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Check It Out

Courier Article by Michael Cherry
Sunday, January 22, 2012

Books to Fall in Love With

As a teen services librarian, it often disappoints me to see how beauty and relationships are depicted to young adults. Book covers tend to use the same stereotypical images of girls torn between hot angels and gorgeous demons.

Characters look like runway models who have far outgrown the terms "young adult." In addition, the stories contained within the books tend to reinforce narrow ideas about relationships. Boys are after the prettiest and most popular, whereas young girls pursue the vampire of their dreams. This Valentine's Day I'd like to suggest three titles that portray relationships more seriously and with the silliness and spontaneity that makes people happy together.

First there is Craig Thompson's personal memoir "Blankets." The graphic novel explores Thompson's adolescence growing up in an overbearing Christian family. Thompson and his younger brother manage to find comfort and escape through drawing. We follow the author as he matures, finds love, and distances himself from his community. The title refers to several metaphors used throughout the book that explore themes of family, adolescent love, loss, and physical attraction. Close to 600 pages, this book balances sensitive issues with the realities of growing up. It's heartbreaking and beautiful.

Another book you may want to check out is "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist." Rachel Cohn and David Levithan cowrote the book and alternate chapters written by Nick and Norah. Nick asks Norah to be his new girlfriend for five minutes after spotting his ex in a club. This leads to a more serious relationship as the two turn five minutes into the night of their lives. Parents be warned: the book uses some pretty colorful language and some of the themes are more suitable to older teens and college students. Likewise, musical references like The Clash, The Beatles, Fugazi, and the Beastie Boys might appeal to an older audience. But with that said, discover why music makes people fall in love.

Finally, no Valentine's Day would be complete without Bryan Lee O'Malley's "Scott Pilgrim" series. Throughout six graphic novels, we follow the adventures of Scott Pilgrim and his hipster friends. Pilgrim vows to win the heart of Ramona Flowers, but must first fight her seven evil ex-boyfriends. If this sounds like a macho premise, you're sadly mistaken. The series is a combination of manga-inspired art meets Nintendo video game. Pilgrim scores coins for each ex-boyfriend's defeat and powers up toward his epic battle against Gideon Graves, the main antagonist. The series is hilarious and dead on in its depiction of youth culture.

So if you are looking for love this Valentine's Day, you may want to check out these books. The library owns others like them that offer young adults alternative perspectives about relationships and beauty. Love is not always a six foot vampire with pecs. But it could be fun, spontaneous, silly, romantic, and fleeting. Enjoy your Valentine's Day and good luck in your pursuit of love!