Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
From the acclaimed author of My Life Next Door comes a swoony summertime romance full of expectation and regret, humor and hard questions.
Gwen Castle has never so badly wanted to say good-bye to her island home till now: the summer her Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, takes a job there as the local yard boy. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.
A magnetic, push-you-pull-me romance with depth, this is for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Deb Caletti.
I was so excited when I was given review copies of both this book and Fitzpatrick’s sequel to My Life Next Door so I had quite high expectations for this book. After reading My Life Next Door, I knew Fitzpatrick had the potential to be one of my favourite author’s. I remember seeing a few mixed review about this book. They weren’t bad ones necessarily, but they weren’t as strong as for My Life Next Door, which concerned me slightly. I decided to not go back and search for those reviews before I started reading and instead read and form my own opinion first, and I’m glad I did.
My Own Thoughts First
I do love a book set in a seasonal area. I don’t know, but I do. I suppose I like the idea of living in a tourist destination and especially the idea of living by the sea. I also liked the idea of there being the haves and the have-nots. A class divide may be nothing new in books, but it is certainly interesting to read again. Essentially, the set-up for this book was perfect. The entire premise is one that appeals to me, this was actually the Huntley Fitzpatrick book I was most excited to read. Before they began published in the UK I was seriously contemplating ordering me a US copy so you can imagine my excitement to read this.
I think the story was pretty great. I was a little confused at what kind of direction this book was going in when I started. I could tell Gwen had something going on that we weren’t directly told about, but I couldn’t figure out what for a little while. I liked the fact that it was set in the present but you had all the flashbacks to what happened to make Gwen sarcastic and wary of the well off side of the town. I got her general dislike, she’d witnessed the lives her parents had and wanted more, but her strong dislike for certain people seemed to have no basis until you learnt more about their shared past. I liked slowly discovering more about her relationship with Cass and her past with some of the non-island boys that made her so wary. It’s a slow read, you don’t get given all the information straight away. Instead, this book is this weird winding path to get to know Gwen as she brings her barriers down, it’s actually quite interesting as the more you learn about Gwen the closer she grows with Cass as she drops her barriers with him as well.
I do this book a disservice by claiming it’s all about Gwen and ass and their relationship, as it really isn’t. Much like My Life Next Door wasn’t simply a sweet romance neither is this one. This is about Nic and his girlfriend Viv as they grow and figure out their lives together. Are they going to be like their own family living on the island forever or are they going to follow their dreams and get away? It’s about Cass figuring out what he wants in life, does he simply wish to pursue acceptance from his family or does he want to follow his own path and accept responsibility for his actions? It’s a lot more than about two people, it’s about an entire cast of characters and that’s what made it good.
The other aspect of this book I really liked was that it approached sex in a really mature way for YA. Gwen had made some stupid mistakes, she was quick to rush into sex with someone without thoughts for the consequences. She's a teenager, she will do stupid things like that. Her reasons for doing it made so much sense, though, she has grown up too fast helping out her parents and looking after her brother and she has witnessed the seemingly perfect (and very sexually driven) relationship between her cousin and best friend and she wants that too. She is continually the third wheel and she is looking for someone to have that with and going about it in all the wrong ways. I liked that Gwen was a flawed character making mistakes and doing things wrong. It felt genuine, and I know some will struggle to connect with Gwen for acting so rashly, but I think it makes her come across as real and genuine and makes this book more relatable for me.
I do have some complaints, though
Look, no book can be perfect and there were a couple of things which bothered in this book. One of them was the fact you have all these really fantastic characters but they don’t get given enough page time. Sure, they got well-developed stories, you saw their lives happening, such as Nic and Vivien, but I did feel like they could have been given a bit more to be fully developed characters. You got brushes of them. Nic came across as a complete dick and if he had got given a bit more page time it could have been explained and he instead would have come across as a flawed character. I mean, poor Vivien got even less page time and that sucked. We’re told that she’s Gwen’s best friends, but they barely talk. Not sure, this is in some ways related to the story and is explained, but it bothered me. I love good bookish friendships and this one could have been really fantastic if only they’d gotten a chance to appear in the book together a bit more.
I think my other complaint is about the class thing. This is one which deals with the issue of the rich and the poor in a small coastal area. There are those with the money and those which work for them it appears. I liked that there was this weird divide in some ways, but it also didn’t feel genuine. It felt more like the divide was one created by those without. Sure, there were the old rich people that were judgmental, like the one old lady who refused to remember people’s names and the horrible son who hired Gwen to care for his mother. They seemed to live up to the rich stereotype, but that’s what it was a stereotype. I would have liked the class issue a lot more if had people who didn’t fall into the expected stereotypical role and instead came across as an original character. It’s not a big complaint, but I feel like you’re going to do something like that you should at least do it well.
Overall, It Was Amazing
I may gripe and moan about silly things, but they are things which bothered whilst reading. Did it make me put the book down? Not a chance. I wouldn’t have stopped reading for anything. This is a much slower book than My Life Next Door but in many ways, it’s the better for it. This isn’t the intense emotional rollercoaster which that book was, instead this is a slowly developing book about real life issues people can actually appreciate. This is a book about growing up and figuring out what you want in life and it’s fantastic. It’s filled with these amazing characters, like Grandpa Ben and Emory, and is just really enjoyable. This is a book you should read in the sun, on a beach, when you want to escape into someone else’s story for a while. Instead, I read it under about ten million blankets on my friend’s fold out sofa with no heating (I was in a seaside town, though) waiting for people to emerge from their beds as they were hungover (and I probably was as well).
How do you feel about books with a slower pace and a whole lot of story? Do you prefer fast-paced emotional books or their quieter cousins who have a less forceful emotional impact, but still stay with you?