I’ve read wildly. I’ve read deeply. But you know what I haven’t done? I haven’t read romantically. Every now and again I’ll download a sample of highly recommended romance novel, and I won’t even finish it. Too unrealistic.
(Says the girl who’s always up for a tale with a map labeled: Here be dragons. Or this month, books with mummies, psychic children, and spooky wallpaper.)
But for first-time author, long-time host of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, Linda Holmes? Yes, I will read a romance, especially after a real live book-loving friend raved about it. And then I will share it with my husband, who has no use for dragons but is always up for a rom-com.
Evvie Drake Starts Over is fun, is thoughtful, and has a lot of heart. It’s also got great banter. If you listen to the podcast, you know Holmes is a huge fan of the ‘90s TV series Sports Night, and the book reflects that passion.
Holmes loves romance in all its incarnations — novels, Hallmark movies, Netflix movies, big-screen releases, TV series, and theater. What she brings to her novel that I most liked is a deep understanding of the friendship that is possible between two people who, in a different story, might be attracted to each other. In this story, it’s Evvie and her best friend, Andy. The idea of them getting together is presented as ludicrous and allows their friendship to be fully explored. It’s not perfect (no friendship is), but it’s good. It’s a kind of love.
The main characters in Evvie Drake felt very real. In Dr. Maryanne Wolf’s Reader, Come Home, she says that we readers “immerse ourselves in the worlds created by books and the lives and feelings of the ‘friends’ who inhabit them.” For a delightful summer month I immersed myself in the people from the fictional but oh-so-believable burg of Calcasset, Maine, and felt like I’d made new friends. I didn’t even mind that two of them fell in love.
In fact, I enjoyed the book so much that I plan to make my next read another romance, the YA bestseller turned Netflix movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. The story had been on my list from the time Holmes and a special Pop Culture Happy Hour panel reviewed it, but I didn’t take the plunge until a friend — another real live book-loving one — said it and the series of which it is part — are, and I quote, “masterpieces of literature.”
It took a while for Jane Austen to get any respect too.
Everything I can find by new U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo
Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing, Robert Caro
The Yellow Wall-Paper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman (length between a short story and a novella and completely brilliant)
Goodbye to a River, John Graves
Evvie Drake Starts Over, Linda Homes
Early Readers and Picture Books
Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs!, Sandra Boynton (Children’s Book Club meets August 9!)
Brontorina, James Howe, illus. Randy Cecil
The Dark, Lemony Snicket, illus. Jon Klassen
Middle Grade and YA
Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds, Gwenda Bond (not sure which category this official prequel for the TV series should go in, but Bond is a YA and middle-grade author)
Goosebumps: Return of the Mummy, R.L. Stine
The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
1. Is there a genre you have avoided? Would you, could you read it if a writer you love gave it a whirl?
2. Romances come in different styles. This one is light on the adult situations but a bit heavier than I expected on the adult language. I mention it in case it matters to you.
3. Did you make some time for deep reading this month? What stories stirred your soul?
4. Share your July pages. Sliced, started, and abandoned are all fair game.