I am so backed up on reviews right now it’s insane. Ten unposted, fully written reviews right now, can you believe it?! I just don’t know how I’m going to catch up. Maybe it’s time for me to finally stick to a consistent posting schedule?
I know group reviews don’t usually perform as well, but right now it seems to be the only way I can even pretend I’ll ever catch up. So here are two reviews of some summery contemporaries in the midst of winter – Emmy & Oliver and The Loose Ends List. I liked one and found the other…eh. Woohoo!
Synopsis of The Loose Ends List: It’s a summer for first love, last wishes, and letting go.
Maddie has big plans to spend the last months before college tying up high school “loose ends” alongside her best friends. Then her beloved grandmother drops two bombshells: (1) Gram is dying. (2) She’s taking her entire family on a round-the-world cruise of dreams come true—but at the end, Gram won’t be returning home.
With a promise to live in the now without regrets, Maddie boards the Wishwell determined to make every moment count. She finds new friends in her fellow Wishwellians, takes advantage of the trip’s many luxuries, gets even closer to her quirky family, and falls for painfully gorgeous Enzo. But despite the copious laughter, headiness of first love, and wonder of the glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram, and she struggles to find the strength to let go in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, grief, and laughter.
Review of The Loose Ends List: 2.5 stars
It’s hard to say how I feel about this book. Contemporaries are supposed to be realistic fiction, but this whole thing felt so surreal to me. The setting was so fantastical, it couldn’t ground the characters. And the characters were larger-than-life – they needed to be grounded.
There were also so. Many. Characters. It was impossible to keep track of them all, since the “worldbuilding” was mostly info-dumping. I caught myself scrawling notes on who was who. The bratty main character using terms like “Wheelchair Guy” and “Bald Lady” interchangeably with names didn’t help the situation either.
Plus, a weird, valiant effort made to occasionally discuss the very unwieldy topic of poverty in the face of large-scale tourism – but in the end, the theme concluded as wishy-washy and noncommittal, the author apparently unwilling to infuse the book with this particular larger meaning. Unfortunate, since that could have really added to the book – not to mention set it apart from its often themeless brethren in the YA contemporary genre.
But when it comes down to it, I just freaking love books about travel. Gayle Forman’s Just One Day duology, Kirsten Hubbard’s Wanderlove, Lauren Morrill’s Meant to Be; even road-trip books like Paper Towns and Since You’ve Been Gone. It’s my number-one favorite plotline. I haven’t traveled a lot in my life, and reading about it is the next best thing. So the second half of this book is rescuing it from two stars or less.
Bottom line: Maybe other people will like this book more, but I can’t tell you to rush out to grab a copy.
Synopsis of Emmy & Oliver: Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?
Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.
She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.
Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.
He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.
Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?
Readers who love Sarah Dessen will tear through these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver’s father’s crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.
Review of Emmy & Oliver: 4.1/5 stars
I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time. I used to obsessively add contemporaries to my TBR, and for whatever reason, this one stuck even when I removed most of them. And I’m glad it did.
It was, socially, on point. Characters were against slut-shaming and the “not like other girls” trope, as I enthusiastically noted about an hour and a half ago. There were themes of acceptance and homosexuality and gender. It was sick.
The characters themselves were pretty great, too. Emmy was actually funny sometimes (I find that a lot of supposedly-funny YA characters end up not being that way). Oliver was pretty cute, too. Caro was great, and Drew, despite being a bit stereotypical, didn’t drive me crazy or anything.
That’s one of my only complaints about this book, actually. Everything can feel a bit exaggerated. Both Emmy and Oliver’s parents are that cliché of being too strict so that they can have a big fight at the climax when their offspring scream at them, I’m not your little girl/boy/walking-talking-stereotype anymore! But it was a little too much. It made sense in Oliver’s case, because he’s just returned after being kidnapped by his dad. But in Emmy’s it was insane. She’s almost 18 and has a 9 p.m. curfew and 10 p.m. bedtime? She’s not allowed to go to college? I would have just screamed forever if that was my senior year.
My other complaint is the insta-love. It’s somewhat excusable because Emmy and Oliver were childhood friends, but they spend very little time catching up after a (very crucial) decade apart before they start mackin’ on each other. It’s not the worst I’ve ever read, just a bit grating.
Bottom line: this contemporary is refreshing, cute and fun. Also I think I like surfing books now. Regardless, I recommend!