First Lines: Here they come. “–or I promise you, we’ll turn right around and go back to Paterson!” the woman behind the wheel of the burgundy minivan was shouting as it pulled up beside me.
With two snow days this week, I have had an impromptu four-day weekend and LOTS of time to read. Which is FANTASTIC. I’m breezing through thick books that would take me about a week with school! This is a book I have been meaning to read for a while, but it just never seemed like the right time.
Luke is the perfect boyfriend for Emaline. He’s kind, sweet, and super hot. They’ve been together for three years, basically all through high school. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if that’s enough to keep them together. Then comes Theo, the super-ambitious New Yorker who’s come to Colby to make a documentary about a local artist. Theo’s different and smart…and he thinks Emaline is too smart for Colby. So does Emaline’s absentee father, who’s convinced Emaline has to go to an Ivy League school to meet her potential. Emaline loves all these bright stars in her future, but she also has deep roots in Colby, with her mom and step-family. Emaline wants the moon and more, but can she balance that with where she came from?
I really liked Emaline in this story, and I thought she was highly relatable. How many of us dream our whole lives to leave our hometown and then, when the time comes, we aren’t so sure we actually do want to break free of our roots? Emaline is a strong female character who tends to be a people person. But when she’s upset, she’ll say exactly what she’s thinking. I liked how realistic that felt, and how opposite they were.
Other characters, too, felt realistic. Some were sweet, some were frustrating. And some were quirky. But the best part was that you found yourself relating to and liking the characters you never thought you would. (Morris?! Really?)
I liked that this felt different from other Dessen novels. (This is something she has specifically talked about before. She was told she was too formulaic with her novels so she wrote this differently and was given backlash for it. You can’t win.) Anywho, I liked that this felt different because that also made it feel more relatable to the point I’m currently at in my life. Emaline is at a crossroads in her life, where every direction feels like it has more cons than pros. But this ending just felt like Emaline, pure and simple. Anything else wouldn’t have been her.
I know I have very little evidence to back this up, but it felt like Emaline’s home situation is harder than previous Dessen characters. I don’t know exactly why, except that it’s been a long time since I’ve read other Dessen books. Emaline has a pretty good relationship with her mom and dad (who is actually her stepdad), but a rocky one with her biological father. That was an interesting relationship to explore.
But the reason I really love Dessen books is that there’s always something to learn from them. Something about life, love, relationship, or something in between. There’s so much wisdom in these pages. Sometimes, that means the story is emotional and heavy. Other times I just happened to find things in Emaline’s life that echoed mine. But I just love the advice I find in her writing.
Overall, this was a really cute book that doesn’t shy away from tougher topics.