YA Romance Reviews

Read Like a Writer: THROUGH TO YOU by Emily Hainsworth

Through to You HC_FinalIf you’re looking for a writer whose work typifies the phrase, “Leave space for the reader to inhabit,” Hainsworth is your girl.

It’s difficult for me to allow myself the luxury of reading for long, long stretches, but once I slipped into this book, it was difficult to escape.  The prose of this YA novel is so eloquently written, each detail so carefully selected as to–at times–be almost sparse, that I glided through it in just a few hours.  Everything from the protagonist’s voice to the description of the setting feels authentic, giving the reader just enough detail to enjoy, picture, and relate to what occurs in a given scene–allowing them plenty of latitude to fill in pieces for themselves.  It’s fitting that, in this novel which plays with the concept of moving through a portal to another reality, Hainsworth has left the perfect about of space for the reader to inhabit.  She draws us into her world by making room for us.

The story question, deceptively simple, raises all kinds of problems for Camden PIke: What if he were able to see his dead girlfriend, still alive in an alternate reality?  The setting, despite Camden’s ability to move between realities, is closed and simple, and the book’s cast of characters–limited.  By doing this, Hainsworth funnels the reader’s attention more toward the internal story–Cam’s struggle as he compares what he thought he knew about his girlfriend’s basic nature to her possessive, reckless behavior under the conditions of this alternate universe.  This is while Cam, at the same time, confronts another version of his own story where a positive attitude and different choices lead to greater success.  The blame for how his life turned out in his own reality rests squarely on his shoulders…with one small caveat.  Cam will learn that the people who enter his life–and those he makes an effort to keep close to him–ultimately help to make him a different person.

Hainsworth is one of those authors who makes it look easy but whose work, upon close examination, can be appreciated down tot he sentence level for exactly how much effort was put into it.  And this is only her first novel.  An immediate fan–I can’t wait to plunge into her next book.

Michelle Joyce Bond



YA Romance Reviews

Read Like a Writer: DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE By Laini Taylor

untitled          Readers crave the strange and unusual. Drop them into a setting that is beautiful–but in an odd way and dangerous–but in a subtle way. This is a powerful combination, and Taylor accomplishes it in her book twice over.

          First, she paints the gothic fairytale city of Prague as the backdrop for her unconventional teen protagonist that includes layers of history and modern/reinvented buildings that have seen their share of death. It’s a landscape dripping with sharp sensory details, dark humor, symbolism, foreshadowing, and–well–backshadowing. Writers, if you are lacking setting details in your manuscript, this is definitely a book you’ll want to pick up.

          Her scenes in Prague and other real-world cities, however, are only the warm-up act. Taylor later immerses us in the landscape, culture, and history of a parallel world. This place is populated by warring chimera and angels whose prejudices about one another come alive in origin stories—stories that offer us more than one lens through which to view their world.

          If you are writing a paranormal or fantasy in which your characters cross over into another universe, you should read this. The world Taylor creates is completely original, but at the same time, it serves as a dark mirror for our own earth.

           What other books have you read that include immersive settings?

           Michelle Joyce Bond

           Image Credit: goodreads.com

YA Romance Reviews

Read Like a Writer: EVERY DAY by David Levithan

If you are writing YA fiction, you need to read this book.

every dayEvery Day is a perfect example of how a powerful concept can drive the plot.  “A,” is a sixteen-year-old consciousness that changes bodies every day.  I’ll defer to the pronoun “he” to describe A, though lack of a consistent body means A has no permanent gender.  He also has no permanent race, religion, etc.–a concept which allows Levithan to test the parameters by which we define ourselves.

Teenagers are people at a very unique point in their lives as they are working to define exactly who they are.  That makes the concept of A all the more powerful—this teenager who defines himself not by the above mentioned categories but by his own moral code.  He tries as much as possible not to disturb the lives of the teenagers whose bodies he’s borrowing, but in doing so, he sacrifices his own ability to “find himself.”  His character can have no arc—no development and, as a result, no life.

That is…until he falls in love.  A meets Rhiannon, an aptly named girl who exhibits the same open, excepting qualities he values in himself.  And of course it doesn’t hurt that she has the same taste in music.  She takes him out of his comfort zone because–suddenly–he wants nothing more than to see this same person every day.  This is regardless of what body he happens to be wearing.  He wants, against all odds, to develop a relationship with this girl—a happenstance that will, in turn, develop A as a character.

Writers, this is how to do it.  Begin with a strong concept that challenges genre, structure, archetypes, etc. and built around it.  Levithan’s book is not just about an unlikely romance.  It’s not just about a kid with an unwanted power, and it isn’t just about the unique challenges and choices faced by teenagers.  It’s all of the above and more.  It’s the incredibly powerful intersection of those things and the conclusions Levithan comes to when playing with those narrative layers.  It’s art as art is meant to be—a mirror to life.

This book is an excellent read for any YA writer because its high concept mechanism challenges the genre, but that’s not the only reason you should pick up this book.

A side effect of A constantly being thrown into a new body is Levithan’s need to quickly and vividly paint new characters.  Granted, some of these characters are walking stereotypes, ostensibly created so that A can mentally berate them for their behavior, but for the most part, this book is an excellent study on how to introduce a character and show a measure of depth with only a few lines.

Levithan also strives to show many different teenagers facing a range of problems from normal teenage woes to incredible strife.  This makes the book an interesting read for those of us who have a tendency to write the same characters over and over.  Perhaps, like A, you will fall in love with this book, and it will draw you out of your comfort zone.  You will keep coming back, each time discovering more possibilities that will add realism to your writing.  Perhaps you will finally develop. 🙂

Michelle Joyce Bond

photo credit and author site: www.davidlevithan.com

YA Romance Reviews

When You Read TIME BETWEEN US by Tamara Ireland Stone

time between usAll Anna’s ever wanted in her comfortable little life is to travel beyond her hometown of Evanston, Illinois.  All Bennett’s ever wanted is stability.  Normalcy.  He has the power to move through space and time but has grounded himself momentarily in Anna’s town for personal reasons.  As soon as he hears Anna’s name, he recognizes her.  He’s seen the older Anna…a woman who gave him a warning.

Now, what Bennett’s tried to prevent is happening anyway.  Their lives are becoming entwined.  But Bennett is from the future–sixteen years later in San Fransisco, California.  It would be much easier if there were only distance between them…but there is all this time.  Bennett can’t always control his power.  What if he couldn’t get back?

When you read Time Between Us, you will be reminded of what makes an otherwise good young adult paranormal romance great.  Bennett’s power serves as a vehicle to explore deeper themes of love and attachment.  The title itself points this out and is echoed through the book as both the time spent between the characters (tense or enjoyable) and the time that literally separates them.  There are other strong themes–questions of morality and consequence–but the heart of the book is in the developing relationship between Anna and Bennett.  Tamara Ireland Stone does a beautiful job of reminding us of what ties us to one another.  Our simple, close moments.

Michelle Joyce Bond

YA Romance Reviews

Ode to L.J. Smith’s SOULMATE: Gateway Drug to My Lifelong Obsession with YA Paranormal Romance

soulmateLong, long ago, I dragged my mother into the nearest Barnes and Noble and proceeded to dance up and down the aisles of that new-to-me-year-round-book-fair in shameless glee.  It was in this manner that I stumbled upon the teen section–then a single row of shelves that stood between adult sci-fi/fantasy and the children’s section. Curious, I began pulling random YA books from the shelves, but nothing really grabbed me until I saw a line of thin, black books, resting on the bottom shelf.  I reached for one of the titles, and an electric shock traveled up my arm.  Despite its terrible cover art, I knew I’d found my Soulmate.

This was my first vampire-boyfriend book and though I’m no longer a fan of what’s become a cliché in paranormal fiction, I can still enjoy this book with its tight narrative; strong heroine and old soul, Hannah Snow; cool other-life flash backs; and mega antagonist, Maya the vamp-i-ya.  Without giving too much away, I found the ending rather satisfying as Hannah had to save herself.

I remember my mother wanted to “check” the book before I read it, but I took it to my room and ate it in three hours.  Emerging from my room, I proceeded to wander about the house, ghost-like–not sure exactly what just happened…but knowing I wanted more.

If, one day, somebody reads my book and gets that post-reading, fantasy high, I will have done my job.

Michelle Joyce Bond

YA Romance Reviews

When You Read RELATIVITY by Cristin Bishara…

relativityScience fangirl Ruby Wright has a lovesick puppy of a father who moves her out to the middle-of-nowhere Ohio in order to cement his long-distance relationship–an act that simultaneously obliterates Ruby’s chances with the dream boy who’s recently rebounded into her waiting arms.  Ruby’s stepmother is flaky, her stepsister is psycho, and her “new” high school is crumbling into the ground.  Lamenting the long-ago death of her real mother and general suckitude of her life, Ruby wanders into a cornfield where she makes friends with a lone, creepy oak tree.  It turns out the tree is an entrance to a physics-defying wormhole–a hub between realities.   Is there such a thing as a perfect life…and will Ruby find hers beyond the wooden door?

When you read Relativity, you will question the effects of choice, chance, and fate in your own life.  You will also start looking for doorways in tree trunks.

Bishara takes her book to the next level, blending the young adult paranormal genre with elements of a psychological thriller reminiscent of The Butterfly Effect.  I absolutely love the protagonist whose cynicism, wit, and obsession with scientific facts color the way she sees the world.  I give this one five out of five creepy trees!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Photo credit: goodreads.com http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17286818-relativity

YA Romance Reviews

Microreview in Twenty or Less: Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

imageFormerly average high school senior screws up, pumps up, and gets pinned with a crime he didn’t commit.  Read it!

Think you can write a better microreview of Twisted in twenty words or less?  All challengers welcome!  Alternatively, if you’ve read and enjoyed this book, please leave your thoughts below.  🙂