#ThrowbackThursday – Sweet Valley Twins

First of all, I’m LOL’ing at these covers. Teenagers, welcome to the late 80’s and early 90’s…

I can’t believe I read books with covers this cheesy.

Anyway, I think Francine Pascal actually started with the Sweet Valley High books, which feature beautiful, blond, popular, identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica. Their adventures are cheesy, dramatic, wonderfully campy, romantic, and super edgy… I mean, check out the covers from Don’t Go Home With John and Teacher Crush. Hahahahahahahaha

Seriously though, these books were GREAT fun, and Francine Pascal is my hero – she created these worlds and then other people wrote lots of the books (there are some ridiculous number like 400+ of them). And now she lives in New York AND the South of France. REALLY? Tough life.

She is still writing some current books, including a ten years later book featuring Jessica and Elizabeth. I haven’t read any of her recent stuff yet. I have a few requested from the library. There are also several reprints of the Sweet Valley High books… if you ever find one, you should check it out just for fun. Or, next time you’re at the Goodwill, you’re bound to find some super cheap used copies.

Enjoy some cheesy throwback fun! :)

Thanksgiving and a Friday Favorite: Black Friday Shopping!

Each Thanksgiving, we enjoy spending time with our family and giving thanks to God for all we’ve been blessed with. And, this year, we’re starting a new family tradition of going out to serve others after we have our family meal. I’m excited that we’re focusing on giving thanks and giving back to our community.

And then, because I am a red-blooded American girl, I will stay up and plan out my strategies, map out a route, and prepare for battle.

Black Friday shopping is one of my favorite family traditions. Nothing beats the fun of standing in line at midnight, conspiring about what you’re doing as soon as you get in the store, or the thrill of the hunt once you get in. One time, about ten years ago, my sister in law seriously elbowed people in a KB toy store… over a Furby. Yep, a Furby. Another year we made it our mission to get as many free doorbuster giveaways as possible… so we went from line to line to line just to get free, cheaply made ornaments and stuff. Now, my husband and I brave lines and flying shopping carts all over the city in search of the perfect Christmas gifts for our kids. It’s good times, people.

Whatever your family’s holiday traditions are, I wish you all the best. My hope and prayer for you would be that Thanksgiving and the time spent with your family would be not just something to endure, but to ENJOY with your whole heart. <3

When It Happens

I swear I’m not just recommending this book because it has an allusion to Say Anything, which is one of the greatest YA stories of all time… but it did make me an instant fan of Susane Colasanti.In fact, it’ll be the focus of a new Throwback Thursday blog feature.

When It Happens is a great story told from two points of view (LOVE IT). Sara and Tobey are, quite simply, meant to be together. Tobey knows Sara is The One. Sara is a little too interested in the thrill of a shot at popularity to notice it right away, but when it does happen, it’s wonderful in a super happy heart kind of way. Along the way, it’s impossible not to fall for Tobey’s adorable self and identify with everything Sara deals with. And I love, love, love getting two character’s POVs on the same incident. It’s such an effective way of developing characters and letting the audience really get to know their personalities. Colasanti is able to write two distinct personalities in Sara and Tobey that make this book irresistible.

You should read this. Enjoy. ;)

Friday Favorite: Blue Like Jazz

If there’s one book that’s had the biggest impact on my faith, personality, and general outlook on life (other than the default Christian answer, the Bible), it’s Donald Miller‘s Blue Like Jazz.

Now, I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. I don’t know why it doesn’t do much for me usually, but it just doesn’t. This book, though… it grabbed me and pulled me in. I first read this when it came out almost ten years ago, and though I’ve never gone back and reread the whole thing, there are STILL portions of Donald Miller’s prose that absolutely are stuck in my head in the best way possible.

I highly recommend this for everybody. Everybody. Whether you consider yourself a person of faith or not, you’ll find this fascinating. And if you do consider yourself a Christian, this will challenge and stretch and inspire you in ways you can’t even imagine… but in the end, it’ll be so very worth it. I think this book is even more relevant today with our nation’s social and political turmoil than it was even when it was first published. We are supposed to love, not hate, and Blue Like Jazz does a great job of reminding us of that. While this is not YA Lit specifically, I think this is a WONDERFUL read for teens, especially as you’re getting out of high school or are in college and forming your adult self.

There’s also a movie a based on this book. It’s fabulous. Donald Miller was fully involved in the making of the movie, so while it’s not just a movie of the book, it’s a movie inspired by the book that carries the same message from the author. The movie is not a substitute for reading the book. They work together. So read the book AND watch the movie, in whichever order you prefer.

My husband and I were honored to get invited to a special screening of the movie before it hit theaters, where we got to meet Donald Miller himself! It was awesome.

I’m going to let the book speak for itself by sharing some of my favorite passages below. ENJOY! :)

“The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: life is a story about me.” 
― Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz 
“There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing.” 
― Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz 
“…I want my spirituality to rid me of hate, not give me reason for it.” 
― Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz 
“Believing in God is as much like falling in love as it is making a decision. Love is both something that happens to you and something you decide upon.” 
― Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

#ThrowbackThursday: Say Anything

Say Anything is like everything you’d hope to see in a great YA book but come to life in a classic late 80’s movie. There’s one thing that puts it over the top and makes it completely irresistible, though… Lloyd Dobler. And, as the front of the DVD box so correctly states, to know Lloyd Dobler is to love him.

This is your classic slacker guy has a huge crush on overachiever girl kind of story, but something about it is absolutely magical. I’ve seen this movie so many times and I never get tired of it. I think my favorite thing about it really is Lloyd Dobler. Not because the young John Cusack is hot (though, really, he was) – but because of the way he pursues Diane Court. He knew he wanted to be with her. He knew they were meant to be together. So, he set out to make it happen. I think every girl wants to feel that wanted and worthy of pursuit. To feel cherished.

If you’ve never seen this, you should really watch it. Enjoy!

The Truth About Forever

I have to admit, I’ve only recently become a fan of Sarah Dessen. My students have read her books non-stop for years, but I never really gave them a fair chance. I just assumed they’d be simple and stereotypical plots. But, that assuming? It totally made an ass of me. I’ve read several of Dessen’s books now, but the one that absolutely solidified my status as a legit fan (to the point where I follow her on both twitter and instagram) was The Truth About Forever.

The protagonist of this novel, Macy, maintains insane control of her life as she strives (and achieves, sickeningly) perfection in everything she does. This stems from the traumatic death of her father and the way that her family has dealt with that loss. And though, on the outside, it looks like Macy is a pristine model of the perfect life, in reality she’s just sad. Her relationship with her boyfriend is sad. Her relationship with her mom is sad. Her life in general is just sad.

Luckily, Macy meets an entirely new group of people who are everything she needs. She learns to act like she’s alive again. She laughs and argues and smiles and talks. It’s a good thing… especially as a relationship begins with Wes, leaving her to decide what to do about her “perfect” boyfriend.

Dessen’s style is unique. Her writing is charming and enjoyable, but also very real and authentic. Life’s not always sunshine and roses, but you have to find some sunshine to warm your face and some roses to delight your senses in every rough spot you go through. You just have to. Dessen has an understated, graceful way of putting that life lesson into her books, and the result is addicting and inspirational. I’m sure we’ll see her on the blog again later as a Friday Favorite. :)

For now, though, go read The Truth About Forever. It’s wonderful in ways you’d never expect. I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Life can be long or short, it all depends on how you choose to live it. It’s like forever, always changing. For any of us our forever could end in an hour, or a hundred years from now. You can never know for sure, so you’d better make every second count. What you have to decide is how you want your life to be. If your forever was ending tomorrow, is this how you’d want to have spent it?” 

― Sarah DessenThe Truth About Forever

Enjoy this story!

Stealing Parker

WOW this book caught my attention immediately. I seriously went to bed at 8:30 last night just so I could lay there and start reading… but then I couldn’t put it down and actually go to sleep until I’d finished it!

In Stealing Parker, Miranda Kenneally deals with a whole crapload of issues that are VERY relevant to teenagers right now, but she did it in this neat, compact, fast-moving way that was so well written I didn’t even realize how much stuff I was having to think about. It was a really fun read, and I instantly connected with the protagonist, Parker, through her struggles and snippets of journal entries (which she mostly burned, so the pyro in me enjoyed that immensely).

One of the main issues Parker has to deal with is her Christian faith and how it has been affected by the recent divorce of her parents. The way Kenneally writes about this is uncomfortable, but so very authentic and real. It’s true that sometimes Christians get it all wrong – none of us are perfect – and the way that’s portrayed in this book is eye opening and heart breaking, but it’s not blasphemous or disrespectful. It’s just honest. Now, I will say that I didn’t agree theologically with some of what Parker’s mom ends up telling her, and I have some other theological disagreements with lifestyle choices in this book, but the bottom line is that it made me think without challenging my own faith.I think that’s a good thing. I wouldn’t, though, recommend this for anyone under high school age (like, UPPER high school) or anyone who’s not solid in their own beliefs. It’s a challenging read in that area.

I absolutely loved the infusion of softball and baseball into this fun romance, too. I never realized how much I seriously enjoyed playing softball until I stopped after 10 years, so it was really fun for me personally to read a book with that as an element in it. It doesn’t seem like there are many YA novels out there with sports-playing female protagonists, but maybe I just haven’t found them.

And of course there’s plenty of romance, which I just can’t get enough of. Parker finds herself attracted to and flirting with the new assistant baseball coach (he’s 23, and she’s turning 18 in less than 2 months). While the age difference really wouldn’t be that big of a deal once she’s out of high school, the flirtation is scandalous just because he’s a teacher and she’s still a student. In the beginning you’re almost rooting for them, kind of like Aria and Ezra from Pretty Little Liars. But then there’s also this guy that she’s been competing with academically for years, but now that her position as valedictorian is secure, she can look at him as more than just the competition. I won’t give away too much. Just know that in the end, it’s all good and delightfully romantic.


You had my heart from page one…

I just picked up Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally from the library. I’ve only read the first page so far, but it was a really, really engaging first page. It made me look forward to bedtime later so I can curl up under the covers and stay up way too late reading. I’ll review/recommend it in coming days, of course.

I’m curious, though. What kinds of “first pages” engage you? What hooks you into a novel and makes you want to keep reading immediately?

It’s All About The Beach

First of all, take a minute and look at this cover. Really. Look at it. Imagine yourself there. Who wouldn’t want to be spending their weekend on that balcony, reading a book, listening to the waves? Exactly. Everybody in their right mind would want to be there right now, which is why I’m recommending it this weekend.

The Guest Book is a great modern romantic read for any time of year. Of course, right now as we head into winter, it’ll have you looking forward to the fun possibilities that every summer brings and begging your parents for a weekend at the beach. Like, NOW. The characters are fun and full of life, especially Macy, the protagonist. There is a sweet, very romantic mystery involving the Guest Book that had me guessing all the way to the end and left my heart super happy.

Enjoy the book… pretend you’re on that porch on the cover as you read. It’ll make it even more fabulous.

I’m blessed to know this author personally (a bunch of her kids have already had to endure my Language Arts class, and her youngest once chased my son around the church classroom to kiss him when they were two years old… hahaha). Marybeth Whalen and her family have had a great impact on me personally, for which I’m eternally grateful.

But, while all of that it nice and warm and fuzzy, it’s not the reason I’m recommending her book on my blog. I’m recommending it because it’s GOOD STUFF. When I first read it, I found myself becoming totally jealous of this family and their annual time in the beach house, as well as the protagonist’s fun, artsy, mysterious romance. I wanted to stalk the locations and spend my summer in it. I resisted, but mostly just for financial reasons. :)

Anyway, Marybeth Whalen’s books aren’t typically what you’d consider YA or teen fiction, but teenage girls love them! I’ve had them in my classroom library, and they’re checked out regularly. While I’m focusing on The Guest Book for this recommendation, I also would recommend The Mailbox for teen readers. Yeah, the protagonist is older, but it’s overall a hopeful story that inspires younger girls.

Friday Favorite: The New Girl & Schmidt

I swear this show makes me laugh more than any show has since Scrubs. It’s funny and smart and nerdy and witty, full of great characters that make you wish you could go live with them. 

The premise is that three guys need a roommate, and Jess answers their ad. She her quirky sweet self into the apartment and all kinds of hilariousness ensues. And I love that it’s on Tuesdays so I have something to look forward to early in the week. 
As for as the YA world goes, this is definitely probably high school and up… the content is hilarious but not really at a middle school level. I mean, it’s not raunchy like Jersey Shore, but a few of the episodes have been heavy on the sexual topics. 
One of the best gifts The New Girl has given us is the character of Schmidt. He’s hands down the funniest character and is constantly doing things for which he has to put money into the “Douche Jar.” I’m telling you it’s just funny. This has been such a big hit that the makers of the show have written a book by Schmidt, The Douche Journals, where all pre-show infractions are chronicled in the same witty and hilarious way the show is written. I got it for my birthday. <3
If you haven’t seen it, check out the pilot episode online or on iTunes. Enjoy!