BIRTHDAY! BIRTHDAY! BIRTHDAY!

Today marks the 5th birthday of this blog! As thanks to all of my loyal readers, please enjoy this stock photo of a cupcake:

And check back on Friday for a new Lost Classic review!

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Project Boyfriend By Stephanie St. Pierre

Can Stacey capture Max’s heart, or is her downhill romance destined for a crash landing?

This one came out in 1991, fairly late in the run of Bantam’s Sweet Dreams romance imprint, which I didn’t notice until I sat down to type this up: those covers remain stubbornly stuck in the 80s…

The Plot: …which I guess is suitable for a retrograde YA romance?

High school sophomore Stacey Hollis hates all things athletic, much to the chagrin of her BFF, Emily, who is dragging her off the couch and out to something called The Windmere High Three-Day Sports Carnival as the novel opens. Stacey would much rather spend her time reading her favorite hard-boiled detective novels featuring the studly private eye Dirk Hanson. Continue reading

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Too Much In Love By Patty Brisco

Then Holly tells Jeff that she’s going to have a baby…

Most of romance writer Patricia Matthews credits under the pen name Patty Brisco appear to be in the Gothic and Mystery genres- this contemporary YA Romance/social problem novel for Scholastic sort of sticks out like a sore thumb in her bibliography…

The Plot: …especially when it is liberally padded with extensive details about football strategy.

The cover, title and tagline pretty much tell it all, as we’ve seen here before: young couple from different social strata (this time it’s a poor girl with a single mom and an upper-middle-class boy with a socially conscious family) date despite their parents’ protests, go too far and 17 year old Holly Austin has just started to suspect she’s pregnant as the book opens. Continue reading

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Sister of the Bride By Beverly Cleary

Barbara will be in on all the fun…

Does our centenarian national treasure really need an introduction? Probably not, but maybe her early Young Adult novels do! Beverly Cleary’s YA romances from the 1950s are less well-known than her later works featuring Henry Huggins and the Quimby sisters, although they have been consistently in print for nearly 60 years: Fifteen, The Luckiest Girl, Jean and Johnny and Sister of the Bride were all reissued by Dell in the 1980s as part of their Young Love series, and in subsequent editions with increasingly  dull cover art.

Sister of the Bride was the last of the four to be published, and the only one after 1960. And, delightfully, this coming of age story set in the San Francisco suburbs is notable for the fact that THE SIXTIES are definitely coming!

The Plot: High school Junior Barbara’s MacLane and her entire lower-middle class family’s life is upended when her sister Rosemary, a freshman at Berkeley, announces her engagement to a former Air Force Captain eight years her senior. Continue reading

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Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

Beverly Cleary celebrates her 101st (!!!) birthday today, so I invite you to Drop Everything And Read, maybe starting with the three Cleary YA classics we’ve reviewed here!

We’ll return next week to finish off the informal quartet of Cleary’s YA work with Sister of the Bride, a tale of Vespa-riding teenaged lotharios, sequinned oven mitts, sensible brown towels, tattooed earlobes and Bay-area beatniks!

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Hollywood Daughters #3: Encore By Joan Lowery Nixon

Erin Jenkins, teen star, feels closer to her show-biz parents than to her real ones, who don’t approve of her television career…

Background: The first volume of the Hollywood Daughters series dealt with former child star Abby “Cookie” Baynes and her struggle to break from her Shirley Temple-like image and get away from her domineering stage mother in the early 1940s. After the tragic death of her father and a number of personal setbacks, Abby finally gets her big break and joins a USO tour with fake-Bob Hope. Renaming herself Abby Grant, she seems to have a bright future as a comedienne.

The second book in the trilogy focused on Abby’s daughter, Cassie, who has zero aspirations of following in her mother’s footsteps and instead pursues a career as a photojournalist and a romance with a USC film student in the late 1960s…

The Plot: And now we arrive at the present day (ok, the present day of 1990) and focus on Abby’s granddaughter, Erin, who has a co-starring role on a bland-sounding TV sitcom, The Family Next Door. Continue reading

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Phoenix Rising By Karen Hesse

You can’t see radiation or smell it or feel it. Could a mask stop it so easily?

A few years ago I noted that teen romances with a nuclear power plant meltdown-theme represented a small subset of the genre; I imagine rarer still are nuclear power plant meltdown teen romances by Newbery Medal-wining authors that seem to be inspired in equal parts by The Diary of Anne Frank and Lurlene McDaniel’s dead-boyfriend epics.

The Plot: Narrated by 13 year old Nyle Sumner, the novel opens a week after a catastrophic reactor meltdown at the Cookshire nuclear power plant in southern Vermont (loosely based on the now-decommissioned Vermont Yankee and Yankee-Rowe plants on the Vermont-Massachusetts border).  Far north near Quebec border, the Sumner family farm has escaped the immediate effects of the radiation that have left much of New England uninhabitable. Continue reading

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