I wanted to title this post ‘for a teenager who wants a book that is better than its title/cover’, but no one’s ever asked me for that. Sarah Dessen is a perfect example, though. I picked up one her books years ago, thinking it would be an easy read for the train, and was really surprised at how well written it was and how complex the characters were. She continues to write and although I haven’t read all of her works, I can confidently recommend them (especially This Lullaby). So what about for someone who has read all of Sarah Dessen? I usually recommend Stephanie Perkin’s two books: Anna and the French Kiss (Speak, $9.99) and Lola and the Boy Next Door (Dutton Books, $16.99).

When I hand Anna and the French Kiss to a young/mid teen, I often see the parent’s eyes open a little wider and I feel compelled to indicate that the book isn’t nearly as salacious as it sounds. There are approximately two significant kisses. I’m sorry to say they are both relatively innocent. The book is actually about a girl who is sent to boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school. It deals with living abroad, making friends, discovering a new culture and then reexamining your own. There is actually more sexuality in Lola and the Boy Next Door (although mostly off the page)Lola is dating an older man (22 to her 17), whom both of her fathers hate. She loves fashion and never leaves the house twice in the same outfit, wig, or accessories. Although Lola often tries to convince herself that she’s old for her years, she still struggles with identity, especially when her her appearance is forever changing. Cricket Bell — the boy next door — wears great pants, invents cool devices, and is determined to help Lola see herself for who she actually is. Set in San Francisco, with a delightful and colorful cast of characters, including Anna from the first book, Lola is a fun read that will surprise you with its depth and quality. 

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