These were originally from my zine, where I wrote quick first impressions on all the recent(ish) YA I’ve been reading. I probably would end up posting more of those in this blog, too, since these days it’s harder to find the time to… take my time. Ha. I wish I’m back in college sometimes. Who would’ve guessed that having to read 3 novels, 1 play and 10 short stories, memorize a monologue, and write a bunch of essays in the same week, as the good old days of “having free time”?
Anyway, I’ve been interested in the YA romance imprint Swoon Reads for awhile, and am currently highlighting them at the store. These are two of the more interesting ones by them I’ve read recently!
Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall
I love that Swoon Reads is including LGBT YA fiction to their catalog. I love that unlike when I was a teen, teen romance imprints isn’t all the same sort of story with the same sort of characters in them. (Although, I still have one Sweet Dreams book with an Asian girl on the cover!)
Anyway, I was going to love this book no matter what, so my opinion may be just a smidge on the biased side. This book is about Gideon, who slowly comes to realise that he’s in love with his best friend Kyle, who had a girlfriend. Since this is a romance novel, it isn’t a spoiler to say it ends happily. What I love about this book, though, is that it doesn’t do the popular thing (at least in fiction I’ve read) by making the best friend straight-except-for-the-protagonist. The best friend was established as bisexual from the beginning, which made it somewhat more complicated for Gideon to come out, as he only realised his own sexuality much later. I also liked that Kyle’s girlfriend did not fall under the “bitchy girlfriend” stereotype, although she had come pretty close at one point. For the most part, this book is predictable, but I guess I’d say that about any romance novel. It’s also really cute, and never gets too angsty or melodramatic, which is quite refreshing for me these days.
Note: I realise now, reading this again, that both the stereotypes I mentioned hating that this book avoids (yay!) are stereotypes I found in a lot of fanfiction in my teens. And while this book avoids those stereotypes, it does read like a pleasing sort of fanfic – the sort that makes a good comfort read, that you might dip into every now and then just because you like the characters enough to do so, and you want to see them falling for each other again. Which is exactly the sort of quality I like in my romances, so yay!
No Holding Back by Kate Evangelista
So, No Holding Back is (1) another LGBT YA romance from Swoon Reads, and (2) the sequel to No Love Allowed, which, to be perfectly honest, I only read in order to read this book. But I enjoyed both, and look forward to the third. The Dodge Cove books remind me a lot of Hana Yori Dango, one of my favourite manga from my younger days. No Love Allowed started with the same trope – a girl who is down on her luck and not in a good financial situation meets uber rich boy, opposites meets uber rich boy, opposites attract, you know the drill. One of my favourite things about HanaDan were the friendships between the boys, and how the Makino was included into the group not just as Doumyoji’s love interest but as one of the gang. In fact, that’s what initially drew me to Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys.
With the Dodge Cove books, too, this happens, except that the sequel(s) deal/will deal with the other characters as well, which is, in a way, even better. I enjoyed the friendships in all the books I mentioned, but in this series, this second book is about Nathan and Preston, two of the characters introduced in No Love Allowed as Caleb’s cousin (Nathan) and best friend (Preston). This is pretty common in romance novels, although I don’t see it as often in YA romance. I like it, because it allows me to see more of the world of the story and follow the developments of the characters from the previous book while I get to read a new story at the same time. In No Holding Back, Nathan has harboured feelings for Preston for a long time, something that everyone except Preston seem to know. When the two of them go on a trip to Europe, Nathan figured that it was his last chance to tell Preston how he felt. My only complaint about the first book was that it had a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” vibe with Didi (it didn’t quite go there, but it almost romanticised her bipolar disorder) and with No Holding Back, my problem was with the whole “gay for you” vibe I was getting with Preston. Overall, the story’s really sweet, though, and I loved Nathan in the first book so I was already rooting for him from the very start. Now, can we have our Tash book already?
Note: If Been Here All Along reads like comfort-read fanfic, then the Dodge Cove books read like comfort-read shojo manga. A bit over-the-top in a good way, with characters that you can’t help but root for.