In these trying times, I find I’m gravitating towards romance more than usual, and have been catching up on some books I’ve been meaning to read for a year or two. But don’t let the word “romance” make you think these are all fluffy happiness – there are serious issues underlying all three of these.
Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds. Read by Nile Bullock. Katherine Tegen Books, 2019. ISBN 9781509870042. Listened to audiobook on Libby; also available on Hoopla.
High school seniors Jack and his best friends, Jillian, are visiting the college he hopes to attend next year when he falls for their tour guide, college freshman Kate. They stay up all night talking and eating sugary cereal until it’s time for Jack and Jillian to go back home. But we as readers know that something is wrong – we saw Jack being stopped by police as he was trying to save his girlfriend’s life before being jerked painfully back to this part of the story. He goes through several iterations, looking not just at Kate’s health but their relationship and Jack’s with his parents, Jillian, and his other best friend Franny, who has been raised by his abuela since his father has been jailed most of his childhood. Jack, Kate, and Jillian are all described as African-American, while Franny is Cuban-American. The romance is sweet, but the other characters are all real as well, and Jack’s challenge is not as simple as it first seems. Can a guy who’s always thought of himself as the “almost” guy figure out what it takes to find a truly happy ending?
Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi. Simon & Schuster, 2018. ISBN 978-1534408968. Read from library copy. Also available on Libby in ebook and audiobook formats.
Penny (Korean-American) is heading off to college in Texas in this teen/new adult crossover book. She’s leaving behind her overly-sexy single mother and a rather depressing specimen of a boyfriend, but taking with her a beautiful new rose gold iPhone and her penchant for mentally verbalizing lists of possible actions to take in awkward situations. It’s just her luck that someone like her who’s not that fond of people in general and considers shapeless black the perfect outfit winds up with a fashionable and oppressively friendly roommate, Jude.
Jude takes her to meet her “uncle” Sam, only a year or two older than them. Sam (trailer park white) is a barista and aspiring documentary maker with mother and girlfriend issues of his own. Jude specifically forbids both her best friend and Penny from falling for Sam. But when Penny is out on her own later and finds Sam in trouble, they start texting and can’t seem to stop…
This book was blurbed by Rainbow Rowell and really does have the heart-tugging, can’t stop rooting for the characters feeling that I felt with Eleanor & Park.
Frankly in Love by David Yoon. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019. ISBN 978-1984812209. Read from library copy. Also available on Libby in ebook and audiobook formats.
Warning: Although Frank Li, also Korean-American, is definitely in love in this book, it is also not a traditional “Happily Ever After” romance. Frank is a member of several groups. At school, he’s an “Apey,” certified geeky member of the AP set. That’s where he met his best friend, African-American and fellow D&D player Q. It’s also where he fell in love with Brit Means, who’s just as clever and fond of puns as he is. She’s also white, which means he has to keep her a secret from his parents.
But when not at school, Frank is helping his parents run their corner store in a not-so-nice neighborhood, sending unanswered texts to his sister Hanna, who graduated from “the Harvard” just like she was supposed to and then was disowned for marrying a Black man. And once a month, there is a Gathering where he hangs out with the kids of a group of other Korean immigrants who came over with his parents, a group he calls the Limbos. And when he learns that one of the Limbos, Joy Song, is also hiding her not-Korean boyfriend from her parents, he comes up with a plan to get them both the freedom they crave.
This starts off hilariously, but there is a lot of heartbreak along the way as Frank figures out what it means to be in love, be Korean-American, and be himself.
Here are some more teen romances I read this summer. Any more you think I’d like?