Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Road to Happily Ever After

by Melanie Hooyenga

When I was a kid, I gobbled up books like the Sweet Valley High series and anything by Judy Blume. I’d lose myself in the characters’ lives, imagining what it’d be like to kiss my one true love or figure out my life before going to college. But somewhere along the way, it became uncouth to seek out these books.

Sure, it was okay to read Jane Green or Helen Fielding, as long as the books that surrounded them on your shelves were deeper literary fiction. You know, REAL literature. If you were going to read a book on public transportation, Khaled Hosseini trumped Sophie Kinsella any day.

But I never stopped loving the happily ever after. I’ve read most of Nicholas Sparks’ books (and seen the movies) but those aren’t the novels I’d discuss with fellow book lovers. If books came up in conversation I’d name-drop the bestsellers of the day, but in the privacy of my home I’d devour Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin.

All that changed when I started reading young adult novels. While the plots are as varied as anything you’ll find in adult literature (and they certainly don’t all end happily), YA novels don’t shy away from the idea that things might work out in the end. Even in the darkest YA, there’s usually a glimmer of hope that while things may not end perfectly, they will get better. And I don’t know about you, but I could usually use a little hope at the end of the day.

Soon I discovered Stephanie Perkins, Lisa McMann, and shelves full of authors who don’t shy away from happiness, and I slowly stopped caring what other people thought of my reading choices. There have been countless articles arguing that YA lit somehow isn’t as good as adult lit, and while I won’t get into that debate here (although I think it should be clear where I stand), I think what really matters is that you read what you enjoy. If you love horror or thrillers or non-fiction adventures, read those! And own it. Don’t hide your true joy in a dark kindle. Life’s too short for that.

I still read the occasional adult novel — even ones without happy endings — but YA happily ever afters hold my heart and I’m no longer afraid to admit it.

Recipe for a Perfect Date

Welcome to the March edition of Ask the Sweethearts! Before we get to this month’s question, our February contest winner is (drum roll, please) Melanie Bracco, who receives a print edition of THE TRAIL RULES by Melanie Hooyenga, coming out March 9! From one Melanie to another … congratulations! Now for the question:

What is your idea of a perfect date?

Linda Budzinski: I heard the other day about a poll in which snuggling by a fire was ranked as the best date. I have to admit, that’s pretty good, especially if it involves hot chocolate with Kahlua and marshmallows, but for me, the perfect date involves getting out and doing something fun. This could mean Frisbee golf, putt putt, bowling, skating, darts (and have I mentioned I like escape rooms?). For Valentine’s day, I bought a curling lesson for my husband and me. We are both super excited to try it. It looks a little bit like bocci on ice, and we both love bocci! Hmm. Maybe afterward, there could be snuggling by a fire….

Stephanie Scott: To be honest, my date nights have increasingly become staying in to watch Netflix and order take out. While I love this, a night in is a bit lacking in adventure! I like the idea of being a tourist in your own town. I recently discovered an independent bookstore only a few miles from me that I never knew existed. Checking out a new restaurant, an art exhibit, or a park in a nearby area helps me appreciate where I live. Sharing that with a special someone is even better.

Melanie Hooyenga: My perfect date involves good food and drink, lively conversation, and excellent scenery. I live less than a mile from Lake Michigan, so it’s pretty much a requirement that a date includes either driving by the lake or walking on the pier, and since we’re also thirty minutes from Beer City USA (Grand Rapids, MI) there’s a good chance a brewery will be involved. But really, the more I can be outside, the better, so a picnic near the lake is my ideal. Recently, my husband and I were at a brewery and pretended we’d just met, so when we went to dinner afterwards we acted like it was our first date. We asked all the getting-to-know-you questions that you take for granted once you’re married, and it was fun experiencing the butterflies I often write about but haven’t experienced in years.

Karole Cozzo: Coming off of a Disney trip (with kids), I think a pretty perfect date would be an evening in the World Showcase at Epcot. Margaritas in Mexico or lager and a soft pretzel in Germany to start the night, dinner in Italy, and a late night stroll through France, complete with a stop at L’Artisan des Glace for gelato or an ice cream martini to cap the night. Right now, with warm breezes and the flower and garden festival going on, I can’t think of a better evening — a date where you get to travel the world in a single night!

Robin Constantine: Hmmm…I love going to the movies, but I think for a date it would be better to do something active like hitting the boardwalk at the Jersey shore to play games, sample the food, sit on the beach and take in the sunset and people watch or go for a hike in a local park, maybe even one with a little bit of history — some activity that is conducive to shared experience, to take the pressure off “having to talk,” like if you were sitting across from each other at dinner. Nothing like an awkward silence to kill the romance!

Erin Fletcher: My perfect date (besides April 25th, of course … bonus points if you get that reference!) would be a new experience. Something like visiting a new art museum, taking a cooking class, or exploring a hiking trail. New experiences always lead to great conversation, learning about each other, and having a lot of fun. And if the date can somehow include coffee and/or ice cream, that would be even better!

What is your recipe for a perfect date?