Reviews

The Romantics

“Love delivers this sweet little bonbon of a story in a voice that’s always chipper, sometimes funny, and pretty darn smart. For romantics and skeptics alike, this fresh dose of optimism will warm the cockles of the heart.” – Kirkus Reviews

Full review:
Little does Gael know, as he stumbles into and out of romance, that here and there his life is being tweaked by Love.

Delivering exactly as promised, there is not one bit of irony or shame in the book’s title or tagline, “a rom-com about love.” Narrator and semidirector of the heart Love disavows any role in great stories throughout history—Romeo and Juliet, Bella and Edward, etc.—telling readers, “humans make a lot of mistakes. I don’t.” Love’s now focused on 18-year-old, white Gael. Love wants to make amends for slacking on Gael’s family by not being attentive enough to give some good love nudges that might have prevented his parents’ divorce. His devastation over his parents’ split propels Gael into falling too hard and too fast for the wrong girl, who breaks his heart by cheating on him with his best friend. Bitter and grieved but ever the romantic, Gael rebounds toward the next wrong girl. Eventually, with a little help from Love, Gael discovers the young woman who affirms the truth that “real love makes you better then you ever knew you could be.” It’s then that the rom-com madcap-ery really commences as Gael gets downright silly in order to reach his lady before it’s too late. Love delivers this sweet little bonbon of a story in a voice that’s always chipper, sometimes funny, and pretty darn smart.

For romantics and skeptics alike, this fresh dose of optimism will warm the cockles of the heart. (Romance. 12-18)

Konen makes good use of numerous tropes of romantic comedy films, incorporating them into this light and utterly sweet read. Impressively, Konen treats her subject matter seriously while maintaining a playfulness that will keep readers engaged and rooting for Gael. – Publisher’s Weekly

Full review:
Konen (The Last Time We Were Us) puts a twist on a typical teenage romantic comedy by making her narrator Love, the entity responsible for keeping everyone on track in matters of the heart. Currently, Love is attempting to put lovelorn high school senior Gael Brennan in the path of the right girl, Sammy Sutton. In a quirky narrative replete with entertaining footnotes and humor that befits a being who has seen it all (“Now let us return to Gael in his cocoon of despair”), Love provides background on Gael’s failed relationship with Anika (who hooks up with Gael’s best friend), his rebound with Cara (a serial monogamist who is clearly not the right girl), and how his parents’ relationship fell apart, all leading to a grand gesture to win Sammy’s heart (and, yes, there is an airport scene). Konen makes good use of numerous tropes of romantic comedy films, incorporating them into this light and utterly sweet read. Impressively, Konen treats her subject matter seriously while maintaining a playfulness that will keep readers engaged and rooting for Gael.

A jaunty, entertaining work that will reach a broad range of readers, with a feel-good cast of characters teens can root for. – School Library Journal

Full review:
Gael Brennan is a 17-year-old high school senior in Chapel Hill, NC. He plays the sax in marching band, loves Alfred Hitchcock and Wes Anderson films, and is a smart, well-behaved kid. So why do bad things keep happening to him? The summer before his senior year, his parents separate. Almost two months into the school year, his girlfriend breaks up with him (in a horrible way). This novel follows Gael (a romantic at heart) and his quest to find love as he lives through this trying time. Or, more aptly, this is Love’s quest to lead Gael into brighter times ahead. Konen cleverly personifies Love as a lighthearted and empathetic narrator. The remaining characters—Gael, his friends, his sister, and his parents—are all perfectly imperfect, creating relatable and enjoyable scenes in this slice-of-life novel. VERDICT A jaunty, entertaining work that will reach a broad range of readers, with a feel-good cast of characters teens can root for. A general purchase for most YA collections.

 

“The Romantics is practically perfect in every way, just like love—and Love. My heart is bursting at the seams.” – Lauren Myracle, New York Times bestselling author of TTYL and The Infinite Moment of Us

“Altogether practical, clever, yet hopelessly romantic, this book will make you question whether many of life’s small, seemingly insignificant moments might in fact have one very important, very wonderful purpose.” – Lucy Keating, author of Dreamology

“Yup. That’s what teenage love feels like. From meet cutes and slow burns to heartbreak and divorce, Leah Konen takes a look at love in all its forms and gives it a voice.” – Adi Alsaid, author of Let’s Get Lost and Never Always Sometimes

The Last Time We Were Us

“A thoughtful, coming-of-age novel about trusting yourself.”– Booklist

Full review:
Liz is having a perfect summer—she’s joined the popular crowd, and the hottest boy in school is interested in her. But everything is ruined when her former best friend returns from juvie. Jason and Liz had drifted apart in middle school, but she always suspected there was more to the story of the night that landed Jason in jail. When Jason wants to be friends again and tells her that everything is not as it seems, Liz has to decide what she wants and whom to trust. Throughout the narrative, Konen (The After Girls, 2013) describes Liz’s journey to self-discovery, from alcohol-fueled parties, falling in love, and losing her virginity, to learning to make her own choices, standing up for herself, and treating herself with care and tenderness. As Liz gets a peek behind the curtain of the perfect and popular, she grows to understand more about herself and those around her.
— Sarah Bean Thompson

“An easy, intelligent coming-of-age tale.”– Kirkus Reviews

Full review:
All teens want to be popular in high school…but not all are. Konen combines humor and pathos for a realistic novel about the conflict between peer pressure and personal strength.

It’s been years since Liz and Jason were best friends. He left her behind when he joined the “in” crowd, before going to juvie for a horrible crime. Now it’s Liz’s turn to be “in,” sitting at the best table, having the most popular girl as her new best friend, and dating the most handsome boy in school. But then Jason returns, and he wants to be friends again. If she says no, she can be in her sister’s wedding and keep her friends and new, carefree lifestyle. If she says yes, she loses everything she was so sure she wanted. Everyone is telling her what to do, what to think, and what to be. But it’s time for Liz to make her own decisions, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Konen lets Liz’s struggle with her conscience play out in the present tense first person, her clear eyes seeing what’s behind the veneer of white Southern gentility. She describes alcohol, sex, love, and loss frankly and realistically, though her examination does not extend to a substantive examination of race relations.

“Liz is a realistic southern girl who realizes that getting her dream may not be what she really needs. Fans of romance with a realistic edge will eat this one up.”– VOYA

“Leah Konen beautifully captures the complexity of friendship, love, loyalty, and trust, and reminds us that sometimes things that seem so simple are anything but.” – Jennifer Brown, award-winning author of the Hate List

“Totally absorbing! The perfect summer read!”– Leila Howland, author of Nantucket Blue

“This book is brimming with intrigue, romance, betrayal and redemption. In short, a very satisfying read.”– Melissa Walker, author of Unbreak My Heart

“Reading Leah Konen’s southern debut reminded me that every time we seek out answers, we are amazed by what we find within ourselves. A sexy, intriguing novel about inner strength and following your own arrow.” – Alecia Whitaker, author of the Wallflower series