Tag Archives: love

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

9781626721623by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
Overall: 4 out 5 stars

Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends – only for two months in the fall when they both work at the pumpkin patch together. On their last night working there before they go off to college, Deja decides that it’s time for Josiah to tell the girl he’s liked for four years how he feels. They go all over the park to try and find her and have adventures along the way that make them realize that they actually like each other (and Josiah finally talks to the girl and realizes that she’s pretty terrible). It reminded me in some ways of Sorry For Your Loss. I also liked that Deja is bisexual because there aren’t too many bi characters out there.

Sorry For Your Loss by Jessie Ann Foley

sorryforyourlosshccby Jessie Ann Foley
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars

16-year-old James “Pup” Flanagan is the youngest of 8 in a close-knit, Catholic, Chicago family. His oldest sisters are referred to as “the sister-moms” and his oldest nephew is also a junior at the same high school (though the two don’t get along at all and Pup’s nephew teases him for being a poor student). Pup is closest with his sister Annemarie, and the whole family is still reeling from (but not dealing with or discussing) the death of his next-oldest brother, Patrick, from meningitis three years before. His brother Luke has failed out of law school and become a full-fledged alcoholic and drinking himself nearly to death, leading to a scene of domestic violence and an even more harrowing scene where Pup goes and drags him out of a dingy basement and gets him to the hospital. With Pup’s help, the family starts to heal together.

On the cheerier side, what gets Pup through the end of his junior year is photography, a Hail Mary (if you will) to save his failing art grade, which he turns out to be a natural at. He also happens to spend a lot of time with Abrihet, a classmate he vaguely knew but never interacted much with. Pup finally lets go of his longtime best friend and crush, Izzy, whose skeezy boyfriend pushes Pup’s crush into the open. As Pup gets closer to Abrihet, he realizes that what he has with Izzy is superficial and, worse, one-sided, and what he has with Abrihet is real and powerful. Even when Izzy finally gets wise and dumps Brody’s cheating butt, and comes to Pup for solace, he finds he doesn’t even want what he thought they had. Through it all, the metaphors of photography and what he is able to learn about himself through compiling a portfolio at his art teacher’s urging is quite moving and lovely.

A librarian friend recommended this one to me, selling it by saying that it’s the best first kiss ever and the last several pages blew her away, and I have to agree. (Well, to be fully honest, I was a little distracted when reading the kiss but upon rereading, it was delightful.)

For fans of: I’ll Give You the Sun (or maybe the other way around – if they read this, they’ll like Sun)

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender


by Kheryn Callender
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars

12-year-old Caroline Murphy was born during a hurricane and is cursed with bad luck. Her mother left her a little over a year ago, and she has no friends in her Catholic school on St. Thomas (in the US Virgin Islands), where she travels every day from her home on neighboring Water Island. For a few months, she and her father received postcards from her mother, but then they stopped. Convinced that only something drastic would keep her mother from returning to her, she has wanted to leave her home and find her ever since. But when she finds out where her mother has been, it’s Caroline who’s unsure whether to return to her. Meanwhile, Caroline is experiencing the ups and downs of not only her first real friend, but her first love – Kalinda Francis, who moved to St. Thomas from Barbados. The first thing that drew Caroline to Kalinda was the sense that they both saw spirits. The denouement comes when Caroline goes out in a hurricane and is pulled into the ocean with her spirit whom she calls the woman in black. At the end of the story, things have changed for Caroline at school. Even though her main bully, Anise, laid off her while Kalinda was there, she resumes when Kalinda moves away at the end. Anise eventually also moves away and Caroline gets the courage to talk to and even befriend another girl (whom she refers to as Marie Antoinette) who seemed to be her best friend but who was also bullied by her, so that was interesting.

Some spoilers in the commentary: Caroline doesn’t seem to have any qualms about coming out to Kalinda, and is surprised when Kalinda rejects her on religious principles, though Kalinda eventually accepts her own sexuality. Caroline shows a surprisingly shallow understanding of her (I imagine) small island community, being pretty shocked to learn that her principal was best friends with her mother, that felt odd to me. The spirits reminded me of Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes and added a new dimension to the story. It turns out that Caroline’s mother was depressed and tried to commit suicide, so left in order to deal with that somehow (I’m still not really sure how that turned into sending postcards from lots of different places), and came back to St. Thomas after a few months, settling down with another man and his daughter. Caroline is understandably very hurt by this, moreso than finding out that her father has a daughter by another woman (which may have played into Caroline’s mother’s depression? to be honest I was pretty distracted while reading this so may have lost some of the details). So anyway, trigger warnings for people with parents with mental illness.

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera


by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Arthur and Ben have the cutest of the meet-cutes, at the post office. Arthur is running a coffee errand at his summer internship and Ben is trying unsuccessfully to mail his ex-boyfriend’s stuff back to him. They chat a bit, there’s a spark, and then they’re separated. Arthur, ever the optimist, is determined to find Ben again – a small-town boy in the big city – and succeeds. (How he succeeds is part of the charm of the story, so I won’t ruin it for you.) But the story doesn’t end there. They have a series of awkward do-over dates as they fumble over each other. Arthur’s fumbling is to be expected; he’s new to dating, but Ben isn’t. Their not-clicking gave me serious pause about whether they had long-term potential, but sometimes life is like that. There’s a scene where the boyfriends and their parents have dinner together and it’s about the cutest thing.

There are some interesting aspects to this story. It’s written in alternating chapters from Ben and Arthur’s perspectives, and because it’s written by two authors, they each took a main character and then wrote the best friends of the other character. Sometimes it was hard to tell the narrators apart, but for the most part I liked the best friends. Arthur’s best friends spend most of the story trying to tell him something fairly obvious but Arthur’s too wrapped up in his own problems to figure it out. Ben’s best friends include his ex, and another couple who recently broke up, most of whom he’s in summer school with. His main best friend is a straight guy who’s SO okay with Ben being gay that it reminded me of Openly Straight.

I heard Silvera and Albertalli talk at the Boston Book Festival about this book as I was just diving in; they clearly are besties who work well together, and it was delightful to see their affection for each other. Silvera addressed the autobiographical aspects of Ben’s story (both are Puerto Rican but often “pass” as white), and they talked about how they just wanted to write a sweet, hopeful love story. There’s one scene on the subway with a homophobic man who gets in their faces and really shakes Arthur up, which might be upsetting to some readers, but overall I think the story is just as idyllic as the authors intended.

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren


by Christina Lauren
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Tanner’s family move to Provo, Utah, from Palo Alto, California, where Tanner had been an out and proud bisexual (and his parents possibly even more proud). His mom had left the LDS church years before when her parents kicked out her sister for being gay, and had never looked back, marrying Tanner’s dad, who is Jewish. For the past three years, Tanner has dated girls in Provo but never told a soul, including his best friend Autumn, about his bisexuality – just running down the clock until he could get out of there. But then Autumn challenges Tanner to take a book-writing seminar, TA’ed by Sebastian Brother, an LDS BYU student who had taken the same class the year before and had his book published and a big fuss made. It doesn’t hurt that Sebastian is HOT – and apparently into Tanner, too, which is obviously complicated.

I really liked this book but the one major detractor for me was how much it reminded me of Openly Straight (which was published four years earlier). It was distracting – super supportive liberal parents on one side, moving to a new town where the liberal kid has to be suddenly in the closet, down to nearly-identical scenes, like when a parent walks in on them. BUT. I loved it anyway. I would even love a sequel like Honestly Ben, told from the other boy’s point of view. I enjoyed the love story and the Mormon angle, even though the reader doesn’t get to see a lot of Sebastian’s struggle (hence being primed for a sequel), and actually I felt a bit jostled where the narrative skipped out. Tanner’s goth sister, Hailey, was an interesting source of comic relief, though.

Picture Book Roundup

I’ve been vacillating pretty hard between adult nonfiction and picture books, so forgive my radio silence over here. Here are some of the picture books I’ve been enjoying lately:

Alma and How She Got Her Name
by Juana Martinez-Neal
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

I love that this one is available in Spanish and I have read it in both my Spanish and English storytimes (where we read other stories about names and then wrote our names using flowers, leaves, grasses, and glued them down). I love that Alma doesn’t really love her super long Hispanic name until her dad tells her about everyone she’s named for and she finds herself in each of their stories. I also loved the author’s note at the end that talked about how this book came out of her feelings about her own long name.


Harriet Gets Carried Away
by Jessie Sima
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Harriet is out shopping in her penguin costume with her two dads when she gets swept up with the penguins and carried away to the arctic with them. What I loved most is how creative and interesting the plot is and that it is NOT about how Harriet has two dads. (See also: The Purim Superhero.)


Jerome By Heart
by Thomas Scotto
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Raphael loves his friend Jerome and isn’t afraid to tell anyone. It’s that very sweet, simple love between two very young children, and the only indication that it’s something potentially controversial is one spread where Raphael’s parents seem uncomfortable, but that’s not explored. This book is also translated from French so who knows the original cultural context and/or wording, but I loved it.


If You’re Going to a March
by Martha Freeman
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

I think what I liked best about this one, as a public librarian, is that it’s technically almost 100% neutral. There is only one page that shows some signs that people might carry at a march that said things like “Hate has no home here” and other left-leaning slogans. But really, one might march for just about any reason and be of any political leaning (though adults will surely put this one into a particular place on the spectrum).


Take Care
by Madelyn Rosenberg
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

This one got lots of smiles and “awww”s at my toddler storytime. It’s very simple text about taking care of the Earth and of each other. I’ve been trying to pepper my storytimes with such messages as they help alleviate my own anxiety about the horrific things going on in the world today.

And She Was by Jessica Verdi


by Jessica Verdi
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Dara has just graduated high school and dreams of playing tennis professionally. She’s good enough, she just needs the money. But she’s always lived a life of limited resources with her mom. When she asks her mom for her birth certificate so she can get a passport to play a tournament in Canada, her mom gets weird. Then when she finds the birth certificate on her own, things get even weirder. Her mom’s name, Mellie Baker, is nowhere on the document; instead her parents are listed as Marcus Hogan and Celeste Pembroke.

Dara’s search for what’s going on leads to a bombshell revelation by Mellie: she used to be Marcus and is Dara’s biological father. When Celeste died, she took the final steps to live as a woman and had to go underground and assume a whole new identity. To protect her daughter, she did the same for her. Now 18, Dara’s journey continues – she grabs her best friend, Sam, and hits the road to find the other half of her family.

Throughout Dara’s road trip, she receives emails containing more of Mellie’s story. By the time she tracks down the Pembrokes, she is furious with Mellie for the ways in which her decisions impacted Dara. But she comes around to understanding why Mellie did what she did, and even leaves the lap of luxury at her grandparents’ home, and the promise of a life as a pro tennis player, to stand by her mother (and – spoiler alert – face her fears about dating Sam). I thought I knew how this story was going to unfold, and there were a few surprises, which was great. I also appreciated the author’s note at the end, where she recognized that she is not trans herself, but tried to do the story justice. She also talked about the need to have Mellie’s story in an adult voice in there, which is unusual for YA.

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack


by Daniel Haack
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Cute rhyming tale of a prince whose parents are in search of a princess for their son. Along the way, the prince meets a dragon badly in need of slaying, and he fights the dragon alongside a knight, whom he falls in love with. And they all lived happily ever after. The illustrations are delightful (and possibly done digitally? though unclear from the artist’s website).

American Panda by Gloria Chao


by Gloria Chao
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Seventeen-year-old Mei Lu is a freshman at MIT (because her parents said so; she skipped a grade and they dictated the college); pre-med (because her parents said so; she’s a germophobe), effectively an only child (because her parents said so; they disowned her brother), but also, American (because her parents said so; they sacrificed everything for her and her brother). But when her American identity clashes with their very strict, very traditional Chinese beliefs, there’s trouble ahead. Big trouble. And not all of it is named Darren Takahashi, a fellow freshman who steals her heart.

Mei also has to forge her own relationship with her brother, change her major from pre-med to, well, almost anything else (as long as it involves math, which she loves), continue to dance and teach dance, and pursue a relationship with Darren – all without her parents finding out. If they find out, she’ll be disowned just like her brother, Xing. Of course, she starts off the book being an obedient (if conflicted) daughter, so these are not her goals at the outset, and her journey to having the strength to go against her parents is the fascinating part. I loved watching Mei grow and also feel like my own compassion for my Taiwanese friends has taken on new depths. One, a college roommate, is now an artist and I can’t imagine what she had to go through to get where she is today. I also enjoyed watching Mei and her roommate, Nicolette’s, relationship grow. Best of all, I loved hearing Mei narrate what goes on for her when she dances, even times when dancing fails to help her work through whatever’s got her down. And of course, I enjoyed seeing MIT’s campus and Chinatown here in Boston through Mei’s (and Chao’s) eyes.

There is much discussion (though not graphically) of sex and STDs, as Mei shadows her campus health center gynecologist for the day. The gynecologist, a young doctor named Tina Cheng, is an interesting if not entirely believable character, so timid she is able to be pushed around by Mei into letting her shadow for the day when some issues of patient confidentiality come up. Mei’s relationship with Darren is limited to kissing and nothing else, so there’s not much there that’s unsuitable for younger teen readers (I’d even give it to some precocious middle schoolers, honestly).

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon


Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi… he already knew they were being set up by their parents, but she didn’t. So when he led with “Hello, future wife,” she understandably freaks out, throws her iced coffee on him, and runs away. Unfortunately, they’ve both signed up for the same 6-week pre-college app coding program, so getting away from him for good turns out to be futile, as is resisting his charms. Somehow, he’s the total package: nerdy, cute, funny, sensitive, suave (well except for the future wife part). Dimple, however, is not interested. She isn’t even sure she wants to get married, ever, since it would (she thinks) detract from her life goals of coding apps and programs to help change people’s lives.

After an alarmingly short time, Rishi has won Dimple over, so clearly that’s not the real conflict of the story. The real conflict is in two parts: one in which Dimple helps Rishi discover his real career ambitions, and one in which Rishi helps Dimple realize she can be in a relationship and be a career woman. There’s also a couple of side plots involving Dimple’s roommate at the summer program, a girl named Celia whose new friends turn out to be jerks. Celia and Rishi’s brother, Ashish, have a past that comes back up, and also Celia has to figure out how to dump her new friends – and come around to the understanding that she needs to lose them.

I guess I was expecting that the main story would be Rishi winning Dimple over, but in the end I’m glad that’s not what it was. I’m glad that Dimple was a little bit more complex than that, and really grappled with commitment to a relationship AND to her career ambitions, and all at the low low age of 18. Rishi is so level-headed that he stops them from having sex on not one but two different occasions so that they can really sort through how they feel about it (it’s the first time for both of them). I was a little disappointed that neither of them walked us through their thought process at all, or seemed to give it any thought other than when actively making out and heading down that road. And it didn’t seem to have any great effect on either of them, not even, most surprisingly, for Rishi the romantic. Both of their relationships with their parents (and, for Rishi, his brother) had plenty of nuance, which I loved, and things came together neatly and satisfyingly.

Geek love like: Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love

Generic love like: Anna and the French Kiss