Two By Two Romance #11: A Kiss For Good Luck By Carol Ellis

Tess tells you how she feels about her new romance. And when you flip the book over you find out in Charlie’s own words what a boy thinks about it all. 

a kiss 1 akiss2

I have said it before: I can’t resist a YA romance series with a gimmick. Two By Two Romances features two (two! two!) books in one. The first is narrated by the heroine, then you flip over the book and read the dude’s point of view of the events.  This one comes to us from author Carol Ellis, who also wrote for the similarly gimmicky Heart To Heart series.

The Plot: Unfortunately for the reader, each version is equally boring.

The cover strongly hints that you’re supposed to read the Girl Side first, so that’s where I started, and I imagine most readers did as well, because, ugh, look at Charlie’s big dumb head.

Tess Reilly has been prodigious distance runner since the 6th grade. Now a sophomore in high school, she is part of the community track team in Eaton, Oklahoma, competing alongside college students. Tess’s life revolves around training, leaving little time for friends, a social life or dating. While her father encourages her pursuit of a spot on the US Olympic team, her mother wishes that she’d take time for a more normal teenage life.

Early one morning she meets Charlie Montgomery, a hunky senior, at the track during her morning warm-ups. Intrigued, she asks around and finds out that Charlie has a reputation for being the class clown and is also a member of the boys’ gymnastics team, which is beginning their inaugural season.

Tess and Charlie start dating, but it is hard because of their rigorous training schedules, out-of-town meets, and just plain exhaustion from sports. Conflict arises when Tess realizes that she takes running much more seriously than Charlie takes gymnastics, and he is inadvertently a bad influence, urging her to skip practices in order to spend time with him:

“Why don’t you be daring at cut out early just this once?”

“I’d love to,” I whispered back. “But you know I can’t.”

“Can’t or won’t?”

After a spat about whether Tess loves running or just winning, they semi-break up, then get back together after Charlie starts taking gymnastics seriously, leading the team to a victory against their school’s toughest rival team.

Now all turned around on the subject, Charlie and Tess reunite, just in time for Charlie to graduate and accept a spot at a prestigious training camp in Colorado. Tess doesn’t know what will become of their relationship, but she supports him all the way because SPORTS.

The writing on the “Tess” side is especially weird and disjointed, and sometimes a scene transition involving weeks happens in the middle of a sentence. The “Charlie” side has smoother narrative, although it reads more like a summary than a story. It doesn’t do much to hold the reader’s interest because (duh) you already know what is going to happen.

The most interesting part of the “Charlie” side is that you get a little insight into his attitude, including his super laid-back parents, who (in contrast to Tess’s) can barely be bothered to notice that Charlie is even on a gymnastics team.

I hate to feel like I’m picking on an author but, like her entry in the Heart To Heart series, Ellis doesn’t really tell a compelling story, even within the modest expectations one has for a YA paperback romance. The best thing this one has going for it is the setting, a nice change of pace from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or generic Anytown USA (I sort of feel like Oklahoma doesn’t get much attention outside of S.E. Hinton); it also has good descriptions of the physical exhaustion both Tess and Charlie feel while trying to balance their athletic careers, school and social lives.

Sign It Was Written In 1984 Department:

I might have even made the ’84 Olympic team, but I was too young. I was really disappointed, but my coach told me I’d be old enough in ’88, and if I just kept at it I’d make it.

Stylin’ Department:

He had on a sweatshirt cut off at the elbows and a pair of track shorts over his sweatpants, so I forgot the way I looked.

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Hey, Dollface By Deborah Hautzig

What if it was more than friendship? What if Chloe was feeling the same way?

Hey Dollface

This book is typical of the “social issues” novels of the era: it doesn’t push the envelope as far as Norma Klein or Sandra Scoppettone’s work, but still manages to take in sex, Holocaust survivors, predatory older men, dead grandmas, dead parents, private school burnouts, private school virgins, and terrible swingers. Also it was marketed as a book about teenaged lesbians.

The Plot: For reasons that are never made clear, Valerie Hoffman transfers to the prestigious all-girls Garfield School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side for her sophomore year. She is immediately intrigued by a fellow transfer student, the exotically-named Chloe Fox, when Chloe doesn’t show up at the mandatory New Girls’ Tea in August. Continue reading

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The Accident By Todd Strasser

Four of his friends are dead. Only Jason survives….

The Accident

Background: Todd Strasser has been writing YA novels for over 30 years, spanning such topical issues as Angel Dust, school shootings, and abuses at “boot camps” for juvenile delinquents. However, he is still probably best known (under the pen name Morton Rhue) for The Wave, a novelization of a Norman Lear-produced ABC Afterschool Special, which was based on a short story by teacher Ron Jones, which he based on his real-life experience of turning a bunch of regular high school students in Palo Alto into Hitler Youth as part of history class experiment in the 1960s.

Unfortunately, that novel never quite lived up to its premise for me, although many readers remember it fondly. So I was pleasantly surprised that this ordinary-looking teen thriller turned out to be packed with suspense, social commentary and notably well-developed characters.

The Plot: High school senior Matt Thompson has two things going for him- his star-status on the high school swim team, and his friendship with local Rich Kid Bobby Stewart, the nephew of a state senator. With the exception of the Stewarts, every other family in town is struggling to makes ends meet since the collapse of the local mining industry. Continue reading

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Jennifer By Zoa Sherburne

That’s why I’ve never asked Griff or any of the other kids to come here- because I’m ashamed of her!

Jennifer

Happy New Year! Here’s to another 52 weeks of enigmatic and tricky Scholastic Book Services covers!

The Plot:  Over the past four years I’ve been caught off-guard by Scholastic titles more often than not. They published and re-published hundreds of titles in paperback, including dense and incomprehensible word-stews; surreptitious translations-that-don’t and baffling communist propaganda disguised as a tour of the Shetland Islands.

Jennifer goes one better, adding a back cover-blurb that tells you nothing about what the book is about, except that Jennifer is ashamed of her mother.

Additionally, that high-70s cover is original to the Scholastic edition: the reader is immediately plunged into a story told in the somewhat stiff, mannered style of 1950s high school stories. Check the fine print, the original publication date was 1959.

What I am trying to say is this reads like something has gone terribly wrong in the Donna Parker universe. Continue reading

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We will return the week of January 15, 2016!

xmas in az

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Under The Mistletoe By Michelle Mathews

Why had she ever thought that only kids enjoyed Christmas?

Under The Mistletoe

First Love From Silhouette (“America’s Publisher of Contemporary Romance”) can always be counted on to provide a holiday-themed title! And hey! This one doesn’t even deal with the incredibly meddling neighbors of Blossom Valley OR a talking dog!

The Plot: Instead we have a boys’ Catholic school gone bad, the inherent drama of Debating Team tryouts, a forbidden romance, and non-stop winter sports. Continue reading

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Dear Lola, Or How To Build Your Own Family By Judie Angell

Can they cover their tracks without uncovering the truth?

Dear Lola

This one might get the honor of having the weirdest marriage between premise and tone: five minors in various states of having been orphaned or abandoned escape from their temporary group home. Each child, ranging in age from 5 to 18, has their own traumatic issues to manage, which manifest in conditions such as intermittent rage, extreme agoraphobia and social anxiety and the eating of inedibles (buttons, bobby pins, etc.). The twist? This is all played for MAXIMUM WACKINESS! Continue reading

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