4 out of 5 stars
Format: Library Hardback - YA Ficton/Romance - Goodreads Summary:
"Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.
Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo's sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.
Emaline's mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he's convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?
Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she's going?"
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
The back jacket description is a bit misleading... I keep getting tricked into reading non-romance romances! Again, it was such a good story, I didn't even mind. This story isn't about Theo or Luke or finding that super fun summer romance. It's about Emaline and her last summer as the girl from Colby before starting out on her next chapter. The thing that resonated most with me was the realness of it. I can remember the summer before college, the summer before I got married, the summer before I moved (it just passed by the way)... all those summer before ______. It's a scary time even as an adult, and I loved how Dessen captured all of us in Emaline's experience of growing up.
Emaline wasn't perfect by any means, and a lot of her actions didn't make sense. Like when she helped Ivy in the end. Like, WHY??? Theo had a great point, and I'm not sure why that scene was written to make him look like he was in the wrong. Because he wasn't. Which also leads me to the Theo/Luke/is this even a romance thing. The blurb set us up to think of Theo as this fresh, new summer fling. But I'm not sure Emaline even LIKED him. Every scene where they were together, she was uncomfortable or embarrassed of him. This was made plain by her body language (reddening, wincing, shifting, etc.) but also by the scene itself (balloons squeaking, people staring, awkward silences). We were reminded Theo "wasn't one of us" and he was an outsider who didn't understand the small town ways. Okay fine. But why are you still dating him? Emaline never really warmed to him and I was left feeling really bad for the guy.
On the flipside, Luke, the super popular, dreamy, EX-boyfriend-cause-he-cheated, is the guy we get to see in the "epilogue." I put that in quotes because it's technically not an epilogue but still reads like the resolution scene of a movie. He saves the day when Emaline's brother goes missing, he's sweet and charming and keeps showing up places, and her family loves him still (even though he CHEATED). It just felt weird for me. Not that I hated Luke, I just wondered why she was even dating Theo if he was too city-slicker for her.
So that was weird and THEN the whole Ivy suddenly becoming cool (???) Like, Emaline (who repeatedly says she owes people nothing) is helping a GROWN-ASS woman clean her room- which she's renting from Emaline's family's real estate company. And then BOOM. they're friends and Emaline's working for the lady she scolded Theo for working for. She was pretty judgey about it too, so those whole last 3 chapters were kinda weird for me.
My favs: Morris (omg I LOVE him), her dad (not her father), and Benji. All those characters were wonderfully developed and lovable and her interactions with them were realistic. All the characters had teeth- no one felt underdeveloped or too fake. I could clearly picture every single one. I didn't connect as much with Emaline, mainly because of some her choices, but she was still a well-done character. I think this is Dessen's strength, and why I'll definitely be reading anything else she puts on the shelf!