Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Next Door Boys, by Jolene B. Perry

The Next Door BoysThe Next Door Boys by Jolene B. Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one is sweet, serene and heartwarming. We meet MC Leigh as she's starting her freshman year at BYU, a year later than intended. Although she's in remission from the ovarian cancer that sidelined her for that missing year, she's still not as strong as she might have hoped, and is anxious to put that experience, and peoples' oversolicitous reactions to it, behind her. Although Leigh came through her illness with her faith strengthened, and a hard won spiritual maturity, the whole ordeal left her family pretty freaked out. It really scared her mother, who seems to check up on her every few hours, and as a result, Leigh's not living in a dorm, as she'd hoped, but in an off-campus apartment, where her brother (not quite as overprotective as mom, but darn close) and his colorful band of roommates can keep a watchful eye over her from the house next door. And unfortunately, she sometimes seems to need it, as her desire for independence and "normalcy," lead her to push herself a bit too hard sometimes. She also has some trouble keeping her eye on the ball spiritually when handsome Noah, an aspiring actor, shows up and sweeps her off her feet a bit with his charm and good looks, and his family's affluent life style. Will Leigh be swept away by Mr. Charming Pants, or does God have something else planned for her, and her next door boys?

This is a lovely story, with lots of great elements. Leigh is an adorable girl, and pretty much everyone does. Adore her, that is. She's talented (sewing and singing), modest, kind of driven, and utterly oblivious to her considerable effect on the opposite sex. One thing that troubled me a bit about her was that she was almost too self-effacing, and others sometimes seemed to take advantage of that (cravats? at that point! c'mon, give her a break!) Her cluelessness on the fellas uptake leads to a slow-boiling plot development that seems obvious to everyone but her. But that's ok. Just like the Israelites wandered around for 40 odd years on a journey that allegedly only should take a few weeks, Leigh had some lessons to learn along the way. I realize now I'm making it sound a bit after school special-ish, but it's not, it's quite charming and fun, albeit lesiurely paced.

Another element I enjoyed about this book is that it is steeped in LDS culture. A lot of it wasn't very familiar to me, but it gave the book and Leigh an added depth and dimensionality, and was an interesting and real feeling look at a different and (as portrayeed herein) very appealing faith and way of life. Readers should be aware (as you've probably gathered by now) that this is an explicitly religious novel, and be prepared to accept and enjoy it for what it is.

All and all I really liked The Next Door Boys, and look forward to reading more by the talented Ms. Jolene B. Perry!

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What A Boy Wants, by Nyrae Dawn

What A Boy WantsWhat A Boy Wants by Nyrae Dawn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a cute, fun and sweet read about a self-described love 'em & leave 'em type, who passes out online advice as the "Hook-up Doctor," and his female (totally platonic) best friend. You'll never guess what happens! Ok, so maybe you might, Ms. "Smarty-pants I've read lots of YA know-it-all." But that doesn't prevent this from being a charming and endearing story of crazy first love, a fatuous boy and his self defeating antics. Narrator Bastian is full of bluff, bravado and bro-ness, and possessed of a surface self-assurance that is often mildly irritating. But like a hard candy with a surprise center, there's more to him than meets the eye, and certainly more than he's willing to admit. His girl friend Aspen is a little more tolerant of his shenanigans that I might be, but he does have his pluses, a major one of which is his tender and protective relationship with his single mom, whose repeated episodes of heartbreak are one of the reasons he's so skittish and commitment-phobic. This is a fun summer read, and just the antidote for some of the more intense and heart-wrenching reads that are, rightly, so popular lately. But just because it's a palate cleanser doesn't mean it's without its own subtle flavor and substance. That's what makes it such a good one!

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