Publishing Date: March 31
Genre: young adult, contemporary, romance
It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?
Paige is tired of That Look — the look every gives the Girlfriend of the Boy Who Died. Aaron was messing around with his Boy Scout troop when he jumped off a cliff, inevitably plunging to his death. Even though they only dated a handful of months, That Look and Paige’s heartbreak plagued her throughout sophomore year, and she’s not about to let it affect her junior year. Best friends Tessa, Morgan, and Kayleigh help Paige come up with a list of happy things, a to-do in order to climb out of the grief and seize life without guilt once more. Some of these things, like joining clubs and attending social events, are easy; others, like getting the charismatic Ryan Chase to date her, proves to be more difficult. It takes Ryan’s cousin Max to help Paige understand her grief, work through her struggles, cross off her to-do list, and face what’s really important in her life.
My attachment to this book is more than “Oooo, another book by Emery Lord! I loved Open Road Summer!” It started with the opening scene (a bookstore), followed by a run-in with Ryan (who reminds me so much of a guy I crushed-from-a-distance in high school), closely followed by the description of the small, wealthy, Indianapolis suburban town near Carmel and Noblesville with the highest test score rankings in the state (um…Lord, that’s my high school). Toss in Paige’s need to create lists and plan ahead for everything, her compassion for her grandmother, her torn feelings towards her parents, her deep friendship with three wonderful girls, and Max Watson, and you know I’m hooked. This is…well, this is me. If I had a boyfriend in high school who died suddenly, everything Paige went through is exactly how I would’ve responded and attempted to wake back up.
Paige is blind to the growing friendship with Max and the very obvious barrier between her and Ryan. She takes every little Ryan instance — like him paying for a hot dog (gosh that scene cracked me up) — and explodes them into something meaningful in her mind. And yet all the good things, commonalities, and connections with Max go ignored. I spent the majority of the book speed-reading for another Max Moment That May Take Them a Step Further, just like when I read Anna and the French Kiss. And it’s not until an intense scene at Max’s birthday that things finally click into place for Paige. While it was entertaining as well as frustrating, I found the whole journey heartwarming. It was wonderful to watch Paige ease out of her grief and guilt and become herself (a newer self) once more.
While this book contained many layers, I can’t help but gush over Max. Max Watson has knocked Matt Finch off my Book Boyfriend shelf. He reminded me so much of my type in high school (and now, to be perfectly honest). He goes to school well-dressed, but still comes across slightly dorky rather than clean-cut preppy. He’s a nerd and proud of it without being condescending (he’s all about Firefly and Quiz Bowl, and is fascinated with airplanes), so even though he knows all the answers in class he’s never pushy about it. He’s a great listener and down for conversations and activities with Paige and her friends (with or without her there). Max is just…a good, smart guy. And watching him struggle to come to terms once again that yet another girl has fallen for his charismatic cousin Ryan is so…I wanted to give him a hug. He never once asks for attention or sympathy. Which makes you want to give it to him anyway.
Can you see I’m in love? Cause I’m in love.
This is a very introspective novel. From the very beginning you’ll catch on to that. We’re there with Paige during all the important events, laughing and dancing and crying with her friends, standing beside her as she blushes and stumbles around Ryan, sitting next to her as Max drills her for Quiz Bowl matches or shares secrets in the middle of a field. So it’s not like this isn’t an active narration. But Paige always takes a moment to think about the situation, how her life has changed, how she’s grown, what the bond between her friends and family mean, how she’s going to handle her future. She’s a deep thinker, an introvert with excellent observation skills in others’ lives. It was such a relief to read a book with positive female friendships, too, even in the worst of times.
Snag yourself a copy of this book and join sweet Indiana teens on their year-long growth into their new lives, preparing themselves for hurtling toward a future of possibilities. (And Max. Don’t forget just chilling with Max, watching Firefly and debating which Bennet sister is the best.)
Thank you, NetGalley, for providing this book from Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books for review!