August 07, 2008


The Other Boy. By Hailey Abbott. HarperTeen. $8.99.

Forbidden Boy. By Hailey Abbott. HarperTeen. $8.99.

Save the Date. By Tamara Summers. HarperTeen. $5.99.

Picture Perfect. By Catherine Clark. HarperTeen. $5.99.

Banana Splitsville. By Catherine Clark. HarperTeen. $5.99.

Rocky Road Trip. By Catherine Clark. HarperTeen. $5.99.

      It’s a mistake to dismiss frothy summer romance novels out of hand. They may not have significant literary quality (or pretensions), but they do keep teens – well, teen girls, anyway – reading during the summer, and so they help preserve the entire book-publishing industry through a season in which not much else really happens. And if that convoluted attempt to find value in these dime-a-dozen novels (which, however, cost a lot more than that) isn’t convincing, consider the fact that they are simply fun – and what’s wrong with some summer fun?

      Hailey Abbott is one of many authors who have the teen romance formula down pat. She has written four Summer Boys novels and a variety of others that are also about – well, summer and boys. Two new ones are The Other Boy and Forbidden Boy. The first of these, set in California’s Napa Valley, is about Maddy and David, who are working together on a tasting room at a vineyard in which their dads are partners; and there are the usual telephonic misunderstandings, “rosy shadows of dusk” and, despite confusion involving another boy, Maddy and David end up with “their bodies pressed together from shoulder to hip, their legs entwined” (clothed, though). As for Forbidden Boy, it involves a beachfront property from which Julianne’s parents are being forced off by their obnoxious neighbors – but Julianne is only dimly aware of this, because she is so focused on a hottie named Remi…who turns out to be the son of those awful people. But Remi (whose full name is Remington) turns out to have some tricks up his sleeve, with the result that “she and Remi…saved her home together and built something incredibly special in the process.” And a good time was had by all.

      There are good times as well – plus wedding bells – in Tamara Summers’ Save the Date, which is filled with hideous bridesmaid dresses, five crazy older sisters, and a wedding planner whose son turns out to be unbelievably hot. The younger sister at the center of the book is named Jakarta but insists on being called Jack, and she gets to travel around with Leo the hottie, and eventually, of course, “Leo runs his hands along the curves of my waist and kisses the side of my neck as I lead him to the bed,” and everything is just perfect at fadeout – and Jack finds herself thinking that weddings may not be quite so intolerable after all, at least sometime in the future.

      And then there is Catherine Clark, whose teen romances seem to roll along effortlessly with just the right mixture of fun, frolic and troubles that can, with sufficient sensitivity, be overcome. Picture Perfect takes readers to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with a girl named Emily, who wants to take lots of pictures of the area’s natural beauty but soon finds a guy she encounters to be even more photogenic than the beach. And eventually Emily and Spencer end up being stuck together one night and “talking, kissing, talking, kissing, occasionally snuggling,” and so it goes. It goes similarly in Banana Splitsville, originally published in 2000 as Truth or Dairy, in which high school senior Courtney decides to be without a boyfriend because her guy has broken up with her as he heads off to college. She will focus on working at a cafĂ© called Truth or Dairy – or so she thinks, until a guy named Grant Superior (yes, that’s the name) starts intruding on her consciousness, and eventually Courtney realizes she has gotten “too wrapped up in a dumb self-imposed regulation which didn’t take into account the fact I’d get to know someone like Grant this year.” Oh – and there’s even a reference here to “sexually satisfied grandparents.” And then there’s the sequel: Rocky Road Trip, originally published in 2001 as Wurst Case Scenario. Here, Courtney and Grant both go to college (different schools), and try to handle a long-distance relationship plus all the life changes that occur in the high-school-to-college transition, and get into a huge fight that may lead to Grant failing and never getting to open Superior Animal Hospital, his dream. And so, even though “this working-things-out thing is so tedious,” and she and Grant “got into this competition of whose slip-up/kiss error was worse, mine or his,” Courtney eventually decides – after sort of breaking up with Grant – that she sort of wants to get back together with him, leaving things just open enough so readers can think about what will be happening next summer.

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