Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Mini-reviews: How to Take the Ex; Girl v. Boy & Perfect Chemistry

For a long time, I avoided the 'lighter', more romantic side of YA. I love Contemporary fiction, it's always been my favorite, but I really felt that these YA books that focused their main conflict on the romance weren't for me. And, for a lot of the time, this is true. But there are certain times, certain moods when that is exactly what I'm craving. Recently, I fed that craving. A lot.

How to Take the Ex out of Ex-Boyfriend by Janette Rallison is my least favorite of the three books I'm reviewing today. Although it did enjoy the book, the characters here were less likable to me. This isn't always something that's the end of the world, but the way that the author described them, I knew there was supposed to be something amazing about them, something I just missed. Especially with Jesse. Giovanna breaks up with her super popular boyfriend as a matter of principal — he not only refuses to help her brother, who is also a good friend, in his campaign for student body president, but he teams up with the opposition, and does everything he can to ruin Dante's chances of winning the election. This really upsets Gio, but part-way through the election, she realizes that she wants Jesse back. She's tired of the campaign politics, the tension, and pretending she doesn't want Jesse.

So, Jesse is supposed to be this super great, really nice guy, who isn't shallow, cares about Gio, and stands by his friends. The only problem? I didn't see it. At all, really. He's a little bit annoying, he's completely oblivious about the really crappy way his friends treat his girl friend (because they are only nasty when he isn't around) and he lies to her, throughout the entire book. It's obvious that he's keeping something from her. At one point, he asks her to trust him but it's clear that he doesn't trust her, at least not enough to be open with her in return. And the worst part? At the end, when the big secret comes out, that makes everything all better? Jesse uses it to prove that his buddy really is a great guy, but it actually reaffirms Gio's opinion that Wilson is self-centered and a bit of a jerk. He's just, maybe not quite as awful.

And Gio herself is actually rather annoying. I get that she is only 15 or so, but her inner dialogue took turns being awesomely witty, funny and awesome, and being very annoying, "Oh woe is me" is. I get the teenage thing. Really, I do. But, I didn't like girls who couldn't stop obsessing over 'the boy' in high school, and I don't like reading about them in books either.

I know I'm sounding pretty down on this book, but overall, my feelings are quite positive. If you go into this book expecting it to be a super light, fluffy fun, pretty feel good read, it definitely delivers. There isn't a lot of depth, the characters aren't incredibly developed, but for the most part, it is good fun.

Girl v. Boy by Sandy Rideout and Yvonne Collins is the second book I've read by this duo. And, I have officially decided that I love them! This book is exactly what I was looking for! It's an incredibly good time. I laughed so many times reading this book and the whole time, I just had this incredibly happy, feel good vibe going on, and I know that I was grinning like a fool for a long time after reading this one.

Luisa has always blended in to her school. She has two best friends, and that's it. She shares her exact name with 10 other girls in the school, doesn't participate in any extracurriculars, and doesn't attend any school functions. But this year, things will be different. Pleased with her writing abilities, her English teacher asks her if she wouldn't mind being 1/2 of an anonymous writer. The school is participating in a girls vs. boys fundraiser and both the boys and the girls have a secret representative writing about the events in the school paper. Excited to test her writing skills, Luisa accepts, and her life changes in ways she would never have been able to predict.

I loved the characters in this story. Luisa is just hilariously funny and I loved watching her interact with her peers. She has a solid core and a surprisingly strong character for a story like this. I wasn't completely expecting any of the characters in this story to be as fully developed as they were. Each of the characters has their own personal strengths and weaknesses and each of them works to develop those. It is true that a lot of the secondary characters are a little more standard, a little more stereotypical, but I enjoyed the book so incredibly much that I barely noticed.

These two writers are a phenomenal pair. This is exactly the kind of light-hearted, fun read that just makes you feel good about your day, about people, and about being alive. I've already reread my favorite parts several times, and I can see this book, and this author duo becoming a default read when I need a reading pick me up.

Perfect Chemistry by Simon Elkeles is a little bit heavier than the two previous novels. While it's true that the romance is still a very important part of this story, (still THE most important part of the story) the conflict that the characters face is set on a much grander scale. Brittany is the golden goddess — she comes from money and as far as appearances go, she has the perfect life. She tries very hard to maintain that image, but her home life is far from perfect, and she's starting to crack under the pressure. Alex is involved with a local gang. Inside, he hates the life, but he knows that he has to be involved to offer protection to his family, so on the outside, he appears to everyone to be the tough gang member he needs to be. When pared up as chemistry lab partners, things get... interesting.

I really enjoyed watching Alex and Brittany develop their relationship, and develop as people. Both of these characters could so easily have turned into caricatures. They have all the traits needed to be those empty, stereotypical stock characters. But they aren't. Elkeles somehow manages to take them and mold them into people who have so many dimensions it's a wonder they aren't real. It's not what I was expecting from a book like this, that's for sure! We watch Alex try to come to terms with his gang membership and what it's doing to his life, and watch as the perfect world Brittany has created for herself starts slipping out from under her, we watch as she tries to accept the fact that she doesn't actually have to be perfect, that it's okay to make mistakes. And, we watch as these two very different people come together, fight the odds, and make something important.

The only thing in this book that I wasn't terribly crazy about was the epilogue. It was super cutesy, super fun, and so incredibly cheesy. I don't really feel like it fit with the tone of the book, and I kind of rolled my eyes a bit. But, it's good for some additional happy-feelings, so whatev.

This is a book that really pulls you into the lives of the characters, really makes you interested and hopeful for their future. It is a bit predictable... I called just about all the major drama moments and plot points pretty far in advance, but this type of book doesn't need to really surprise you. We all know where the story ends, it's the getting there that matter. And, even when we know how they get there, it's important that we are along for the ride with them.