Over my too short Christmas break I read both Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock and Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. In both cases I am eager to read more. Dairy Queen has two sequels, The Off Season and Front and Center. I already own The Off Season and will read it as soon as I finish a few others I have going right now. I got so enthusiastic during my break that I dug myself into a mid-sized reading hole. I will be out soon and on my way with lots of goodies. Perkins has written a second book, Lola and the Boy Next Door, which is not related to Anna as far as I know, but people who love Anna seems to also like Lola.
When I say these are sweet books, I do not mean they are overly saccharine and unrealistic. In fact both girls, D.J. and Anna, face some pretty serious situations. D.J.'s father is recovering from a serious injury that makes him unable to work the farm, leaving the bulk of the work to 15-year-old D.J. and her 9-year-old brother. Anna has been sent by her rich, popular novel writing father to the American School in Paris, where she does not want to be. Both she and her friends experience some typical teen angst as well as some deeper issues with cancer and parental control.
What makes both books especially admirable are the intelligent, strong, admirable female protagonists for whom all these good qualities are perfectly natural and not seen as unusual. (I find it irritating when a big deal is made when a female character is especially intelligent, talented, athletic, etc.) The writing is smooth, the dialogue realistic (though somewhat eloquent for teens) and the characters well-developed and believable. These are two books to read under a warm blanket with some hot cocoa.