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Like Sunshine After Rain

I’ve been grumpy. I don’t know if you’ve noticed. Well, I’m not grumpy anymore. Yes, my reading apocalypse continues, but some bright spots have occurred. My reading life is like living in a town overrun my vampires. If you can make it until sunrise, the good books, things don’t look so bleak. No matter, I’ve turned a corner. I’m loving Iove at the moment. Well, not only at the moment, I always love my family, and I always love my love. Specifically, my mind has turned toward romantic love—the falling in love and the being in love and how love grows over the years, the slow burn.

You might be wondering why February with it’s cheesy Cupid’s and Whitman’s Samplers didn’t stop my grumpy. Well, Valentine’s Day is pretty much February 14th around these parts. Besides no Valentine’s Day card will ever top the flowers and note I got from my dad one year in college. It said, “from the only man who will always love you.” That’s rockstar stuff. Can’t be beat. It’s also truer than true. Man, I have a great life. Always have. Retrospect. Perspective. Clarity. All that jazz.

What’s Valentine’s Day like now that I’m the parent? For us, Valentine’s Day is about the children. It’s about volunteering to help with the kindergarten Valentine’s Day party and finding 80 construction paper hearts and a note from your kid’s teacher asking you to cut them all out by the next day. Asking me to cut out shapes is almost indescribable torture to my ADHD brain. As is the pain of having ADHD and sitting quietly while a 5-year-old writes their name 22 times and the names of each one of their classmates and teachers onto tiny cards, and then continuing to sit while they tape lollipops to each tiny card. Not one, but two lollipops. Two lollipops with their sticks crossed because it makes an X, as in XOXO. So much time. So much wasted tape. So many random uppercase letters in the middle of a name. So many times excusing yourself to the bathroom, so you can cry and talk yourself out of taking over because we’re parents who promote independence, yes we do. What I’m saying is that Valentine’s Day has nothing to do with the sudden upswing in my mood. It could never.

I will give some credit to Apple Music. Apple Music was conspiring against my grumpiness. The last two weeks at least one of my six daily playlists has included either the word romance or love in its title. Saturday it was “Pure Romance” and “Essential ‘10 Love Songs.” And how could I forget the "Me and Bae" playlist. Who do you think I am Apple Music? I will say we’ve discovered some new artists thanks to Apple Music. If you have time go listen to “Vain” by KIRBY. That song for me is memory and secret smiles. It takes me back to lamp lit streets in Italy. Anyway . . . on with the show.

Do you have that fictional YA couple that you just root for even after you finish the book? The couple that makes you smile? The couple that makes you want to squeal if you were the type of person who squeals? For the record, I’m not one of those people. However, I definitely have couples that make me smile as I read and after I’ve finished reading. I thought I’d talk about them. Maybe you’ll feel like reading a few hundred words more, but if not I get it. Maybe you didn’t make it this far because you couldn’t handle the wuving wuve part. For the record, I do wuve wuve. It’s good stuff.

By the way, since I occasionally disagree with the choices authors make there might be some pairings on here that don’t actually exist, but they should exist. Authors get it wrong sometimes, and I like to point out when they do get it wrong because I’m generous and kind. On to the shipping—I avoided the word as long as I could, but there I said it.

  • Eleanor & Park (Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell) - Is there even anything to say here? If you don’t love these two I question the existence of your heart. I know what everyone hopes the postcard says, but I hope it’s a great deal more intimate than those three words. I hope those three words are ones that make them both smile the secret smile of two people in love.

  • Simon & Bram (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli) - This one makes my cheeks ache. I just smile and smile and smile. I am so in love with Simon and Bram’s love story. I hadn’t read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda since 2015, but I reread to prepare for another book club movie outing, and I think the book was better than I remembered, which is crazy when you consider it was my favorite book of 2015.

  • Monty & Percy (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue by Mackenzi Lee) - The back and forth. The horrible things that come out of Monty’s mouth. The adorable and so so sweet Percy. The journey from friendship to love set against a wild adventure. The way Monty talks about loving Percy during those quiet introspective moments. It’s all worthy of a swoon.

  • Cath & Levi (Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell) – The scene where Cath reads The Outsiders to Levi is absolutely everything. Speaking of everything . . .

  • Maddy & Olly (Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon) - Confession: I’ve read Everything, Everything three times. The first time I hated it. The second time was for book club, and I still hated it. Then we went to see the movie, and the two other members of my book club hated the movie so much that it made me hate the book less than I did. The third time was after watching the movie version again. I was flipped past it one night while in a desperate attempt to find something to watch that wasn’t the Winter Olympics, which I usually hate watch or watch to bet with people on when the ice skaters will fall. Save it, I can’t be shamed. Anyhow, I passed it by because I hated the book, and I didn’t like the movie. However, a few days later I thought whatever I’ll rewatch, and it can be background noise while I grade projects. It never became background noise. I was charmed. Not about the illness nonsense, which really serves only as an absurd plot device in the movie, and is an oxygen eating fire in the book. I was charmed by the chemistry between the two actors. It’s pretty fantastic. I think in the theater I was too lost in the pettiness of hating the book to notice Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson’s rather excellent portrayal of two people falling in love. Since I’m eagerly and anxiously and not so patiently waiting for Love, Simon, I’m pretty excited that I now find Nick Robinson charming. Also, he has a fantastic voice. And a nice mouth. So to sum up, I love movie Maddy and Olly, and only movie Maddy and Olly. Could Nick Robinson be cast as the replacement Chris in The Hate U Give? I need the Giant Lion Turtle to grant me this wish.

  • Percy Jackson & Rachel Dare (The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan) - I hate Annabeth Chase. It’s true. She ruined the love that should have been. Hey, Rick Riordan you can still fix this. Annabeth is an absurd Mary Sue who lives and breathes to let everyone know that Percy Jackson loves her most of all because he’s her boyfriend. Grow up! Meanwhile, Rachel isn’t a Mary Sue. She’s quirky, cool, and artistic. She hangs out on New York City fire escapes talking to cute boys about life. She’s a breath of fresh air, and Percy needs to breathe.

  • Harry & Luna (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling) - I won’t rehash my one-sided fight with J.K. Rowling over her absurd need to prove that war has consequences by killing characters left and right. She’s right; in war there are consequences, but the price of real war sometimes means a friend, even a best friend, or the sucky wizard who had greatness thrust upon him dies. I can’t take you seriously if you aren’t willing to go all out. Kudos to the never-ending Star Wars saga, which me no like, for having the guts to kill off anyone. I think I just went down the rabbit hole, but I’m climbing out to talk about Harry & Luna. Full disclosure, I hate Harry. He isn’t a nice person, and he isn’t a good wizard. Can we agree to at least one of those two things? There is one thing I respect about Harry. Make no mistake, my friends, Harry is in it for the glory. He didn’t want Slytherin, and this member of the House of Merlin doesn’t want him. Full disclosure number two, I love Luna and think she should be the star of her own series. Actually, I think Riordan and Rowling should team up and write a series about Luna Lovegood and Rachel Dare. Imagine it, two awesome girls who were pushed aside for the damsel in distress and the Mary Sue. They could solve mysteries or run the world just by being awesome. Also, they should trash Harry, but not Percy because I love him. When Harry was with Luna I actually tolerated him. Her “I am who am I” was so refreshing.

  • Ava and Emi (Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour) - Everything Leads to You is inferior to We Are Okay in every way save one—the romance. We Are Okay is mesmerizing and a book made for people who love words, and while there is a love story it isn’t a love story. Everything Leads to You is a love story and a coming of age story and a mystery of sorts, and it’s an okay book, but Ava and Emi are starry-eyed emojis.

  • Lyra and Will (His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman) - Once you get past the fact that they are 12, which is almost impossible, you can celebrate their love. What really seals the deal is that final heartbreak. My heart twists a little even thinking about the ending. It makes me want to shake my fist Captain Kirk style at the sky and scream, “Why, Phillip Pullman? Why?”

  • Jessica and Marcus (Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty) - The Jessica Darling series declined rapidly. Also, I’m not sure Jessica was ever totally worthy of Marcus Flutie, but he carried the couple and he brought the fire. Remember when he pulled her close and bit her lip? On a stick I tell you. On a stick.

Honorable mention goes to Alexander Armsworth and Blossom Culp (The Ghost Belonged to Me, Ghosts I Have Been, The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp, and Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death by Richard Peck). So, they were both in denial about their inevitable “until death do them part,” but Blossom knew Alexander was her one and only. Alexander was a little late to the party, but you started to see him coming around. Unfortunately, Blossom and Alexander’s happily ever after will have to exist in my mind’s fan fiction because the series ended after four books. No worries, I know they totally fell in forever and ever love just like Sheila Tubman and Peter Hatcher.

Now, go be in love with a good book. Go be in love with your family and friends. Go be in love with life. Until next time.

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