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The Breakfast Club meets The Silver Linings Playbook in this powerful, provocative, and heartfelt novel about twelve endearing strangers who come together to make the most of their final days, from New York Times bestselling and award-winning author J. Michael Straczynski.
Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!
I am so excited to be back, shouting about books I loved! Thanks so much to my fellow Rioters for covering my Friday send while I was off doing other bookish things! I read a lot of books I loved since I was last in your inboxes, and I can’t wait to tell you all about them. Since it’s summer, I thought I’d kick off with a fun (and high-drama) summery pick!
With You All the Way by Cynthia Hand
Ada is about to head out on a week-long Hawaiian vacation with her parents and two sisters when she catches her boyfriend cheating. Considering Ada just decided she was ready for sex, this is a pretty big blow. But things go from bad to worse when her step-father bails on the trip at the last minute, and then on their first day in Hawaii, Ada walks in on her mom having sex with someone who definitely isn’t her step-dad. With this explosive secret eating her from the inside out, Ada navigates a week in Hawaii with her over-eager five-year-old sister, her know-it-all older sister, and a potential crush.
I am a sucker for a good family drama, and the idea of a teenage girl knowing her mom is cheating without being able to let on that she knows to her sisters or parents sounds like torture if it were happening to me…but reading about it happening to someone else was super engrossing, with many cringe-worthy moments. The backdrop of a gorgeous Hawaiian vacation just adds to the tension, as does Ada’s complicated relationship with her older sister, Afton, who is acting odd and distant during the trip.
What made this book an instant must-read recommendation for me was that this story was full of surprises, and even though Ada feels helpless and caught up in circumstances beyond her control, it’s how she responds to these situations that facilitates her growth. At first, her reaction is essentially, “Eff it, if everyone is having sex, I’ll do it too!” This attitude leads her to a connection with Nick, who is sensitive and kind, and becomes Ada’s unexpected confidant in her family drama. When he and Ada agree to have sex and make a plan, it doesn’t go quite the way they imagine, but it does force Ada to confront the root of her problems and actually talk to her family about what she saw, even if she does go about it in an incredibly awkward way. This is a sex-positive YA novel that speaks frankly about the considerations of having sex for the first time, both physical and emotional, and takes a nuanced approach to relationships. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes books about complicated relationships of all types, and characters learning how to navigate them with humor and grace.
Bonus: I read this on audio, and the narrator Joy Osmanksi did a great job!
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