Monday, October 31, 2016

Book Review: Dating on the Dork Side by Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance

Dating on the Dork Side Cover Terrific YA, girl-power chick lit!

Dating on the Dork Side by Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: November 25, 2015
Publisher: Collins Mark Books
Pages: 334 pages
Source: Library
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Camy Cavanaugh loved playing football as the only girl on the boys' football team until a knee injury sidelined her permanently. In the three years since then, she has attempted to fill her life with her beloved volunteer job as a peer tutor--in a classroom at her high school with a bird's eye view of the football team and the boy she had a huge crush on in middle school, quarterback Gavin Madison, who hasn't talked to her since her injury. In addition to being an excellent tutor, Camy has better than average computer skills, though not as much as her computer-genius best friend, and she uses these skills to access a secret website populated with girl-bashing members of the football team. When Camy passes on information about this website to the most popular girl in school, a cheerleader and Gavin's current girlfriend, it becomes a trigger for a battle of the sexes that Camy is reluctantly drawn into the middle of.

I'm not normally a fan of chick lit, whether adult or teen versions, but this is one of the best I've ever read, for the primary reason that it is both "girl power" and "girls united" in its major themes. Instead of a cliche "Mean Girl" cheerleader persecuting the "geeky" heroine, they become part of a team of four girls, none of which, in the normal course of events, would have ever been friends because they are very different. In fact, they are so different, it rather reminds me of the unlikely band of female friends in the popular TV series of a few years ago, "Army Wives."

Generally speaking, the central premise of YA chick lit is the exact opposite of the central premise of romance. Chick lit encourages girls to believe that romance is a barrier to making their most important life goals happen, that romance reduces you to something less than you can be. In contrast, the central ideal of romance is the idea of finding a true friend and task partner in life, a pairing that expands the possibilities of both partners and makes each far larger in character and accomplishment than would be possible if they were not together. Fascinatingly, this book takes these opposite contentions and satisfies both of them in one story in an extremely well-written and satisfying way. In fact, I'd say the book is brilliantly written.

I rate this book as follows:

Main Heroine: 4

Subcharacters (Female Cohort): 5

Main Male Romantic Interest: 4

Secondary Male Romantic Interests: 5

Chick Lit Plot: 5

Romance Subplots: 5

Writing: 5

Overall: 5

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Book Review: All Laced Up by Erin Fletcher

All Laced Up Cover G-rated, young adult sports romance

All Laced Up by Erin Fletcher

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: October 10, 2016
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Budding hockey star, Pierce Miller, has a sizeable following, in person and online, but Lia Bailey is far from one of his fans. In fact, she thinks he's an arrogant jerk. They are both seventeen and have been in the same school and used the same ice rink for over a decade, but he doesn't even know her name. Lia wouldn't have minded never getting to know Pierce up close and personal at all, but fate has another plan in mind. The two of them are asked to share the responsibility of teaching a skating class to young children in order to save their beloved ice rink from bankruptcy, and extended close proximity to Pierce reveals a sensitive side of him that Lia never imagined possible.

I adore a good YA sports romance, especially when both the hero and heroine are talented athletes. In this story, not only is the hero Pierce being scouted to play professional hockey, but the heroine Lia is well on her way to becoming an Olympic-caliber figure skater. The hero is especially sympathetic as he compassionately cares for his disabled little brother. I also especially enjoyed the central, romantic plot device of them growing to be friends on two levels, in person, and in private chat sessions on a sports forum online where Lia, in the guise of an anonymous poster with a fake screen name, offers him hockey advice, which she learned from her deceased stepfather, a hockey superstar.

I am delighted to report that there are no scenes with drinking, drugs, sex, or any house-destroying, wild parties. There are no Mean Girl cheerleaders, and no Mean Boy sports stars. The hero has no tattoos, and there is no indication he has ever been promiscuous. What a concept! It's always great, and far too uncommon these days, to discover a YA novel minus the endlessly copied John Hughes movie tropes from the 1980's.

As an additional surprise, the hero and heroine actually eat a healthy diet due to their coaches telling them lousy food produces a lousy sports performance. What a pleasant change from endlessly boring repetition in YA novels of teen protagonists gorging on pizza, chips, burgers, and sugary treats.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 4

Hero: 5

Romance Plot: 4

Sports Plot: 4

Writing: 4

Overall: 4