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Shakespeare in Love

April is National Poetry Month, and in honor of the Bard, I’ve been going on a Shakespeare-inspired YA lit tour!  You can check out the whole list I’ve gathered here (I haven’t read them all yet, but there’s a whole lot of April left!), but in the meantime, here are two fun, contemporary reads both set in one of my favorite fictional worlds – high school theater.

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Megan Harper is pretty sure she’s the real life version of Rosaline, the girl Romeo loved before Juliet.  Every guy she dates (and there have been more than a few) finds the perfect girl… right after he dates her.  She can’t even really be mad, because, really, how can you get upset about true love?  Anyway, Megan has a lot of other stuff going for her – like the fact that she’s a shoe-in for the Southern Oregon Theater Institute’s directing program when she goes to college next year, as long as she can check off that pesky acting requirement.  Which should be no problem – next up for her high school’s theater department is Romeo and Juliet, and Megan’s got her eye on the role of Lady Montague.  Easy peasy.  Until she gets cast as Juliet.

Not only has Megan never acted before, but she’s cast opposite her ex-boyfriend, Tyler, who broke up with her for her best friend Madeleine (again, not mad, because they are nauseatingly perfect together).  She doesn’t know anything about what it’s like to be anyone’s Juliet.  And her drama department is taking R & J to the Shakespeare festival in Ashland this fall, where reps will be evaluating their performances – hers, and her good friend Tyler’s, who’s got his eye on Julliard and is sure his Mercutio monalogue will give him the edge he needs.  No pressure. At all.

Enter a super cute stagehand, Will, and his aspiring playwright friend, Owen, plus more than a few changes at home, and cue the drama, comedy, and a very crooked path to true love.  Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka’s debut novel is fun, flirty, vivacious, and full of so-bad-they’re-good Shakespearean puns – and also just happens to have a ton of heart.  Fans of romantic comedies, don’t miss Always Never Yours!

When Claudia finds herself in the bathroom accidentally listening to the break-up of her private prep school’s It Couple, the last thing she wants to do is draw attention to herself (this is basically true all of the time, but especially so in this moment).  She gets caught anyway (thanks, phone), and finds herself in Big Trouble with kind-of-scary-especially-when-newly-single Iris.  Not a great start to senior year.

So, when Claudia and Iris end up as Brit Lit partners, it’s not an ideal situation.  Especially when they totally bomb the assignment – due to a basic inability to work together (um, Iris).  For a chance to earn extra credit, they can audition for the school play – a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  This sounds great to Claudia – there is no possible way she’ll be cast – until she realizes that everyone who auditions who doesn’t get a part is assigned to the stage crew.  Which is how she ends up in the costume department, and Iris lands the role of First Fairy, and they’re stuck together for the duration.

Still, it’s not all bad.  Del, in charge of costume design, is pretty cool.  Gideon Prewitt, funny, sweet, larger than life, new friend and maybe more, is playing Oberon.  And it turns out that Claudia is actually pretty good at interpreting Shakespeare, which leads to some unexpected connections – including with Iris, who might not be quite as terrifying as everyone thinks.

Family and friendships, mistakes and misconception, love and a little Shakespeare all combine to make Foolish Hearts another winner on the YA shelves!

Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak

Quinn, her older brother Reed, her younger sister Fern, and their neighbor Dylan have always been inseparable.  Quinn’s parents run The Hundreds, a summer camp in a cove on the Maine coast, and her summers have always been magical, full of campers, secret wishes hung from the kitchen ceiling, sunrise swims in the Atlantic, blueberries in December, possible sightings of Wessie, the local sea monster, and always, always, Dylan and Reed and Fern, together forever.

Until last summer, when something terrible happened, and Dylan died.  Now Reed just grunts and stomps around, Fern drips venom with her eyes and her words and sneaks out to do who-knows-what at night, and Quinn is just… stopped.  It’s her fault, what happened that night, and everyone knows who the real monster is, and it’s not Wessie.

Still, Quinn is trying to fix herself, even if she can’t fix what happened.  When she finds the barn doors open one morning on the way to school, she’s lured inside, even though she knows what waits for her there.  As soon as she sees the Chris-Craft, she knows what she has to do – she has to restore it. With the help of her Nana, best friend Hana, and new boy in town Alexander, who’s trying to figure out a way around his own sadness, Quinn begins to find a way forward for herself, and maybe even her family – if only she’s brave enough to face the deep blue beyond and all the monsters hidden there.

This has been on my teetering TBR pile since last year, but a little nudge from one of our teen volunteers with fabulous book taste moved it into first place for me this week, and ohmygoodness why didn’t I read this sooner?!?!!  Also, I’m pretty sure my new retirement plan is moving to Maine and running an oh-so-slightly magical summer camp while hunting for sea monsters in my free time.  Everything about this book was as delicious as a ripe blueberry in December.  I want to hang out and play board games with Quinn’s family – her parents are fabulous, and I feel like I could get some great knitting tips from her Nana after a serious sanding session.  The town of Winship is totally somewhere I’d love to bum around in one summer – all the oddities of a tourist town in winter, and you can just taste the ice cream and lobster right around the corner of spring.  And The Hundreds – why, oh why, were none of my summer camp days ever spent in a remote cove with wishes and blueberries and wildflowers and a sea monster?!  Also, Greek food.  Lots and lots of delicious, homemade Greek food.  If you love quirky characters, a story rich with friendship, family, and heart, and just a touch of magic, don’t miss Wild Blue Wonder!

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Addie and her brother Ian used to be two peas in a pod – they always had each other’s backs.  Until the Horrible Thing that happened just a couple of weeks ago with Cubby, Ian’s football teammate and Addie’s secret maybe-boyfriend, leaving Addie broken-hearted and Ian furious and completely unable to stop badgering Addie that she has to tell her parents what happened.  But the thing is, Addie can hardly even stand to think about it on her own, much less talk about it with anyone, especially her parents, and Ian just can’t seem to stop nagging.  When their latest argument about it ends up with both of them at the bottom of a cliff (well, maybe more of a very steep hill) in Ireland at their aunt’s destination wedding at the Cliffs of Moher, their mom puts her foot down.  If they can’t stop fighting for the rest of their vacation, Addie’s out of soccer (in other words, all her scholarship opportunities dashed) and Ian’s off the football team (same).

Except Ian doesn’t seem to be too worried about football, which is weird, because Ian is the star player on the team – his whole world is football… right?  And then Addie catches Ian sneaking out of the hotel and getting into a very derelict and extremely sketchy car with a super-cute Irish boy Addie’s never heard of.  There’s no way Addie is letting anything crazy happen – not with soccer on the line – so she goes with them, in spite of Ian’s very loud protests.

What happens next is a whirlwind road tour of Ireland (and more than a few not-so-lucky-mechanical setbacks), the Irish music scene, and Addie and Ian’s dreams about the future – which, it turns out, aren’t quite what either of them thought.

If you read Jenna Evans Welch’s first NYT bestseller Love & Gelato, you’ll be happy to know that Addie’s BFF Lina and her super swoon-worthy Italian boyfriend Ren drop in for a cameo in Love & Luck too!  Light, sweet, fun, full of music, friendship, family drama and love, and a whole lot of Irish green, this book is just the sunshine I needed after a looooong winter.  And, if you’re working on the April Reading Challenge, there’s a square or two this’ll help you mark off too!