Category Archives: Teen Romance

When Dogs Cry – Markus Zusak
Book Reviews
February 9, 2009 posted by Nikki

When Dogs Cry – Markus Zusak

She saw me and I could see the smile overcome her lips.
My pulse quickened.
It burned in my throat, as slowly, I reached into my pocket, pulled out the tiger shell and placed it gently onto the jacket where all the money was strewn.
I place it there, and the sun hit it, and just as I was about to turn around and make my way back through the crowd, the music stopped.
In the middle of the song, it was cut short.
The world was silent and I turned again to look up at a girl who stood completely still above me.

According to his family, Cameron Wolfe is a bit of a lonely bastard. He’s never had a girlfriend, never even been touched by a girl, in fact. But he thinks about it all the time. He watches on as his older brother, Rube, brings home girl after girl only to use them up and throw them away. Cameron reckons Rube needs to learn a thing or two about how to treat women, but what would he know? He’s never had a single date in his life.

The thing about Cam is, he really is a bit of a lonely bastard. Apart from the no-girl thing, Cam doesn’t have too many friends either. In fact, his friend count is down around the zero mark (unless you count his family members and the fluffy Pomeranian pooch next door). I never really did understand why he’s such a loner, though. Sure, he’s pensive and severely introverted, but not in a bad way, and certainly not so much that I can’t imagine no one liking him. He may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but he seems to have the human compassion thing down pat. He’s a gentle, poetic kid that is just underestimated by everyone around him.

Then he finds Octavia – or rather Rube finds Octavia, has his way with her and discards her like all the rest. Octavia is beautiful, smart, and seems to be a really deep kind of gal. And when Cam finds out that Octavia actually has the hots for him, he nearly doesn’t believe it. Why would someone that went out with Rube be interested in him? Cam and Rube are nothing alike, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to Cam. But then he realises – Rube and Octavia aren’t really anything alike, either, and that’s when he sees a little but of Octavia Ash in himself. Their romance is touching in an unconventional kind of way.

Cameron Wolfe is a simple kid whose unique way of looking at the world will warm your heart from the inside out. He’s fiercely loyal, and smart where it really counts. He understands that family is one of the most important things a boy could have, even with all their faults.
When Dogs Cry isn’t one of those teen romance novels that focus on beating hearts and sweaty palms. It goes deeper than that and focuses on why people are attracted to each other in the first place. It’s raw in an enigmatic kind of way and I found it simply impossible to put down.

Markus Zusak proves yet again, that he is a literary mastermind; When Dogs Cry is a force to be reckoned with.

Rating:: ★★★★★

Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception – Maggie Stiefvater
Book Reviews
February 8, 2009 posted by Nikki

Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception – Maggie Stiefvater

Granna drummed her fingers on the table. “You’re about the right age for Them to start making trouble. Shallow things. I don’t think they have much use for anything old or not beautiful. They’re only interested in brand new toys.” She shrugged, as if she were talking about an ant problem or something equally mundane. “So I gave you the ring.”

Dee is not a normal girl. She can do things with her mind that no one else can. Unbeknownst to her, she’s caught the attention of a very powerful woman, and her life takes a weird, weird turn.

The fey are following Dee. Only Dee doesn’t know they’re fey, not at first. But then she meets Luke at a recital and she knows that something isn’t quite right about him. What she does know, however, is that she is drawn to him beyond belief. Dee has never had a boyfriend before, never even been interested in a boy before, but there is something really special about Luke that draws her in. And she can’t walk away from him, regardless what the consequences might be.

But Luke can touch iron. In fact, Luke gives her an iron key for protection against the fey. So if he can touch the one thing that they can’t, what does that make him? She knows he isn’t a normal human, but now she’s not so sure he’s fey either. So, what is he, then?

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. All I’m going to say folks, is be afraid. Be very afraid.

Against her better judgement, however, Dee is unable to feel the fear she should in his presence. And so starts a love affair destined for doom even before it gets off the ground.

Nevertheless, Luke does everything in his power to keep the fey away from Dee, but the fey are smarter than they look and suddenly Dee finds herself in the worst situation imaginable. Conniving and vindictive, the fey blindside Dee and come at her from behind – if they can’t have her, they’ll take the two things she loves the most, instead.

Lament is one helluva tense read. From the moment Dee starts hurling at the recital in the first chapter, right through to the very last full stop, I had to remind myself to breathe. Once the action pops it just doesn’t stop.

Dee is an inspiring character who never forgets what being a decent person is all about. Even when the going gets tougher than one could ever imagine, Dee never forgets who she is and what matters most. Reading Dee’s journey was more like watching a movie and Stiefvater masterfully navigates the English language, bringing her characters to life with colour and a three-dimensional aspect that is so often missing from young adult novels.

Lament is the first novel in an ongoing series, and is also Stiefvater’s debut novel. We here at yaReads think its a pretty sensational effort, too. We can’t wait to see what else she’s got coming. Whatever it is, we know its going to be big!

Rating:: ★★★★½

Frostbite: A Vampire Academy Novel – Richelle Mead
Book Reviews
February 5, 2009 posted by Nikki

Frostbite: A Vampire Academy Novel – Richelle Mead

If you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, you might not have heard of this book. In case you haven’t, Frostbite is the second installment in the Vampire Academy series – a very popular series by Richelle Mead.

Those that have been following the site will be aware that I did not enjoy the first Vampire Academy book. Although I didn’t think my review was overly harsh, the vast majority of visitors that read it did. Nearly everyone disagreed with me, and some not so politely, either. So I made it my New Year’s resolution to read the rest, just to appease you guys – and I’m so glad I did. I picked up Frostbite yesterday afternoon and I read it all in about five hours.

Before I move on, I’d just like to say that I stand by my original review of Vampire Academy. The characters were shallow, and being inside Rose’s head was annoying. However, reading Frostbite changed my opinion of Rose and reading her narration was an enjoyable experience, rather than a tedious one.

The sexual tension that was more than evident between Dimitri and Rose in Vampire Academy kicks up a few gears in this installment. Rose has it bad for Dimitri and pines for him through most of the novel. Alas, Dimitri is still her mentor and – as people tend not to age backwards – is still much older than her. Would you defy everything, and everyone, for love? And at seventeen, is it really possible that Rose loves Dimitri in a ‘for life’ kind of way? Rose is a reckless girl, and clearly, is a bit of a slave to her emotions. And let’s be honest here – teenage hormones can get a little crazed at times. As the novel goes on, although readers never get the chance to step inside Dimitri’s head, it becomes clear that these are the kinds of questions he’s asking himself. So, in order to move on with his life and get over Rose he starts acting out a contingency plan and receives a very tempting offer from a very attractive royal. They hit if off immediately and things for Dimitri look prosperous. Accepting such an offer, however, will mean turning his back on Rose forever – in his capacity as her mentor, co-worker and any possibility – no matter how small – that they might become lovers.

So will he, or wont he?

All I’m going to tell you is that Rose does a pretty spectacular job of sabotaging any chance of them ever getting their problems sorted out. When it comes to Dimitri, Rose is her own worst enemy.

While the tension between Rose and Dimitri takes up a huge chunk of the story, its not the entire tale. I mean, this is a vampire novel, after all, so there has to be some kind of vamp action, right?

Right.

The Strigoi are at it again, causing havoc and embarking on killing sprees. Only this time, it looks as if the Strigoi are teaming up with an unsuspecting partner, and suddenly Rose and her friends find themselves in more trouble than they know what to do with. Lives are lost, friendships are broken, and new ones are made. The action in Frostbite is gripping enough that I actually found myself yelling at my book. Emotions were definitely running high.

My favourite thing about this novel is the way in which Rose’s character develops. She manages to grow up a whole lot without losing her edge, her rebellious nature. She makes a few mistakes, sure, but this time she actually learns from them. Lissa still remains her number one priority, but this time around, the novel isn’t entirely focussed on keeping Lissa alive. Perhaps that is another reason that I liked this one much more than Vampire Academy. In both Vampire Academy and in Frostbite, Lissa presents as a very self-centred character. She’s shallow, spoilt and bratty. She’s supposed to be Rose’s best friend, yet their friendship seems awfully one sided. The sections of the novel where Rose steps inside Lissa’s head are definitely my least favourite moments. I was happy to learn that there seemed to be a whole lot less of them this time around.

Frostbite is a sharp, engaging read that tantalizes the senses. Although it’s categorized as a vampire novel, it’s really a story about love, friendship and finding your place in the world – the vamp action just gives it that little extra kick!

I’m proud to say that you’ve made a convert out of me. Richelle Mead, I heart you!

Rating:: ★★★★½

Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List – Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Book Reviews
January 9, 2009 posted by Nikki

Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List – Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

If I had a cheerleading uniform and a pair of pom poms, I’d break them out right now so I could show David Levithan and Rachel Cohn just how much I love their work. I’d cheer, I’d jump, hell I might even attempt some of those crazy backward flip things. I’d definitely concoct a cheesy rhyme that I could shout at the top of my lungs that outlines my enthusiasm and appreciation. Yes, I’d go to THAT much effort.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (their first collaborative novel) was so supremely perfect that I didn’t think David and Rachel could do much better than that. I mean, how can you top perfection? You can’t, right? Wrong. Apparently perfection now holds a new name, and it sounds a little something like Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List.

Ely and Naomi have been friends forever. They live in the same apartment block and couldn’t be closer if they tried. They’ve got so much in common that they even like all the same boys. Yes folks, Ely is gay. So in order to protect their friendship against possible crush conflicts, Naomi and Ely devise a No Kiss List – a list of people that are off limits to both of them, under all circumstances. This works very well for them both, and life couldn’t be better.

Until Ely kisses Bruce The Second, Naomi’s supposedly straight boyfriend.

Because it’s the right thing to do, Ely tells Naomi and, not surprisingly, all hell breaks loose. For the first time in the history of The Ely and Naomi Show, the pair finds themselves experiencing some serious trouble in paradise. Things get nasty, they stop speaking and suddenly the No Kiss List no longer applies. All bets are off, every gay boy and straight girl for themselves.

Although the title suggests otherwise, this book is not entirely and exclusively about Naomi and Ely. Each chapter is told through a different character’s perspective, which adds a whole host of different tones and complexities to navigate. But it’s a good thing, and gives the novel depth. For example, through Naomi’s eyes, Bruce the Second is kind of boring and actually presents as a little two-dimensional. However, when Bruce the Second is actually given his own voice, readers step inside his head only to discover that he is adorable, smart, and kinda crazy about Ely. Cue violin music now, please. I found it very easy to forgive him for the terrible way things end between him and Naomi.

And then there’s Gabriel, who through Naomi’s eyes, is pretty much just a piece of eye candy, and through Ely’s eyes, is just the big-eared doorman. But when Gabriel finally gets his chance to narrate, readers learn that he’s deep, poetic and sensitive in a new aged kind of way. And man, does the boy have eclectic taste in music (which he is disappointed to learn, Naomi does not share). There’s also Bruce the First, Kelly, and the Robins.

Switching between characters so frequently means that you’ll never get bored reading this book because each character has a new agenda, a different purpose in the story. The one thing they do share in common, however, is Naomi and Ely, and everybody’s individual journeys are somehow linked to the Great Break Up of Ely and Naomi. Interestingly enough, I also think the constant switching between characters highlights just how limiting first person narration really can be. Naomi and Ely’s perceptions of the other characters are often unfair, or just plain incorrect.

There are some seriously touching AWWWWWW kind of moments in this story, but there are also a whole stack of humorous ones too. In fact, in several places I laughed so hard I had to put my book down, wipe the corner of my eye, and take a deep breath. Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List is pure quality entertainment, in the strongest, most emphatic sense of the word.

Cohn and Levithan write together brilliantly, and their enthusiasm for their work shines on every single page, through every single tiny, insignificant word. Their characters are so real, so alive, that I think I saw Ely at my local Starbucks last night. For the record, Bruce the Second wasn’t with him, but a very loud-mouthed, jaw dropingly gorgeous girl was. Defintely Naomi, for sure.

Rating:: ★★★★★

Handcuffs – Bethany Griffin
Book Reviews
January 2, 2009 posted by Nikki

Handcuffs – Bethany Griffin

Parker Prescott is in love. The only problem is, she just broke up with the boy in question and now she’s realised that she made a huge mistake. She’s pretty sure he’d still take her back, but what about the reason they broke up in the first place? He was getting way too pushy about the whole sex thing and Parker wanted to wait till he told her that he loved her before doing the deed. But now she wants him back so badly that she thinks she’s willing to go all the way, and not just for him either; Parker craves his body, his lips and his hands.

One day he shows up at her house when her family is out, and the hanky panky starts. Parker allows him to handcuff her to a chair in her father’s office, and as he’s unbuttoning her shirt and loosening her bra, Parker’s mother and father get home early, busting them in the act. Parker is grounded indefinitely, and so starts the beginning of all her problems.

Marion Hennessy – Parker’s arch nemesis – is out to get Parker, and writes a whole bunch of nasty, untrue stuff about Parker and her man on her blog. Everyone reads it and suddenly Parker’s relationship is the centre of speculation and gossip. To make things worse, Parker realises that she has some very hot competition. Kandace – Marion’s friend – has it bad for Parker’s man and is doing everything in her power to steal his affections. This launches Parker into a world of self-doubt and unrest. Will Parker sleep with her boyfriend to keep him, or will wait until she gets what she wants from him first?

Being inside Parker’s head was a real pleasure, for very odd reasons. Parker is an ordinary girl. She’s smart, but she’s average looking. She’s a bit of a wallflower and certainly not part of the popular crowd, but her boyfriend is. I really love that the girl-next-door, the girl that no one thought would snag the most desirable and sought after boy in school, does. However, what I like about Parker Prescott the most, is that she could be me, or you, or the girl sitting next to you. This gives hope to all ordinary girls everywhere that they can do, and have, what they want too. Parker makes ordinary look extraordinary.

Parker’s character surreptitiously highlights some important issues for teen girls everywhere. Because everyone else wants to date her boyfriend, Parker is constantly questioning his motives. The gossip often gets the better of her and every now and then she finds herself believing the gossip articles about her that appear on Marion’s blog. Is there really a bet out on her virginity; is that the real reason why he wants to sleep with her. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t said he loves her yet. Is he sleeping with Kandace behind her back, as Marion wants her to believe? Parker lacks self-confidence, which is a big problem that a lot of teens face today. If Parker were more sure of herself she’d be able to have more faith in her allure, more faith in her man. Like so many girls, Parker can’t see her own assets because she is blinded by everyone else’s best characteristics. Handcuffs highlights the complexities of navigating your way through the day-to-day problems associated with attending high school; I don’t know a single person on the entire planet that can’t relate to that in some way or another.

Readers never learn what Parker’s boyfriend’s name actually is. Parker never says it, nor do any of the other characters in the novel. I really like this technique, as it allowed me to shape my own version of him. Because he is nameless, because there are very few physical descriptions given, readers can construct him in their own desirable terms. I found myself questioning his movtives, as Parker did, but just like Parker, I was unable to hate him. Ultimately, I wanted him as much as she does. As the novel comes to a close, readers are exposed to the truth; I was biting my nails all the way till the end.

Handcuffs is Bethany Griffin’s first novel and she captures the essence of adolescence superbly. Her characters are believable, raw, honest and absolutely engaging. Teenage girls everywhere will be able to relate to Parker’s pain and angst, her self-doubt and her hormonal desires. yaReads offers a huge round of applause to Bethany Griffin for an awesome debut novel. We look forward to more work from her in the future.

Rating: : ★★★★☆