The Accidentals by Sarina Bowen

The Accidentals book coverThis will only be the second time I’ve reviewed a young adult title on here, but I couldn’t not review Bowen’s first foray into YA. And The Accidentals is a romance, after all. Just like all of Bowen’s books, there’s more going on than the romance.

17-year-old Rachel’s mom just died from cancer and she’s still in a group home while social services tries to sort out where she’ll go. Things are really in upheaval because although she’s never met him, her father is a world-famous rock star named Freddy Ricks. And he seems interested in finally being a father, nearly 18 years too late. She isn’t too keen on him because of her mom’s opinions, but she also always secretly wished he’d come into her life.

She spends the summer with him in California, where she gets to know him (a little) and also meets his bandmates. His lifestyle is pretty much like what you’d expect—he’s a man-child. Even his parents don’t know he had a child. Rachel wants to ask him about what happened between him and her mom, but she’s too afraid to say much. She just kind of floats along until it’s time to go to the boarding school in the fall.

The best thing that happens over the summer is virtually meeting Jake, another senior-to-be at the boarding school. They talk via email, then by text, then on the phone all before school starts. When she gets there and finds out he’s really cute, too, her little crush develops into something more.

While at the school, she joins an a cappella group, befriends her roommate, and deepens her friendship with Jake. Her father has moved to the same town so she tries to maintain their relationship, even though it’s very much up and down, because she’s so ambivalent about him. He keeps doing things to let her down. They have a long way to go before everything’s good between them. But he is trying, even if he’s got more growing up to do than she does.

It’s really sweet when Rachel and Jake finally get together. We don’t get typical Bowen heat here (that would just be weird in a YA title). And, Rachel discovers that despite what she sort of wants, when things get too heated with Jake, she shuts down and pushes him away. She has to figure out what’s getting in her way before they can really be happy.

I’ll admit it—I didn’t love this as much as I love Bowen’s True North series. However, it’s a good book with a subplot that’s almost as important as the romance. If you like that sort of thing, or even if you just like YA romance, check this one out.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Queens of Geek book coverQueens of Geek is technically a YA romance, not something I usually review here (generally they’re too tame, but I made an exception because it was what I read this week and the characters are all eighteen so it could be considered New Adult, which I would review here). So.

As the title implies, there are some serious geek themes in this book. First of all, it’s set at “SupaCon,” a fictional ComicCon, that’s in San Diego, I think. It’s about three best friends from Melbourne, Australia making the journey to the US for the first time. It’s narrated by the two women, Charlie and Taylor.

Charlie’s an upcoming movie star with a popular video blog. Her parents are from China, though her race has no relevance to the story from what I could see. It just makes everything more realistic, as Australia is diverse, too. Charlie also has pink hair and is bi, though her last relationship was with her male co-star, making it a very public one. The breakup was painful and also public and she’s a little gun-shy now. She has a crush on another up-and-coming star, Alyssa, who’s also going to be at SupaCon.

Although Taylor is one of Charlie’s best friends, they aren’t very alike—Taylor is shy and anxiety-riddled. She’s also on the spectrum, having been diagnosed with Asperger’s only a few months earlier. But she’s hoping to step a bit out of her comfort zone at SupaCon, even if she doesn’t know how. She doesn’t have a lot of confidence in general, but especially body confidence because she’s not some stereotypical sexy mama. She’s a little “curvy.” She credits Charlie with helping her to avoid falling down the well of self-loathing.

The third friend is Jamie, who also happens to be the guy Taylor’s been in love with for ages. Not that she’s going to say anything, because she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship, which she values dearly. The friends all plan to move to LA in the fall. Taylor and Jamie have applied to UCLA and Charlie is moving there for her career.

A lot of reviewers have admired this book for its positive messages about women and girls. Throughout the book, they support, protect, and help each other out. And it is great, since a lot of books show a more negative view of female relationships. At times, I did think the book got so caught in all the good it was trying to do that the story itself suffered. Nothing ever got too dire—things mostly went at least okay for the characters.

Also, I have to mention that this book has some of the best two-way communication I’ve ever seen, even between Taylor and Jamie. Much of the dialogue could be sample conversations in a self-help book about how to communicate effectively. People say what they feel and what they mean and they actually understand each other. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I noticed it.

Charlie and Taylor are both good characters, though I think Taylor is a little more complex and developed than Charlie. This is probably because her anxiety is explored in great depth. Jamie isn’t as developed as the other two, which I thought was a bit of a shame. I’d liked to have seen more of him. He’s also Hispanic and originally from Seattle but we don’t get much of him except to see how supportive he is of Taylor.

For those who live in geekdom, this book’s a dream. There are so many pop culture references that you’ll have to appreciate it. I’m not as in the mix as I used to be, but even I got a lot of the references. Overall, this was an enjoyable read with a lot of positive representation of things that frequently get a pass in the romance world. Still, it was light and fun.