“Send the code, he’s waitin’ there / The sticks and stones they throw froze mid-air / Everyone wants him, that was my crime / The wrong place at the right time / And I break down, then he’s pullin’ me in / In a world of boys, he’s a gentleman”
After coming out as nonbinary and being kicked out of their home and forced to move in with their sister, Ben is just trying to make it through the last semester of senior year. However, their attempt to skate through school unnoticed is complicated by the intervention of Nathan Allan, a funny and compelling boy who befriends Ben. The two form a powerful connection which starts as friendship but quickly transforms into something more. With Nathan’s help, Ben’s pessimism about school lifts, and they begin to see a brighter future ahead of them. Ben starts to think that, with Nathan, trying to enjoy life and not just live it “might be worth it for once.” At times hopeful and heartbreaking, I Wish You All The Best examines first love, mental health, friendship, and resilience with grace and beauty.
Theodore Finch and Violet Markey first meet at the top of a bell tower, both teenagers grappling with different kinds of pain and searching for a way to relieve it. They save each other that fateful day, and, in the weeks following, in part due to their work together on a class project, they form a powerful connection based in authenticity and empathy. Paired together in the “wandering” project for their class, the two travel across Indiana, exploring unique sights and learning more about their home state and themselves in the process. As the novel progresses, Finch’s world and outlook on life grows progressively darker, despite his care for Violet and her attempts to intervene. Through it all, even when she feels she is “standing on a tightrope all alone,” Violet continues “holding out hope” for Finch’s recovery and their future together. By the end of the novel, it is clear how the two teenagers have drastically changed the course of each other’s lives, demonstrating the power of human connection. A painful yet beautiful coming of age story, All the Bright Places is an impactful read for YA audiences and audiences of all ages.
“You grew your hair long / You got new icons / And from the outside / It looks like you’re tryin’ lives on / I miss the old ways / You didn’t have to change / But I guess I don’t have a say / Now that we don’t talk”
A fresh and diverse take on Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Where the Rhythm Takes You is a powerful story about first love, second chances, and finding yourself. In the aftermath of her mother’s death, Reyna must renege on her dreams of becoming an artist in order to help run her family’s hotel in Tobago. To make matters worse, her best friend and first love, Aiden, left the island two years ago to pursue his music career, and now the two “don’t talk.” However, Aiden’s sudden return to Reyna’s life changes everything, bringing back the memories of the love they shared. Reyna finds herself missing “the old ways” in the time before they were separated. Over the course of the summer, as Aiden and his band mates stay at the hotel, Reyna must face her feelings for Aiden and come to terms with what she really wants for her future, unless she wants to “pay the price of what [she] lost and what it cost.” A touching and powerful narrative with a beautiful setting and a compelling protagonist, Where the Rhythm Takes You is an uplifting read for young adult audiences.
“I didn’t come here to make friends / We were born to be suburban legends / When you hold me, it holds me together / And you kiss me in a way that’s gonna screw me up forever”
Chloe Green’s world is rocked when Shara Wheeler, Willowgrove Christian Academy’s “it-girl,” kisses her in a way that Chloe feels will “screw [her] up forever” and then mysteriously disappears, leaving Chloe confused and reeling. Determined to find answers about Shara’s disappearing act, Chloe assembles a strange crew including Smith, Shara’s boyfriend, and Rory, Shara’s neighbor nursing a longtime crush. The three are brought together by the notes Shara left them all before she left. As they work together to find out where she could have gone, they embark on a series of adventures and uncover secrets about themselves and their small town. Smith, Rory, and Chloe are all complicated and unique in their own ways, but are able to come together for a common purpose. This story and its characters are witty, complex, and beautiful, and the plot leaves readers constantly guessing at what happens next. With well-developed and diverse friendships and romances set against the backdrop of a conservative small town, the story of Chloe, Shara, and the people they know and love is truly the stuff of “suburban legend.”
Persephone (Percy) Fraser’s adolescence was defined in large part by the summers she spent at Barry’s Bay with Sam Florek and his family. Sam and Percy become best friends over the course of these summers, and this friendship ultimately evolves into something more, until one fateful summer when their relationship implodes. Years later, when a tragedy brings the two back together in Barry’s Bay, their connection is as strong as it was when they were young, forcing them to ask themselves: “Was it over then? And is it over now?” However, in order to reconcile and give their love another chance, Percy and Sam must first face the incident that tore them apart. Relayed through alternating timelines, the narrative of Sam and Percy’s relationship is complex, nostalgic, and at times both heartbreaking and heartwarming. Conveying important lessons about first love, friendship, trust, and forgiveness, Every Summer After is a study in the persisting power of love.
Sam Parker, Pine Reads Review Writer