YA Romances with Heart

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Love is in the air and on the shelves in the Butler Center this winter! And while it’s not uncommon, especially nearing Valentine’s Day, to find a plethora of lovey-dovey books to be had—this year seems particularly love-struck. One of the editors over at BookPage has even declared 2020 to be “the year of the YA rom-com” (they are REALLY looking forward to Yes No Maybe So, the upcoming collaboration between Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, and so am I). They just may be right!

Lest you think it’s all carnations and conversation heart candy over here, there are some pretty fabulous and thoughtful twists on the traditional romantic tropes and quite a few delightfully complex characters and plots to be found as well. Take a look at some of our favorites.

Kissing Lessons cover artKissing Lessons by Sophie Jordan
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available June 2020
Ages 14 and up

Hayden Vargas is a reputed “bad girl.” Emmaline Martin is just the opposite but determined to break out of her “good little sister” box. What could go wrong when Emmaline hires Hayden to give her lessons on how to land a man? An authentic friendship develops between the girls, challenging Emmaline’s comfort zone and Hayden’s desperately poor and unsupportive home life, making this story as much about friendship as it is about romance.

 

Four Days of You and Me cover artFour Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally
Published by Sourcebooks
Available May 2020
Ages 14 and up

The evolution and devolution of a relationship told in four class trips. Alex and Lulu go from enemies to lovers and back again as they fight, makeup, and support one another through the ups and downs of high school. The secondary plot line that follows Lulu’s art and interest in graphic novels through writing and selling one is compelling and could have played an even bigger part in these fun episodes.

 

19 Love Songs19 Love Songs by David Levithan
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Available January 2020
Ages 14 and up

Joyous, awkward, tearful, raw, supportive, and lonely—19 Love Songs is a short story collection focused on love and all its many, many forms. Some are stories Levithan wrote as valentine notes to his friends, several first appeared in other short story collections, and all take a thoughtful look at the love between friends, strangers, partners, parents, families, and teammates. An appropriately varied mix-tape of emotions for Valentine’s Day.

 

Finding Mr. Better-Than-You cover artFinding Mr. Better-Than-You by Shani Petroff
Published by Swoon Reads
Available January 2020
Ages 14 and up

When Camryn Roth is dumped by her boyfriend, she turns to her other love, romantic comedies, for solace. With them comes an idea… What if she could use classic rom-com themes to make her ex jealous and salvage her senior year and her life plan—Columbia University with Marc by her side. As with any good movie in the genre, things go awry, and Camryn ends up discovering the true self she lost to her relationship. As sweet and silly as a big-screen rom-com with a side of self-actualization.

 

Only Love Can Break Your Heart cover artOnly Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber
Published by Scholastic Press
Available January 2020
Ages 12 and up

Reiko is good at keeping secrets, like the fact that she still sees and talks to her dead sister Mika. So when the school’s “It girl” starts dating gawky, quiet, unpopular Seth, she can keep that a secret too. But when their relationship goes public her entire life starts to spiral out of control–Seth, her grades, and her secrets. More toxic relationship drama, than rom-com, this story of grief, introspection, and self-discovery is also a love letter to its stunning desert setting.

 

This Train Is Being Held cover artThis Train is Being Held by Ismée Williams
Published by Amulet Books/Abrams
Available January 2020
Ages 14 and up

Two strangers meet on a train—Isa the dancer and Alex the baseball player. Then they meet again and again and again. Small snippets of their vastly different lives unfold between run-ins on the subway. But can they really develop a relationship while hiding so much of themselves from the other? Themes of racism, mental health struggles, gang violence, and heavy family expectations make this far more complex than your average YA romance.

 

 

 

 

 

Sort of Bilingual: Serving Youth and Young Adults from Spanish-speaking Homes

Spanish/English Dictionary collectionJoin Elizabeth Lynch of Addison Public Library and Kelly MacGregor of Berwyn Public Library for an in-depth look at how they worked to improve service for the teens at their library and a discussion of how you can too.

Children and Young Adults growing up in Spanish-speaking households can encounter unique barriers to academic and social-emotional growth. Addison Public Library surveyed nearly 400 residents with the help of the ALA Diversity Research Grant to get a richer picture of the assets and needs of youth in bilingual homes. Their findings led them to develop new ways of approaching programming and services for bilingual youth. Find out more about the process for collecting useful community data and how you can replicate successful programs in your library.

When: Saturday February 9, 2019 from 11am — 1pm

Where: Butler Children’s Literature Center — Dominican University, Crown Rm 214

RSVP: to butler@dom.edu by 2/4/19 to reserve a seat

Out of the Easy

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Out of the Easy

by Ruta Sepetys

Philomel, 2013.

Ruta Sepety’s second novel, Out of the Easy, is set in a world of cigarette smoke, shadows, and bourbon. It’s 1950 in the french quarter of New Orleans. Josie is a smart girl with hopes of college, but the city feels like a cage. Her mother is a call girl at a well-known brothel and a highly publicized murder has caught them both in a web of lies and secrets. A supporting cast of prostitutes, errand boys, madames, and madmen completes the picture.

In short, this is a noir.

And noir is a rare setting for a YA novel. Perhaps authors assume that the iconic imagery and archetypal characters will be unrecognizable to the Millennial generation. Maybe they are uncomfortable with the femme fatale and the mess of gender stereotypes that come with her. Or maybe they just don’t like it.

But there’s more to noir than snappy dialogue and shoulder pads. Beyond the private eyes and sexual innuendos are themes of misrepresentation, moral ambiguity, betrayal, and alienation. Its perspective is cynical, depicting a world infested with lies and liars.

For many (myself included) adolescence is a period of not fitting in, feeling that the world around you is obscure and impossible to navigate, like being lost in a maze. Sometimes, at least, it can feel like noir.

Which is why Sepetys’ choice of setting feels so right for a young adult audience. When Josie realizes that she has only herself to blame for the web of self-serving lies and half-truths she has has been spinning, she is both the quintessential young adult and the quintessential noir anti-hero.