Category Archives: Romance

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

girl in the steel corset  

Bibliographic Information:

Cross, Kady. The Girl in the Steel Corset. Don Mills, Ontario: Harlequin Teen, 2011. (978-0-373-21070-1) – includes bonus novella The Strange Case of Finley Jayne


The Steampunk Chronicles

            • The Strange Case of Finley Jayne
            • The Girl in the Steel Corset
            • The Girl in the Clockwork Collar
            • The Girl with the Iron Touch


  • Steampunk
  • Paranormal

Plot Summary:

Set in 1897 Victorian England, the novel opens with sixteen-year-old Finley being attacked by her employer’s son. But Finley is no ordinary girl to be taken advantage of by the nobility. She has an alter ego that has supernatural strength and a desire for violence. Even though she was just protecting herself, she knows as a maid in the noble’s house there will be consequences and so she runs – straight in front of the velocycle of Griffin King, the Duke of Greythorne.

While Finley recuperates at Greythorne House, Griffin quickly realizes that there is something dark and dangerous about Finley but he has secrets of his own and he is sure he can help the troubled girl merge the two sides of her personality. Besides, he already has an unusual collection of friends including the brilliant scientist Emily, the part-mechanical Sam, and the American cowboy Jasper who is faster than any normal human. It is difficult to trust an outsider with their secrets and Finley’s arrival adds an added strain to an already complex set of relationships.

Throw into the mix the mad Machinist who plans to take over England and destroy Griffin. Things have gotten tricky

While running away after being attacked by her employer’s son, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne is hit by Griffin King. Now, Griffin says he wants to protect her but Finley has a secret. There’s something dark inside her and it is getting stronger. If she stays, who is going to protect Griffin?

Critical Evaluation:

Cross’ decision to employ an omniscient third person point of view is appropriate. In The Girl in the Steel Corset she introduces the reader to the many characters that will star in the succeeding novels. By moving between her characters, she allows the reader to get a feeling for the internal motivations of Finley, Emily, Sam, Griffin, and to a smaller degree Jasper, although the primary focus of the story remains with Finley. In the following novels, Cross tells her tale focusing on one of the other characters while still developing the relationships and plotlines developed in the first novel.

The author also took the time to provide appropriate backstories for her quintet of stars. By doing do, the reader can empathize with Sam’s mixed feelings about his robotic side; the illusions to Frankenstein are light but resonate. The similarities to the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde also add additional depth to the tale.

Cross aptly describes the Steampunk Chronicles as “Teen X-Men meets League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, minus the extreme violence.” (Steampunk Scholar blog, March 9, 2013). The only thing missing from this summary is the romance that she wove through the narrative.

Bottom Line:

Worth adding to a high school library collection. Fun, light, and sigh-worthy.

Information about the Author:

Kady Cross and Kate Cross are both pseudonyms of author, Kathryn Smith. As Kathryn Smith, she has written a number of adult historical romances. Please see her sites for more information:

Kady Cross:

Kate Cross:

Kathryn Smith:

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Young Adult

Challenge Issues:

  • Sexual content (mild)
  • Violence

Divergent by Veronica Roth

divergentBibliographic Information:

Roth, V. (2011). Divergent. New York: Katherine Tegen Books. (978-0062024022)

Insurgent, bk. 2

Allegiant, bk 3 (forthcoming)

Plot Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior was born into an Abnegation family but she has never felt she belonged. She knows that she going to have to decide what faction she belongs with on Choosing Day.

When she takes her aptitude test, she finds out that she has an aptitude for three factions; Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. She does not have an aptitude for the other two factions Candor or Amity. She also learns that showing an aptitude for more than one faction makes her Divergent, which can be dangerous to her if anyone finds out.

On Choosing Day, Beatrice decides to choose Dauntless. Renamed Triss, she now has to prove she belongs to her new faction. She will have to be Dauntless to survive.

Critical Evaluation:

There have been many comparisons made between Divergent and The Hunger Games. Both feature strong female protagonists who have to leave their families and compete to determine their place in society. Neither accepts the social conventions of their society but they are forced to play a part that is based on lies and deceit.

The similarities also mean that fans of The Hunger Games that are mourning the end of the series will be happy to turn to Divergent and the two additional books in the trilogy.

Divergent should not, however, be viewed as a carbon copy of The Hunger Games. Roth has created a conflicted main character who is trying to decide who she is away from her family. Beatrice/Triss will learn some truths about her society’s past in the novel and she will have to decide if being Dauntless is enough.

Reader’s Annotation:

Beatrice needs to choose her role in her society. She can only choose one. How can she choose only one and be true to what she is – Divergent.

Information About the Author:

For more information about Veronica Roth and to follow the series please visit her blog.


  • Dystopian fiction
  • Post-Apocalyptic fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Identity
  • Family

Curriculum Ties:

  • English – could work as a novel study with other dystopian novels currently published.

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Combine with the other dystopians that are so popular
  • Read-alike with The Hunger Games
  • Watch the book trailer.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:


  • Kraus, D. (2011). Divergent. Booklist, 107(13), 56.

“The simplistic, color-coded world stretches credibility on occasion, but there is no doubt readers will respond to the gutsy action and romance of this umpteenth spin on Brave New World.”

  • Divergent. (2011). Kirkus Reviews, 79(8), 696.

“Fans snared by the ratcheting suspense will be unable to resist speculating on their own factional allegiance; a few may go on to ponder the questions of loyalty and identity beneath the facade of thrilling adventure.”


Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The Almost Truth by Eileen Cook

Almost truthBibliographic Information:

Cook, E. (2012). The almost truth. New York: Simon Pulse. (978-1442440197)

Plot Summary:

Sadie has a plan. She has saved her money, filled out the forms, and she is ready to leave Bowton Island and start her real life at the University of California in Berkeley. Or she was, until she finds out that her mother has taken all of her money from her account to pay for her father’s lawyer bills and fix the bathroom.

It had taken a lot of small cons for Sadie to raise the four thousand dollar deposit needed for university. Her waitress job would never bring in enough money on its own.

With one big con, however, she still might be able to live her dream. Luckily, she is a better con artist than her father – and she looks just like an age enhanced computer-generated picture of a long lost heiress.

Critical Evaluation:

From the cover of the book one would think this novel will be a typical romance novel. It is a romance but romance is definitely not the focus of the plot. Cook is an experienced author who knows the importance of developing a character. Sadie is a well-developed character with a few quirks to keep her interesting and a complicated living situation. In the end, the book is really about personal identity and choice.

Like Ally Carter’s successful Heist Society, The Almost Truth’s heroine as is a good girl living a life on the wrong side of the law. Also like Carter’s Heist Society, humor plays an important role in keeping the plot fun and light.

Cook has also created an interesting set of secondary characters from Sadie’s con artist father to her long-time friend and current boyfriend, Brendan who willingly helps her with her cons.

The Almost Truth is a fun read that does not take itself too seriously. In a teenage market filled with dystopias it is a refreshing change.

Reader’s Annotation:

Sadie needs just one big con to change her life forever. All she needs to do is convince everyone she is a long-lost heiress. If she fails, she may end up in a cell by Daddy. The stakes are high and she can’t afford to fail.

Information About the Author:

Eileen Cook is an accomplished writer with several books to her credit including Unraveling Isobel and The Education of Hailey Kendrick. She completed high school and university in Michigan. She has a degree in English and in counseling (Eileen Cook Revealed). Currently, she lives in Vancouver.

For more information please visit Cook’s website.


  • Chick lit
  • Romance fiction
  • Mystery fiction

Curriculum Ties:

  • N/A

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read the section where Sadie finds out her mother took her money
    • Ask if her mother had the right to do so
  • Create a book list of thieving heroes

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 12 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • Sadie is a con artist

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?:

I read The Almost Truth for a book committee and thought it was fun and a nice change from the darker themes found in dystopias and the teen problem novels.



Eileen Cook revealed. (n.d.). Retreived from

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

boy meets boyBibliographic Information:

Levithan, D. (2005). Boy meets boy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Plot Summary:
Paul is comfortable in his skin. He has grown up in a family that has supported and accepted him throughout his life. He lives in a town that is supportive of all types of people. In fact, he found out that he was gay from his kindergarten teacher when he was five-years-old.

Even though his life is pretty good he cannot escape some high school drama. When his best friend decides to break up with him and his ex-boyfriend decides he wants to be part of his life again, things get complicated with his new love, Noah.
Critical Evaluation:
The simplicity of Levithan’s plot and language make the plot accessible to the reader. The narrative arc also follows the traditional pattern of a romance.  The simplicity of the story allows the reader to appreciate some of the literacy devices artfully employed by the author.

For example, the idealized world Levithan created for Paul, such as the supportive school with the transsexual football star, supportive town, and family, is negatively mirrored by the lack of support and desire of suppression portrayed by Tony’s family and the lack of interest or affection in Noah’s family.

The simplicity of the writing also allows the reader focus on the diverse group of characters in a utopian world. In Levithan’s utopia, gender and sexuality are simply not an issue. There is no segregation of the homosexual community.  Teenagers of all types gather to dance in a bookstore. There are motorcycle-riding cheerleaders. The transsexual homecoming queen is also the football quarterback. The ex-boyfriend turns out to be bisexual.

In the end, Levithan is looking at relationships. He is looking at relationships between siblings, boys that are friends, boyfriend-boyfriend, friends of the opposite gender, parent to child, and boyfriend-girlfriend. He also looks at what type of relationships exist after break-ups.

Reader’s Annotation:

When Paul’s best friend decides to break up with him and his ex-boyfriend decides he wants to be part of his life again, things get complicated with his new love, Noah. Paul holds out hope that he will be able to beat the odds and reunite before the Dowager Dance. After all, in a high school with motorcycling cheerleaders and a homecoming queen who is also the star quarterback, anything is possible.

Information About the Author:

David Levithan is a man with many hats. He has worked for Scholastic since he was 19 and has moved through the ranks to be an editorial director of Scholastic Press fiction. As an editor, he has been involved with several series including Star Wars and the Baby-sitters Club.

In 2002, he founded the PUSH imprint which is interested in “new voices and new authors in teen literature.” Through PUSH, Levithan has worked with such well-known authors such as Suzanne Collins, M.T. Anderson, and Garth Nix.

Boy Meets Boy was published in 2003 and started his career as an author. Since that time he has published a number of books. He has co-authored a couple of books and has become a crossover writer with his adult book, Lover’s Dictionary.

For more information, please visit his website,


  • Romance

Curriculum Ties:

  • Personal identity
  • Plot development

Booktalking Ideas:

  • “Romance by any other name” booklist
  • “Not your typical high school”   booklist
  • Create some notes that Paul and Noah may have sent to each other.

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Grades 9-12
  • Reading level 6.2

Challenge Issues:

  • Homosexuality and transsexual identity
  1. Listen to the critic to understand what the concerns are.
    1. Ask if he/she has read the book
    2. Ask if he/she has spoken to his/her child about the concerns.
  2. Explain rationale for including the book in the collection
    1. Provide CLA Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom and CLA’s Position Statement of Diversity and Inclusion documents
    2. Provide school’s selection policy
    3. Provide list of reviews/lists
  3. If necessary, provide a “Request for Reconsideration form”

Why did you include this book?:

  • Won the 2003 Lambda Literary Award in the Children/Young Adult section.
  • Reviews:
    • Jones, T. (2003). Boy Meets Boy (Book). School Library Journal, 49(9), 216-217.
    • Boy Meets Boy. (2005). Publishers Weekly, 252(27), 97.
    • Cart, M. (2003). Boy Meets Boy (Book). Booklist, 99(22), 1980.

Additional resources:

Levithan, D. (2004). Supporting gay teen literature. School Library Journal (January 10, 2004) retrieved at

David Levithan’s site:

Lambda Awards:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

seraphina Bibliographic information

Hartman, R. (2012). Seraphina. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. (978-0-385-66839-2)

Plot summary

Sixteen-year-old Seraphina Dombegh is a gifted musician who has just recently found a place in the royal court as a new assistant to the court composer. Her love of music encouraged her to defy her father and come to court even though she had been taught to blend in and hide since childhood as her mere existence is considered an aberration to both sides of her parentage. Her mother was a saarantrai; a dragon in human form. It wasn’t until her death and Seraphina’s birth that her father learned that the woman he loved wasn’t really a human.

Seraphina’s musical talents draw her into the inner circle of the Princess  Glisselda and her fiancé, Prince Lucien Kiggs. As Seraphina’s knowledge about dragons becomes known, she finds herself in the unique position of helping Kiggs, who is also Captain of the Queen’s Guard, try to solve a mysterious murder. She has come into the world of court at a time of high drama; it appears that Prince Rufus was killed by a dragon just before Ardmagar Comonot, the dragon’s leader, arrives to celebrate the anniversary of a treaty between their two nations. Someone is trying to destroy that peace treaty and Seraphina may hold the key to peace – or to war. But the more time she spends with the observant Captain, the closer he gets to learning her terrible secret.

Critical evaluation

Hartman’s debut novel, Seraphina, received a number of richly deserved accolades including the 2013 YALSA Morris Award for Best YA Debut Novel and the Cybils Award for Fantasy and Science Fiction. Seraphina was also a finalist for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award (Canada), short-listed for the Kitschies’ Golden Tentacle Award (UK), and long-listed for the Carnegie Medal (“Seraphina”).

Hartman’s tightly spun plot tells the story of the musically talented Seraphina. Told through Seraphina’s voice, the reader is first introduced to a scared young woman afraid to be noticed. As the plot develops, however, Seraphina’s character is shown to be increasingly complex as the reader is given glimpses of the depth of her confusion and self-loathing about her dragon heritage as she relates memories of her childhood. This coming-of-age story follows a remarkable heroine on her road to self-acceptance.

The kingdom of Goredd has the flavour of the Italian Renaissance with the rich interest in the arts, opulent dress, and focus on politics. Indeed, Hartman has aptly developed two cultures; one based on humanism focusing on creativity, art and emotion and the other based on the founding ideals of the Enlightenment with its focus the intellect, reason, and objectivity. These two ideals are embodied in the character of Seraphina who, being half dragon and half human, is struggling to accept herself as something more than the monster that both societies view her as.

Reader’s annotation

Seraphina’s gift of music came from her dragon heritage. But, when a dragon becomes the main suspect in a royal murder, that closely guarded secret could undermine her growing relationship with Prince Lucien Kiggs, destroy her family and, perhaps, throw the kingdom into war.

Information about the author

According to her website, , Rachel was born in Kentucky. She has lived throughout the United States, England, and Japan and currently lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She has a BA in Comparative Literature but “eschewed graduate school in favour of drawing comic books.”

Challenge issues:

  • none

Seraphina is her first novel.

Genre: Fantasy fiction, subgenre: animal

Curriculum ties: none

Booktalking ideas:

  • Read the section where Seraphina is describing her garden
  • Internal struggle for identity
  • Conflict of the rational vs emotion
  • Use of music as a plot device
  • Fear of the “other”
  • Book trailer

Reading level/interest:

  • 15 and up
  • Grade level 4.6

Why did you include this title?:

  • Canadian author
  • Winner of the 2013 YALSA Morris Award for Best YA Debut Novel, Cybils Award,Finalist for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award (Canada),Short-listed for the Kitschies’ Golden Tentacle Award (UK),Long-listed for the Carnegie Medal
  • Received starred reviews from Horn Book, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.