Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review: Serial Hottie by Kelly Oram

Serial Hottie is a YA romance about a tomboy and the mysterious new guy who moves in across the street.  She finds him attractive, but their first few interactions don't go well.  When a serial killer starts killing red headed teen aged girls in her home town soon after he moves in, she suspects he's the serial killer.
The relationship is a little creepy. She's a bit violent, including punching him at one point.  He is over-the-top jealous and stalker-y, and a couple of times physically restrains her to get her to listen to him when she doesn't want to.  On the other hand, we eventually understand why he acts the way he does, and when she calls him out on the creepy psycho stuff, he realizes that it's a problem and tries to change it.
Other than that, I think it's a good story.  I have a soft spot for stories about beautiful bad boys who are head-over-heels over a girl (Beautiful Disaster, et al).  The author does a decent job of showing the problems with dating a violent boy with stalker-ish tendencies and socialization issues, and how their relationship evolves as they learn he starts to learn how to act right.  She also has some issues with defensiveness and not really feeling comfortable with her feminine side, and with his help, she starts to feel more comfortable in her skin.
The story also has a fair amount going on.  There's the serial killer sub-plot, that is mostly about them learning to understand and trust one another for most of the story, but involves some suspense and action here and there.   There's also a solid arc about the relationship between Ellie and her sister, as well as a strong dose of tomboy-gets-a-makeover story line. For all that there's a lot of potentially heavy things going on, the general tone of the book is actually pretty light-hearted.  It's a fun YA read.

Review: Do Over by Emily Evans

Pez, the heroine and POV, really makes this story. She's a born leader - smart, organized, decisive, and understands people. She mostly channels that into her prom committee, although she's really like that all the time. She's also determined to be a fashion designer, and the contrast between her interest in fashion and art and her practical, level-headed approach to everything is great.
The main blemish in her life is that her parents are divorced. Not one to take things lying down, she's determined to make prom into a perfectly romantic event so her parents get back together, bonding over pre-prom rituals (I found this reasoning a little weak, but not a deal breaker - it's clear that she's having trouble accepting that they're not getting back together and is being a little irrational about it). In the meantime, her father is engaged to a professional cheerleader, who Pez gets to know over the course of the book. Their relationship was a surprisingly strong point of the story.
Mostly though, the story is a romance. Pez is forced to interact with the jocks her father coaches. She finds one of them attractive, but she recognizes that he's promiscuous and isn't generally into jocks, so doesn't act on it. Over the course of the story, they get to know each other better and develop a relationship (although not a romantic one for at first). The romance is understated. There is some tension before they act on their attraction, and there are difficulties they overcome when they start having a relationship, but the author doesn't unnecessarily draw out the problems, and Pez doesn't spend all her time wallowing in thoughts about the relationship - she's got things to do! For all that, when they do come together, it's intense and passionate considering that they only kiss (it is YA, after all).
I love that the author avoids the standard YA tropes and tendencies. There's no love triangle, insta-love, or angst. The girl doesn't feel unworthy of attention and she doesn't need - or get - a makeover. She's popular and good at school without being a genius or a goddess. The boy has no impulse control issues and wasn't her best friend from when they were kids. Nobody is abused or bullied. Mind you, I've loved stories that had all of these things, but it's refreshing to see YA romance that doesn't use any of them.

The only thing keeping me from rating it a five star instead of a four is that the climax isn't so climatic for me. When they run into relationship problems, there's some time when I'm sure Pez is hurting, but it really takes place off stage. So we go from conflict to resolution without tearing my heart out too much in between. Perversely, I would have liked my heart torn out just a tiny bit more. Other than that, though, I thought it was great. Highly recommended if you like YA romances.