Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2012 Completely Contemporary Challenge

I started this blog a bit later in this past year. So I was really sad that I missed out on a lot of cool reading challenges around the blogosphere. Luckily, 2012 is on its way and a new year means new opportunities to enter all of these challenges! I'll be participating in the Story Siren's 2012 Debut Author Challenge as well as Chick Loves Lit's Completely Contemp Challenge. The Contemp challenge is really to set your own, attainable goal and read that number of contemporary YA novels from the past two years and next year. Since this is my first challenge, I'm going to stick with a goal of 3 per year. Here's my projected list:

1. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

2. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

3. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

4. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

5. The Future of Us by Jay Asher

6. Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

8. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

9. The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door
By Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton
Date Published: September 29, 2011
       Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

I wasn't sure Perkins would be able to top her debut, Anna and the French Kiss (which I recently reviewed here). While Anna still bests Lola and the Boy Next Door, I'm glad to report that it's by an extremely slim margin. Lola was just as thoughtful and likeable as Perkins' first novel, and another testament to the fact that young adult chick-lit can stretch a bit deeper than one might expect.

All of the elements that made Anna stand out can be found in Lola. Everything is in the details. Perkins' plots are really nothing new- girl meets boy, they fall into like, external hurdles (the inevitable other boyfriend or girlfriend) get in the way, angst ensues, but then love triumphs in the end. This plot is resurrected by all the memorable details Perkins instills into her characters, from Lola's ostentatious fashion to Cricket's messages on his hand.

Perkins really has a knack (I've been using this word a lot lately) for creating likeable, swoon-worthy male leads who are likeable because of their imperfections. Cricket may be awkward and nerdy and "overly nice" (though honestly I've never understood the whole 'nice guys finish last' thing), but he feels real in ways that Etienne St. Clair (of Anna) does not. In fact, I think I actually may prefer Cricket.

Paris was truly a character in Anna. Perkins once again illustrates her ability to capture the essence of a city, to the point where the city magically plays a prominent role in the story. I almost feel as if Lola could not have taken place anywhere outside of San Francisco.

I enjoyed all the appearances made by St. Clair and Anna and was happily surprised that they were a more integral part of this story than I thought they would be. I expected a once sentence cameo, or a brief mention. However, it's important to note that Lola and Cricket definitely stand on their own and I didn't wish to see even more of St Clair or Anna because I completely believed and understood that this was Lola and Cricket's story.

I'm looking forward to 2012's Isla and the Happily Ever After, the final companion novel in Perkins' trio of novels.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Childhood Favorites

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

1. Julius, Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes : This was just absolutely hilarious to me first-grader self. I think I really identified with it because when my little brother was born, I sort of look down on him with animosity at first because I was jealous.
2. The Magic Tree House #20: Dingos at Dinnertime by Mary Pope Osborne : This book was really the stepping stone between pictures books and chapter books for me. I remember finding it in a stack of books my older cousin gave me, back when I still had never read "a real book without pictures" before. I got hooked and went through the rest of the series at the time.
3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling : Must I even explain how important this book has been in my life? This is where it all started, where I realized that I loved reading. I grew up with Harry in a sense, since I discovered his world when I was only six.
4. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner : These had such a pivotal role in whetting my appetite for mystery.
5. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis : I happened on Narnia by chance. I didn't find Narnia through a wardrobe, but I did find it in a stack of my teacher's books when I needed to find a book for independent reading. Along with Harry Potter, the world of Narnia has since then been one of my favorite places to return to.
6. Nancy Drew: Nancy's Mysterious Letter by Carolyn Keene : I LOVED Nancy and I still do. I went through all of them in a matter of months (quite a feat for my young age)
7. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator : ASoUE, while grim for children's books, always fascinated me because of its three protagonists. The Ersatz Elevator is probably my favorite because I felt like it was the most inventive and engaging.
8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine : I've read this 5x, I swear. My favorite adaptation of Cinderella.
9. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie : Magic and never growing up! I think I've always appreciated fairy tales with a darker edge. I'm a fan of the real Peter Pan over Disney's version of him.
10. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale : I think I went through a phase where I just really loved stories about magic and princesses mixed with a bit of darkness. The Goose Girl can also easily be appreciated by any teenager, I think.