Tag Archives: First love

Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein

First of all, I’d change the title from Chemistry Lessons to Love Potion Number Nine, at least that’s the tune I was humming while reading this G rated love story perfect for young teens. A loving family is torn apart when Mom succumbs to cancer. Dad turns to physical activities to work out his grief, while daughter Maya finds an internship transcribing notes at the MIT lab where her mother did research in Epigenetics. A high school graduate, Maya is looking forward to her Freshman year at Cambridge, but the summer is ruined when her boyfriend Whit, already a film major at Boston University, decides he’s ready to move on to greener pastures. Devastated at this betrayal, she turns to her best friend Bryan, for comfort. Theirs is an unusual relationship, with this talented fellow, immersed in the acting world, a pal to not only Maya, but also Whit, and even her dad. Obviously gay, Bryan is a welcome overnight guest, and her father even feels comfortable when Maya finds herself after hours at his place. Of all the characters, Bryan is the most grounded, with excellent advice and a huge shoulder to cry upon.

When Maya discovers that her mom was working with pheromones to manipulate romantic relationships (make love last), she decides, with the help of her mother’s former graduate student lab assistant, to continue the experiment with the hopes of reawakening the attraction of her former boyfriend. In order to make the study more valid, she needs to test the procedure on two other subjects. The selections have results which are definitely a surprise to Maya, but the reader will certainly have a premonition that this scientific query with a lack of definite controls, does not have a foregone conclusion.

Meredith Goldstein has come up with a rather crazy idea for a research topic, but a fun little way to write a teen romance. It was nice to read a story for once involving loving parents, good friends, and moderately behaved teens where higher educated is expected and welcome. Perhaps the scenario sounds like a fantasy, but there’s just enough tension to keep the silly plot interesting. Great for fans of the Boston area and Willy Wonka (two words – Whiff Walk).

Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

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The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

I was happy with this simple, but witty little story of three Australian families. The first wife is struggling with her unfaithful husband, well, not quite unfaithful yet, but thinking about it. It’s who he’s been playing mind games with that has her completely in a dither, so it’s off to Mummy’s with her little boy to sort things out. Then there’s the widow who has never gotten over the tragic death of her teenage daughter. She’s the school secretary who everybody pussyfoots around in deference to her sensibilities. Finally there’s the -oh so perfect wife – who isn’t quite sure how or why she and her husband haven’t done the deed in like forever, or at least six months. Is she losing her appeal? After all, she’s given birth to three daughters who command a lot of her attention and he does travel a lot. Then she finds “the letter”!

These minor crisis were enough to keep my interest, but then, bang, half way through The Husband’s Secret, author Liane Moriarty pulls her first twist and my attention notches up a level or two. Of course, I expected this, after all, twists are this author’s trademark, and I remained open for the next surprise which braided these three lives together. While there is a satisfying resolution, this is not a happily ever after tale, just as life itself isn’t without its complications due to the numerous minute choices we make. An epilogue gives us the “what ifs” that we each can’t but wonder about our own lives.

An engaging, well written novel (even though I listened to the audio version, expertly performed by Caroline Lee who has read other books by this author). My only complaint is that I didn’t get to this book sooner.

Five Stars

Some Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone

Juliana Stone is an author who is familiar with the hearts and minds of teens. Her newest YA novel, Some Kind of Normal, deals with the after effects of a drunken driving incident chronicled in her previous book, Boys Like You. Here is Trevor Lewis, whose life has been turned upside down after a car accident in his Junior Year in High School. He’s missed some of his Senior Year due to the resulting coma and has to live with the after effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) which includes difficulty with simple tasks, such as playing the guitar and getting the words out properly. Issues which he tries to keep secret from the world. To make matters worse, Trevor must pass his Government Class in order to graduate. His summer tutor, Everly Jenkins, has issues of her own. On the outside her life is in perfect harmony, smart and pretty with the perfect home and parents. As a preacher’s daughter her life seems flawless, yet she too has been carrying a secret for over a year. A secret which could tear her family apart if revealed. These two injured teens find comfort just in the fact of knowing there is someone else out there struggling with obstacles beyond their control to repair. Despite their instant attraction to one another, the author slowly builds up to the point where they are able to verbalize their feelings. The relationship is not a smooth one, as each feels unworthy due to their perceived inner flaws. It is halfway through the novel before they are able to find comfort in each other’s arms. Although Trevor has never had trouble finding a hook up, he realizes that Everly is someone special and is willing to wait until she is ready to take the relationship to the next level. Everly is unsure of her emotions, and is torn between her desires and whether she is ready to fully commit to Trevor. Both teens must work through their demons before they can become a couple. Parents, siblings, and friends play a major role in the story, sometimes making life easier and sometimes worse. When circumstances lead to devastation in both of their lives, their reactions have repercussions which threaten their friendship. In the end, Trevor and Everly must accept “some kind of normal” to replace their past expectations and accept the reality of the new norm. A tender love story of teens left to face some harsh issues at a young age.

This is a romantic story suitable for Middle and High School students, although older readers will enjoy the book as well. When Trevor and Everly finally kiss, you could audibly hear the “ahhh!”. Not only is it beautifully written, but the dialogue is witty and the author paints a visual picture that is easy for the mind to capture, plus the characters’ behaviors ring true. Trevor and Everly take turns advancing the plot by telling their version of events. No one is perfect and the answers to the various dilemmas are not readily available. While there are problems to deal with, the reader has not been invited to a pity party. Don’t expect a fairy tale, happily ever after ending, but a realistic look at people moving forward with their lives in spite of their individual issues. Four stars.

I would like to sincerely thank Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.