Desert Isle Keeper
The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman
I’m extremely partial to young adult fiction. I am, of course, a children’s librarian, so that’s not surprising, but I don’t think that you have to be a young adult or a young adult librarian to enjoy YA literature. It’s quite often well written, but almost never pretentious. It often deals with serious subjects or issues, but these issues are always resolved with the characters having learned something about both life and themselves. And, finally, YA fiction almost always ends on a hopeful note; not necessarily happily-ever-after, but definitely hopeful. The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman meets all of these criteria, and is a darn good read as well.
High-school senior Kate Bjorkman doesn’t like romance novels. She thinks they are “disgusting, with kisses that last three paragraphs and make you want to put your finger down your throat to induce projectile vomiting.” But she has her own little romantic story to tell, something wonderful that happened to her last Christmas, so she sits down with a copy of The Romance Writer’s Phrase Book to try and draft something that will be a little more like “real life.”
The resulting novel is both hilarious and touching. Kate’s got the perfect cast of characters to work with. There’s the hero, Richard, who is her older brother Bjorn’s best friend. Richard is kind, charming, and good-looking. Kate’s had a crush on him for forever, but she hasn’t seen him lately. He’s been away at Stanford, but he, Bjorn, Bjorn’s wife Trish, and the bright, beautiful Fleur St. Germaine -that’s right Fleur St. Germaine – who may or may not be Richard’s girlfriend, have come to Wisconsin for Christmas at the Bjorkmans’. Add to this holiday mix Kate’s scheming, overly mature friend Ashley who also has the hots for Richard, and you have the perfect recipe for fun.
The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman is both a clever satire on romance novels, and a lovely, thoughtful romance in and of itself. It’s written like the first draft of a novel with Notes for Revision interrupting the narrative every three chapters or so. Kate doesn’t take herself or her book too seriously, and she constantly pokes fun at the purplish descriptive suggestions proferred by The Romance Writer’s Phrase Book. But, in a way, the story still follows the basic pattern of a regular romance.
The best thing about this book is the characterization. Each character defies stereotype, and none of them seems the least bit cardboardy. Kate is a very appealing heroine. She’s smart, she’s confident, and she’s even comfortable with her non-romance-novel appearance. This is how she describes herself:
I know I mentioned my height-six feet-but did I mention the glasses? It’s a rhetorical question. I didn’t mention them on purpose, because I wanted you to imagine me looking like Cindy Crawford. I have worn glasses since I was three years old, and even when I have cool Giorgio Armani frames, my eyes are magnified about three times their size with these plate glass lenses.I know this is a disappointment in someone who is supposed to be the romantic heroine of this book, but unless you’re one of those really shallow readers, you’ll continue.
One of the most refreshing things about Kate is that she knows herself, she’s proud of herself, and she’s unwilling to change to attract her hero. The other characters are just as well drawn and appealing, and they aren’t exactly what you might think them to be. Kate observes both her parents’ and her brother’s relationships, and the conclusions she draws helps her to make her own decisions about what a love relationship should be. I really liked these people. They seemed so down-to-earth and normal, but not in the least way boring or predictable.
I had such a great time reading this book. It was the perfect antidote to some of the more serious and angsty romances I’ve read lately. Louise Plummer has written several young adult novels that I have liked, but this one is my favorite. For those of you who have yet to try young adult fiction, I would strongly recommend that you give it a chance. The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman would be an excellent place to start.