While I now don’t like the term “YA readers” or “adult readers” or “romance readers” or any other category that suggests a person is only a reader of one type of book, I viewed these as very separate things when I was struggling to branch out of reading YA as a teen. I found it difficult finding adult books that were accessible, enjoyable and relatable. So for those of you perhaps struggling with the same thing, I thought I would share some of the books that helped me to branch out of YA!
Author: Colleen Hoover
Published: 10th August 2012
Publisher: Atria Books
“Life wants you to fight it.
Learn how to make it your own. ”
Following the unexpected death of her father, 18-year-old Layken is forced to be the rock for both her mother and younger brother. Outwardly, she appears resilient and tenacious, but inwardly, she’s losing hope.
Enter Will Cooper: The attractive, 21-year-old new neighbor with an intriguing passion for slam poetry and a unique sense of humor. Within days of their introduction, Will and Layken form an intense emotional connection, leaving Layken with a renewed sense of hope.
Not long after an intense, heart-stopping first date, they are slammed to the core when a shocking revelation forces their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together, and the secret that keeps them apart.
Title: Isla and the Happily Ever After
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Published: 14th August 2014
“I like reading about adventure, sure, but I also like doing it from the safety of home. But what is home, besides a quilt-covered bed?”
Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?
Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.
Okay okay, so nearly every YA book blogger has most likely read this book by now. I really have no excuse. I mean, I bought it not long after it came out, and then it just sat on my shelves for ages, waiting. Waiting for the perfect moment. And although I gave this book only 3 stars, I can assuredly say that this was the perfect moment to read this book. My three stars is not due to lack of enjoyment, but because some aspects of it just didn’t sit right with me. Regardless, I think of the Anna/Lola/Isla trilogy, still, as my happy books. Especially Anna and the French Kiss. Having Anna as the first book in this trilogy basically spoiled me for liking the others so much!
So the things I liked:
1) We went back to Paris! I missed the Paris boarding school setting in the second book, so I was really happy we were took back there in this one. I really liked that Stephanie Perkins takes you to the everyday parts of Paris, and not just the tourist parts, and how real Paris feels as a result. She really captures the beauty of Paris. And any book in Paris will probably be somewhat enjoyable for me anyway!
2) The importance of art. In Anna and the French Kiss, it was movies. In Lola and the Boy Next Door, it was fashion and design. And in Isla, it was drawing. Art is an important, essential, beautiful part of our world, and I love that this trilogy captured that!
3) The reunion scene. Honestly, if you loved Anna and St Clair, you need to read this book just for that reunion scene! I think a tear of joy might possibly have slipped from my eye. Possibly.
However, despite how much I enjoyed reading the story, I just couldn’t get past some of the messages of this story and how much they sat a little wrong with me. Firstly: how easy a relationship blooms between two shy, awkward characters, and how easy it seems for Isla despite her secret 3 year-long crush on him. If only these situations were as simple and cringe-free as this was!
Which brings me onto number two, the reason why it was so easy for them: because he was ‘the one’. I don’t like the idea of ‘the one’ – the idea that there is one person you are fated and destined to be with and it doesn’t matter how young you are, or how many obstacles are in your way, you will defeat them all because you are each other’s ‘the one’ and no one else will match. Yeah, I just don’t like that idea, and a small part of me was actually thinking how interesting this book would have been if they didn’t have the ‘Happily Ever After’. (Can you tell I don’t read much contemporary YA romance!!??)
But these aren’t really problems with the book specifically, but an idea this book kind of subscribes to. And regardless, I still flew through it and enjoyed Isla and Josh as characters. As a complete trilogy, these books will always be associated as my happy books, and always make me smile when I flick back through them. Hopefully Stephanie Perkins will keep writing more of these happy, lovely books!
Title: Gifted (The Hayven Series #1)
Author: J. A. George
Published: 13th April 2016
“Never interrupt someone who is reading because they’re no longer in your world.”
There is no chosen one in this story.
Avery Gray was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to make a decision that altered her future forever. It happens to all of us every day.
Avery is a size twelve university student with a penchant for dry humour, and she’s as normal as they come. Up until now, the biggest choice she’s had to make was glasses or contacts? At the moment, it’s stay and save, or leave and be saved.
Allow me to explain. One rainy afternoon, Avery had to make a choice: go through the alleyway or around it. Two possible options. One would have had her future continue on as planned, the other would ensure that her future never remained the same again. She unknowingly went with the latter.
But change is not always bad. Avery meets Theodore-James Connors, an enigmatic young man who takes her to Hayven, a city separated from the rest of the world, where only gifters – ordinary people with extra-ordinary gifts – can go. She soon finds herself in a close-knit group of friends she’d never have imagined herself in. Friends who are diverse in every possible way, from their ethnic backgrounds, to their personalities, from their gifts, to their life stories. Friends who make her laugh, who make her cry, who make her think and who make her…her.
However, change is not always good. The beautiful, golden city of Hayven has its dark side – Cliders. Gifters turned rogue, aka, Cliders are determined to aid fallen Clider, Madrina, return to rule Hayven. They will stop at nothing to make that happen, including harming those Ava has grown to love.
Again, Ava is faced with a choice: spend her days finding a way to inhibit Madrina’s return, or walk away. After all, she isn’t the chosen one. Yet, there exists a third option – rig the future itself and make it work for her.
Thank you to the author for sending me a free copy of Gifted, in exchange for an honest review!
I loved this book!
The main thing that gripped me from the beginning, and stuck with me throughout, was how this is not a story about a chosen one. It’s not about a particularly special person, with any specific predisposition of heroic tendencies; but of a girl who was in a specific place at a certain time. It is about the decisions we make, and how it is these that determine the course of out lives.
Ava’s character was very real. I think I could relate to her a lot as a 19 year old University student in England (just like her), but I think many can relate to her insecurities, self-esteem, worries and struggles. I found I was able to connect with her in so many ways, and connecting to the main character makes reading a story so much more enjoyable.
I loved that friendship was such a big aspect of this story. I read plenty of romance-driven YA fantasy, and it was nice to read a book about friendship first. There are so many side characters in Ava’s friendship groups, and all had such distinct and interesting personalities. They all had their own story, but also had a connected story too. I loved learning about these characters, and I have a feeling we will learn a lot more in the coming sequels.
The writing is so lovingly crafted in this book too. At times, the description is almost poetic…
“The breeze was soft and warm on my skin and the rustle of tree branches swaying and their leaves kissing, melodious.”
And the world of Hayven was so magical and wonderful. I found myself longing to be there! I have definitely recently been enjoying urban fantasy a lot more – with the idea of an unknown world within our own. I’m intrigued to see whether there is any more of a connection between the world of Hayven and the normal world in this story.
I felt that we didn’t quite see enough of the villain in this book for me to form enough of an opinion on her, but I am sure she will make a bigger appearance in the next books. She sounds pretty creepy, so I’m very intrigued to see more of her!
Overall, this was a very enjoyable book, with some great characters and wonderful writing, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
“Push yourself. Don’t Settle. Just live well. Just LIVE.”
Synopsis: Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time
(Taken from Goodreads)
I’ll be honest, I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up had it not been made into a movie. I didn’t actually know it was being made into one until the trailer came out…and flooded social media – the book community and non-bookish people alike! It was inevitable that I would click on it at least once to see what it was all about. I didn’t know I would end up watching the trailer about thirty times until it wasn’t even a question that I would be buying and reading the book.
The trailer was beautiful, and so was the book.
The characters were fantastic. I really liked Lou. She had a bit of a Sophie Kinsella character feel about her, which is definitely a complement! She is such a likeable, relatable and quirky character and carries the story through with just the right amount of humour and seriousness. And of course Will Traynor is such an interesting character to read. It took a while for me to warm to him, but I really appreciated that. His pains and traumas are reflected in his character – he is real.
The whole book felt very real. There were points in the story when a plan was made for something to happen, and then it just fell flat and didn’t carry through. That sounds like a bad thing, but it wasn’t! It was realistic and suited the tone and characters and themes of the story so well.
I also thought that a very relevant and controversial debate was dealt with extremely sensitively and respectfully by the author. Both sides of the argument were given explanation and careful examination, and there were some very thought-provoking points given from both sides that really made me think more about the issue.
Did I cry at the ending? Sadly no. Everyone that had told me how great this book was also told me how much I would need a box of tissues for when the tears come. But they didn’t. And I don’t know why! I felt very invested in the characters, and very attached to the story. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I finished the book in amongst writing essays and trying to meet lots of deadlines, and that my mind was in another place, because every time I watch the trailer (yes, it’s been a lot more than that original thirty!) I tear up a little. But I was certainly moved many times throughout the book. Jojo Moyes does a brilliant job of writing the everyday, mundane tasks of life to read meaningful and interesting.
Overall, it is a realistic, moving and important book. And without a doubt I shall be watching the movie at the cinema when it is out!
“There are people you meet that you get to know, and then there are people you meet that you already know.”
Synopsis: (taken from Goodreads)
Auburn Reed has her entire life mapped out. Her goals are in sight and there’s no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry.
For once, Auburn takes a risk and puts her heart in control, only to discover Owen is keeping major secrets from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it.
The last thing Owen wants is to lose Auburn, but he can’t seem to convince her that truth is sometimes as subjective as art. All he would have to do to save their relationship is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin…
It has taken me a while to actually formulate my opinions on this book. Usually I finish a book and I know if I liked it or not. I usually know what star rating it will get as soon as I close the book, and I know the kind of things I will say about it.
Not with this book!
Let’s start with the problems…
The characters…I didn’t like any of them!
It’s very rare for me to not like even one little side character, but I didn’t! The characters have been through a lot, and that of course affects their decisions and characteristics, and I appreciate their inner conflicts and their questionable decisions. But they just kept making these decisions, and they really began to annoy me. I won’t go into details and spoil anything, but there were so many times I was internally shouting at Auburn to either do something she didn’t, or not do something that she did. And some of the messages in this book put me off a lot. The prologue begins with 15 year old Auburn, saying goodbye to the absolute love of her life, who it is insisted (throughout the book) that she is whole-heartedly, madly, completely in love with. A fifteen year old that in love, I cannot get my head around, and it was an instant block in my connection to her character.
And as for Owen, I don’t think I have wanted to slap a fictional person as much as him. Some of what he said or thought about Auburn, I found a bit disturbing, and really didn’t sit well with me. I think he was supposed to come off as romantic, but I just found him creepy and a little obsessive. I didn’t like that he was still keeping secrets from Auburn even to the end.
I also really didn’t like the ending. I found it completely unsatisfying, and disappointing.
And yet I still enjoyed reading the book!
The artwork, for instance, is beautiful, and such a great addition to the story. As are the confessions. They work into the story so well, and the book would not have reached the level of emotional depth it did, I think, without that artwork and confessions.
I also enjoyed the reading experience of the story. I enjoyed going back to the book in my spare time, and I flew through the pages. Colleen Hoover’s writing is so attention-grabbing, that once I was reading it, I did not want anything else to distract me.
I also liked the themes that were explored. I thought that some very controversial or at least taboo topics were woven into the story very gently and considerately, but with a rawness that I am beginning to see is the key ingredient in CoHo novels.
So how do I rate that? A 3 star middle mark seems most appropriate, but with each part of the book I pick apart it could easily go up or down.
In summary: a good book, with quite a lot of issues, but still an enjoyable read.
“He’s sitting in his window. Literally sitting in it. His butt is on the window sill, and his legs – impossibly long and slender – are dangling against the side of his house, two storeys above the ground. And his hands are folded in his lap as if spying on his unsuspecting female neighbour was the most natural thing in the world.”
Synopsis: Lola (Delores) Nolan, budding designer and believer in costume, not fashion, is pretty content with life. All she wants (besides attending the Winter Formal dressed like Marie Antoinette) is for her parents to approve of her new rocker boyfriend, Max. That, and to never see the Bell twins ever again. But when Cricket and Calliope move back into their old home, she has to face back up to her feelings for the boy next door.
I am going to say from the start: I did not enjoy this book as much as Anna and the French Kiss. That said, Anna is one of my favourite books ever, so it did have a lot to live up to. I think I’ll start by getting what I didn’t like about this book out of the way, because there was far more that I did like, and I want to end the review on a positive note.
First of all, I thought that Lola’s ‘best friend’ Lindsay was a pointless character. It felt like she was only included because every girl must have a best friend, so to keep it realistic, she was included. But Lola doesn’t spend much time with her. In fact she just uses her most of the time as a cover to see Cricket or Max. Lindsay really didn’t influence Lola at all, despite her being mentioned so much.
I also felt there was a missed opportunity with Lola and her relationship with her birth mother. There was real opportunity to develop their relationship, explore the resentment and disappointment Lola has felt regarding her mother her whole life, and show some redemption on her mother’s behalf. But this didn’t really happen.
Finally, I didn’t particularly like Anna and St.Clair in this book. Maybe I have just forgotten, but I don’t remember Anna saying, “Dude” in every other sentence. And I remember Etienne being a bit cocky and boyish in Anna and the French Kiss, but in this book he is REALLY cocky and boyish.
Okay, dislikes out of the way, I’ll get to what I did really like about this book.
I LOVED Cricket. I thought he was such a nice, sweet, creative character – a bit different from the obviously attractive, confident, cocky love interest. I loved that his name was Cricket Graham Bell because he was actually Alexander Graham Bell’s great great great grandson or something. That was cool!
I also, did quite like Lola’s fashion style. She was a little crazy, and I can’t really see any sane 17 year old wearing sparkly wigs and gold false eyelashes to school, but I did actually like reading about her coming up with these outfits. Like Cricket, she is very creative, and maybe its because I have absolutely no sewing/design skills, but I really liked reading about these crazy outfits.
From a romance perspective, this book was GOOD! Lola and Cricket’s relationship isn’t rushed into, and it takes pretty much the whole book for Lola to admit how she feels about him. Like in Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins does a really great job of building up the characters and their relationship carefully and slowly throughout the book.
Despite my little irritations about Anna and Etienne, I was really really happy that they were in this book so much. Seeing that Anna and Etienne were still together and so in love was so heart-warming and lovely. I think I’m feeling an Anna and the French Kiss re-read!
I am excited to read Isla and the Happily Ever After, and from what I know of Isla and Josh already, I think their story is going to be one I like a lot more.