Book review: ‘The Nature of Jade’ by Deb Caletti

The Nature of JadeAs part of my New Year’s resolution to enjoy the items I already own, I’ve decided to start reading — really reading — many of the novels I’ve had languishing on my bookshelves for years.

Like this one. Received in our blogger goodie bag back at the Book Blogger Convention in 2010 (!), I’ve been meaning to pick up Deb Caletti’s novel for, oh . . . well, about four years now.

So was it worth the wait?

Eh, sort of. But we’ll get there.

So here we have Jade DeLuna, a bright high school senior who privately battles a panic disorder. Stricken with anxiety for years, Jade finds focusing on the animals at a nearby zoo — the elephants, specifically — takes her out of her own head. She watches the live cam online most evenings, occasionally seeing a young man in a red jacket pop on her screen. He’s cute and uncertain, it seems — just like her.

And he’s got a kid strapped to his back.

A little investigative work — and some “coincidences” in timing — eventually lead her to come face-to-face with Sebastian, a local bookstore owner with a pained past. As Jade begins to volunteer with the elephants and learn more about them (and herself), she must come to terms with whether she’s ready and strong enough to let this kind of love filter into her life.

Deb Caletti’s The Nature of Jade started off strong for me. As someone who also deals with anxiety, I could definitely relate to our heroine’s struggles to live a “normal” life while keeping her feelings quiet. It was easy to empathize, really — almost too easy.

The elephant plot thread? Interesting. Not something I’ve seen before. While volunteering at the zoo, Jade meets lots of interesting folks and, of course, Sebastian — as well as his young son. The story of how the pair came to be on a houseboat with Sebastian’s grandma is interesting . . . but as the storyline progresses, it all seemed to be a little . . . weird.

I don’t know how to explain it. I guess it started with a sense that, while kind, Sebastian wasn’t quite what he seems. I never quite . . . bonded with him. Felt for him, maybe, but wasn’t nearly as enamored with him as Jade was. The whole progression of their relationship seemed odd, especially since the only thing initially pulling him to her was that, after hours, he would find himself gazing at the elephants the same way Jade would. Which she knew because she saw him on the online cam, looking moodily off at the sky. Just like Jade did.

Maybe it doesn’t sound that weird, but it was just . . . strange.

There were parts of The Nature of Jade I really liked, including our lead’s emotional journey from uncertain high schooler to rising college student. She gains confidence, poise and maturity, even as other aspects of her life begin to unravel. I found her parents’ marriage struggles to be realistic and heartbreaking, and I loved the dynamic she shares with Oliver, her little brother.

What I didn’t love? Sebastian’s back story. Without spoilers, I felt the rationale guiding his decisions to be . . . thin. That his grandmother aided him felt a little fishy to me, honestly, and I had a tough time relating to what he was doing. It seemed impulsive, strange and selfish, and I couldn’t help but wonder how the whole thing was going to play out. It was working for now, maybe, but what about five years from now? Or ten? His son would start asking questions. Everything would unravel.

And that distracted me. Not that I found Sebastian to be a truly bad dude or anything, but what was he doing drawing Jade into this whole disaster? True love and blah-ity blah blah, perhaps, but it seemed unfair. And the whole “I thought you were older” justification for their relationship didn’t strike the right chords with me. Or, like, any chords.

I’m being harsher in this review than I felt while reading it, maybe, but reflection creates differing opinions. It was a quick and mostly satisfying story, but not one I found especially memorable. Still, for fans of young adult and those who long to see anxiety disorders represented in YA culture, The Nature of Jade was a decent read.


3.5 out of 5!

Pub: Feb. 27, 2007 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review


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Book review: ‘Eleanor & Park’ by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & ParkAh, first love.

Eleanor knows she’s in it . . . but not quite how to get out of it.

And she has to, right? She can’t go on investing feelings and interest and time in someone who will simply outgrow her. Lose interest in her. Move on, move forward, be done.

But Park is looking for something, too. Security, acceptance, understanding . . . a sense of belonging he can’t find as the only Asian kid in a small Nebraska town. Eleanor has her flaming-red hair, plus a strange dress code only she seems to follow; Park has his tan skin and lack of athletic ambition, which plagues his totalitarian father.

Forced together by a war for bus seats, Eleanor first gets to know Park simply through his choice of reading material: comic books. Time passes without the two ever speaking a word to one another, but once the dam breaks?

Well, there’s no stopping it.

Set in 1986, the magic of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park is the sweetness and nostalgia it evokes — the quiet power of remembering that blush of first love when everything seemed possible, yet nothing was for certain. Anyone who has felt that terrifying rush of emotion, that hurtling from a cliff, will recognize themselves in our young couple.

It’s impossible not to remember our own first experience liking someone who actually likes you back.

For me, it was N. In my senior year of high school, I didn’t feel I could graduate without ever having had a real boyfriend (hand-holding doesn’t count) — and when I screwed up the courage to ask him to the prom, he popped my balloon faster than you can say “corsage.”

He said he’d think about it.

Think about it. Like I’d asked him for a pay-day loan.

I remember that moment like it was yesterday: plucking up the strength to approach him, this friend I’d been flirting with for months; waiting for a private moment to ask casually about the dance; somehow pulling the serious, terrified words from my throat. The awkward silence after I asked the question. The awful, horrible weekend that followed, waiting to see what his answer would be come Monday.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have waited for him to “think about it.” But, you know. I was 17, desperate for a date to prom — and truly interested in N., who shocked the heck out of me by returning to school looking shame-faced, saying of course he would go with me, and my God he was sorry for keeping me in suspense.

And that was it. Lightning bolt! He liked me back.

Eleanor goes through a similar transition, one wavering between disbelief and surprise and terror that someone like Park would actually be romantically intrigued by her. Because Eleanor? She’s complicated. From her odd clothes to wild locks to isolation from everyone save her messed-up family, she never imagines Park could ever feel for her . . . you know, like that. And Park? For as cute and smart and funny as he is, he’s so influenced by his rigid father that he can’t understand he’s fine — perfect, even — just the way he is.

I often found myself cringing for Eleanor, wanting so badly to help her avoid the devastating effects of her  stepfather or the mean-spirited kids at school. I really felt for this couple, cheering them on from the beginning, and their deep understanding and affection for one another means readers are drawn completely into their warm little cocoon. As the plot thickened, my heart was hammering as I considered they could never come out of this unscathed.

But does anyone?

Is that even possible?

Eleanor & Park was heartbreaking, realistic, uplifting, often hopeful. It was suspenseful, compelling throughout, and I found myself reading it with a vigor I haven’t felt in a while. Portions reminded me of Sara Zarr’s Sweethearts, one of my favorite young adult novels — and just like Zarr’s story, it’s not one I’ll soon forget.


4 out of 5!

Pub: Feb. 26, 2013 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg


Book review: ‘The Tragedy Paper’ by Elizabeth LaBan

The Tragedy PaperTim Macbeth is used to attention — just not the kind he’d want. As an albino teen, it’s rare that his appearance doesn’t set off a wave of stares and whispers. At the encouragement of his mother and stepfather, switching to a prestigious New York boarding school to finish his senior year seems like a chance at a fresh start . . . but whether or not he has any fun, Tim already has his college career hand-selected and waiting for him. He just has to get through the next few months.

Then he meets Vanessa Sheller. On a snowy night in Chicago, a canceled flight pushes two strangers together in a shuttered airport. Unused to being treated “normally,” especially by a beautiful girl, Tim questions everything about their time together — but never the way he’s starting to feel about her. When the two are surprisingly reunited at the Irving School, Tim assumes he’ll go back to feeling marginalized and alone. That Vanessa, so popular and lovely, will forget all about him.

But she doesn’t.

Elizabeth LaBan’s The Tragedy Paper is an arresting, heart-in-your-throat young adult novel that clamped its hooks in me the way only the best teen fiction can do. Though I could draw similarities between the novel and John Green’s Looking For Alaska, LaBan has penned a story that is wholly her own. We’re given an entertaining, heartbreaking and fast-paced beginning and middle, a book I really couldn’t put down . . . and maybe that’s why I wound up feeling let down and conflicted by the close. But we’ll get there.

So my description, written as carefully to avoid spoilers as I could, fails to mention the second of our two narrators: Duncan. A semester after Tim’s story unfolds, we know some Terrible, Rotten, No Good, Very Bad Thing has happened — and it’s Duncan who feels awful about it. Tim records the full, unedited story of his hidden life with Vanessa for Duncan to find and . . . hopefully release his guilt? Understand why things went down as they did? Forgive himself? Maybe all of the above.

So Duncan’s story is told in real time, and Tim’s is a recollection of the past. I was fully immersed in both worlds, though I tended to favor Tim’s storytelling (and his plot line was simply more interesting). I spent most of The Tragedy Paper, so named for a thesis all seniors must complete for English class, trying to figure out Duncan’s role in this Terrible, Awful Thing that transpires. Beyond that, he was a little dull.

But that’s not entirely Duncan’s fault. It’s just that Tim is so intelligent, wry, endearing — charismatic precisely because he believes that’s something he’ll never be. As he recalls the evening he spends with Vanessa in Chicago, I could feel the raw and gut-wrenching emotion Tim experiences at being so close to something he believes he’ll never have. Though he doesn’t believe he’s obsessed with his appearance, Tim’s albinism influences every aspect of his life. It makes him feel so distinctly “Other” that he fails to connect with friends — anyone aside from his family and teachers. That separateness is exactly why I believe he falls so hard for Vanessa. It’s all so very “Gatsby”-esque, you know? She is the physical embodiment of a life he’ll never have.

So how to explain her feelings?

Vanessa is a puzzling character. For one, she has a boyfriend. Not that, you know, that’s a huge thing to change when you’re 17 — but the boyfriend, of course, is a jerk. Tim stands in stark contrast to Patrick, the brutish jock who decides early on that his girlfriend’s associations with the new albino kid just aren’t going to work. I spent most of the story waiting for a big blow-out, on edge and nervous about where LaBan was taking us.

I can’t fully express how sucked into this story I was until the final chapters, friends, and maybe that’s why I’m having such a hard time coping with the eventual truth. As Duncan finally discovers — and reveals — what happened during an ill-fated senior prank, I got angry. Confused. Disappointed. Not because I couldn’t handle the truth — because I couldn’t help but rage, That’s it? THAT’S IT?

Because seriously. Seriously. We’ve just traveled 300-ish pages with Duncan feeling all guilty and sick and sorrowful for something that happened and Vanessa being all cute but flighty and Tim revealing in pieces and puzzles what actually happened on one snowy evening at the Irving School and I thought, “OMG, something crazy and terrible is going to happen!” but then . . .

Well.

Do I still recommend The Tragedy Paper? Absolutely. LaBan’s writing is strong and affecting and interesting. Tim is such a unique, excellent character — vulnerable, tough, worldly, brave, as stupid in the face of love as any of us. Despite feeling like someone had popped my “Go Tim!” balloon by the close, I was too drawn into the novel to rate it anything less than four stars.

Fans of John Green, realistic teen fiction, boarding school settings and strong first-person narration will find plenty to love in LaBan’s novel. The overarching idea of “tragedy” — what is a tragedy? what’s not a tragedy? — was compelling, too, and provided a fascinating lens through which to view the story. Was the conclusion truly a tragedy? Was it avoidable? If it was avoidable, is that what truly makes it a tragedy? Or was it all just . . . meant to be?

I have so many questions, so many talking points since finishing . . . and this isn’t a story I’ll get out of my head anytime soon.


4 out of 5!

Pub: January 8, 2013 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review


Book review: ‘Going Vintage’ by Lindsey Leavitt

Going VintageAfter she discovers her boyfriend cheating on her with a virtual girlfriend, 16-year-old Mallory decides she’s over technology. Her grandma got along just fine without FriendSpace and smartphones and digital gossip back in the ’60s, and Mallory decides “going vintage” is the way to sidestep her problems. Armed with a list created by Grandma fifty years earlier on how to make the most of her school year, Mallory recruits her sister in a scheme to shun modern technology until the current storm passes.

And pass it does — though not in the way Mallory expects. Jeremy doesn’t take the break-up well, even given his own indiscretions, and goes on a mission to win her back — though a handsome newcomer seems intent on showing Mallory what she’s been missing. Family rivalry, vintage throwbacks, sisterly love . . . all in a day’s work.

Lindsey Leavitt’s Going Vintage is a cute, offbeat young adult novel that will find a home with hip teens. Since anything old-school is trendy right now, I definitely appreciated that the story felt quite of-the-moment. You know how sometimes you read teen novels and think, “No one would ever talk like this, dress like that, react that way . . .” ? And it totally ruins it for you because, you know, you might not be a teen yourself, but you’re not that old and clueless? Doesn’t happen here.

Mallory herself is a pretty empowered gal. Not to go all “she’s a good role model!” on you, but honestly: she’s a good role model. Not content to wrap herself up with a dude, our girl makes her own decisions — and has no problem bucking trends. When a cute but slimy boyfriend does her wrong, she ditches him. When everyone else is glued to texting, she favors a more “old-fashioned” communication: actually talking on the phone. On a landline. To Oliver, who is absolutely adorable.

I fell a little in love with Oliver . . . and not just because it’s my favorite boy’s name. He’s Jeremy’s polar opposite, and his banter with Mallory couldn’t be matched. I loved his enthusiasm and Eagle Scout qualities — though he had a bit of a sassy streak, too. Basically, I loved that every character in Going Vintage left doormat status and developed a personality of their own.

And though the story has an overarching theme — don’t let technology rule your life — it has a surprising moral, too: don’t wax poetic about the past. Mallory’s grandmother, the inspiration for “going vintage” in the first place, does her part to keep her granddaughter rooted in the present. I loved Ginnie, Mallory’s kid sister, and her frankness. I also liked that the Bradshaws had offbeat jobs: Mal’s dad is an “antiques dealer,” which means he frequently prowls abandoned storage units looking for deals (think “Storage Wars”), while Mal’s mom has a surprising but modern hobby that generates the family cash (it’s a secret!). Another way in which this “vintage” story felt very current.

Fans of young adult fiction looking for a light, quick read will find much to enjoy in Going Vintage. Though it took me about 50 pages to get truly invested in the story, I couldn’t stop reading once I’d been hooked. I liked that the high school characters didn’t act too old or too young, and I appreciated that Leavitt could right some serious witty banter. A fun, enjoyable story.


4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0345532740 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Digital review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review


Book review: ‘Populazzi’ by Elise Allen

Cross “Mean Girls” and “Never Been Kissed,” throw in a potent dash of TV shows like the new “90210” and mix with a side of “She’s All That” (oh, the ’90s!) for a taste of Elise Allen’s Populazzi, a young adult novel with plenty of sass mixed with its teen angst.

“Cara has never been one of those girls: confident, self-possessed, and always ready with the perfect thing to say. A girl at the very top of the popularity tower. One of the Populazzi.

“Now, junior year could change everything. Cara’s moving to a new school, and her best friend urges her to seize the moment—with the help of the Ladder. Its rungs are relationships, and if Cara transforms into the perfect girlfriend for guys ever-higher on the tower, she’ll reach the ultimate goal: Supreme Populazzi.

“The Ladder seems like a lighthearted social experiment, a straight climb up, but it quickly becomes gnarled and twisted. And when everything goes wrong, only the most audacious act Cara can think of has a chance of setting things even a little bit right.” (Goodreads)


Being an avid fan of such flicks mentioned above (especially “Never Been Kissed,” which I watched on endless repeat as a teen), I had a feeling Allen’s Populazzi would capture much of the spirit I enjoy about those films: the desire to stand out while still fitting in; the pressure to find a boy/girlfriend and keep them; the hope of being liked and understood by a good group of friends
. . . these are the issues that devour our energy in youth. And though I’m a decade removed from that time of my life, it’s not hard to put myself back there.

What I’d hoped to find in Populazzi, Cara’s story of rising to power in a suburban Pennsylvania high school, was there . . . if a little less compelling than I’d hoped. Not to sound like a big ol’ prude, but I found the novel’s focus on sex, drug use and changing to ascend a fictional “Ladder” to “Supreme Populazzi” a little unsettling. Though she’s eventually held accountable for her actions, Cara lies to her parents, sneaks around, dresses a “part” and almost sabotages her future by missing a very important college-related meeting. And subplots involving a creepy, emotionally abusive stepfather and pot-smoking ex-boyfriend left a sour taste in my mouth.

It’s all typical teenage stuff, I’m sure. But it left me feeling a little spent.

Though the ultimate message of the story was a positive one (be yourself and behave yourself), Cara had to go on quite a journey to get there. I couldn’t help but feel like Claudia, her best friend at the school Cara left behind, was intentionally leading her astray. Encouraging her to make bold moves without having to deal with the fall-out, giving her seemingly ridiculous advice about dumping dudes to “move on to the next one” in the name of popularity . . . well, it smacked of poor judgment. And being mean.

I guess that’s my major hang-up with the story: Cara didn’t endear herself to me. I found her actions callous at best and dangerous at worst. Becoming “emo” to attract the attentions of a bad-boy rocker goes contrary to every bit of advice we’re given when looking for a partner: don’t change for anyone else. And though I hate sounding like a serious fuddy-duddy, that didn’t work for me.

But.

Despite my reservations and occasional discontent, Populazzi is an entertaining tale in the vein of those aforementioned ’90s teen flicks. It’s fun. Archer, our male hero, has plenty of swoonworthy moments with our lead . . . albeit their timing is continuously off throughout this big novel. We spend half our time wondering if Cara and Archer will cast aside their squabbles to actually communicate around their epic miscommunication, but I had a hunch — call it readerly intuition — that this one would have a happy ending.

And it did. For all her wardrobe changing, personality shifting, friendship busting and hot guy crushing, Cara ultimately sees the value of doing the right thing — and when given a chance to ruin someone else’s life for the sake of popularity, she makes a surprising decision. I felt a sense of maternal pride in our heroine then — and realized with a jolt that I’m starting to feel maternal toward teen characters.

And that scared me. Especially since I keep plucking stark-white hairs from my scalp. (Hi, I’m 27 going on 77. Don’t mind me.)

Fans of young adult fiction and stories where the “mean girls” get theirs will find some humor and heart in Allen’s Populazzi. As the characters often find themselves in pretty “adult” situations and there’s plenty of frank talk about sex, drinking, etc., I wouldn’t recommend it to readers younger than 14. Or, heck, 16. Or maybe 18.

And you kids get off my lawn!


3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 054772196X ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review


Book review: ‘When You Reach Me’ by Rebecca Stead

Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me was one of those novels gathering dust on my shelves since 2009, peeking its colorful head out every so often to squawk, “Hey, I’m still here, you know. Unread. Think you’ll get to me any time soon? You’ve read, like, thirty review books this year. And you paid good money for me, you idiot.”

Books can be so rude.

Set in the 1970s, When You Reach Me defies categorization. Its middle-school protagonist Miranda seems to settle it in a middle-grade or young adult fiction camp, but the themes — family; loyalty; friendship; time travel — speak to a diverse audience. As a 27-year-old who hasn’t dealt with bullies or mangled friendships in quite some time, I still found myself intrigued by Miranda’s story and easily relating to the complicated web of school dynamics. And there are these mysterious notes . . .

The time travel aspect was one of the most startling and delightful bits of this unique, fast-paced story. Loosely centered on the friendship between Miranda and best friend Sal, When You Reach Me has a series of odd letters at its heart. Miranda is a huge fan of Madeleine L’Engle, devoting her days to reading A Wrinkle In Time (which she refers to only as “her book”), and the reader starts to think all this time-travel business has gone to her head. She’s daydreaming, I thought. Or, She’s hallucinating.

To be honest, I wasn’t always sure of what was going on. But that disjointed nature — that confusion — made the ending all the sweeter.

For young readers, Miranda is the type of heroine we would wish our daughters to emulate. She’s whip-smart, inquisitive, watchful, loyal. She’s fearful of the crazy man on the corner, the one who seems to spend most of his time sleeping beneath a mailbox, and devoted to her mother. Throughout the narrative, Miranda’s single mom is preparing for a stint on a game show — and “The $10,000 Pyramid” is seen as a chance to help elevate their small family beyond their meager circumstances. Though Miranda never speaks of being poor in New York City, there’s a huge gap between she and a classmate, Julia — a gap Miranda constantly acknowledges. She was a sweet kid, I kept thinking — and a caring one. A kid you’d like to have yourself.

So much is happening here: Sal and Miranda’s floundering friendship; the kids’ new “job” working at a deli on their  lunch breaks; the friction between Sal and a kid who pummels him on a city street — one who ends up being Marcus, a pivotal character; and the strange notes that keep falling out of Miranda’s possessions, tucked away and packed with private knowledge. As Miranda further explores the concept of time travel with Marcus, the only other kid who doesn’t seem to think her interest is crazy, the pieces come together.

Though the plot is relatively simple, the story has great depth. Three years after purchasing this book, I’d forgotten what inspired me to pick it up — but other readers’ suggestions came flooding back to me as I read. It’s unconventional, surprising, heartwarming, true — all facets of a book I’m happy to call a winner. And when you’re finished, you’ll want to start all over again . . . piecing together the mystery that surprised me from the start.


4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0385737424 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg


Book review: ‘We’ll Always Have Summer’ by Jenny Han

Spoiler alert: if you haven’t read the first two in this three-book series, this post will contain spoilers for the previous two — but not this one.


The final book in Jenny Han’s much-loved Summer series peeked at me from my bookcase for more than a year, waiting for the moment — the warm, sun-baked moment — when I would finally throw it in my beach bag. Determined to finish the books at my own beloved beach house, I finally read We’ll Always Have Summer in the Outer Banks this year. And I cried.

Oy, these books. Gut-wrenching.

Considering I’m a sucker for anything relating to those tender, tantalizing days of first love, Han’s series seems tailor-made for me. In the final installment, years have passed since Susannah’s death — and the Conklin and Fisher families have scattered. While Belly and Jeremiah are wrapping up another year of college, Conrad has fled to the West Coast. Though everyone tries to soldier on in Susannah’s absence, they miss her — and their carefree summers at Cousins Beach — terribly.

While Belly still nurses a quiet love for Conrad, her relationship with Jeremiah has blossomed. Inseparable at the college they both attend, life seems perfect — or as close to perfect — as it can be . . . until an indiscretion threatens to separate them. When Jeremiah makes an impulsive declaration, life careens in an unexpected direction. Belly attempts to throw herself into a new life with Jeremiah, but she can’t shake the feeling that she’s uniting herself with the wrong Fisher brother . . .

And oh, angst. Drama. Tears. An epic love triangle.

I love these books.

Han once said that fictional Cousins Beach is a “not a real beach, but it’s sort of based on Cape Cod and also the Hamptons. And just a splash of the Outer Banks!”

Allow me to speak for every reader ever and declare, I want to go there.



Spending more than a few minutes in Belly’s Summer world, it’s not hard to conjure the best days you’ve ever spent along a sandy shore. Despite their often heavy subject matter, there’s something so light and free about Han’s stories — and that’s why I couldn’t wait to fall into her work again in June. I waited almost a year to learn what became of Belly, Jeremiah and Conrad. That is some self-control, my friends.

We’ll Always Have Summer brings us an older, more mature Belly — but she’s just as undecided about Conrad and Jeremiah as ever. Her first love is and will always be Conrad, but the affection she feels for Jeremiah seems to trump those feelings. She tries valiantly to forget the brief time she spent as Conrad’s more-than-friend, which seemed more dream than reality . . . but Belly can’t escape the way she felt (and still feels?) for him.

Other readers have complained that Jeremiah and Conrad did a “flip-flop” of personalities in this final book. While Conrad was always the broody one who couldn’t make up his mind, Jeremiah was the constant in Belly’s life: loyal, sweet and endearing. When Conrad acted like a jerk, it was Jeremiah who swooped in to comfort her. Conrad was the “bad boy” of the Fishers — the one who would ultimately break Belly’s heart. “So what’s with Han doing a 180, then?” others cry. To which I say: they changed. Jeremiah got older, started hanging around with his fraternity brothers, started acting like . . . a college guy. And Conrad, always the more serious of the two, went in a different direction. Just when Jere starts acting like a clown, Conrad gets his act together. It’s a pretty big role reversal, yes, but it made sense to me. Given where they were in life and what they were after, I got it.

By the end of this book, I was thumping my fingers against the text and begging Belly to make the right decision and crying at the pain on Conrad’s face and wishing everyone would just stop being so incredibly stupid. In this final narrative, we’re finally given access to the deep passages of Conrad’s mind — which was a real delight. Like getting the long-awaited key to a very complicated puzzle. But I wanted to shove him into action, too.

Just as in The Summer I Turned Pretty and It’s Not Summer Without You, Belly’s story flips between the past and present. Though it took a bit of getting used to, I’m very accustomed to her style now — and I really like it. I genuinely didn’t know where Belly was headed or which way she would sway, which made the read very suspenseful . . . almost to the point that I had to flip ahead to learn what she would decide. I forced myself to stay in the moment, though, and didn’t spoil it for myself.

And now I’m sad it’s over, of course. I long for it to be summer again. Perhaps Han will humor us and write a “Where are they now?” follow-up a few years on?


4.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 1416995587 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review