Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

30038906

Synopsis from Good Reads:

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Names They Gave Us will be available May 16, 2017.

When I think of Emery Lord books, I think of trying too hard.  Even though I’ve liked some of her other books (especially The Start of Me and You), I always feel like she just tries way too hard to be deep and meaningful. It comes across a little self-indulgent and melodramatic to me. While this book did have cute, funny, and even poignant moments, it still felt like it was trying too hard.

I felt like I should’ve found Lucy really relatable (pastor kids unite!), but I never fully connected with her. She was a mostly likable character, though. I mostly liked her group of friends at camp, though I wish they would’ve been developed just a bit more. I did really love Jones, Lucy’s new love interest. He was so sweet and I enjoyed pretty much every scene he was in. I also liked the camp setting and the kids there.

I have heard from people who are hesitant about this book because there is some religious content. If you are one of those people, I would say you might be slightly annoyed at times, but I don’t think it’s written in a way that will “ruin” the book for you. I have also heard from people who were very happy to see a “realistic” Christian character not be a complete psycho. To those people I would caution to not get too excited. Yes, the main character comes from a religious background and is not awful. However, this is NOT a Christian book and the overall message is not of Christian faith. There are definitely a few themes throughout that is congruent with the Christian faith, but at the end of the day the message is more one of universalism and the goodness of people. I mean, it’s still a hopeful message and is more than is in most YA, but I just want to caution my Christian friends.

Overall, The Names They Gave Us, was just ok for me. I felt like it was too long for what little was going on and a little repetitive and then it had a pretty abrupt ending. I did really enjoy Lucy and Jones’ slow burn romance, though. I think that Emery Lord fans will probably still enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Reviewing the Unreviewed: March 2017

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. I thought I’d start doing a post once a month  with just the couple thoughts I shared on Good Reads.

29284789

Winging It (Corrigan Falls Raiders #3) by Cate Cameron. Read February 28 – March 1. 3 Stars.

This was a quick, fairly cute read. It was a little more friends-to-love trope than fake-relationship, but since I like both of those, it was ok. I didn’t really care for Natalie. I enjoyed the chapters from Toby more, but he fell a little short of being a character I could really love. Overall, it was a good palate-cleanser from all the more serious books I’ve been reading lately.

29478744

The Rule Book (The Rule Breakers #1) by Jennifer Blackwood. Read March  9-11. 3 Stars.

I really enjoyed pretty much every interaction between Lainey and Brogan in this book. I liked the romance and even all the times Lainey just said really stupid stuff in front of him. There were a lot of humorous moments, too. However, there were a couple things that bothered me. I’m not sure if it’s ever stated how old Brogan is (I think 30 was hinted at it) and Lainey is 24. I know that’s not a huge age difference, but I felt like there was such a difference in their maturity (plus he’s her employer) that the romance almost felt uncomfortable for awhile. (I did get over that eventually, though. Like I said, I liked almost every interaction between them.) My major problem, though, is that if you cut out all of Lainey’s inner-monologues about wanting to do her boss, the book would be about half as long. It just kind of annoyed me. There was a lot of good about the book, though, and it was a cute romance, overall.

29939230

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab. Read March 12-25. 4 Stars.

I had a lot of issues with the previous book in this series, but I’m really glad I decided to still read this one. As always, Schwab’s writing is excellent. But in addition to that, I feel like the plot was advancing in almost every chapter. Though it did get a little slow at times and there was a great deal that I felt didn’t really have purpose and could have been cut to make the book a little shorter, I still enjoyed the story. I didn’t HATE Lila so much, either. I loved Kell and Holland and Rhy (even though he really frustrated me most of the time). I have a hard time giving this a proper review because I took a week off from reading right in the middle of it due to illness, but overall I thought it was a pretty good end to the series and probably the best book of the three.

31558744

Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Read March 25-26. 4 Stars.

After being really disappointed in the last few JLA books I’ve read, I’m so happy in how much I enjoyed this. It veered a little more towards romance than suspense, but I was a fan of the romance, so I was ok with it. I really liked both Sasha and Cole and their relationship. I liked the mystery aspect, even though I basically figured out who the bad guy was really early in the book. ***SUPER MILD SPOILER*** There was a really random detail about one of the characters given on early in the story and then nothing was really done with it. It gave a bit of a motive and while it was nice that the killer didn’t come out of left field, it was a little disappointing that it was included so early in the story and – at least to me – done in a really obvious way. ***END OF SPOILER*** Overall, I just really enjoyed it and didn’t want to put it down. It’s restored my faith a bit in JLA.

30038906

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord. March 27-28. 2.5 Stars.

I have heard from people who are hesitant about this book because there is some religious content. If you are one of those people, I would say you might be slightly annoyed at times, but I don’t think it’s written in a way that will “ruin” the book for you. I have also heard from people who were very happy to see a “realistic” Christian character not be a complete psycho. To those people I would caution to not get too excited. Yes, the main character comes from a religious background and is not awful. However, this is NOT a Christian book and the overall message is not of Christian faith. There are definitely a few themes throughout that is congruent with the Christian faith, but at the end of the day the message is more one of universalism and the goodness of people. I mean, it’s still a hopeful message and is more than is in most YA, but I just want to caution my Christian friends. Full review to come.

Reviewing the Unreviewed: August 2016

Stephanies Book Reviews Header

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. I thought I’d start doing a post once a month  with just the couple thoughts I shared on Good Reads.

22447220

Ensnared (Splintered #3) by A.G. Howard. Read July 30-31. 3 Stars.

(Ok, so technically I finished this in July, but I didn’t get it done before last month’s Reviewing the Unreviewed.) I think this is probably my favorite book of the trilogy. While it wasn’t necessarily fast paced, the plot didn’t drag like in the first two books. Though Jeb annoyed me for about half the book, he redeemed himself. I loved that he and Morpheus found a way to co-exist and their fun bantering (how much better would this whole series have been if they could’ve been good-naturedly bantering with each other the whole time?). The resolution to the love triangle was unique, though it kind of weirded me out a bit. Overall, this was a pretty original series. I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to, but I did enjoy it.

16068910

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes. Read August 3-4. 2 Stars.

I started out really hating this book and the horrible main character, Lainey, but I thought the fake relationship portions were done pretty well and even found myself enjoying certain scenes. While the latter half is definitely better than the beginning, it doesn’t quite make up for it and is why this is getting 2 stars from me instead of 3.

Lainey is completely shallow and spoiled and awful and she is completely unaware of that for much of the book. She was just so unlikable! She did eventually become a little self-aware and start to make some changes for the better. She became a slightly better person. But only slightly. While I liked Micah, I didn’t LOVE him. He had many good characteristics, but he also had a few pretty flawed ones and there wasn’t really anything he did to change those things.

What I really liked were the secondary characters Bianca and Leo who were both really smart, funny, kind people (I would have rather read a book about them). I also did like how the fake relationship played out. It had the right mixture of fake dates and awkward moments, and it didn’t rush into the falling for each other portion.

I know a lot of people really loved this story, but I found it a little disappointing.

27274370

The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti. Read August 5-6. 3 Stars.

Overall, The Vanishing Year, was a decent read. The character development of Zoe was good and I also really liked her new reporter friend, Cash. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the suspenseful tale that I was hoping for. However, if you are looking for a good character-driven story with a little mystery (and some slightly campy plot twists), I think you would enjoy it. Full review to come closer to release date.

26124110

Wedding Date for Hire (Anyone But You #2) by Jennifer Shirk. Read August 6-7. 3.5 Stars.

I am usually extremely stingy when it comes to buying books, but when I see a fake relationship story on sale for $0.99 I can’t help myself. Wedding Date for Hire was a super cute, fast read and I have no regrets.

This had all the elements that I enjoy in fake relationship books. I wish the book would have been a little bit longer, though, just so it could expand on some of the secondary storylines a bit more. I felt like there were a lot of things brought up and then quickly resolved and brushed off. Overall, though, this was a very cute, fairly clean story that I think fans of the fake relationship trope will enjoy.

25891528

The Goodbye Bride (Summer Harbor #2) by Denise Hunter. Read August 7-10. 1.5 Stars.

I thought about giving it 2 stars because the writing wasn’t bad and I think a lot of people would like the story, but at the end of the day, I jut had soooo many issues with this book! Lucy was selfish and hypocritical and had no self awareness of it at all for much of the book. No one ever called her on it, either, which drove me crazy. It really rubbed me the wrong way that she never really took responsibility for what she did to Zac, just because she couldn’t remember doing it. It took until the second to last chapter for Lucy to finally understand what she was doing and while I appreciated that growth and the message behind it – it was almost the very end of the book. There was not enough time after that for me to like her.

25877185

Finding Perfect (Finding Perfect #1) by Kendra C. Highley. Read August 13. 3 Stars.

Kind of an average YA Contemporary, but it was cute and a quick read. Ben was super sweet.

11292383

American Assassin (Mitch Rapp #1) by Vince Flynn. Read August 15-19. 3.5 Stars.

It took me a little bit to get into this and get used to the writing style, but around half way through I was hooked. There were definitely some intense moments and even some funny ones. I’m looking forward to reading more about Mitch Rapp.

This is also getting made into a movie and (as of right now at least) Dylan O’Brien and Taylor Kitsch are attached to it. So, yeah. Read it first and get excited!            

*************************************************************************

BACK ON THE TBR

25663637

When We Collided by Emery Lord. I didn’t even make it through the first chapter before I realized I was so not in the mood for this book. Despite the very mixed reviews I’ve read on it, I do want to give it a try some other time.

*************************************************************************

RE-READS

27779275

This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills. So this is the second time I’ve read this book and it isn’t even published yet. I didn’t write a proper review of it after the first time I read it, so I wanted to re-read it so I could write a semi-coherent review on it (publishing closer to release date). I enjoyed it just as much as the second time around.

*************************************************************************

DNF

23272028

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro. Again, it just may be my reading mood when I tried this, but I wasn’t even a little bit interested in it. I didn’t like either of the characters and there wasn’t really anything special about the writing or the story. I stopped in the middle of a chapter, if that gives you any idea how much I was not invested in this book.

 

2015 End of Year Book Survey

2015-end-of-year-book-survey-1024x984

This survey is created by The Perpetual Page-Turner.

reading-stats-2015-1024x278

Number Of Books You Read: 123 (as of 12/27/15 – this will probably go up a book or two by year end)
Number of Re-Reads: 24 (not counted in the above answer)
Genre You Read The Most From: YA

 

best-YA-books-2014

1. Best Book You Read In 2015?

I don’t think I can pick one book, but I have narrowed it down to my three favorite (which were also the ones I got for Christmas):

  1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  2. Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
  3. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (This book will be referenced a lot from here on out, BTW)

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway, Pretending to be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, and The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

18798983

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – in a Good way!

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

The Fill-in Boyfriend by Kasie West. I’ve had a few different people tell me they read it because I kept talking about it.

 5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

Started – Six of Crows (Six of Crows) by Leigh Bardugo

Sequel – First Frost (Waverly Family) by Sarah Addison Allen

Ender – Winter (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

Allison Leotta – The Anna Curtis series

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

23734628

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – I don’t read a lot of books that have LGBT romance.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Six of Crows!

 9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Big Little Lies

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

17234658

The book only got 2 stars from me, but I adore the cover of A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray.

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows. He’s everything.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

21853633

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?

This year I read for pure enjoyment purposes. I can’t say I read anything that was life-changing.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read? 

Missing You by Harlan Coben. Not necessarily that book, but the author. I have never read him before and I know I’ll definitely be reading more of him.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?

I don’t keep track of quotes. It’s not my thing.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?

Shortest – Ten Rules for a Call Girl by Allison Leotta

Longest – Winter by Marissa Meyer

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

You know, there were several books that had some small twists or surprises, but there is not anything that stands out to me as being really shocking.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

Cinder & Kai from Winter

Kaz & Inej from Six of Crows

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

The Six of Crows gang as a whole, Cinder & Thorne

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Six of Crows – previously read The Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo

21. Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – because ALL THE HYPE

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?

Kaz Brekker. Obviously.

23. Best 2015 debut you read?

22571781

Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

The Wrath and the Dawn

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

22429350

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?

While it definitely wasn’t the sob fest that was Me Before You, After You by Jojo Moyes had me a little teary at the beginning.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

25206843

Aimee and the Heartthrob by Ophelia London was pretty cute.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

I didn’t read a lot of heavy hitting reads this year. I’m not actually upset by this.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?

You by Caroline Kepnes. This book was just Messed Up.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

24638201

Vendetta by Catherine Doyle because it was RIDICULOUS!

book-blogging

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2015?

I’m not entirely sure if it was this year or last year, but I’m pretty sure it was this year that I discovered Brandie is a Book Junkie. We don’t share the same tastes in everything, but we both love Suspense novels and if she gives a Suspense a favorable rating, it’s automatically going on my TBR. She is also the reason I read my first Harlan Coben book this year. And we also figured out that we live in the same county, which is pretty cool!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2015?

19486412

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

If My Life were Like Chick Lit…The Wedding Date and All the Ways in which I am not a Proper Book Nerd/Blogger.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

IMG_1297

I went to a book signing/talk by Linda Castillo (of the Kate Burkholder series).

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2015?

I had my first publisher provided giveaway – for a copy of Black-Eyed Susans.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

I’ve had several book slumps throughout the year and that bled over into not having anything to post on the blog. I’ve also had lots of Low-Blog-Self-Esteem moments where I kind of hate everything about my blog/blogging.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

My review of The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne has the most views of the year. I don’t have any idea how to search by comments or likes.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

I don’t really know. I wish every post got more likes/comments/views. But what can you do?

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Many new blogs

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

For the Good Reads Reading Challenge I wanted to read 115 books and I surpassed it.

looking-ahead-books-2015

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?

23341894

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone. I bought it when it was on sale, but haven’t read it yet. It’s first up after I get some library books and ARCs out of the way.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?

17378527

The Raven King!!!! How many times has this been pushed back?!?

3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

I can’t think of anything at the moment. I’m not super attuned to those yet, I guess.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016?

The Raven King, obviously, and Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2016?

Request less ARCs unless it’s a book that I know I REALLY want to read. I hate DNF-ing ARCs, but I also hate forcing myself to finish books I don’t like and then try to write coherent reviews about them.

6. A 2016 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

So far I’ve only read one and a half 2016 books and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them to everyone.

 

Bath and Body Works Tag

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 7.55.39 AM

September is a crappy month for my blog. I’ve decided to just accept it. I actually have written two reviews, but they’re both for ARCs that can’t be posted yet. To keep the blog from being completely unpublished, I thought it was time for another tag. I saw this over on Inspired by the Page and thought it looked fun. Enjoy.

1. Pure Paradise: A book that was simply perfection.

Attachments

If you’ve followed my blog at all you know that I’m generally a pretty harsh rater and I haven’t really found book perfection yet. The book that probably comes closest – and is probably the most often mentioned on lists like this – is Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. I gave it 5 stars before I started book blogging and it’s one of my favorites of all time.

2. Sweet Pea: A romance/contemporary novel that you really enjoyed.

If You Only Knew

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins. This could be any Kristan Higgins book, honestly, but I’m going to go with her most recent.

3. Fresh Strawberries: A book you really enjoyed that came out this year.

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. I didn’t expect much from this book, but I ended up really, really enjoying it. I definitely recommend it if you haven’t checked it out yet.

4. Warm Vanilla Sugar: A character and/or book that made you feel all warm and smiley.

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord. I was smiling the majority of the time as I read this.

5. Paris Amour: A couple you majorly ship together.

Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3)

Juliette and Warner from the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. They’re perfect together.

6. Dancing Waters: A book that takes place on a beach/perfect beach read.

Truly, Madly, Greekly

Truly, Madly, Greekly by Mandy Baggot. The beautiful setting in this book made me really, really want to go to Greece.

7. I  Cake Books: Favorite book/character.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3)

We should all know this answer by now, too: The Raven Boys and Blue. I love them so, so much.

8. Winter Candy Apple: A book set around Christmas or during winter.

Landline

Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Georgie decides to stay home and work as her family goes home to Omaha to see family for Christmas.

9. Beautiful Day: A book with an unusual/interesting/appealing setting.

Fairytale Beginnings

Fairytale Beginnings by Holly Martin. It’s set in a castle.

10. Dazzling Diamonds: Gorgeous cover(s).

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. Love the cover, not as impressed with the book.

Feel free to tag yourself if you’d like to participate!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015

TTT Header

Well we are half way through the year and in accordance this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is: Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015. (In converse, I posted my most disappointing booksnof 2015 so far yesterday.) In no particular order, my favorite books I’ve read so far are:

Big Little Lies

1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Ok, so this one is in particular order, as I gave this book 4.5 stars and it’s probably my favorite book of the year so far.

The Singles

2. The Singles by Meredith Goldstein. This has been on my TBR forever and I was so excited when I found it for $1 at a library sale.

Eeny Meeny (Helen Grace, #1)

3. Eeny Meeny by M.J. Arlidge. A great thriller/mystery.

Missing You

4. Missing You by Harlan Coben. My first Harlan Coben and it won’t be my last!

The Fill-In Boyfriend

5. The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West. Another adorable book that reminds me why Kasie West is my favorite YA Contemporary author.

First Frost (Waverley Family, #2)

6. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen. Garden Spells was one of my favorite books last year and it’s sequel did not disappoint.

The Start of Me and You

7. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord. Another cute contemporary.

Unbecoming

8. Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm. A very well done character-driven novel.

The Beautiful Daughters

9. The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart. Beautifully written, another character-driven piece.

Black-Eyed Susans

10. Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin. This one isn’t out yet, but is easily one of my favorites. A great suspense story.

Law of Attraction  Discretion  Speak of the Devil (Anna Curtis, #3)  A Good Killing (Anna Curtis, #4)

11. Ok, so I’m adding another one and making it a series because these books are amazing and is my favorite new series of the year – The Anna Curtis series by Allison Leotta – Law of Attraction, Discretion, Speak of the Devil, A Good Killing

What are your favorite books so far this year? Do you agree with any of my choices?

Review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

22429350

Synopsis from Good Reads:

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, 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?

I wasn’t a huge fan of Open Road Summer so I wasn’t expecting much from The Start of Me and You. I am quite pleased to say that it definitely surpassed my expectations and I really enjoyed it!

Paige was dating Aaron for about two months when he tragically drowned on a camping trip. While she mourns his loss and has suffered from some PTSD related nightmares, what she really has trouble coping with is The Look. The way people give her pitying looks and identify her only as the girlfriend of the boy who drowned. She’s ready to really start moving on and being happy again. She makes up a list of things she thinks will help her do this and embarks on the new school year determined to make it happen.

My problem with Open Road Summer is that I felt it tried too hard to be deep and meaningful, while still being a cute contemporary. I think that The Start of Me and You does much better at balancing the cute with the Message. The characters were relatable and likable. The problems were never too melodramatic. The romance, as well as the growing friendships, were a slow burn.

One thing this book does really well is the friendships. Paige has a core group of friends – Tessa, Morgan, and Kayleigh – who are all pretty different, but are always there for each other. That doesn’t mean they don’t ever fight, but they always make up. While there was opportunity for great girl drama (my crush has a crush on my best friend, you’re spending more time with your boyfriend than you are with me, etc.), it never went there and I was really grateful it. There were no frenemies here! While the friendship between Ryan and Max isn’t as explored, we know that they are really close, as well. I also liked how Paige’s and Max’s group of friends converged throughout the book.

I also liked that there was an “adult presence” in the book. So many YA books have completely absent or oblivious parents and that always gets on my nerves. Paige has present parents and she has a realistic relationship with them. I also really liked their English teacher, Ms. Pepper. She provided several humorous moments throughout the book.

The relationship between Paige and Max was very cute, as well. They start out a bit uncomfortable, but slowly become friends. It’s several months before Paige even begins to realize that she may like him as more than a friend. I loved their banter and inside jokes. His nickname for her reminded me of Gansey and Blue from The Raven Boys so while they have nothing to do with each other, I think it endeared them to me more.

The underlining message of it all was about overcoming tragedy to live your life and the journey it takes to get there. I think Lord does a good job of weaving this into the other storylines about Paige’s friends and Max and her grandmother. While there were a few times it almost got a little “preachy” about it, I didn’t feel as brow beaten with it as with Lord’s former book. It seemed much more organic and less forced.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Start of Me and You. The characters were likable and the romance was sweet. The writing was often humorous and I found myself smiling a lot while I was reading. I would definitely recommend this to fans of YA Contemporary.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

4 stars