Ok, first I have to say that in the interest of full disclosure, I have been dubbed by a certain friend (you know who you are) as the Master of Cheese.... So let's just say that I knew I would enjoy Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins despite it's cookie cutter, predictable romance plot. Yet, enjoy is not a strong enough description for how much I adored this book. Perkins has mastered realistic teenage voices with great snappy dialog. She absolutely captures scenes conveying a strong sense of time and place- I really felt like I was back in Paris while reading this- all while maintaining a steady pace. Etienne will be the next literary crush for many girls- he is completely swoon worthy.
I am not a runner. I see absolutely no appeal in it. I can't do it. I'm not even sure that I could run if someone was chasing me. Yet, something about Wendelin Van Draanen's The Running Dream completely captured me. This is a quiet and thoughtful look at a teen girl whose world is shattered when she loses her leg after a terrible accident. Running is such a part of Jessica's identity, that she struggles to find meaning in life after she loses her leg. Her growth from the deepest blackest pit of despair is beautifully and realistically handled and deeply compelling.
Kimberly Marcus's Exposed is a powerful verse novel about "forever best friends" whose friendship is shattered after one girl accuses the older brother of the other of rape. The verse is sparse and poignant. The narrative focuses on Liz, who struggles with the loss of her best friend, the tarnished image of her beloved older brother, and the gossip that comes from being the sister of a rapist.
I wondered how Jennifer Brown would top last year's Hate List. I should have known that her second novel Bitter End would be just as compelling, powerful, and heartbreaking. Alex is such a compelling character, even though as an adult reader I couldn't help but want to shake her silly as she continued to justify her boyfriend's physical and emotional abuse. Alex is aware of her situation, but refuses to admit to being "that girl" in an abusive relationship, so she clings to Cole's promises to change. Brown skillfully avoids falling into the afterschool special trap.