Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant
Balzer + Bray; 2021; 374 pages
Content Warnings: Strong language, anxiety, racism, offensive terms, bullying
About the Author: “Elise Bryant was born and raised in Southern California. She earned her BA in Africana studies from California State University, Long Beach, and her MA in special education from Loyola Marymount University. For many years, Elise had the joy of working as a special education teacher in South Los Angeles, and she is also a National Board Certified Teacher. Elise now lives with her husband and two daughters in Long Beach, where she spends her days reading, writing, and eating dessert. Happily Ever Afters is her debut novel.” (Bio taken from the author’s website.)
Tessa Johnson has been writing stories for as long as she can remember. Her favorite genre is romance, where she writes about protagonists who look like her—a rarity in published fiction. Her writing has never let her down, even landing her a spot in the creative writing program at a prestigious art school. But on the first day of classes, Tessa sits down to write and finds that…she can’t. Her words are gone. Fortunately, her best friend has a plan: create a real-life love story for Tessa so she’ll be inspired to write by living her own happily ever after. Soon, Tessa is making new friends, pushing herself out of her comfort zone, and developing a blossoming romance with a dreamy guy in one of her classes. But when things start getting complicated, Tessa must decide how far she’s willing to go and how much she’s prepared to change about herself for a happily ever after that may not be the right choice after all.
As a writer and lover of romance myself, I fell head over heels for this swoony and satisfying story. Elise Bryant’s debut has everything a modern romance should: fantastic representation, characters that leap off the page to confront you with questions about your own life, and a love story that will quench your hunger for passion like the delicious desserts sprinkled throughout the novel. Tessa is a terrific protagonist with realistic doubts and fears who cares for her family and friends fiercely. Starting over at a new school is never easy, especially when struggling with anxiety, and Tessa’s journey of self-discovery in this new environment is portrayed beautifully. Filled with wonderful messages and characters that are easy to fall in love with, this book is perfect for fans of fun and fulfilling teen romances.
PRR Assistant Director, Wendy Waltrip