Happily Ever After

I read a lot of realistic teen fiction. That may sound pretty benign, but when it comes to teen fiction “realistic” can seem like code for “issues.” So many of the teen books I read are about abuse, poverty, trauma, risky behavior, and bad decisions that lead to terrible consequences. Tough Topics, I used  to call them when I worked in a library. I had a huge bibliography of these books divided by subject. It was, frankly, depressing. My reading list can really get a person down.

This summer, I took a break from serious stories. I spent my summer reading the fluffiest YA romance novels I could find. One after another. I couldn’t get enough happily ever afters. Even when the path to that HEA was completely cheesy, I would keep reading and select another silly book when I was through. Sometimes that’s what you need. Or, at least, sometimes that’s what I need.

For those of you looking for similar books, I offer you the three standout teen romances I read this past summer:

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  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson – An overachiever has her summer plans disrupted and finds herself finding happiness where she least expected it. Maybe that sounds cheesy, but I really enjoyed this story that explored family and friendships in addition to having a sweet romantic story line.
  • Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein – Reluctant friends with divergent taste in music find romance in this cute story. I have a particular weakness for books that feature indie music, so this was a fun read for me. There’s even a playlist to go along with the book.
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon – Yes, technically this book doesn’t even publish until November, but I read an advance reader’s copy this summer so I’m counting it. It is easily one of my favorite YA novels of 2016, and it’s a National Book Award finalist. In addition to the romantic adventure that takes place in one day, this book also takes on some serious topics like race and immigration.

An one more bonus recommendation for those of you who prefer actually-published-for-grown-ups books: Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag is a sweet, magical story about second chances. Worth reading for a bit of HEA fluff that isn’t about teenagers, if that’s your thing.

Wedding Stories

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“I didn’t want a big wedding myself, but I love when other people do,” I said to a friend this past weekend while people bustled all around setting up, taking photos, and practicing their roles in the day’s event.

I was very early for the festivities since my partner was playing a role in the wedding, and my role was mainly staying out of the way while trying to explain to my daughter why she wasn’t chosen as the flower girl.  If I had been thinking like a librarian I would have made sure to reread Lilly’s Big Day by Kevin Henkes or some other not-the-flower-girl picture book before we left for the out-of-town wedding weekend.  But I wasn’t thinking like a librarian.  I was thinking like a romantic.

At this wedding, it seems they were thinking like storytellers.  The vows were more than promises to each other.  They were thank yous to every one of the guests for sticking with the couple through what had been some ups and downs in their history.  The bride told her story of how they met and courted, and the groom his.  Then they promised to use their strengths to take their story into the future.

The best thing about stories is that they are contagious.

On the way home from Duluth, my daughter asked for our story.  “How did you and Papa meet?”  I smiled as I thought about how far our story stretches back now.  It’s hard to believe it’s been over ten years since our meet-cute moment, and it’ll soon be nine since we spoke our promises in front of a small group of our loved ones.  A lot has changed since then, and we are still speaking promises to each other.

Since we got home, my daughter has been thinking like a matchmaker.  She’s already wondering which of the couples we know will be the next to wed and who their flower girl will be.

It was, indeed, a lovely wedding.

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Photo above from A Kiss for Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.  Get it from your library or an independent bookseller.  I also mentioned Lilly’s Big Day.  Check that out or buy it.