REVIEW:  Things I Know About Love by Kate le Vann

REVIEW: Things I Know About Love by Kate le Vann

Things I Know About LoveDear Ms. le Vann,

If not for the cover, I do not think I would have tried this book.   The premise sounded cute at best, but nothing that I would fight to read, and the short length was a turn-off for me as a reader.   But, because the cover instantly reminded me of the best of chick-lit and all of the things I love about it – well, I just couldn’t resist.   What followed was a book that   truly expressed what it means to be in love for the first time.

Livia Stowe has just gone into remission after having a bout with leukemia.   She’s been healthy for almost a year, and after spending so much time in the hospital, she’s ready to be her energetic self again.   When her brother, who is attending Princeton, wants her to come visit for a few weeks, she pushes thoughts of school and being able to go off to her higher education away in order to visit him.   After being gone for so long, she misses him.

Convincing her mother was hard to allow the trip was hard.   On her flight down to America, Livia decides to start a journal/blog of sorts.   She wants to find love.   She wants to know what love really is.   Up to this point, she’s only dated two guys – one being a meaningless snog at a party, and another who was a jerk underneath his humor.   Love isn’t something that’s come easy to Livia, but she wants to find it someday – and something tells her that going on holiday may just be the key.

When Livia’s brother shows her around Princeton, she ends up meeting, for the second time, an old friend of his also going to university in America – Adam.   She doesn’t recognize him at first, but after she does, she’s lost.   Smitten.   A guy that she really wants to reach for, and he’s actually a Brit.   Livia learns about first love in more, and chronicles it all in the hopes of remembering every second of it.

Over the past few months, I’ve gone farther and farther away from realistic fiction like Thirteen Reasons Why and other slightly depressing reads.   When I realized this fun romp would involve a leukemia patient, I was skeptical.   After my many encounters with authors like Lurlene McDaniel, sick protagonists have not been the most appealing to me.   Livia’s first blog entry was captivating and funny.   I couldn’t help but read on and discover that we are treated to a protagonist that just wants to live.   It was a breath of fresh air to see a character so energetic and vibrant after suffering through such ordeals.     I also loved that she is a red-haired protagonist that isn’t a size zero or some other impossible number.   Her weight is described as normal – fluctuating during her illness – but it’s not a major issue or care for her, which is wonderful.   Each and every post reflects a fun wit that is in the vein of the Georgia Nicholson books such as Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging - definitely British, but not overbearing.

Her entry about her first ‘boyfriend’ Darren shows her humor.

My heart still wouldn’t give it a rest; it kept pumping blood into my cheeks.   Whenever I put my hand on them, my hand was cold and clammy and my face was hot, which meant red. You’ll know this if you’re ginger – when your face is red, red isn’t the word.   Your skin is nuclear powered.

The following path to romance with love interest Adam was so adorable.   YA has a tendency to over-complicate romance or to not show the full range of how two characters get from non-romantic to romantic, but you expertly showed us the slowly building relationship.   Adam is a great hero in that he’s simple, and not a jerk like so many other YA males.   Their relationship was overall pretty smooth, and it felt very good to watch it unfold.   From a trip to New York City to a simple night talking, the love between these two characters was honest and realistic.   Livia’s slight monologue about her question on whether or not to have sex was also interesting – it was good to see a character that, while doubting she would go that far, was willing to admit that it was a possibility, and that Adam would be a good choice for a first time.   Every moment between them was real, and that really helped make the romance my favorite part of the book.

The initial set-up – a private blog used as a virtual diary – was really clever, and felt a lot like a blog did.   The one problem the book didn’t really have a major conflict behind it aside from Livia’s quest for love – which really wasn’t anything too stressful.   However, the short style of the book actually made this redeeming in a way, because it allowed me to view the love story without feeling bored with it.   Livia’s blogs are occasionally interrupted by ones done by Adam, who takes her advice in starting a journal, even thought it’s ‘for girls’. I would also have liked to see more of Adam’s entries, though his character and the shortness of the book wouldn’t have made them necessary.   Their sweetness made me want them to appear more.

This example just made me smile.   I love that you manage to make his love for her seem so cute.

Blogplace:   Inside Adam

July 31

THANK GOD for the train ride home.   At that point, I was seriously worried.   For most of the day, I’d been doing very well.   I mean, really, you should have seen me.   I made a couple of okay jokes, she seemed to like the flea market, I took her to look at shoes…but at some point in the day I might have actually bored her to death.   But then she was opening up her game on the train, and getting excited about it in that ridiculously cute way of hers, and it happened.

I am besotted with Livia Stowe.

The ending was what really propelled the book forward for me.   I am not going to say what happens for fear of spoilers, but it was so touching it made me cry.   I have not cried from a love story in a long time, but it was so emotional I had to.   As I read the last sentence, I can remember clutching the book and wishing that I could stay with the characters just a bit longer.   In those short 153 pages, I was besotted with them all.

Thank you for giving me a romantic book for teens that does so much right.   I’ll be rereading this someday, and I’ll remember everything there is to know about love.   A-

All the best,

John

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