GeekeryDo

romance

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: PS I STILL LOVE YOU, WRITTEN IN THE STARS, and THE FORBIDDEN WISH

BooksKristina PinoComment

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

I picked up this book without knowing it's a sequel until it was "too late" (the first book is called To All The Boys I've Loved Before). Even so, I had no trouble getting into the story and Han does a good job of dropping hints and exposition here and there so everyone's on the same page. This is a sweet romance-type story, but it also covers a lot of ground when it comes to modern teen life in general. The consequences of posting mean things online, gender politics and how circumstances affect different people, and an examination of love and heartbreak are all touched upon here through Lara Jean's perspective. I liked being in her head through all of this and seeing how she reacts to and learns from these experiences.

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

This is one of those hard to read, gut-wrenching type stories. Naila's super conservative parents don't allow her to date, or even speak with any boys, and it's their tradition to choose her future husband for her. She gets caught dating Saif, and they whisk her away to Pakistan where she thought she was just going on vacation to visit family, but later finds out her parents have chosen a husband for her and planned for her to wed and stay behind. Eventually, as a reader, you start seeing that things are just going to get worse and worse, and you read with sort of a sense of dread for Naila, but there's hope: Saif is looking for her and trying to get her out of her horrible situation. I found myself rooting for Naila the entire time, facing all these things happening to her and choosing to survive.

ForbiddenWish_BOM.indd

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

You might know the story of Aladdin, but you won't recognize this version. Aladdin is the son of rebels, expected to rise up with the people, but chooses a life of thievery instead. Jinni has been stuck in her lamp for eons, punished for befriending her last master, sitting in the ruins of her dear friend's old kingdom. When Aladdin finds the lamp and whisks her away, the king of all the jinn charges her with a mission in exchange for the tantalizing reward of freedom. The problem is, using her new master to her ends is at odds with the simple fact that she's falling in love with him. As far as love stories go, this one is ridiculously satisfying, and the whole thing is written as if it were a long, long letter to her dear, old friend. Fresh format, and excellent spin to the story of Aladdin and the lamp.

2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Task 5 - FOUR NIGHTS WITH THE DUKE by Eloisa James

BooksKristina PinoComment

As a young girl, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington told the annoying future Duke of Pindar that she would marry any man in the world before him—so years later she is horrified to realize that she has nowhere else to turn.

Evander Septimus Brody has his own reasons for agreeing to Mia's audacious proposal, but there's one thing he won't give his inconvenient wife: himself.

Instead, he offers Mia a devil's bargain...he will spend four nights a year with her. Four nights, and nothing more. And those only when she begs for them.

Which Mia will never do.

Now Vander faces the most crucial challenge of his life: he must seduce his own wife in order to win her heart—and no matter what it takes, this is the one battle he can't afford to lose.

Romance is one of those genres I have never really read into or tried for myself, so picking a book for this task was as simple as grabbing the first title I'd heard of (because of author/book buzz) when I was at a book store. At the time of writing this post, I'm actually three chapters in, and I'm already rather liking it! If this is the book that gets me "into" romance as a reading genre, then I'll have opened up a whole huge world of book options for myself. And really, that's the point of the challenge.

Of course, in case it wasn't clear, this book fulfills the romance task of the Read Harder Challenge.

Book Review: ALIAS HOOK by Lisa Jensen

BooksKristina PinoComment
"'Every child knows how the story ends. The wicked pirate captain is flung overboard, caught in the jaws of the monster crocodile who drags him down to a watery grave. But it was not yet my time to die. It's my fate to be trapped here forever, in a nightmare of childhood fancy, with that infernal, eternal boy.'
Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.
With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their neverending game. Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen is a beautifully and romantically written adult fairy tale perfect for fans of Gregory Maguire and Paula Brackston."
Listen to a bestseller for $7.49 at audible.com!

I was in the mood for some kind of fairy tale back story, a book that explored a character from a world I already knew and loved, so I was delighted when Alias Hook caught my radar. Captain James Hook is the star of this outfit, and this is the story of what got him into Neverland in the first place, and how he gets himself out, after centuries of suffering. I don't need to get into much more detail there since the above description (blurbage from its listing) pretty much covers the premise.

My knowledge of Peter Pan and his world had always been from watching the various films until a couple of years ago when, curious, I picked up the book itself. I was kind of disappointed, and I've found that I just don't like reading books where I'm not cheering for the main character - unlikeable 'protagonists' are simply not my cup of tea. But villains always have this great opportunity to be super interesting, and Alias Hook is a great fleshing-out of a possible history (and redemption) of Pan's nemesis.

Hook is instantly a character I wanted to cheer for, because Jensen started the story in the middle, letting Hook, already an empty husk and haunted by his past, give us his history with the wisdom of retrospection. He recalls all the events of his life leading up to what got him in the Neverland with all the sorrow and hopelessness of a person who knows they royally messed up, and would do anything to just be done with it all. He didn't even know that he'd been given an opportunity to reform, repent, and resume with his life (woo, alliteration!) until it was all but spelled out to him after the arrival of Stella, the first adult woman in Neverland's history.

I loved their romance, and the time the author took to give it life. I guess it took a while because part of the point of the story was for Hook to finally "grow up." And learning to love, really love someone, and put their needs and well-being well above your own desires, is something he needed. To this end, the story meanders a bit, and Hook takes a grand tour of the various habitations around the Neverland, learns about how the braves and fey and mermaids and everyone live, and what all their roles are in that dream world.

For some folks, it might be too much information, too far removed from the core story, especially combined with all the chapters that were dedicated to back story, pirating, plundering, and pillaging. I liked it, though - the expansion of that world I already liked, and done so cleverly and lovingly, mixed together with Hook's memories of being a part of the real world.

Though I liked Hook's character in this story, I suppose others might find him stubborn and frustrating. It's the flip side to the slow buildup of his romance with Stella - Hook takes forever to finally give in.

With all that in mind, please do consider giving this a read. If you're the sort of person who likes their stories with a bit of extra meat to chew on, more exploration/world-building, and a different look at a character generally beloved, thought to be a symbol of innocence and happiness, this is probably for you.

Book Review: THRALL by Jennifer Quintenz

BooksKristina PinoComment
Braedyn is a normal girl just trying to survive high school with her two devoted friends, Royal and Cassie. Together they’re doing a pretty good job of shrugging off the slings and arrows cast their way by the popular crowd when a new boy, Lucas, moves into the house next door. Suddenly Braedyn finds herself falling in love for the first time.
But as her sixteenth birthday approaches, Braedyn discovers humankind is at war with the Lilitu, an ancient race of enticing demons that prey on human souls. Her father is a member of the Guard fighting against the Lilitu – and so are the new neighbors, including her crush, Lucas.
As her world starts to unravel at the seams, Braedyn learns the right answers aren’t always clear or easy. And as for “good” and “evil” – it all depends on how we choose to act.
Inspired by the ancient Mesopotamian myths of Lilith and her offspring, Thrall explores first love, strong friendships, and taking on adult responsibilities against the backdrop of powerful supernatural forces and life-and-death stakes.

Though I was already intrigued by the synopsis (quoted above) for this story, it would be remiss of me to leave out that a big chunk of the reason why I gave it a chance is because the author is so darn nice. Being a cool person always makes it 100% more likely I'll look into your work, and I have to be choosy about what books I take on for review these days. So when this came my way, I was more than happy that the decision was almost made for me after a more than pleasant email exchange with Quintenz.

Though Thrall is a debut novel, it doesn't read like the kind of work that new authors tend to release, and this might be in part to Quintenz's previous work with graphic novels and writing for television. The writing is tight, lacking superficial fluff, and it gave me hope that YA Paranormal Romance is still doable. This is absolutely a situation where taking something with an open mind paid off.

The pacing is brilliant, and up until around the 65% point of the book, the narrative slowly built up and up towards the action. The bottom 35% of the book is fast-paced, but not rushed. Quintenz gave us ample time to get to know the characters, get a handle on the relationships they had with each other, and become attached to a few people (always dangerous in these kinds of stories). Their frustrations became mine, and I found myself tense with excitement as I stumbled over the words in an attempt to read faster and faster.

There's a lot to love about Thrall besides its intriguing story mixed up with old myths and legends. Its cast is diverse, but not two-dimensional. Braedyn, the main character, doesn't have the traditional home life with two parents, but the one parent she does have is fiercely loyal to and protective of her in all the best ways. Another point for Braedyn is though she stumbles a little along the way, she shoulders the responsibilities given her (and consequences of her actions) without turning herself into a martyr. This is only the first book in a series, and as I already brought up albeit subtly, anything paranormal can mean the end of a character you love at any time, and sometimes without warning. But I'm happy to report that I was thoroughly satisfied with the ending, which tied the ends nicely for this tale, but left enough questions for the series to continue. It doesn't make this book objectively better that it has a happy ending, but I personally like them.

Thrall brings plenty of action and excitement to the big battle between angels, demons, and the humans in between while also maintaining a whole lot of heart. Though this sort of story is done often - you know the one, the main character is right in the middle of all the drama and it's up to them to save the world - the paranormal aspects of the story didn't take over completely. Like any good YA novel, it focused a lot on growing up, and relationships, and choosing the right path, even when it isn't easy. Responsibility, self-discipline, and the importance of teamwork were also big themes. Combine that with the aforementioned non-fluff aspect, and you've got yourself a well-written story that is absolutely worth your time and support if YA (and/or paranormal romance) is your thing.

Thanks again to Jennifer Quintenz for providing me with a review copy, and I'm looking forward to catching up with the other two books that are currently released in this series!

Thoughts on: 'The Courtship of Princess Leia' by Dave Wolverton

BooksKristina Pino2 Comments
Though I've always called myself a Star Wars fan, and have generally kept track of some of the happenings in the expanded universe, I've never actually, until now, picked up a book or comic that continues telling stories in this universe I so enjoy. Part of the reason why is because there were just so many different Star Wars books to choose from that I had no idea where to start. It wasn't until I saw this article on TOR by Emily Asher-Perrin that I finally turned my attention to this little problem and decided it was time to fix it.

After checking out Emily's list and asking around, The Courtship of Princess Leia won out as the definitive must-read, and I dug in. I'm not framing this as a review, though... just putting some thoughts down before I move on to the next thing.

I can't pin down exactly what it was about the writing that didn't totally "do it" for me. The story just sucked me in hardcore, and I was with these characters all the way, but just something was kind of bugging me throughout. My current hypothesis is it's just the language of the genre, and I haven't read enough sci-fi to fully appreciate it. It didn't stop me though, and it won't keep me from reading more Star Wars books.

The story itself is just so bizarre and unabashed, that once it was all said and done, I couldn't really imagine things going a different way between Han and Leia. It's one of those things where, I already knew that they stay together and have kids and continue having adventures, but it never occurred to me that they'd have such a wild ride leading up to their wedding. And why wouldn't they? Their characters simply demand it, and their personalities were set to clash at some point. Some bits were predictable, but none of that is the author's fault, since I already knew some "spoilers" about the continuing adventures of various characters.

I liked all the main characters in this book, and now I'm especially interested in reading more of Luke's adventures as a Jedi. I'm about 99% sure that it doesn't exist, but I'm still intensely interested in reading more about Yoda as well, something I mentioned in a previous article already. The next Star Wars-related book I'll be reading is Heir to the Empire (Thrawn Trilogy book 1). I'm looking forward to it!

Book Review: 'The Rose Throne' by Mette Ivie Harrison

Kristina PinoComment
The Rose Throne follows the story of two kingdoms divided by different brands of magic. We read it in the perspectives of two rival princesses who seek the throne that may reunite their kingdoms, yet wish to marry for love. Though I don't generally go for romance, the fantasy aspects of The Rose Throne appealed to me enough that I decided to give this YA fantasy/romance a try.

Princess Ailsbet was born without magic, hates the court, and loves music more than anything else in life. Though she would love to have friends and marry someone she likes, she's been burned a few too many times by people who only pretend to like being around her to trust anyone easily. Marlissa, on the other hand, has plentiful magic and is loved by her people. She, too, dreams of marrying for love and eventually taking the throne, but it's a man's world, and she, like Ailsbet, must abide by the kings' wishes.



It isn't every day that I get to read books that are so strongly feminist (in a good way) it makes me want to smack someone, anyone, while reading. The world that the two princesses live in is one governed by men, where the queens and princesses hardly have a say in anything, and the people with no magic are merely used strategically for trade or diplomacy. And the girls knew what was going on and desired more for themselves (and their gender). I was frustrated for them!

Ailsbet, without any magic of her own, thought she was on her way to being an ambassador or similar for her kingdom. She had pretty much accepted that about her life, though she wanted to get out and just play music without having to worry about politics or kingdoms or anything else. Eventually, we learn that Ailsbet isn't all that she seems, and a few people around her can sense it, too.

Marlissa has the gift that allows her to be in touch with nature. She nurtures the greenery around her castle and teaches people how to use their own magic. She can grow plants in an instant and, if left unchecked, who knows what her limits are? But her life takes a complete turn when she's informed of her own betrothal with Ailsbet's younger brother, the prince of the rivaling kingdom.

Some of the things that stood out with this book:

a) The author isn't afraid to be gruesome while avoiding getting too gory. There is a lot of death in this book, and it's kind of tragic in a way. I don't think it's a bad thing, though. In the end, the often brutal killings made me hate the "bad guys" more, and got me really wound up with the princesses.

b) Though eventually I understood the concepts, in the beginning of the book I was very confused with the different kinds of magic that were introduced for the story. In The Rose Throne, the men generally have one brand of magic, and the women another (people who have the "wrong" kind of magic are generally cast aside). One kingdom embraces both, while the other favors the men's magic. The crux of the plot (beyond romance), is that some people wish the two magics to be reunited: that two people can produce an heir that would wield both.

c) The story wound up to the conclusion a little too quickly compared with the even pacing of the rest of the book, and the ending was abrupt. I almost thought that I'd gotten a corrupted file that cut off a few chapters early, but I saw the end script and knew I'd really come to the last page. It leaves me wanting to know what happens, but it didn't feel like a book ending. It's a good thing this book is part of a series!

d) On to another positive note: I liked that chapters were always in the perspective of either of the main girls. Most of the time, the chapters were in complete chronological order. Other times, we'd read something in the perspective of one princess that occurred in the past of the other. I like this sort of thing, because it gives me a timeline of what each was doing without reading the story from the "outside." Their inner dialogue was interesting to read, since perspectives were such a big theme in the story.

Overall, I recommend The Rose Throne, but it isn't for everyone. I can't imagine most teenage boys would be interested in the story, for one thing, and again - this isn't your normal "princess story." It's definitely a story about love and trying to do well, but it's also a story about women whose futures are generally decided for them by their fathers, though they have the ability to become powerful influences in the sway of politics in the background. I feel that Harrison got a good start with this story here, even if this book didn't meet the absolute, fullest potential the story had.

This book was released on May 14th, 2013 and I received a review copy for Kindle via Netgalley.


Book Review: 'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green

BooksKristina Pino3 Comments

I haven't experienced as much of an emotional rollercoaster while reading ever before as I did with The Fault in Our Stars. Though it's inherently a sad sort of story because of the characters' circumstances, I found myself laughing much between fits of sad sobs. It's the sort of book that rightly deserves every bit of hype it received since its release, and more.

Stars follows the story of 16-year old Hazel who is living with cancer two years post-miracle (miracle drug is prolonging her life). She spends most of her time at home except to go to school or go to a support  group, and one day she meets a boy who turns her life upside down.

Stars is at once a story about dealing with cancer and sickness but absolutely about awkward teenage romance, especially the kind that is "first love."

There has been some polarization among readers in regards to The Fault in Our Stars. For one thing, there are many who are of the mind that John Green had no business writing a book about cancer. I will freely admit that throughout the book, I idly wondered what people who are/have been actually ill with cancer or families of those that have would possibly find this book to be a bit irreverent? But maybe not. I'm not in that group of people, and I can't speak for them.

There's another part of me that has problems with grown men writing stories with female teenage protagonists. It's a weird double-standard, I know, considering so much of the Young Adult material out there is dominated by grown women writing books in the perspectives of young girls and boys as well, and that doesn't bother me nearly as much. I guess that's a personal problem?

I think the main problem I had with Hazel as a character was she was too wise beyond her years. I wasn't nearly as witty at her age, and to have her be so knowledgeable and find a soul mate in someone who could banter with her seems incredibly un-possible. Something about having cancer (or any other terminal disease) in someone's body and having an uncertain or short amount of time left to be alive tends to sober things up a bit - give them a completely different view of life. That's not really how I felt about Hazel. She kept it real, and she lived on irony, but I didn't feel like the cancer was an extraordinary factor in her development as a character.

I should mention though, that John Green went through great pains to make sure he added extra disclaimers in prominent places that the story is completely made up and that he took liberties in some areas, like with medications or treatments. It's clear that this work is meant to use cancer as a vehicle for character depth, or perhaps even to just shock or sadden readers, but that's it. That said -- many people describe Stars as a "cancer book." Personally, after reading it and digesting it, I classify it as a book about falling in love.

Hazel and Augustus go through (almost) all the steps of young teenage love, and that's really what spoke to me. The other parts of the story could have been about anything else -- they could have been music hipsters or buddies at juvie or basically bored kids who want a change of landscape in myriad other situations. After much retrospect, I can only describe The Fault in Our Stars as a book about awkward teen romance with tragic circumstances but an overall positive and heartwarming message.

There are also those out there who complain that for dealing with some heavy themes, Stars is not nearly as deep as it should be. To that I say: what 16-year old kids do you know who are as deep as you expect this book to be? I think it's an unfair expectation, though a confusing one considering my earlier point on Hazel seeming to be wise beyond her years. In the end, they are both silly teenagers with silly ideas, like Augustus' obsession with glorious deaths and holding unlit cigarettes in his mouth. It's such a stupid little quirk, isn't it? But everyone's got a stupid quirk. That was Augustus'.

Though my review has seemed very critical, I do actually recommend this book. I enjoyed reading it from beginning to end -- I was hooked. It might not be for everyone, though. Like I mentioned earlier, I have no idea how people living with cancer or any variation thereof would take something like this, and it just generally might not be everyone's cup of tea. If you look at it from my angle - just the love story - then you might actually really enjoy it. Or maybe you'll just like it in general -- anywhere you look, GoodReads, Amazon, etc. you'll notice this book has nearly 5/5 stars. I would call that a success.

Update: It has come to my attention today that the author does actually take some issue with the criticism that teens in YA books seem to be too witty or smart compared with "real teens." While I can't recall ever knowing any 16-year old girls that were quite up to Hazel's general intellect, I do remember girls who were just as much into poetry and such as to be capable of such banter, and I did know two girls who at the age of 17 got to skip senior year and go straight to college.

More than that though, I'd like to acknowledge that I missed an important point in the book -- while I did mention earlier in my review that The Fault in Our Stars is a tragic love story, I didn't make the connection that it followed through in the classic style, including flowery language. This context adds a dimension to the language in the book in general and helps make more sense of it as a whole. I think this was The Big Thing when you consider this story in a modern context juxtaposed with the language used.

My review isn't going to be changed because those are my impressions after all, but I wanted to add this section to the end here to make sure that the context is understood!

A Night at the Opera: Gounod's 'Romeo et Juliette'

Kristina PinoComment
Image ©Michal Daniel - http://www.proofsheet.com/
For being associated with such distinguished works such as Faust, Romeo et Juliette and the Ave Maria, Gounod's name isn't one I hear thrown around as often as I'd think. Part of the reason why is because apparently most of his work has disappeared completely and is lost in history, which makes me a bit sad to know.

Fortunately for us, what remains is all solid, beautiful work that is revived often enough for everyone to admire. Over the weekend, I went over to the Adrienne Arsht Center to see Romeo et Juliette and was surprised by everything that was incorporated into the production. The scenery was beautiful and well complemented by various light effects such that have been used for Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The casting was perfect and the original play was adapted to give the audience a unique performance based more on the actual relationship between Romeo and Juliette while cutting out a lot of the extra dialogue for the drama that surrounded them. This isn't to say that their family feud wasn't the root of their problems, but the focus was not on that as much as the relationship on a deeper level.

(click through to read more)


I was happy to see the return of Sébastien Guèze, who I'd seen perform during last season's Cyrano as this season's Romeo. He has a beautiful, clear voice that really meshed well with the strong, almost aggressive tone that Maria Alejandres brought to the role of Juliette. Overall they both have fantastic range, which is necessary when playing the role of such young and impulsive characters.

As for the supporting cast, I don't think there could have been a better Mercutio than Jonathan G Michie or a more appropriate Nurse Gertrude than Cindey Sadler. Everyone performed brilliantly, but these two stood out among the rest along with Courtney McKeown  whose wonderful, pleasant voice surprised everyone as the funny Stéphano, a page to the Montagues. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I saw this young boy-ish looking character step in and start poking at the presumed Capulet household with jokes and mild insults, but it had everyone suppressing giggles, myself included.

As far as adaptations go, this is the best I've ever seen of Romeo and Juliet in terms of turning an utter tragedy into something that doesn't have you feeling doom from the start. The tones are overall light throughout the opera and at the very end, we don't have people bursting into the tomb to find Romeo and Juliette cold and dead, then declaring they'd end their feud. It kept things personal throughout and that was enough. It's still tragic at the end, but I like the changes that were made and feel they were for the better. The performances kept the audience in the present rather than dreading the last act.

Unfortunately, and as always, pictures aren't allowed at the opera so I borrowed the main propaganda image (used with permission of the photographer) found on the FGO website and other ticket retail outlets. The image is copyright Michal Daniel and you should check out his site to see all the great pictures he's taken in the theater!

A Night at the Opera: Puccini's 'La Rondine'

Events and PerformancesKristina PinoComment

Not quite drama or comedy, this story about love takes place in trendy Paris during the fashionable '20s. The leading lady, Magda, lives under the protection of a patron and enjoys high society. After the company gathers on stage and sings an arrangement about how love doesn't exist, Magda remembers a fling she had years before, and longs for a meaningful relationship (and some fun, really). She takes off to a popular joint to have her night out, and amid some funny chance encounters, takes off with a man she'd only just met.

Now, this would seem like a fun love story up until this point. I thought so, too, but then Act III happened. She's been with her lover for some time, and when he asks her to marry him she has some misgivings about her past, deciding it'd be too shameful for him to be with her. Instead of going with the "love conquers all" route, the story ends with her returning to her patron back in Paris, "where she belongs."

What gives? An ending like that should be illegal!

Something I learned later that evening is the title, "La Rondine," means "the swallow," as in the bird that goes away for a short while then returns. This little escapade of Magda's was treated as a flight of fancy, and a visiting friend from Paris came by her beach-side getaway to tell her that people were talking. Nobody expected Magda to run off with a lover! And her poor protector, all alone back home.

It's a terrible thing that she decided she didn't deserve to be happy. It would have made for a fun, heart warming ending, but even with the ridiculous turn of events that last Act was just gorgeous.

I was fortunate to get to see this as it premiered at the Florida Grand Opera and hope it returns sometime for more people to enjoy!

There are two more shows this season: Rigoletto, which I'm told is dramatic to the max, and Romeo and Juliet, which I had no idea was also an opera. I'm greatly looking forward to both, and will be writing about them here as I see them!

[image via - [CC] Creative Commons Attribution License. Contents may be re-published when full attribution is given to John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.]

Books that made me love reading: 'Fifteen' by Beverly Cleary

BooksKristina Pino5 Comments

Being 15 is a really big deal. It's that age that we're enjoying the fun bits of early high school life while discovering the joys of dating and falling in love. For me, being 15 is especially important since for Cubans it's our coming of age. It's usually heralded by a big huge party, or more recently girls could choose to take a trip somewhere with the family.

Fifteen is about a girl, Jane Purdy, who is hoping that at some point during her summer vacation some boy will waltz into her life and sweep her off her feet. She has never dated, and does indeed meet a boy during one of her babysitting jobs towards the end of summer break. From there on, the story follows all of Jane's teenage woes and triumphs on her journey to confident young woman and the beginnings of first love.

The suggested age rating printed on the back of the book says "9 and up," which leads me to believe I read this well before I was Jane's age. I'm sure I didn't quite understand every little crisis that she endured, from making sure her mother is wearing stockings (making sure her parents are presentable), or debating whether she should choose coffee or ice cream at Nibley's, the devastation of waiting for a call from a boy all day and getting none, or worse, picking out get-well flowers for said boy and having to deliver them personally.

"Mrs. Purdy went on in a voice so low that Jane had to strain to catch her words. "I'm glad our daughter is a sweet, sensible girl.”
"Mom, how could you, thought Jane. Sweet and sensible- how perfectly awful. Nobody wanted to be sweet and sensible, at least not a girl in high school."

Reading the book now, I'm able to see a lot of these events as trivial, teenage, end of the world occurrences that happened all around me by the time I was in high school. Reading the book now, I can also appreciate the dialogue between Jane and her parents that much more. Lastly, I've also seen that, more than the romance involved, the real main point is to just be yourself and be confident about it. Even if the writing and everything are a bit dated (I just learned it was originally published in the '50s!), the story goes the same way.

On an unrelated note, I also learned something relevant to my life now from Jane: that asking a kid (in a babysitting scenario) to do something you want them to and telling them to do it are two very, very different things. As Jane so brilliantly demonstrated, it could be the difference between a spanky clean kitchen or having to pick up a big mess after turning your back on the kid for just a second while preparing their lunch on duty.

I had some fond memories of the book Fifteen and know I read it several times when I was younger, but considering I'm not much for romance novels I will admit I was worried I'd be re-reading something dreadful. As it turns out, it was a nostalgic trip more than anything else, and honestly a sweet story of first romance that I was glad to revisit. In case you're wondering what happens: Jane indeed gets the boy.

[Buy Fifteen on Amazon]

[image via Harper Collins - Quote is an excerpt from the book]

This post is a part of the Books That Made Me [Heart] Reading Challenge.