Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, Approximately

Pages: 390

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: April 3, 2018

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

What Did I Think?

One of the things I always love about Jenn Bennett’s books are their unique overall concepts, and that of Alex, Approximately is no exception. I loved that while the setting was in California, there was a small town vibe to it that makes the reader feel like we’re locals. I’m a suckers for playlists, illustrations, and anything else that breaks up the chapters and tells us more about the characters, so seeing the messages between Alex and Bailey via the film fanatics website was so cool to see and even more fun to read. While there were some really heart wrenching moments in the book, they were balanced out well by the quirky characters and their witty senses of humor. I also really appreciated the fact that while Bailey and Porter don’t necessarily have a “traditional” upbringing, the family they do have in their lives are so supportive of each of them and always have their best interests at heart.

I loved our protagonist, Bailey, from the very first chapter. She avoids conflict at all costs (including moving all the way across the country to do just this), has a very distinct sense of humor, and isn’t afraid to get nerdy about all things film. She’s had to come to terms with some pretty traumatic events in her life thus far, but I love how this doesn’t hold her back from taking a chance on new things as she explores her new Cali home. While she starts out reserved and avoids the spotlight, I loved the moments where Bailey came out of her shell and lost her temper at people who tried to walk all over her. Though her character didn’t develop all that much, I think that moving to a different placing, getting her first real job, and finding her voice were realistic steps in her journey to become a more mature young adult, and I could see this change in her by the end.

Porter, our main man, really threw me for a loop. I really REALLY did not want to like him, especially after the little charade he pulled during Bailey’s training day at the museum. But eventually his natural charisma drew me in and I couldn’t help but like and respect him once I got to know a little more about him. I loved the fact that he was always eager to help his family, even when it was inconvenient for him to do so, and how proud he is of his sister’s surfing accomplishments. Like Bailey, he has had to deal with some hardship in life, but I loved the fact that he took those memories and used them as fuel rather than cow-tailing to his fears. Overall, as mad as I got at Porter, my anger never overshadowed how good of a guy he really is at heart!

While there is very little not to love about this book, I couldn’t give it a full five starts for a few reasons. The main reason is that the biggest spoiler on earth is literally on the back of this book in the synopsis: Porter is Alex. GEEZ! That literally took the mystery out of the whole thing, and I was really bummed about it. While the reader surmises pretty quickly that this the case, I wish we would have been left to figure it out on our own rather than being spoiled BY THE AUTHOR HERSELF. Another less upsetting issue I had with this book was that while I loved the fact that there were so many intricate details thrown in, by the end, I just felt like there were loose ends that still needed tying up. This is not to say that the ending wasn’t satisfying (it TOTALLY was), but some things just didn’t feel complete to me. However, don’t let these issues deter you from giving Alex, Approximately a chance because overall, it was a fantastic read!

Alex, Approximately was about as loaded of a contemporary romance as you’ll find, and I loved every moment of untangling all the little details! The characters had such unique backgrounds and personalities, and I enjoyed the fact that the connection that each of these characters have with their families remained at the forefront of the story. The plot was well-paced, and I found myself completely engaged in Bailey’s new Cali adventures from beginning to end. Alex, Approximately was both heartwarming and heartbreaking, funny and cringe-y, and just an overall blast to read.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

Looking for a summery contemporary romance with a strong emphasis on family, friendship, and learning how to overcome your past and reshape your future, this book is for you!

If you’re like me (aka you’ve read her latest works before picking up this gem up) and enjoyed Jenn Bennett’s Starry Eyes and Serious Moonlight, I highly recommend you give Alex, Approximately a read!

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Morgan Matson, Rainbow Rowell, Katie McGarry, and Sarah Dessen.

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Pages: 440

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release Date: June 4, 2019

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges.

Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her.

Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well.

For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?”

What Did I Think?

I’ve read a good many of Sarah Dessen’s books, and they’re usually either a HUGE hit or a big miss for me. Her latest release, The Rest of the Story, falls into the latter category, and dare I say it, there’s a good chance it’s my favorite book of hers yet!

The overall concept of The Rest of the Story appears pretty simplistic at first glance, but is actually super intricate as you delve deeper into the book. I thought that having the lake have “two sides” was super unique and realistic, as I think there are high and lower-end parts of real recreational destinations. The rivalries between the two sides also nicely reflects Emma’s/Saylor’s internal battle of figuring out who exactly she wants to be, which was a really interesting touch that continued to pop up throughout the book in great ways. I really enjoyed that the reader sees both the points of view of locals and tourists, as their perspectives on things are totally different even though they are essentially in the exact same place. As a whole, I thought that while some components of the overall concept were pretty traditional for a summertime contemporary (i.e. the setting), the amount of detail that lay beneath the surface made this book something unlike those I’ve read in the past in the best ways imaginable.

I am so excited to talk to you about these characters because they were so much fun to read about! Let’s start with our main gal, Emma Saylor Payne. I don’t know why exactly this was, but I found myself drawn to her from the very first page. Like me, Emma/Saylor tends to organize and clean things when she gets overwhelmed or anxious (undiagnosed OCD friends, unite!), and also tries to stay out of the limelight in an attempt to please others and avoid conflict. I loved every moment of watching her character figure out who she wanted to be (Emma or Saylor? You’ll have to wait and see for yourself!) and how her time at North Lake seemed to change her for the better. As hard as it may be to believe, Emma/Saylor’s character developed more in 440 short pages than many of the characters I’ve read about in other books developed over four, 440-page books, and did so in a way that was realistic and believable. I had so much fun experiencing Emma/Saylor’s adventures at North Lake with her, as well as watching her learn more about her mother through her time with that side of her family.

While I wish we could have gotten to see more of Roo, I’ve got to take a second to rant about what an awesome catch this guy is! First of all, his nickname comes from his childhood love of kangaroos. How adorable is that? Other than that fun fact, I generally loved everything about Roo’s character. He’s naturally charismatic, hilarious, hardworking, understanding, ridiculously respectful of his elders (even when I totally think he should have opened a can of kick butt on a certain someone who was a total JERK to him for no reason) and deeply invested in the relationships he has with his family and friends. He’s just one of those people that everyone’s naturally drawn to, which I think is rare in a fictional character. I mean, usually you can find at least one flaw, but I literally could not when it came to Roo! Whenever his name would pop up, I was immediately excited to see what he was up to, and when he wasn’t around, I was wishing he was. He balances out Emma/Saylor so well, and I think they both learned a little something from each other: Roo to be more in-tune with how he feels about his dad not being around and to let loose a little bit and have some fun, and Emma to block out what everyone’s been telling her about her mother and instead do some digging on her own to fill in the gaps in her mom’s story. I love both Roo and Emma/Saylor separately, I love them together, I love them any way we get to have them because they are simply superbly written characters with so much depth to them!

If I had to pick just one, the standout of this entire book has to be the supporting characters, including but not limited to Bailey, Jack, Trinity, Gordon, Vincent, Taylor, April, and so many more. Each of them added so much fun to the story’s more serious moments. I literally lived for when the entire gang was together, having a good time! The fact that they took Emma/Saylor under their wing and included her in their summer fun (and work, as well!) was so sweet, and that they were able to recognize that her lack of visiting them in North Lake was not her doing but rather her father’s was really mature of them given their ages. If I had to pick one fictional family/friend group to be a part of (aside from a magical, fantastical one, of course!) it would be this one, hand’s down!

One of the things that hold me back from giving this book five stars is that I felt like there were some elements that were introduced at the beginning that weren’t fully explained by the end or that didn’t reappear until the very end after originally being mentioned. For example, the reader learns that Emma/Saylor likes to organize things when she gets anxious, as establishing in the opening chapter. However, it’s rare that this point is blatantly mentioned again until the very end. I think I would have just liked to have seen these moments a tad bit more developed. I also found a few aspects of the book to be pretty unrealistic, such as why Emma/Saylor’s dad would let her stay with her grandmother on her mom’s side when they don’t know each other at all and him thinking they are bad influences. While these are relatively small issues, they did impact the reading experience and left some things to be desired from my perspective.

The Rest of the Story had everything I always expect in a Sarah Dessen book and more: a strong focus on the family dynamic, a little dash of romance, a main character on the cusp of adulthood whose trying to embrace their new-found independence, and a beautiful summertime setting that is sure to bring a smile to every reader’s face. The pacing was well done with the exception of a few places that were a little too detailed for my liking, and the plot and characters were so compelling that I honestly wished the book was longer or that there was a second one! Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of reading The Rest of the Story, and I think there’s something to be learned from and appreciated by anyone who gives it a chance.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you are looking for a summery, coming-of-age read that’s all about adjusting to change and embracing what’s to come, The Rest of the Story is the perfect read for you!

If Sarah Dessen’s other books are your jam, why haven’t you given this book a read yet? Just kidding, but I highly suggest bumping this book to the top of your ever-growing TBR!

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Morgan Matson, Jessie Kirby, and Jenny Han’s sweet and summery contemporaries.

Bonus Content

If You Liked That, Try This: Contemporary Romance Edition

Hello, fellow booklovers! For today’s post, I’ve decided to suggest books similar to those you’ve already read and loved. Since we’re in the throes of summer, I decided to start this bonus content series off with a list of YA contemporary romances — my go-to genre for summer reading! Let’s jump right into this thing, y’all!

If you liked To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, try Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.

While this may seem like an out-there pick, I promise there’s a method to my madness! Eleanor & Park combines the elements of quirky and flawed characters we can’t help but love while also tackling the complicated topic of a person’s first time falling in love. Not only that, but both To All the Boys and Eleanor & Park do so in a realistic way as opposed to idealizing life and love like a lot of other YA contemporaries tend to do, making them that much more relatable to their audience.

If you liked Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, try Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welsh.

One of the parts of Anna and the French Kiss readers can’t help but love is the protagonist traveling abroad and finding themselves in a country that’s completely new to them. If you were one of these readers, Love & Gelato is going to be right up your alley. Both of these reads also have some pretty sweet romances, and while they weren’t all that realistic at times, I couldn’t help but ship these cute couples. If you’re looking for books that take you on international summer adventures right from the comfort of your own home, definitely check these two beauties out!

If you liked Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, try Just Listen by Sarah Dessen.

If you were a big fan of the playlists Matson included in Since You’ve Been Gone, you are sure to love the musical tie-ins in Just Listen. In addition to this obvious connection, both books highlight two teens who are trying to figure out who they are without the support of their best friends (who have basically become their sisters) behind them. If you’re looking for a similar read to Since You’ve Been Gone that gives you all the feels and has you rooting for the protagonist as they struggle to figure out who they are and become who they want to be, Just Listen might just be the perfect pick-me-up for you!

If you liked Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry, try The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia.

Nowhere But Here is one of those books that has it all: a unique concept, multi-dimensional characters that constantly surprise you, and a whole truckload of romance. If you’re looking for a book with similar features, The Lovely Reckless would be the perfect choice! Similar to Emily and Oz in Nowhere But Here, Frankie and Marco both have tough exteriors as a result of their negative past life experiences, but as they get to know one another, they manage to let their guards down just enough to begin healing. Oh, and did I mention that there’s street racing in The Lovely Reckless? Not exactly the same as the motorcycle club situation in Nowhere But Here, but if you’re an adrenaline junkie (or, like me, live vicariously through fictional characters as they do risky things you’ve never have the guts to do in real life) and are looking for a fix, The Lovely Reckless may do the trick!

If you liked Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines, try The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Until Friday Night and The Problem with Forever both have an element to them that’s rare in YA: the main character refuses to speak after experiencing a traumatic event. While the protagonists in these books come from different backgrounds, their journeys are similar in that they’re both trying to overcome the pasts that have held them back and move forward. While there are romantic interests in both books, the romances are placed on the back burner, which I appreciated because I found the characters’ individual journeys much more compelling than the relationships. If you’re looking for another book that places most of the focus on character development but still have romantic undertones, The Problem with Forever is a good option for you!

If you liked Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi, try Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett.

Awkward first encounters and undeniable connections the protagonists try to pretend don’t exist, but to no avail? Yeah, I’m a big fan, too! While Emergency Contact focuses mostly on communication via text between Penny and Sam and Serious Moonlight on in-person interactions, many of the things we all love about Emergency Contact also ring true in Serious Moonlight: witty characters that are fully aware of their quirks doing their best to adjust to their new-found independence, the characters’ willingness to dream big and go after what they want in life regardless of the struggles it takes to get there, and stunning writing that keeps you hooked from beginning to end.

If you liked My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, try No Place Like Here by Christina June.

As you’ve seen from some of my other posts, My Life Next Door is one of my favorite contemporaries of all time. However, a good many of the elements I fell in love with can also be found in Christina June’s No Place Like Here. If you enjoyed the complex family dynamic in My Life Next Door as well as the sweet romance that blossoms from a strong friendship and mad respect for the other person, No Place Like Here is your cup of tea! I don’t have all that much to share about these because I want you to get to experience the awesomeness that are these two books for yourselves. Trust me when I say you won’t be disappointed with No Place Like Here, especially if you are a My Life Next Door mega-fan like I am!

If you liked The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren, try Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally.

Oddly enough, I was totally shocked that I enjoyed both The Last Thing You Said and Breathe, Annie, Breathe as much as I did, and for similar reasons. Both of these books tackle the tough topic of the protagonist losing someone they were close to unexpectedly, and the guilt they feel about being alive while their loved one is not. In both instances, the person lost was very young at their time of passing, making it that much more difficult for those living to overcome their grief and continue living like the person they lost would have wanted them to. If you liked the fact that the healing of the characters took precedent over the romance that bloomed in The Last Thing You Said, you should definitely give Breathe, Annie, Breathe a shot!

Well, there you have it, folks! I’ve always loved reading these types of posts and seeing what books other readers suggest. Do you have a favorite contemporary that didn’t make the list, or maybe you have an alternative rec for a book I’ve listed above? Let me know below! Until next week, lovelies! 🙂

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Amazon.com: Serious Moonlight (9781534425149): Bennett, Jenn: Books

Pages: 426

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: April 16, 2019

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Advanced Reader Copy

Goodreads Synopsis

“After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.”

What Did I Think?

This book had it all: a SUPER awkward first (err, second?) encounter, some unauthorized detective work, an octopus named Octavia, and a whole lotta pie-eatin’, and I LOVED IT!

I don’t now how she does it, but Jenn Bennett always manages keep readers on their toes when it comes to the overall concepts she constructs. Serious Moonlight was totally unlike any other contemporary I’ve ever read. While I don’t normally read mysteries or detective stories, I absolutely loved the main plot of this book, which centers around Birdie and Daniel becoming the modern-day versions of Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew as they try to learn more about a reclusive writer they think is staying at the hotel they work the overnight shift at. The majority of the book takes place in and around Seattle, WA (a place I’ve never been to before but felt like I had by the end of the book), and having Birdie take the ferry in and out of the city from the island she lives on was a super creative touch. I also really appreciate the fact that both Birdie and Daniel have such wonderful support systems standing behind them to provide guidance when they need it. Overall, I thought all of these tiny little details worked together to create a super intriguing concept that would appeal to a wide variety of readers.

I saw a lot of myself in Birdie’s character. She’s very connected to her family, and I love the bond she has with her late mother’s (frick frackin’ hilarious) best friend, Mona, who Birdie grew up living with. She also, like me, tends to sweat the small stuff. Throughout the book we see Birdie struggle to work through quite a few things, including her anxiety, another health condition she’s been avoiding dealing with, grief after losing family members, and trying to break out of her introverted shell. While I’m not a huge fan of mysteries myself, I had so much fun learning about Birdie’s love of reading about and solving mysteries. I found myself appreciating the fact that Birdie’s character didn’t have a whole lot of new development, but instead just became more in tune with and honed her true personality over the course of the novel. I will say that it took me a little while to connect with her because the concept of the novel was so complex and took a little bit to establish before the reader really gets to know her, but once I did I really enjoyed Birdie’s character!

As if this book couldn’t get any better, Serious Moonlight also has its own personal magician– Daniel! There was not one thing I didn’t love about his character. He’s sweet, funny, witty, charismatic, and overall, just a great guy. The fact that he has a man bun is also a nice touch, and likely means that yet another fictional character has better hair than I do (le sigh). After he and Birdie reconnect at the Carlisle Hotel (now as work buddies, yayy but AWKWARD!), he’s convinced that their meeting again was an act of fate, which irks Birdie to no end, as she really wants to just sweep the whole situation under a rug. However, I’m totally with Daniel on this one, because I think they balance each other out really well, and let’s face it: they were meant to be from the get-go. Daniel also gets bonus points from me because he knows and is invested in what Birdie is interested in and makes an effort to take her on adventures in Seattle that are geared toward those interests. I’m thinking of one outing in particular and really want to spoil it for you guys, but I’m gonna keep it to myself and let you enjoy the moment yourselves when you give Serious Moonlight a read!

I cannot sing the praises of Serious Moonlight enough! I found Bennett’s storytelling so compelling and the overall concept she created brilliantly unconventional. The pacing of was right on the money, and I enjoyed all the little plot twists that managed to sneak up on me when I least expected them. I couldn’t help but love and relate to all of the characters and their quirks, and I’m hard-pressed to find two people that suit one another better than Birdie and Daniel do. The romance that sparked between these two was constructed in a way that made it so realistic and believable, given all the awkwardness their past experience with one another brought to the table. I enjoyed every moment of reading Serious Moonlight, and I have a feeling it will go down in history as one of my favorite contemporary romances of all time!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

Looking for a book with a truckload of mystery, romance, and some quirky, flawed characters you can’t help but love and relate to? Give Serious Moonlight a try. You won’t regret it, I promise!

If you’ve read Jenn Bennett’s other contemporaries (Starry Eyes and Alex, Approximately), I’m almost 100% sure you’ll fall in love with Serious Moonlight! I’d also recommend Serious Moonlight to fans of Rainbow Rowell, Kasie West, and Jenny Han.

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines

Until Friday Night (A Field Party Book 1) by [Abbi Glines]

Pages: 337

Series: Field Party #1

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: August 25, 2015

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“To everyone who knows him, West Ashby has always been that guy: the cocky, popular, way-too-handsome-for-his-own-good football god who led Lawton High to the state championships. But while West may be Big Man on Campus on the outside, on the inside he’s battling the grief that comes with watching his father slowly die of cancer.

Two years ago, Maggie Carleton’s life fell apart when her father murdered her mother. And after she told the police what happened, she stopped speaking and hasn’t spoken since. Even the move to Lawton, Alabama, couldn’t draw Maggie back out. So she stayed quiet, keeping her sorrow and her fractured heart hidden away.

As West’s pain becomes too much to handle, he knows he needs to talk to someone about his father—so in the dark shadows of a post-game party, he opens up to the one girl who he knows won’t tell anyone else.

West expected that talking about his dad would bring some relief, or at least a flood of emotions he couldn’t control. But he never expected the quiet new girl to reply, to reveal a pain even deeper than his own—or for them to form a connection so strong that he couldn’t ever let her go…”

What Did I Think?

Until Friday Night had the perfect blend of traditional contemporary romance and elements that were totally unique to this story. The small town feel of this book made me feel right at home, and given that I live in a little town myself, I could totally relate to the characters’ experiences in living in an area like Lawton — both the good and bad! While it’s not my favorite trope in the world, I enjoyed the whole “good girl meets bad boy” element that was established right from the get-go because it’s a pretty large misconception the reader gets to see unravel right before their eyes. One of the more unique parts of this book’s overall concept concerned Maggie and West’s backgrounds, even though they were super emotional to read about. I also really enjoyed that the chapters alternated between Maggie and West’s POVs, and that Glines ensured that the wording and dialogue stayed true to their characters while flip-flopping speakers.

Maggie’s characterization contained an element I’ve never seen before in YA– she refuses to speak after tragedy strikes her family, and she ends up moving in with her cousin, Brady, and his family to start a new life. Given the trauma she’s experienced, Maggie does her best to say out of the limelight and keeps to herself a lot. Overall, I have mad respect for Maggie, as even though she doesn’t talk, she still manages to strongly communicate her thoughts and feelings to those around her, and it’s clear that she’s so much braver than she looks and feels. By the end, it was so great to see her come out of her shell and to feel comfortable in her own skin and in the presence others. I also really appreciate Glines using Maggie’s character to make the point that a person being over-possessive in a relationship is a total no-go by having Maggie crack down on West when he oversteps.

Let’s talk a little more about West, shall we? His personality and coping mechanisms are the total opposite of Maggie’s– he’s super outgoing, kind of a jerk at times, and distracts himself from the issues he has going on at home by hanging out with people and participating in activities he would be far better off avoiding. The parts of West’s character I was drawn to the most were the way he loves and treats his teammates like family, and how the progression of his opening up to Maggie about his own struggles is done gradually and in a realistic way. The only big issue I really had with West is the way he talks about other girls with his teammates (while it makes the book more realistic because I’ve hear the whole “locker room dude talks” in real life before, I still found the comments totally unacceptable and feel like I need to make that clear in this review). He also had some Alpha-male tendencies, which I didn’t find appealing, but it wasn’t for Maggie, either, so these moments were very limited in number. I’ll be the first to admit that the bad should have outweighed the good in West’s character at times but by the end, I still couldn’t help but have a soft spot in my heart for him.

Until Friday Night was the perfect late summer, early fall read that had just about everything I was looking for. The plot was well-paced, and it was a quick read that had so much packed into 337 short pages. As you can probably tell, there were an awful lot of moving parts, but somehow they all worked together to form one cohesive story that was compelling, emotional, and uplifting all at the same time. If I had to pick one aspect that totally stole my heart, I would have to say that the character development was beautifully constructed for both Maggie and West, and watching their emotional bond with one another blossom as they each worked through their own issues was really special to watch. While there were some issues in this book I really couldn’t overlook, I can’t let them take away from the fact that I really enjoyed my time reading it!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*NOTE: Given the VERY mature themes in this book (romance, violence, language, and some drinking/partying), I would NOT recommend this book to anyone under the age of 16/17! It’s all about the high school experience and beyond, and words are not minced, so definitely keep this in mind when deciding if you should pick it up or not.*

If you’ve read some of Abbi Glines’ other works and enjoyed the romantic and small town vibes, there’s a really good chance Until Friday Night will be your cup of tea!

Fans of Katie McGarry, Morgan Matson, Jenny Han, and Jenn Bennett would also fall in love with this book.

Bonus Content

8 Books Sure to Put You in the Summer Spirit

There’s nothing I find more relaxing than sitting in the sunshine with my nose in a good book. With summer quickly approaching, I couldn’t think of a better time than now to throw some summery book recommendations your way! Regardless of if you’re about to head out on an island getaway or just enjoying the warmer days from your own backyard, here are some books that are sure to make the perfect companion for your summer adventures!

1) Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Amazon.com: Moonglass (9781442416956): Kirby, Jessi: Books

I chose Moonglass for this list because it’s an emotional, raw, hit-you-in-the-feels contemporary with a stunning beach setting– a setting that provides so much comfort to our main character, Anna. While moving to the area was hard on her, I love that Anna starts to embrace her new home as she learns more about how important the area was to her mother, who she lost unexpectedly ten years earlier. While a super sweet romance was also blossoming in the background, I appreciated that the majority of the book focused on the importance of remaining connected to loved ones who have passed and rekindling relationships with those you’ve drifted away from. Overall, I really enjoyed all this book had to offer, and it just seems fitting that it be read in the summer months!

2) This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This Is What Happy Looks Like (This is What Happy Looks Like, #1)

Can we all just take a moment and appreciate how simple and sweet this cover it? In addition to the setting being a quaint little town in the summertime and the characters taking advantage of all the fun that comes along with the season, I specifically chose This Is What Happy Looks Like for this list because Smith’s writing is so captivating, poetic, and reads so beautifully. There’s just something about the fluidity of her words that blend in so well with the aspects of summer that are at the forefront of this book. In all honestly, I really can’t think of another book that better fits the description of “summer pick-me-up” than this gem!

3) The Beholder by Anna Bright

Amazon.com: The Beholder (9780062845429): Bright, Anna: Books

There’s something about loose fairytale retellings that draw me in during the summer months. The Beholder just might be my favorite to date, though, because it’s got a little bit of everything I look for to keep me enthralled in a fantasy: a strong female lead who, while understandably kind of a hot mess, always manages to find the strength to keep going, undertones of the Odyssey, and even a little romance thrown in. If you’re missing your weekly episodes of “The Bachelorette” while they’re in the off-season, this book may just be the perfect alternative to help you pass the time, as Selah is the star of her own version of the show, just in literary form and, well, ya know, there being a dash of magic thrown into the mix!

4) What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Amazon.com: What I Thought Was True (9780803739093): Fitzpatrick ...

I chose What I Thought Was True for this list because the overall theme of mending bridges is at the forefront. What better time than summer to take the opportunity to learn to forgive and rekindle a relationship with someone you were once close to? This is exactly what Gwen spends her summer doing on her homeland of Seashell Island, in addition to trying to figure out what she wants out of life after graduating from high school. A lot of big decisions are made in the summer, and this book would be the perfect read for high school and college seniors who are fixing to start new journeys of their own. Maybe they’ll even realize that they have some relationships mending to do themselves before they venture off to begin their new chapters of life!

5) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Amazon.com: An Ember in the Ashes (9781432850340): Tahir, Sabaa: Books

I’m not really sure why this book screams “summer” to me, but somehow I just can’t imagine reading this fantasy novel in any other season! Maybe it’s because in a lot of ways, this book is the total opposite of what I would use to describe summertime– pretty dark, cold, gloomy, and slightly depressing, at times. But, the adventures these characters set out on are super action-packed and suspenseful, so even if you can’t go on one of your own this summer, you’ll be able to escape from the real world for awhile when reading An Ember in the Ashes!

6) The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

The Truth About Forever

I find that some of the most grand summertime adventures don’t have to take you someplace new. For some people, like Macy the Perfectionist, your not-so-fun but oh-so-important trials may take place right at home. I loved that this book was all about how taking advantage of new opportunities that are outside your comfort zone help you discover so many new things about yourself you never knew existed. It’s also a testament to how surrounding yourself with good people can help heal old wounds. The sweet romance that blossomed in this book was just the icing on the cake to make this one of my favorite summer reads to date!

7) Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone

While I could have picked literally any of Morgan Matson’s books for this list because she’s the QUEEN of summery contemporaries, I chose Since You’ve Been Gone because its premise is very different from those of her other books. This book has less emphasis on romance, and more on the importance of personal growth and independence from those we tend to use as a crutch to avoid challenging ourselves. I absolutely adored all of the summertime activities on the list Sloan left Emily to help push her out of her comfort zone and how Emily seemed to embrace the whole experience, even though I would have found quite a few of the activities listed terrifying myself! I was so engrossed in this compelling story that at times, I felt like I was accompanying Emily on her escapades, which was so much fun to experience! Overall, I just felt like all the working pieces of this book fit the mold of summer to a T, and I think a lot of readers will be able to relate to Emily’s journey of breaking out of her shell at a really critical time in her life.

8) Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welsh

Amazon.com: Love & Gelato (9781481432559): Welch, Jenna Evans: Books

Love and Gelato is the perfect summertime read, with is gorgeous Italian setting, whimsical descriptions of all the country has to offer, and the adorable bond that forms between Ren and Lina as they scramble to uncover a hidden secret about Lina’s family. This books stands out from other contemporaries in that it’s such a quick, fun, and enjoyable read and while it does have some emotional moments in it, the focus remains on all the good life has to offer! Not only will this book lift your spirits when you’re feeling down, but it will totally convince you to bite the bullet and take your own summer trip abroad!

I hope you all find this list helpful as we head into the summer months! What are some of your go-to summer reads? Let me know below!

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Amazon.com: Save the Date (9781481404570): Matson, Morgan: Books

Pages: 417

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster. There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo. Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractedly cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.”

What Did I Think?

Let’s jump right into the overall concept of this beauty, shall we? This book was seriously jam-packed with a little bit of everything. I loved how the Grant family dynamic was placed right at the core of this book and how the reader gets to see the Grant’s fraying edges get put back to together (and start to unravel more, at times, too). There were also great coming-of-age aspects of this book, mostly surrounding Charlie and how so many things in her life begin changing at once as she prepares to leave home for college. Aside from the writing itself, I thoroughly enjoyed the illustrations of Charlie’s mom’s comics. I think this added yet another unique touch to a book that already has so many elements that help it stand apart from the crowd.

Charlie’s character really surprised me in a lot of ways. At the beginning of the book, her characterization seemed pretty standard for someone her age (i.e. thinking about college, exploring new relationships, so much teenage angst, etc.). Later on, though, it became clear that Charlie had some seriously drastic character development going on, particularly when it came to the relationships she has with her siblings and parents. It was so interesting to me to see Charlie come to the realization that everyone in the Grant family has their own secrets that she doesn’t know about, regardless of how tight-knit of a family they are. I appreciated that this aspect of her character was very well-developed, rather than Charlie just doing a complete 180 without any kind of doubt or emotional reaction to what she was having to come to terms with once these secrets were exposed. This progression of Charlie’s character development and her reactions to various events going on around her made her that much more lovable and relatable. It also didn’t hurt that when I was reading this book, I was experiencing and working through a lot of the same things Charlie was having to and could totally understand where she was coming from!

Gotta give Bill the credit he deserves, right? I LOVED Bill’s character! It’s clear that he’s hardworking, funny, and just such a sweetheart, even when he’s having to deal with a freaked-out Charlie while they try and find alternatives for things at the wedding that have fallen apart. While it was clear that he and Charlie were feelin’ some type of way about each other, I thought the friendship they were able to form with one another was a connection that would last a lifetime, if nothing else were to happen with these two. Plus, they also make such a dynamite team!

There were so many deep moments that led to great life lessons the reader can take away that I wasn’t expecting from this book. Because of this, I feel like I have to share one of my favorites: Betrayal sure can cut deep, especially when it comes from someone you’re close to. Matson does a brilliant job of highlighting both the pain and anger that comes along with that, but also shows the reader that if you truly care for someone, you shouldn’t let that stop you from trying to mend bridges, especially if you know the person genuinely loves and cares for you. It’s easy to hold a grudge, but the only thing that comes out of that is two hurt people, and why be that way, when you can both take the high road and grant each other forgiveness when it’s deserved? This lesson is so important, yet also quickly forgotten in our day-to-day lives that I just felt a need to share it specifically in this review!

The only issue that’s holding me back from a five-star review is that there were elements of the book that felt unrealistic to me. A really good example of this was the fact that there were so many issues with the wedding preparations that l happened on the exact day of Charlie’s sister’s wedding. Trust me when I say that I’ve seen my fair share of last minute wedding day disasters, but the ones in this book were just too much to be realistic. It’s not that I didn’t find some of them funny/really unfortunate, because I totally did, but it was just TOO MUCH.

Overall, the pacing of Save the Date was nicely done with little lag. I really enjoyed the characters and Charlie’s development totally stole the show for me. I fell in love with the Grant family dynamic, even though all members of the family had their flaws that they had to work through on their own and together as a unit. As a whole, I thought Save the Date was a super cute, fluffy, adorable read that throws some serious curveballs at you when you least expect them, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading it!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

I’m going to start with the obvious first: If you’ve enjoyed Morgan Matson’s previous books, it’s likely you’ll fall in love with Charlie, the rest of the Grant crew, and Bill, so definitely give Save the Date a shot!

Fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenna Evens Welch, Siobhan Vivian, and Kasie West will also likely take a liking to this book.

And, if you’re like me and love a good contemporary with a strong emphasis on family over romance, this may be a great option for you. I also highly recommend this book to anyone who is going through any kind of big change in their life (i.e. heading to college, moving away from home, etc.). I think readers adjusting to brand new things life has to offer will greatly benefit from giving Save the Date a try!

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

Pages: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Release Date: December 5, 2017

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“When Claudia accidentally eavesdrops on the epic breakup of Paige and Iris, the it-couple at her school, she finds herself in hot water with prickly, difficult Iris. Thrown together against their will in the class production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, along with the goofiest, cutest boy Claudia has ever known, Iris and Claudia are in for an eye-opening senior year.

Smart, funny, and thoroughly, wonderfully flawed, Claudia navigates a world of intense friendships and tentative romance in Foolish Hearts, a YA novel about expanding your horizons, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and accepting–and loving–people for who they really are.

A contemporary young adult novel by Emma Mills about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream leads her to new friends–and maybe even new love. “

What Did I Think?

To sum this book up in a few words: boy band obsession, video gaming with the squad, and a whole lot of life changes being thrown at our characters!

The overall concept of this book is what drew me in from the start (other than the gorgeous cover, that is!). Between touching on building new relationships with people you least expect to connect with, working through the speed bumps that arise between childhood friends as they get older, and acknowledging how challenging adjusting to change can be for people at any stage of life, this book has all the makings of a great coming-of-age story that readers across the board will find relatable. I also love the fact that a school production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was the glue that brought and held the story and its characters together, and overall a total plus since it just so happens to be my favorite Shakespeare play!

One of my favorite elements of this book is the fact that Claudia’s family is present and plays a crucial role in her life. Sure, I love the snippets of romance that are scattered throughout as well, but something about the family dynamic is what really stuck with me long after finishing Foolish Hearts. I also appreciate that the reactions and events that involved Claudia and her family members are presented in a way that’s appropriate for each of their ages and the phase of life they’re in. For example, Claudia and her sister, Julia, are 11 years apart in age. The reader is able to see the differences in their life experiences and reactions to various events while still having the opportunity to appreciate how strong of a bond they have with one another regardless of their difference in age. The same goes for each of the girls’ relationships with their brother. Alex and Claudia’s relationship reminds me a lot of the one I have with my brother: when one of us needs help, the other is always there for the other to lean on, regardless of circumstance. As a whole, it was lovely to see an involved family in a YA contemporary, as usually they are there, but pushed to the side!

I’m always looking for characters that have their own little “things” about them that set them apart from others I’ve read about, and this book was full of unique personalities, particularly in the characters with supporting roles! I absolutely loved Gideon’s quirkiness that he makes no attempt to hide from those around him and how loyal he is to his best friend, Noah. Their relationship seemed almost like a carbon copy of the one Claudia has with Zoe, but contrasts in that the two girls go to different schools, adding in a completely different dynamic from the boys’. I also enjoyed seeing Iris’ character for who she really is as she and Claudia got closer.

While I really wanted to give this book five starts, the pacing was just a little bit off for me, specifically when it came to the explanations of the video game everyone was playing together. They were a little too long for my attention span, given that I’m not much of a gamer. I also wanted to know more about Claudia’s past relationship with Will Sorenson, and why his reasoning for not being with her upset her so much. Something about that just didn’t click for me. I also had some issues with Claudia’s character development. Sure, she needed to backpedal sometimes in order to help her put things in perspective, but I felt like in the end, her character just didn’t come far enough for me to constitute true character development.

Regardless of these issues, I found this book to be a very quick, easy, and enjoyable read that is full of great advice for readers of all ages who are learning to find their own way in this crazy world!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’re looking for a fantastic coming-of-age tale with THE TINIEST dash of romance thrown into the mix, this book is for you!

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Jenn Bennett, Kasie West, and Miranda Kenneally!