________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 32 . . . . April 20, 2012


Rhymes with Cupid.

Anna Humphrey.
New York, NY: HarperTeen (Distributed in Canada by HarperCollins Canada), 2011.
234 pp., trade pbk., $8.99.
ISBN 978-0-06-193501-5.

Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.

Review by Chris Laurie.

***½ /4



“You’re crying,” he said suddenly. “What’s wrong?”

What was wrong? How could I explain it to him when I barely understood it myself? I was embarrassed, and sad, and so so angry. Behind the jokes I made and the tough front I put up, I felt scared and alone a lot of the time – but now more than ever. At a time when I needed friends the most, I couldn’t seem to let anybody in.

What was wrong was that the last time I’d opened up my heart and admitted to needing somebody, he’d turned around and flattened it to a pulp. What was wrong was that my new best friend, who deserved all the happiness in the world, was about to get it, and it was making me miserable. What was wrong, I realized fully with a shock, was that I had fallen completely and utterly in love… again…with someone who didn’t love me back… and I was terrified. More terrified than I’d every been in my life.

Valentine’s Day isn’t Elyse’s favourite day of the year. A year ago, on what is supposed to be the most romantic day of the year, she walked in on her best friend and her boy friend making out. But Elyse and her mom have made a new start, putting the past behind them. They have relocated to a new neighbourhood where her mom has started a new job after being laid off, and Elyse is in a new school with a new best friend, and most important: she will not be falling in love again.

      Unfortunately, her new job at Goodman’s Gifts and Stationery means she’s not only surrounded by Valentine cards, chocolates, and singing Cupid dolls, but she has to talk them up to the customers. After what happened with her last boyfriend, the last thing she needs right now is another relationship. But when Patrick walks into the store, Elyse finds it increasingly difficult to stick to her plan.

      On one level, Rhymes with Cupid reads like a routine romance novel, delivering all that we expect; a wounded but recovering heroine, quirky but loyal best friend, cute hero, and predictable ending. Familiar premise, right? But this novel doesn’t stop there.

      Elyse may be cynical, but she’s also self aware, intelligent and funny. She has built emotional walls and tries to convince herself that she doesn’t need love to be happy. In fact, the barriers she has constructed and her underlying vulnerability are qualities that make her easy to identify with.

      Many YA novels contain few adult characters, and those that do exist are usually portrayed as distant or non-effective. Rhymes with Cupid has included them in its portrayal of several different kinds of love. First, we have Elyse who has been hurt and now swears off love altogether. Then we have her best friend Dina, the hopeless romantic, blinded by love to the point of not being able to give up on someone who's moved on without her. Elyse's mother also finds love in the most unlikely of places. And finally, Patrick's grandfather who has never stopped loving his wife even after she has long passed away.

      In addition to a strong female heroine, Humphrey has created a mature, multidimensional male teen in Patrick. He is good to Elyse and is aware of how she has been mistreated and that she is coping the best she can. He is always there for her, not pushing, but waiting for her to work through her feelings.

      Rhymes with Cupid’s premise may be familiar, but it’s a fun, light-hearted teen romance, with engaging, multi-layered characters that delivers more than most in its genre.

Highly Recommended.

Chris Laurie is an Outreach Librarian at Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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