Recent book recommendations

These are some books I’ve read, and loved, since 2011 started:

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Miranda’s life is starting to unravel. Her best friend, Sal, gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The key that Miranda’s mum keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives:

‘I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.

I ask two favours. First, you must write me a letter.’

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realises that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

I started reading this book knowing it was set in New York City, concerned two friends, and that A Wrinkle in Time played an important part. I devoured it in two days–it’s a short, but captivating book–and when I finished it, I immediately started flipping back and putting some pieces together. It’s the kind of book that all clicks together and requires a reread for it all to make sense. The best way I can describe is that it’s like a wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey episode of Doctor Who, where everything is layered and all clicks together at the end. Highly recommended!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna has long awaited?

I was so excited about this book since I first heard about it in early 2010. My copy finally arrived in January and I promptly dropped the book I was reading to start Anna. It didn’t disappoint! Perkins wonderfully depicts Paris and being an outsider learning their way through an unfamiliar place. Even better, this is a book that loves the idea of falling in love–the build up to Anna and Etienne’s growing attraction is almost better than the outcome. The attraction between them slowly but steadily develops, built with every conversation, glance and brief touch. A wonderful, wonderful book. I can’t wait for Stephanie Perkins’ next book!

(On a related note, I’d love a YA lesbian book like Anna. Not an issue book, just a book about two girls falling for each other and everything that goes wrong in the process of their getting together.)

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Leviathan

How does one talk about love?

yearning, n./adj.

At the core of this desire is the belief that everything can be perfect.

We are all beginners when it comes to love, from those tentative first dates to learning how to live with, or without, someone. But how does one describe love? How does one chart its delights and pleasures, its depths and desolations? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves? David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary starts where we all once started – with the alphabet.

I first discovered David Leviathan when I stumbled across Boy Meets Boy years in a bookshop during my university years. (Boy Meets Boy also has the distinction of being the first YA GLBT novel I read.) The Lover’s Dictionary is Leviathan’s first adult novel, a chronicle of the ups and downs of a relationship through dictionary entries. The novel is slim, and some of the entries are only a sentence long, but there is powerful emotion layered in the words. I was speechless when I finished and it stayed with me long after I closed the book. A novel that reminds you of the wonderful and painful nuances of love.

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