love by Katie Cotugno, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, The Boy Book by E. Lockhart, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

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.