What We’ve Been Reading: August 2015

What We've Been Reading: August 2015When The Daily Quirk team isn’t writing, they’re reading! We decided it would be fun to share our bibliophilia with you by listing what we have been reading each month and giving you our opinions on a three point scale: Must Read, Maybe, or Skip It. Have fun checking out what pages we’ve been turning and feel free to share your own recent reads in the comments! Continue reading

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TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE (Image Credit: Jenny Han)

Book Review: ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’ by Jenny Han

TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE (Image Credit: Jenny Han)

TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE (Image Credit: Jenny Han)

Here’s a nightmare scenario for you: imagine that you have written private love letters to all the people you ever had a huge crush on as a teenager. Imagine you sealed these letters up and shoved them in a closet; a symbolic way to get over the person and move on. Imagine someone sends the letters without your knowledge. Terrifying, right?! That’s the set-up for Jenny Han’s new contemporary YA novel, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Our highly embarrassed protagonist is Lara Jean, and she’s the sort of girl that you actually don’t see represented much in YA – she’s smart but not type A or heavily involved in extracurricular activities, she’s neither particularly popular or particularly unpopular, and she’s a “good” girl who likes to follow rules, hang out with her family, and stay out of trouble. Lara Jean’s life starts getting a little crazy when her older sister, Margot, heads off to college in Scotland and leaves Lara Jean to keep things running smoothly with her single dad and precocious younger sister, Kitty. But things really get out of control when one of Lara Jean’s former crushes, the popular Peter, hands her the extremely personal love letter she thought was safely tucked away in her closet.

Lara Jean realizes all of her love letters were sent, and she’s terrified that Margot’s barely-ex boyfriend Josh, a longtime family friend, will freak out when he realizes Lara Jean was crushing on him long before he got together with Margot. She doesn’t want to compromise their friendship, so she strikes up a deal with Peter: they’ll pretend to be dating so Lara Jean can save face with Josh and Peter can make his ex-girlfriend jealous.

I absolutely love these ridiculous story setups where people put on some kind of charade for a rather high school-ish reason and end up in way over their heads. It doesn’t take long before Lara Jean gets to know Peter better and realize she might have actual feelings for him after all, but she’s fully aware that a popular charmer like Peter is probably not so into her. But even though the faux relationship is prominent in the story, there’s more to it than that. Lara Jean is also learning to take responsibility and take care of her family, she’s forced to step outside her social comfort zone, and she struggles with a newly strained relationship with Margot.

What I love about Jenny Han’s writing is her ability to capture a really authentic teenage voice, and particularly the voice of a girl like Lara Jean who isn’t often featured in YA (or any entertainment, really) but who represents so many teenagers. Sometimes Lara Jean comes off as a bit immature – she still says “Daddy,” for example – but her experiences and her growth are portrayed so realistically. Han does a fantastic job of digging out really authentic teenage feelings and moments; it really helps readers relate to her characters and understand their choices.

I also love how Han writes quite succinctly, but peppers her writing with almost weirdly specific details that are just the right details to totally bring the story to life. She really nails the specifics that are important to a teenage girl; it’s almost uncomfortable sometimes because you’re forced to remember a few of your own embarrassing teenage tendencies. Sometimes it’s challenging to see just how much importance Lara Jean places on things that, as a reader, are clearly not that big of a deal, but you can absolutely remember doing the exact same thing when you were in high school.

While you might jump into To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before expecting, well, a love story, that’s not exactly what you’ll get. There’s definitely an element of that as Lara Jean’s agreement with Peter unfolds, but it’s more of a coming-of-age story for Lara Jean. Reading this book is like reading the journal of a thoughtful 16-year-old; it’s that authentic-feeling. While the ending is a bit open-ended, setting up for a sequel in 2015, the book still ends with a note of resolution. The story is quick and sweet but still has depth and dimension; my favorite combination of traits in a YA contemporary novel. Perfect for a rainy weekend or an afternoon by the pool, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before will thrill Jenny Han fans and also hits all the notes to be a crowd-pleaser for all YA contemporary readers.

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Fire with Fire (Image Credit: Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian)

Book Review: ‘Fire With Fire’ (Burn For Burn #2) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Fire with Fire (Image Credit: Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian)

Fire with Fire (Image Credit: Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian)

Fire With Fire is the second book in Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivan’s Burn For Burn trilogy. This review may contain spoilers for the first book, Burn For Burn.

Burn For Burn was easily one of the strangest books I read in the past year. But strange in a good way. The premise, which involves a group of girls coming together to seek revenge on different people who have wronged them, is not something that necessarily would have caught my eye under normal circumstances. I am, however, a huge fan of Jenny Han’s Summer books and I love her style of writing – sort of sparse, but still incredibly descriptive; and her ability to capture an authentic teenage voice is just fantastic.  So I put aside the fact that I don’t generally get too excited about a revenge story and decided to give Burn For Burn a try. I ended up being pleasantly surprised as I got to know the three main characters – queen bee Lilliah, rebellious Kat and timid Mary don’t have much in common at first, but through the course of plotting their revenge schemes they develop a surprising friendship. Continue reading