Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bells, Brides, and Books: A YA Guide to True Love This Wedding Season [Contributor: Megan Mann]

It’s happening. It’s started to fill your Instagram, your Twitter ,and your Facebook is littered with changing relationship statuses. You’re in a world of pun-filled hashtags, airbrushed, over-the-shoulder laughter shots during sunset or on the beach, and so many texts saying, “Oh my god, did you see?” that you don’t even know what to do with yourself.

Yes, my friends. It’s officially wedding season! Since Christmas, you’ve started to see the pictures of the rings and read the stories of the proposals, but now that spring is here and summer is on its way, wedding season is in full swing. So, to get you in the spirit of this season of that butterflies-in-the-stomach, heart-bursting true love, I did a little bit of work for you.

One of my life’s greatest loves has been and always will be the written word. I ran out of room long ago and have since created many end tables out of stacks of Steinbeck and Hemingway, tales of heroism and also evil, far-fetched fantasy and dark reality, fiction and YA, memoir to middle grade. So, it’s safe to say that I have read my fair share of romance in all its variations. As someone who is in love with love, I have created a list full of stories that are sure to melt your heart this wedding season.

Whether you’re single or taken, reeling from a breakup or deeply in love, this list of books will surely have you swept up and heart-eyed.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle is shocked when he meets the over the top, secure-in-himself Dante. Aristotle is closed off when it comes to his feelings, he struggles with his relationship with his family and he’s not sure he’s ever going to really know who he is. Dante is flamboyant, proud of his sexual orientation and has a great relationship with his family. When the two become inseparable over a summer, the two grow in different ways — ways Aristotle doesn’t yet understand.

I truly wept in this book. Rarely do I ever cry like this, but this was so stunning in its delivery and its message that you couldn’t help but be moved to tears. This is a rare love story that will have you hugging the book as you close the last page.

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

Julie Baker has loved Bryce Loski since the first time she laid eyes on him when they were just five years old. Bryce has hated her for just as long. By the time they’re in eighth grade, she starts to realize that what she loves is superficial and maybe he’s not the sum of his parts. At the same time, Bryce is realizing that maybe he was wrong about Julie — maybe she’s more than he could ever have imagined. Thanks to a Sycamore tree, they’ll figure out how to see someone for more than they are.

Sure, a book that is about eighth-graders may not necessarily appeal to you, but this is a truly beautiful story. I’ve never not cried watching the near-flawless movie adaptation, and it has some of the sweetest love quotes you’ll find. It’s a quick read that will make your heart swell and make you believe in all the magic that love possesses. 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean has been in love before. It’s just that the boys she loves don’t know it. Instead of telling them, she would write them letters explaining, in detail, everything she’s ever felt and the way she loves them. She keeps all five letters in an antique hatbox so that she can keep her love to herself. Only one day, the letters are gone and the boys confront her about each of their letters. This makes Lara Jean’s life a little complicated since one of the boys is her older sister’s boyfriend. This then leads to a fake relationship with Peter, one of the receivers, that confuses Lara Jean even more.

If you loved her previous The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy, you’ll love this and its sequel. There are so many sweet and tender moments that you wonder how, exactly, Han nailed everything you ever felt in high school so well. I wouldn’t read this if you’re on a diet though. This book is full of sweet treats.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna’s senior year is flipped upside down when her pretentious romance novelist father takes her out of her Atlanta high school and sends her to a Parisian boarding school. But it’s not so bad when she meets Etienne St. Clair, a force of nature who — very sadly — has a girlfriend. As she tries to hide her feelings for him and swears to just be friends, it’s clear that she can’t contain them and neither can he. The feeling between them is palpable and nearly flies off the page. In the city of love, will they find it?

If you’ve never wanted to date a book, it’s because you haven’t yet read this one. It pulsates with energy from the moment they meet and the back and forth between the two characters keeps you on the edge of your seat. It hammers your heart against your ribcage and makes you want to fall in love.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Park is sitting on the bus listening to music and reading his comics when the new girl walks on — to jeers from the other passengers. Her wild red hair, thicker frame, and patchy clothes leave her open to ridicule and closed off to any of the open seats. When she sits next to Park, it’s obvious that they won’t be talking. But soon, they start to. The conversation begins with comics and then transitions to music and then... to everything. Everything except what Eleanor doesn’t want anyone to know. When Park finds out, there’s nothing more he wants to do than protect her.

An unconventional love story, the love of Eleanor and Park is sweet and subtle. It’s not all-consuming, nor is it immediate. It’s gradual and satisfying and heartbreaking all at once. Hurry up and read this before it becomes a movie!

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

A rolling blackout strikes the northeast, halting the elevator Lucy and Owen find themselves in. After getting out, they have nothing else to do but roam the darkened streets and see New York City in a different light — or lack thereof. But this is their last night in the city. Lucy’s family is on their way to London and, after losing his maintenance job, Owen and his father are making a cross-country trip toward California. But this night still stays with them. They find ways to keep in touch, but until they meet again, how will they ever know what will work?

If you have a serious case of wanderlust, this is the book for you. It crosses the U.S., crosses an ocean, and crosses many different time zones. It makes you want to pick up and go — to find that sense of wonderment and love. And it depicts the power of love during a confusing time.

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

Jessica Darling is sixteen and upset about her best friend moving away. What is she supposed to do now? How is she supposed to deal with her dad’s serious obsession with her track meets and her annoying older sister’s over-the-top wedding plans? How is she going to deal with her ex-best friends at school and her mom’s hopes that she will become more like her older sister? In swoops Marcus Flutie, a boy Jessica met in middle school and who is so not her type. But if that's true, why does she find herself swooning at his ironic Backstreet Boys shirt and the origami notes she finds slipped into her pockets?

Buckle up, because this is a love story that spans five books and will tear at every single one of your heart strings all the way from butterflies to heartbreak and back again. You’ll want to slow down and enjoy every last word of Marcus Flutie’s and only hope to have that feeling one day.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

In a distant United States, now named Illea, the royal family’s only son will embark on his selection: a competition featuring girls from the castes vying for the heart of the prince. This year is different. In an attempt to win favor over the unruly lower castes, the palace opens this year’s selection to girls from all the castes. America Singer has no desire to enter, but her mother is insistent. What if she was picked? What if the prince fell in love with her? That wouldn’t matter to America as she’s in love with Aspen, a boy from a lower caste — a boy her parents would never let her marry. When America is chosen from the thousands of entries, she’s heartbroken. But once she reaches the castle and forms a bond with the prince, would staying be so bad?

If you love The Bachelor, I would take yourself to the store right now to get your hands on this series. It’s like that show, but in a dystopian America and the winner becomes the next queen. I mean, talk about a step up. You will devour this series and fall madly in love with America and Maxon. Hurry up! This one is getting the movie treatment too!

Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

Dash is roaming through one of the world’s most iconic bookstores, Strand Books in New York City, when he stumbles upon a red notebook among the stacks. When he opens it, he sees it’s full of dares just waiting to be taken. When he’s done and he’s written in it, he places it back on the shelf and waits. Lily is shocked to discover that someone has accepted her challenges and written back. As the book goes back and forth across the city, the two are curious about each other. But what if when they meet and the other isn’t as great in person as they are on paper? What if they, themselves, aren’t as great off the page?

David Levithan knows romance. He writes it so well that the other two books he’s written with Rachel Cohn — Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List — have both been made into movies. This one is for the nerdy guys and gals out there who dream of a literary romance of their own. It’ll sweep you up and keep you wondering what’s coming next.

Wedding season can make a cynic out of anyone, so I encourage you to indulge in a tender story that will make your life all the sweeter. Revel in the magic of love and the honesty in writing it. Remember that true love comes in many different forms, that a happy ending is just a page turn away, and yours is waiting to be written.


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