Top Ten Things On My (YA Fantasy) Reading Wishlist

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Fair warning: I am going to rant about villains at the end of this.  Other fair warning: this list is mostly focused on the realm of YA fantasy, because that’s the genre I’m best-versed in!

1.  More epic fantasy in YA.  And I DON’T mean the incredibly cliched stuff.  Was Sabriel cool?  Sabriel was cool.

2.  More nonwhite protagonists.  Or nonbeautiful ones.  Or non-heteronormative ones.  Or…yeah, you get the idea.

3. More fantasy based in places other than Medieval Europe. Nonwestern history is cool too!

4.  More positive portrayals of a variety of different female roles (not just the utterly kickass heroine with a sword in each hand and a knife in her teeth or the passive love interest type!)

5.  More long, gorgeous, ridiculously well-crafted books in YA. A lot of the time this genre moves extremely quickly, but there is something to be said for the beauty of an 800-page hardcover.

6.  More sensitive, sweet guys who aren’t secret badasses, and romances that develop based on mutual compatibility and connection, not hotness.  I was actually talking with my boyfriend (who is not a secret badass, although he is a scientist so maybe that counts?) about this one recently–how love interest guys are almost never quiet and thoughtful and emotional.  They’re confident and badass and sexy, and if they’re not, they’re hiding something.  Which I think is a shame, because other guys are awesome too!  And sweet, thoughtful types have a lot more long-term, happy relationship potential than guys who have killed six people with their bare hands, y’know?

7. More awesome platonic relationships that are not ever sexual.

8.  More functional, supportive parents in good relationships. Seriously, they all suck in YA.  Well, not all of them, some of them are okay, but most of them suck.  (I’m aware that a lot of real parents suck.  But it’s important to note that not all of them do!)

9.  SURPRISE ME. It’s really hard to surprise me. When I am surprised, I’m usually really happy about it, and I am willing to overlook about ten other kinds of errors because someone generally threw a twist at me that I didn’t expect.

10.  And the one I would write an essay about if I didn’t restrain myself: MORE PEOPLE WHO AREN’T EVIL BUT ARE DOING BAD THINGS AND AREN’T EXCUSED FROM THEIR ACTIONS.  I didn’t realize how much I wanted this until I read an example recently.  I want characters who have good potential but also some fatal flaws, and make a lot of bad decisions or fall in with the wrong people, and end up doing inexcusable things.  I want antagonists who have good friends that care about them and try to help them.  And I don’t want the redemption story.  I want the wrongness of their actions to be acknowledged.  I don’t want them let off the hook.  I want the story to own up to what they did, and follow that through.

There aren’t a lot of genuine monsters in the real world, but there are a whole lot of normal people who ended up doing bad things because of their surroundings.  Because they were desperate, or they wanted to fit in, or no one ever taught them about compassion.  If we think all bad people are monsters, then when someone who obviously ISN’T a monster does something horrible, we can’t reconcile it.  I want a story that can simultaneously acknowledge the lack of inherent evil, the potential for not-terribleness, and the horror of someone’s actions.

…-end accidental rant-

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Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

 

5 stars

“Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she’s not too pleased when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new friends, including the handsome Etienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he’s taken—and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she’s been waiting for?”

When I started this blog, I swore I would be analytical. I swore that I would look at a book with a critical eye no matter how much I enjoyed the storyline. Since then, I’ve done that. Or at least, I think I have. (Drop me a line if you think there’s a way for me to improve my reviews!) Either way, if you like a critical book review…stop reading here. Almost nothing in this book is going to be critical. I am going to allow myself to be the 17 year old girl that I am and just…gush.

Because I loved this book.

I’ll admit, I nearly gave this book 4 ½ stars simply for the fact that I don’t want to be one of those people who throws around 5 star ratings. But then I stopped and thought…why? There is absolutely and utterly no reason.

I should start this off with a disclaimer: I usually HATE books that are entirely teen romance. I hate them. I literally hate them. It’s like all YA authors think that these things need to be filled with a bunch of clichés and fantasy. (Disagree? Comment and give me a book as an example!) When you pick up Anna and the French Kiss, the synopsis doesn’t seem promising. Girl goes to boarding school, girl meets guy, they fall in love, PLAY THE SAPPY HAPPY ENDING! It is the plot of ten dozen different teen novels with the same exact premise as this one.

But that is not what happened here.

Anna and the French Kiss was REAL. In some YAs—and this is especially horrible in the first person, as Anna and the French Kiss is written—the main character is clearly being written by an adult. There are a myriad of ways that this shows itself, but all us teens know it. During this book, however, Anna was either absolutely and utterly exactly like me or at least a girl I would kill to have as my best friend. She was actually a teen like me, who thought like me and talked like me and related in every which way to me. Even if this book hadn’t had some other amazing qualities, I could have liked it just on that alone. But it got better.

The plot was REAL. Alright, it was fairly fairytale, what with the Paris setting and the hot English guy, but I’ll forget about that for now. Anna was not a sad, swoony girl who knew that she and Etienne were soul mates from the first second. Etienne did not fall in love with her at first glance, nor was he a jerk who changes his ways because of her or some other cliché. He was a real guy. She was a real girl. They both had their issues that weren’t just limited to their families (though there was certainly some fairly cliché family/father drama). They both had their own personality issues, and they both made some choices and had views that weren’t necessarily correct.

Hallelujah for an author who gets it.

Alright, the ending is pretty fairytale. They all live happily ever after in the most swoon worthy fashion. That didn’t bother me all that much. Maybe a little bit of fairytale isn’t that bad after all. The plot was real enough and I loved the characters so much that I honestly wanted that happily ever after. Despite its premise and ending, though, Anna and the French Kiss has been an answer to my prayers. It’s a teen romance I can stomach, has a main character that’s real and has a love story that’s parameters weren’t set up by the Brothers Grimm. It’s well written, it’s cute, it’s funny and it’s REAL. I hear that Perkins’s next book, Lola and the Boy Next Door (on shelves now), has a more realistic setting and I am jumping up and down to get a hold of it. Anna and the French Kiss isn’t just a good read; it’s my new best friend.