Hello, everyone, and welcome to my very first YA Clean Reads Book Review post! I'm starting this project as a way to help parents find "Clean" Young Adult Reads for their teens. (For more information on the Facebook group that I started to help parents share recommendations, learn about YA books, and more, click here.)
For the purposes of my YA Clean Reads standards, "Clean" is defined as:
No on-page sexual content (romance that focuses on emotion and/or stops at "just kisses" is okay)
Language/profanity PG-13 level or less
Violence PG-13 or less (nothing extremely graphic)
I'll be covering all kinds of different genres with my recommendations, but today we're kicking off with a classic teen genre (and one it can be very hard to find clean reads in): Romantic Comedy!
And what better book to start with than my brand-new favorite (seriously, I just read it this week but I love this book!):
I'm Pretty Sure You're Gonna Miss Me, Ronin McKinsey by M.J. Padgett.
If you prefer to watch the video review I posted on YouTube, you can watch me rambling about how much I love this book and explaining what my BookDragon and Penguins ratings mean here:
Otherwise, read on for my written version of this review!
YA Clean Reads Book Review:
I’m Pretty Sure You’re Gonna Miss Me, Ronin McKinsey
Author: M.J. Padgett
(You can get this book here!)
Story Quality: 5/5 Contented BookDragons
(This has to do with the overall story: Is it engaging and well-written?)
Parental Chill Factor: 4/5 Happy Penguins
(Can a parent relax -- chill -- and let their teen read this book without worrying about its themes or content?)
Series or Standalone:
Series, but each book follows a different main couple (though previous books’ characters make cameos). 2 books published in series so far; several more planned.
Hazel is dumped in a spectacularly humiliating way, and decides to try to make her ex-boyfriend jealous to win him back. It… does not go as planned. But in the process, Hazel discovers she deserves—and has right in front of her—something much better.
I love this book. I put off reading it a long time, because I’m not always in the mood for romantic comedy, but I really should have read this sooner!
The love interest in this book easily makes my Top 5 male YA characters of all time.
The main character, Hazel, is impulsive and over-the-top, but over the course of the story, she really grows into seeing how she can use her “go big or go home” mindset for good in her life, and for those she loves.
This book has themes of forgiveness, of learning not to try to change yourself just to please others, and of making peace with those who hurt you. True to M.J.’s usual style, this book is packed with vibrant, quirky characters, strong family bonds, trustworthy and awesome best friends, and themes of found family/deep friendships. It does also touch on some more serious issues—a side character deals with a serious illness, and some of Hazel’s friends have difficult home lives or personal struggles (touched on briefly, as part of the found-family dynamic of them being welcomed into Hazel’s family life).
Hazel and Daniel’s banter is top-notch, their friendship is so sweet and wholesome, and I just really, really love their relationship.
I highly recommend this book. Seriously, it's great.
Fake Boyfriend, Jealousy Scheme
Okay, now to explain why such a wonderful book received 4 out of 5 Happy Penguins rather than a full 5-Penguin Parental Chill Factor rating.
Hazel is a flawed character—realistically so. She begins the story with an elaborate plan for celebrating her 1st anniversary with her boyfriend… including mentioning to a friend that this might be the night they they… “you know.” It’s clear what’s implied.
But—it’s also clear that Hazel’s friends do not think it’s a good idea, and that Hazel herself has doubts. By the end of that first scene, the anniversary celebrations have derailed into disaster, and within the first few pages, Hazel is glad that “you know” situation never happened. In fact, she later confesses to a friend that doing so would have violated her promise to her twin sister—they’d both promised each other to wait until marriage. Her friend then tells her that no guy is worth breaking that promise for. It all ties in to the theme of not changing who she is or what she believes for the sake of another person, and she very obviously learns from it. It’s a realistic scenario teens face, and is handled gracefully in the book. And by the end of the book, this decision still holds.
The romance that develops later in the book is completely sweet, wholesome, and adorable, and fully fits the “Just Kisses” clean qualification...including the “Happy Ever After” future epilogue.
However, since I realize some parents may prefer this issue not be addressed so overtly, I docked one Happy Penguin from the rating.
I still highly recommend this book—for teens who are ready to read about these kind of high school relationship scenarios.
Actual Age Recommendation: At least high school, probably 16+ due to the above-mentioned thematic content.
Seriously, I love this book, though! If you want to check it out for yourself (and I highly recommend you do), you can find it here!
More YA Clean Reads book reviews will be coming...
Until next time!