Tag Archives: young adult

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales; Cale Dietrich

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If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales; Cale Dietrich

Gonzales, Sophie and Cale Dietrich. If This Gets Out. St. Martin’s Press, 2022. 416 pp. ISBN 9781250805805 $18.99 $18.99

****

The members of Saturday, a fictional band modeled after One Direction, met at music camp as teens, and now at eighteen are hugely famous and on their first international tour. The singers are increasingly chafing at the archetypal boxes that management presses them into: the bad boy, the goofy one, the sexy one, the boy next door. The tour doesn’t leave any time for actual touring, it’s one locked hotel room after another. And fans have gone from cheering at a distance to smothering in their screaming adoration. Told in alternating chapters by Zach and Ruben, If This Gets Out details their affectionate friendship and growing attraction, Zach coming to terms with coming out, and the response from their colleagues, management, families and fans. Ruben has known he was gay for a long time, but recognizes their brands are designated to cultivate a wide fan base, and keeps things discreet. Management has been telling him since he was sixteen that he can’t come out; they promise that he and Zach can disclose their relationship publically “after Russia” but as time goes on, it seems like NO time is a good time to rock the boat.

This novel for teens is a sex (not TOO detailed), drugs and rock and roll lifestyle expose and critique that feels disturbingly realistic as it captures the sexualization of youth and homophobia still present in the entertainment industry and the high pressure environment of impossibly perfect standards and exhausting schedule that successful performers endure. The character development is strong as the members push through stereotypes and strain at their confines. Ruben’s passive-aggressive (possibly narcissistic, if I were diagnosing) mother is a piece of work, constantly berating him for not being good enough; Zach is sweet but confused, Jon is open minded but comes from a super-religious family, and his dad happens to be the big deal music producer that formed their boy band; Angel is delving into drugs and getting out of control. Ruben and Zach’s romance is fraught with fear but also passion. When the lovers try to spin the narrative on their own, the management company turns on them… but then their moms show up as a united front.

This novel could have gone so wrong, and read like bad 1D fanfiction, but it beautifully explores insecurity, anxiety, and a lot of other complicated emotions about people who love each other, change, and spend a lot of time in proximity. For another more adult look at romance while boy-band famous, read The Idea of You by Robinne Lee.

I checked this ebook out of the local library via #OverDrive.

A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole

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A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole

Cole, Tillie. A Thousand Boy Kisses. CreateSpace, 2022. 352 pp. ISBN 978-1530496198 $11.99

**1/2

Thor-lookalike Rune moves from Olso to Georgia (USA) at age 5 and instantly falls in love with Poppy, the winsome, green-eyed girl next door. A handshake seals their promise to be besties forever. When her beloved mamaw passes away a few years later, she leaves Poppy with a glass jar of paper hearts, instructing her EIGHT-YEAR-OLD grand-daughter to record 1,000 kisses from her soulmate. By high school, Rune and Poppy are more than friends, with a number of kisses that matter memorialized in the jar. Not all the kisses make it, only the ones that Poppy deems make her heart feel like bursting. At fifteen, Rune’s father is relocated back to Oslo for a few years and while heartbreaking, he and Poppy consummate their love and promise to keep in touch (and promise to save their lips only for one another). And then, after two months of talking every day, she ghosts him after two months. It’s a surly, smoking, and smoking-hot Rune that returns two years later. Still dressing all in black, his insides seem to match the tough bad-boy exterior he projects. Their confrontation–and reconciliation–is inevitable.

The actions of the characters are generally appropriate to age group. For example, Rune screaming at his parents that he hates them. The complex emotions just aren’t there, though, and the writing is sappy, the dialogue repetitive and wise beyond years, the emotional manipulation and possessiveness and slut-shaming were cringy, and the epilogue very unsatisfying and unbelievable. Poppy’s love for music and Rune’s skill and love for photography with an old-fashioned point and shoot SLR camera adds some depth. Some plot points, like moving prom up by a few weeks or getting permission to sit in on a music dress rehearsal, feel a little far-fetched. The author hits you over the head with symbolism instead of allowing for nuance (how many times can one person reference Footprints–with no attribution! However, I was raised Roman Catholic, and as a teenager, had Margaret Fishback Powers’ allegorical poem posted on my bedroom door). Interestingly, A Thousand Boy Kisses is a book filled with faith that allows for teenage sex without guilt or repercussion (unless the whole getting cancer thing is implied as punishment for underage sex).

This book’s cover kept popping up on the romance group I just joined on Facebook, to rave reviews. I read it fairly quickly through Kindle Unlimited, laughed and nodded at the one-star reviews on GoodReads, and settled somewhere in the middle. I was a huge fan of Lurlene McDaniel tearjerkers in my teenage years (and early in my career as a young adult librarian, until they veered too Christian and too formulaic). Sometimes, though, you just need a good cry, and a sorrowful book can help get you there.

The Love Match by Priyanka Taslim

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The Love Match by Priyanka Taslim

Taslim, Priyanka. The Love Match. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2023. 400 pp. ISBN 9781665901109 $19.99

****

The wedding scene in the opening chapter reminded my of the many receptions at the Knights of Columbus hall that I attended in my childhood–except at 18, my parents were encouraging me NOT to date, but to focus on my studies, sort of the opposite for Zahra, who still lives at home, works in a Pakistani tea shop, and has deferred her admission to Columbia to help support her family, since her dad has passed away. Her well-meaning mother has another idea: if Zahra makes a profitable match, the family will benefit. She uses WhatsApp to connect to the Auntie network, a circle of female friends and relatives looking to arrange the marriages of their daughters, and they come up with smart, wealthy and well-connected Harun Emon. The two teens are ambushed when their families set them up at a joint dinner. Harun appears to want to be there even less than Zahra, but both respect their elders and want to please their impossible to please families, so they agree to eight dates. Meanwhile, Zahra has a real connection with Nayim Aktar, the new dishwasher at the teashop. He is world traveled in a way that Zahra longs to be, and wants to be a musician like Zahra wants to be a published author. He is also a poor immigrant with no family and no reputation. They sneak out of a work a little early one night so she can work on a story and he can work on his music… but then she has a TGI Friday’s date where she and Harun cover a duet, and it’s fun. They bond over their losses (his girlfriend, her father) and they decide they are friends, at least, until they have a falling out. Everyone who’s ever read a fake dating novel knows where this is going, right?

I loved the Bangladeshi traditions set against contemporary culture: double standards, good Muslim girls who avoid pork and alcohol but sneak out on dates (or date other girls), and the juxtaposition of following your dreams and pleasing your family. I felt another pass from the editor would have elevated the novel. Lots of telling to set the scene at the beginning, the Auntie text thread would have been great at the end of each chapter. The book hits its stride about a third of the way in.

Pride and Prejudice references are not far off; Amma wants to make a good match for her daughter. “It is a truth universally acknowledged among Bangladeshis that a guest on one’s doorstep must be in want of at least two helpings of curry” is a very funny nod to Jane Austen’s most famous work.

At first, I was annoyed at having to look up so many words I didn’t know that were not described or defined in context, particularly, food and dress. And then I got over myself and started Googling–it is not the author’s job to do the work of white people to explain other cultures, and I now know what a bodna, janamaz. I made a quick adjustment to shari for sari and saa for chai, and understood bedisha to be an insult before I looked it up. I loved all the pop culture references: Frozen, Gilmore Girls, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie, Legally Blonde, Amar Jaane Tomake Dhake, Jane Austen, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, To All The Boys, Bridgerton (season two), Great Gatsby, even a subtle Star Wars allusion when Harun says he should call Zahra General instead of Princess when she takes charge of rearranging their arrangement.

This is truly a love letter to the Bangladeshi diaspora in Paterson New Jersey, describing the personalities, shops, culture and geography of the town that’s home to a large Bangladeshi population. Stereotypes exist in part because they are true, and Taslim vividly portrays the marriage market, arranged marriage, passive-aggressive parenting, generational culture wars, and class hierarchies. Overall this was an authentic, satisfying read, with a great plot twist at the end.

I received a free advance reader’s copy of #TheLoveMatch from #NetGalley.

You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves

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You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves

Whitney, Diana (editor). You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves. Workman, 2021. ISBN 9781523510993 $14.95

*****

I bought this in a bookstore and devoured it in several sittings, sharing a few choice poems with my 10-year-old daughter and then slipping it on the bookshelf of young adult literature outside of her room for when she’s ready to explore it. The collection is of affirming voices that editor Diana Whitney confesses to wanting to have had in her formative years (when she wrote bad poetry). Arranged by emotional experiences, she encourages readers to use the categories as suggestions, not prescriptions. Each section is prefaced with some words of wisdom and highlights from the chapter to come.

In “Seeking,” transgender poet kayleb rae candrilli both admires their body and wishes for it to change shares the coming to oneself through surgery, Sahar Romani writes of coming out, and Elizabeth Spires wishes Google held all the answers. Filed under “Loneliness” Erin Batiste shares increasingly invasive inquisitions, presumably from peers, that tear a young woman’s identity apart and Elizabeth Acevedo worries about the first day of school.

The section titled “Attitude” features Lucille Clifton, Amanda Gorman, and Maya Angelou. Within “Rage,” Whitney encourages for anger to lead to action: “Let the poet’s furor give you courage.” And Dominique Christina has a brilliant stream of consciousness take down for the dude on Twitter who disparaged his girlfriend for having the audacity to get her period while having sex. “Longing” involves desire and yearning, romantic and platonic, for people, places and things. Marie Howe writes of a first encounter of a girl with another girl; Sharon Olds longs to warn her parents from one another before they even meet at college in the 1930s. Under “Shame,” British Indian poet Nikita Gill writes in Wolf and Woman “Some days / I am more wolf / than woman / and I am still learning / how to stop apologizing / for my wild.” Other poets write about government assistance, eating disorders, gossip, trying to be liked, assault. In “Sadness” JP Howard addresses what to say to a friend with suicidal ideation. “Belonging” concludes the collection with poems by Naomi Shahib Nye, Mary Oliver, and Joy Harjo.

This is a beautifully designed volume, with vibrant colors and illustration. The text sometimes flips to horizontal, literally forcing the reader to consider another point of view. While not all the poems are perfect for my pre-teen, it is a perfectly well-rounded collection and I know she will pick and choose from them as she needs these words like beacons in the wilderness of adolescence.

Loveless by Alice Oseman

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Loveless by Alice Oseman

Oseman, Alice. Loveless. Scholastic, 2022. 432 pp. ISBN 978-1338751932. $18.99

*****

For Georgia, the idea of relationships and intimacy gives her the warm and fuzzies, but the reality disgusts her. She is lucky to have two close friends, Pip and Jason, who are attending university with her (in a different college), but she is lonely and desperately wants love and partnership at the beginning of the novel. At uni, she’s surrounded by people with crushes, dorm mates having sex and getting “college married” (a unique Cambridge University support system that involves an elaborate proposal and creating “family” relationships). Her roommate Rooney is an accomplished and confident flirt and Georgia wants to be just like her–no, she wants to BE Rooney. When Georgia confides her desires and insecurities to Rooney, Rooney offers to be a wing-woman, doesn’t judge Georgia for her lack of experience or initiative, and suggests Tinder, which just confirms for Georgia that she’s really not attracted to anyone. A Kinsey test online reveals no sexual preferences. She tries to date Jason, but it’s forced, and doesn’t end well. Meanwhile, Pip is crushing on Rooney, who is a casual sex queen.

A Pride Soc(ial) introduces Georgia to a group of people who appear to be comfortable in their own skins in a way she longs to be. Luckily, Sunil, the British equivalent of an RA, is the President of the Pride club, and takes her under his wing in a fairy god-parent sort of way and explains the asexuality spectrum and the difference between romantic attraction and sexual attraction. Suddenly, a whole world of just being is opened up.

Georgia’s stream-of-consciousness narrative, wondering what’s wrong with her that she’s eighteen and never been kissed, is authentic and real and the voice is probably the best thing about this book. The Shakespeare thread throughout the novel is nothing less than brilliant, given how the bard plays with gender. The friends revive a Shakespeare Club, intending to put on a performance of a selection of scenes; Romeo and Juliet is the theme of the college’s dance near the end of the semester. Short chapters make this a fast read; funny group texts, an allusion to The Secret History, lots of drama and angst and uncertainty, and Scooby Doo and Shakespeare stanning make it a delightful read.

Georgia’s confusion slowly gives way to self-acceptance, and love and understanding from her friends. A bonus set of chapters and asexuality/aromantic resources conclude the novel. Really, this is a story about a platonic friendship hitting all the milestones of a traditional romantic relationship, and Rooney grows as much as Georgia. I think this is the first aromatic, asexual (aro-ace) novel I’ve read, and it helped me understand aro-ace in the way The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime helped me have a better understand of autism.This is a powerful book with representation of a voice not often heard from in literature, and is strongly recommended.

Seven Percent of Ro Devereux by Ellen O’Clover

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Seven Percent of Ro Devereux by Ellen O’Clover

O’Clover, Ellen. Seven Percent of Ro Devereux. HarperTeen 2023. 320 pp. ISBN 978-0063255036. $18.99

*****

I am 100% in love with this book–which places the enemies-to-lovers genre in high school setting–even though it contains on-purpose mean. Endorsements from Rachel Lynn Solomon and Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka got me to download from NetGalley, and I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. I read it in one sitting, foregoing beauty sleep, and cried. Twice.

When Rose Devereux’s senior project, a future-predicting app based on a childhood cootie catcher game, goes viral, she is unexpectedly matched with her childhood best friend turned enemy, Alastair Miller, who agrees to participate in the ruse they are in love and meant to be for the price of his college tuition. The app, designed in conjunction with the help of family friend and behavioral scientist Vera, makes predictions for your future housing, career, number of children and then matches you to a prospective partner, based on your answers to a 100-question quiz. When a start-up becomes interested, eighteen-year-old Ro signs the contract against her father’s wishes, hoping to go directly into a coding career and skip college altogether. Her senior year of high school becomes lost to daily meetings, app coding adjustments, social media training, and fake dates, and no one seems to be listening to her assertation that human behavior is only 93% predictable, and Vera doesn’t want any part of profit-sharing on the project. MASH provides no guarantees, but XLR8’s narrative focuses only on the shiny promise of the peace of mind of leaving nothing to chance. Ro’s best friend Maren is reluctant to take the quiz and lock herself in, focusing instead on her own senior project, and provides some foreshadowing in wondering what happens when one half of a couple in a happy relationship opts into the partner matching aspect. And then, XLR8 starts adding unvetted questions to the quiz to stay “nimble” and the New York Times breaks an story on the rise of teenage depression due to dreams not just deferred but destroyed.

The slow burn between Miller and Rose is wholly believable. They were best friends because their mothers were best friends, and after Ro’s mom split when she was two to pursue a career, Miller’s mom Willow became of surrogate of sorts–until their freshman year, when they have a falling out when Ro cruelly puts Miller down at a party, simply to look cooler in front of the senior basketball star she’s crushing on. Ah, the terrible decisions we make at fifteen without thought to the consequences! And the grudges we hold, when the air could have been cleared with time and patience… Miller and Ro don’t speak for three years–until he comes up as her perfect match. Having a front seat to their gradual and skittish trust, acceptance, and reliance on one another was a beautiful thing. Supporting characters are a little more one-note: ambitious Evelyn, the orchestrator of the project; concerned dad, a coffee shop guy with restaurateur dreams. Felix, who is appointed as stylist and babysitter, channels a gender-neutral Nigel from Devil Wears Prada but stands out–and stands up, as does Maren.

The Denver setting and Colorado suburbs are a great contrast to the NYC publicity circuit. The XLR8 offices with their kombucha on tap and infused waters seem a bit tongue in cheek. I had a little trouble suspending my disbelief that the principal would be on board with MASH’s detraction from academics, with students downloading the app surreptitiously under their desks and couples being made and broken from an app. Still, this contemporary novel covers ethics, science, psychology, media, grief, fame, love and loyalty with authenticity and grace. Ro suffers tremendous losses and is incredibly resilient and resourceful, and she does the right thing, even when it’s not the easiest path, which is tremendously satisfying.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #SevenPercentofRoDevereux from #NetGalley.

Re-Read: The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan

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Re-Read: The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan

Jordan, Sherryl. The Raging Quiet. Simon & Schuster, 1999. 362 pp. ISBN 978-0689870040. $

*****

What is it about some books that makes you want to come back to them over and over? I first read The Raging Quiet and fell in love immediately. My favorite fantasy novels are set in a medieval time period with a little bit of magic or alternative history, in this book, sixteen-year-old Marnie is comely and feisty, a hard worker who wants to do right by her family when her father has a stroke and loses his position as overseer. The replacement overseer is angling for the nice house her large family still occupies, and when a vicious rumor circulates that Marnie was caught in the hay with a local boy, the only way to save face, and their home, is to agree to marry the lord’s son. Isake Isherbrook has been flirting with her and is a good dancer and easy on the eyes, so she agrees; wedded bliss is not all Marnie hopes. Her groom takes her to a village far from her home where she witnesses a local young man getting a beating. Isake stops for an ale and gets drunk, then brings her to a dilapidated cottage to consummate their marriage with none of the gentleness a virgin needs. Much to Marnie’s horror and relief, Isake falls to his death patching the roof thatch (while inebriated) a day later. Frantic, Marnie calls on the local village priest, who calls in a witness to affirm the death was an accident–but not before three villagers overhear her telling the priest it is her fault her new husband is dead (because she wished it on him, hoping to avoid the pain of her marriage bed again).

The kindly Father and his sometimes-ward Raver become Marnie’s only companions; all three are outsiders of sorts. It is Marnie who figures out Raver, named for his lunatic behavior, is not a madman but simply deaf. She begins to devise a way of communicating with hand signs, making friends with the wild boy and renaming him Raven. Meanwhile, there seems to be a question about the validity of Marnie inheriting, even though she was legally wed to Isake; his brother Pierce is convinced, like Isake, that there is something valuable left behind in the cottage by an ancestor who was put to death for witchcraft.

Mob mentality and the Isherbrook family are enemies to Marnie’s feminist free thinking; she just wants a peaceful life with her garden, goat and chickens, and with her kind and funny friend who sometimes sleeps at her hearth and sometimes disappears to the forest and fields for days. History seems to repeat herself when her efforts at making Raven civilized are viewed as witchcraft, and she is put to the test.

The novel examines religion from pure to maligned and provides a glimpse at how deaf people must have seemed in medieval times. The worldbuilding is perfect, the writing is luminous, and Jordan’s controlled vocabulary as Marnie and Raven make up their own language is nothing short of brilliant. The romance is slow burning, healing, consensual and romantic (if predictable). The painterly cover hints at the beauty of their relationship in spite of some ugliness to get there. Recommended for those who like medieval with a twist.

Great or Nothing by Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe, & Jessica Spotswood

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Great or Nothing by Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe, & Jessica Spotswood

McCullough, Joy; Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe, & Jessica Spotswood. Great or Nothing. Delacorte Press, 2022. 400 pp. ISBN 978-0593372593 $11.99

****

Four authors voice the infamous March sisters in this novel based on Little Women, set during WWII. Beth, already dead and gone, is present through verse and in her sister’s memories. The remaining three sisters have had a falling out that disperses them. While Meg stays home in Concord with Marmee, missing her fellow schoolteacher John; Jo is working in a factory building parts for airplanes; and Amy is supposedly in art school in Montreal but has actually registered for the Red Cross where she has been shipped out to London and is serving as a Doughnut Dolly. More modern subplots address Japanese interment, Jo’s lesbianism, classism, bullying, and coping with grief.

The story contains many period details–music, makeup, brands, hairstyles, books and movies, and slang–that position it during the 1940s. Many are just name dropped in without context. A fan of the original who is of a certain age or older will hear the Glenn Miller orchestra, or envision Victory Red lipstick, but a Gen-X or younger will skim over the references.

The authors skillfully blend in many details from Little Women, referencing the time Amy burned Jo’s manuscript, the time Laurie rescued Amy from falling through the ice, the time Beth got the piano from Mr. Lawrence. Other favorite scenes are incorporated into the present timeline: the time Laurie proposed, the time Sallie lent Meg a dress and Meg made a fool of herself at a party, the time Meg defended John to Aunt March, the time Amy fell for Laurie, the time Jo found a love of her own, the time Marmee confessed her own inner anger (although here, it’s Meg she’s confiding in, not Jo). The faith, hope, yearning and moral compass of the original is here too, and never saccharin.

Beth’s poem(s) at the end of each chapter are a heart-wrenching reminder of her loss. As if writing from heaven, her omniscience view encompasses the past and hints at the future.

The digital version of this book contains letters from the various characters to one another; I found the font difficult to read. The cover, showing the four sisters from the back, in period clothing, allow the reader to imagine herself as one of the faceless characters.

I received an advance reader’s review copy of #GreatOrNothing from #NetGalley

An Improbable Season by Rosalyn Eves

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An Improbable Season by Rosalyn Eves

Eves, Rosalyn. An Improbable Season. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023. 352 pp. ISBN 978-0374390181. $19.99

***

Marketed as a Bridgerton read-alike because it’s set in the Regency era, An Improbable Season focuses on the London debut of two sisters and their cousin, only one of whom actually seems interested in settling down and marrying. Admirably, one is looking for the intellectual heart of the city, and I had trouble from the beginning keeping the characters–defined as the scientist, the poet and the one who wants a family–or their beaus–straight and had to keep flipping back (even though details were conveyed through diary entries, field notes, and actions) to remind myself who was who. While chapters alternate in focus, the narrative voice and point of view is the same throughout. I would have much rather read a stand-alone novel about the romances of each protagonist in a three-part series, which would have left more time and space for nuanced character development, and more complete world-building.

For the record, Thalia Aubrey is an aspiring poet and has ignored the affections of family friend Mr. Hetherbridge for years, falling for the rakiest rake, Mr. Darby; Kalliope, the sweet one who loves parties second only to family is accidentally caught with Hetherbridge in the gardens with a ripped dress and the two are forced into a betrothal as Kalli navigates and attraction to and attention from a Mr. Salisbury, who seems to love her awkwardness; cousin Charist Elphinstone, a scientist and naturalist who has a fondness for insects and feminism, plans only to observe the Season and then engages in a battle of wits and wills with the Indian-born style maker Mr. Leveson, who becomes her love interest.

As the three young ladies arrive in London, details of the journey or preparations for the Season are omitted, launching right into visiting other women and girls, with nary an eligible bachelor in sight, quickly remedied once the parade of calling cards begins. There is drama, and gossip, etiquette to be learned, and dancing late into the night, but also hurt feelings, soul searching, sneaking around, and finally, solidarity.

Much knowledge is simply assumed, with period details, London locations, and terms are mostly undefined (bluestocking, Gretna Green, Almacks, modiste, nabobs, milliner); careful readers will be able to figure out some references with context, and while I had fun looking up the various punches served, a few more sensory details would have been gracious. The excellent author’s note at the end fills in some of the blanks and addresses British colonization and women of science of the time period. The inclusion of a person of colonized India ancestry educated in Britain and struggling to find his place in the world was a welcome addition.

I will say the courtship scenes are tame but full of sensual details, and the endings/beau that each young lady ended up with was … well, improbable. Which makes me think either I really didn’t read carefully, that some details were just red herrings, or there was a goal by the author, a long time reader of Regency romances, to meet the expectation set by the title.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #TheImprobableSeason from #NetGalley.

French Kissing in New York by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

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French Kissing in New York by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

Jouhanneau, Anne-Sophie. French Kissing in New York. Delacorte, 2023. 336 pp.ISBN 978-0593173619. $12.99

***

When Parisian Margot and American Zach and meet at a high school culinary program in France, they fall fast, enjoy exploring Paris together, agree long distance relationships are recipes for disaster and pledge to meet again in a year in New York a very specific location in Times Square. Fast forward a year; Margot has gone to NY to stay with her dad for a bit, and anticipates a restaurant job that doesn’t involve using her chef mother’s clout, but lands at Nutrio. They call her desparate for help while she is still jet-lags, she accomodates and shows up in time for family meal… only to get trained on the commercial dishwasher in spite of her culinary chops. To add insult to injury, she gets out of work late, and gets turned around on the subway. Zach either misses the connection–or just didn’t care enough to show up.

When Margot shares the details of the relationship and failed meeting with line cook Ben, he offers to help her track down the guy. He is also a wonderful support when Margot is bullied at work. Every time she is on the verge of giving up on Zach, and beginning to consider that maybe Ben might be more than just a friend, the trail heats up with some new sighting or detail, and she’s back to Zach.

This a unique coming of age tale about identity, geography, and connections, with a strong setting and predictable ending. The food details are great–there’s a funny moment where Luz tells Margot that cinnamon is the national spice and we put it on everything, and much to Margot’s horror, goes on to explain the pumpkin spice phenomenon and the concept of seasonal coffee. The touristy descriptions of the people along the Highline and the shops in the West Village, even the rats, are fresh through Margot’s eyes.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #FrenchKissingInNewYork from #NetGalley.