#AmReading YA

#AmReading YAHow Not to Fall in Love by Jacqueline Firkins
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on December 21, 2021
Age/Genres: Contemporary, Romance, YA

A hardened cynic and a hopeless romantic teach each other about love in this swoony and heartfelt contemporary romance that's perfect for fans of Tweet Cute and The Upside of Falling.

Harper works in her mom’s wedding shop, altering dresses for petulant and picky brides who are more focused on hemlines than love. After years of watching squabbles break out over wedding plans, Harper thinks romance is a marketing tool. Nothing more. Her best friend Theo is her opposite. One date and he’s already dreaming of happily ever afters. He also plays the accordion, makes chain mail for Ren Festers, hangs out in a windmill-shaped tree house, cries over rom-coms, and takes his word-of-the-day calendar very seriously.

When Theo’s shocked to find himself nursing his umpteenth heartbreak, Harper offers to teach him how not to fall in love. Theo agrees to the lessons, as long as Harper proves she can date without falling in love. As the lessons progress and Theo takes them to heart, Harper has a harder time upholding her end of the bargain. She’s also checking out her window to see if Theo’s home from his latest date yet. She's even watching rom-coms. If she confesses her feelings, she’ll undermine everything she’s taught him. Or was he the one teaching her?

Theo and Harper had been life-long best friends, but they couldn’t be more different when it came to romance. Theo was a hopeless romantic who wore his heart on his sleeve. Harper was jaded after a bad relationship and years of seeing the havoc wedding planning can cause while working at her mother’s bridal boutique. After Theo had his heart broken, yet again, Harper wanted to school him in the ways of NOT falling in love. But her plan may have backfired, as Harper found herself falling fast.

I had so much love for Firkins’ previous book, Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things. The book was one of those made-me-happy-books, and I am here to say, Firkins has done it one again with How Not to Fall in Love.

Obviously, I had high expectations for this book, but I didn’t think I would relate to the characters so much. When I first met Harper, I thought she was just a cynic from working in the wedding industry. We have all heard the horror stories and seen the reality shows, but her complicated emotions regarding love and romance had deep roots. Things happened, and she felt unlovable, unimportant, easy to leave behind. There were a few times where I felt like Harper was in my head with respect to some of the damage she was grappling with. So, yeah, I felt a lot as I read Harper’s story and that connection had me deeply invested in seeing this to the end.

even though I do want to be miss-able at least once in my life.

I mentioned that Harper was in the wedding industry, and thus, good chunks of this book take place at Beneath the Veil, her mother’s bridal boutique. I loved this! If you haven’t checked out Firkins’ IG, you should, because then you could drool over her incredible dress creations. It was nice to see her incorporate that love of fashion and construction in this book. There were also these lovely moments shared with Harper and the brides which provided her with a different perspective regarding love and relationships.

Not just people. Person. I need another person. I want to feel like all of those songs on the radio. Not the sad ones but the other ones. The big, mushy I’d do anything for you songs. I want to fight for someone. I want a hand to reach for and an eye to catch across a crowded room. I want to get up each day knowing there’s a person in the world who’s as excited to see me as I am to see her.

Friendship also played a big role in this book. Harper and Theo had grown up together. They shared a myriad of memories and knew each other better than they knew themselves. It was such a treat spending time with them, and I experienced some best friend envy at some point too.

Let’s do a little Theo appreciation. He was a precious soft boy! It pained me that he kept choosing the wrong girls, because the right ones would value him and all his nerdy glory. He loved words, the accordion, fencing, and LARPing. There were few, but I enjoyed those LARPing scenes so much. You know what? I liked all the word play too.

How Not to Fall in Love had a winning combination of family, friendship, and romance. This was exactly what I needed to help get me out of my funk. When I finished this book, I was all happy tears and heart-eyes, and I swear, my heart definitely expanded three sizes, too. Such a sweet story, and I reveled seeing Harper learn from her past as she opened her heart to love.

*ARC provided in exchange for an honest review

#AmReading YASo, This is Christmas by Tracy Andreen (So This is Christmas #1)
Published by Viking Books on October 12, 2021
Age/Genres: Contemporary, YA

When Finley Brown returned to her hometown of Christmas, Oklahoma, from boarding school, she expected to find it just as she left it. Christmas hasn't changed much in her sixteen years. But instead she returns to find that her best friend is dating her ex-boyfriend, her parents have separated, and her archnemesis got a job working at her grandmother's inn. And she certainly didn't expect to find the boy she may or may not have tricked into believing that Christmas was an idyllic holiday paradise on her grandmother's doorstep. It's up to Finley to make sure he gets the Christmas he was promised. This is Finley's Christmas. It's about home and family and friends and finding her place, and along the way she also finds the best Christmas present of all: love.

You can always go home, right? But Finley was surprised to find many things had changed in her hometown of Christmas, Oklahoma since she left. The biggest surprise was finding one of her classmates staying at her grandmother’s inn, and he was hoping for the Christmas she created to impress her boarding school peers. Finley was determined to fill Arthur’s holiday with lots of cheer, and along the way, she figured out many important things about herself.

I love holiday books, and this one was packed with charm and lots of shenanigans. This story really took off for me when Arthur and Finley embarked on their Christmas adventures. Most didn’t necessarily go as planned, but they sure were a lot of fun. I promise, the reindeer farm will make you giddy. And did I tell you the twins’ names were Drakkar and Axe? *hee, hee* There’s more where that came from.

As amusing as all that was, I delighted in the friendship that grew between Finley and Arthur. Arthur came off a bit stuffy and maybe even haughty at first, but he had layers. Under it all, he was gem. It was wonderful discovering all the best bits of him, and by the end of the book, he owned my heart.

Finley was complicated too. She was a big fish in a small pond who was struggling at boarding school, both academically and socially. Her desire to give up was something she grappled with during this story, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Returning home had her looking at her old life in a new way, and I was glad to see her grow quite a bit. She opened her eyes a bit wider, noticed some things that were always there, and expanded her inner circle in surprising ways.

There were so many elements that made this a warm and fuzzy treat. The focus on family, friendship, and community was wonderful, and I loved knowing what was next for all the main players. I was pretty excited to learn that there is going to be a sequel for this book. I googled and could not find any details, but I WANT TO KNOW!!! I am hoping we go back to school with Arthur, Finley, and another character from this book. I want to spend more time with them, but if that’s not in the cards, I am glad we had this book. It was fun and sweet, and packed with holiday cheer.

I’m going to leave this here, since you are probably already singing it.

Do you have a favorite holiday activity?
Let us know in the comments!

Posted November 22, 2021 by Sam@wlabb in 4 stars, 5 stars, Jacqueline Firkins, review, sam, Tracy Andreen / 24 Comments

24 responses to “#AmReading YA

  1. I’ve got How Not to Fall in Love coming up soon so I’m thrilled to see that 5-star review from you. I can’t wait to meet Harper and Theo! The Christmas book sounds great too. I hadn’t heard of that one before but it’s definitely going on the TBR since I’m eager to read more holiday books this year.

    • I love Firkins’ books. This was very sweet and made me happy. I hope you enjoy it too. Christmas was adorable, and there was lots of holiday bits in there.

  2. Both of these sound good! I haven’t been in a YA mood very much lately, but I’m going to keep the first one in mind for when I am. OR maybe I’ll get it for my daughter at some point and then steal it back. 😉

  3. I keep seeing How Not to Fall in Love everywhere this past week and I’m very curious despite hearing that there’s a bit of a love triangle in it? Also just checked out the author’s IG and I love that she made dresses for her books! They’re awesome 😍 So, This Is Christmas also sounds super adorable and perfect for the holiday! Will definitely check it out. Great reviews!

    • Firkins doesn’t just make dresses for her books. She makes them for many books which I think is amazing. The book had a kind of sort of triangle I guess, but it’s not really for me. It’s complicated, but the author did a good job with it.

  4. I had no idea the So This is Christmas is a series! I am going to have to check that out on GR. How Not to Fall in Love sounds like one that I will really enjoy as well. Firkins is an author that I have enjoyed in the past. I am thrilled that you enjoyed both of these!

    • I don’t know if it was planned as a series, but it is now, and I am cool with that. Firkins does some wonderful things in her books, and I really appreciate her stories. If you liked her last book, I think you would like this one too

  5. Jen

    I love Christmas books too! And how can you not see that title and sing the song lol. I’m so happy to hear that one was a winner and here’s hoping info for the second book comes soon, fingers crossed!

  6. Rachel @Waves of Fiction

    It’s a bummer when I’m in book reading funk, so nice to hear that How Not to Fall in Love was able to pull you out! Glad these two were a hit, Sam.

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