This Adventure Ends

Sloane isn’t expecting to fall in with a group of friends when she moves from New York to Florida – especially not a group of friends so intense, so layered with private tragedies and secret codes, and so all-consuming. Yet that’s exactly what happens.

Sloane becomes closest to Vera, a social-media star who lights up any room, and Gabe, Vera’s twin brother and the most serious person Sloane has ever met. When a beloved painting by the twins’ laye mother goes missing, Sloane takes on the responsibility or tracking it down m a journey that crosses state lines – and pulls her ever deeper into the twins’ lives.

Filled with powerful and important friendships, a wonderful warts-and-all family, shiveringly good romance, a sharp, witty dialogue, this story is about finding the people you never knew you needed.

This Adventure Ends

I ADORED First and Then, Emma Mills’ first novel, so when This Adventure Ends was released I was determined to get my hands on a copy right away. That didn’t happen. Thanks in part to Amazon’s now ridiculously long postage times (I will not be forced onto Prime! First, out of principle and second because I can’t afford it anyways) and my copy getting lost and having to be resent… it took a couple months for it to finally arrive. This long anticipatory build up may have been to the book’s detriment.

This Adventure Ends is okay; a solid three and a half stars with engaging characters let down by a plot that felt rushed.

Mills is a character driven writer in the style of Sarah Dessen. This Adventure Ends is the story of Sloane’s life being turned upside down by a new group of friends she meets after defending one of them from a bully at a party. They are the kind of friends we all wish we had: Viv, an Instagram it-girl with a big heart, her twin brother Gabe, a noble defender of humanity, and Frank Sanger, the boy who knows where all the greatest parties are happening. Sloane falls in love with these people, believably if somewhat abruptly, and spends the rest of the book trying to prove her love by tracking down a painting by Gabe and Viv’s recently deceased mother that was accidentally sold. In secret.

Gabe, Viv and Frank Sanger leap off the page. Like Sloane, as the reader you really enjoy the opportunity to be in their orbit. They are kind, funny, fiercely loyal and loving toward one another in a way that lands straight in your heart. Plotting issues aside, these people really worked for me, and as in any good contemporary YA, I would like to join their friendship group now please.

The other most important relationship in Sloane’s life is with her dad, a famous author currently mired in a serious case of writers block. They are like sort of twin sounding boards for each other. Sloane goes to her dad with her big questions, and the answers feed back into his writing, whether Sloane wants them to or not. The key part of that being the not.

The whole Sloane’s dad storyline was actually one of my biggest frustrations with the book – it just didn’t go anywhere.

That was my criticism of the entire book, actually.

As in most contemporaries in this style, the entire novel was gearing up toward a big conflict between Sloane and the most important people in her life. This is usually a moment of catharsis, one in which all of the issues a character has can be brought out into the light so he or she can begin the process of healing. It didn’t really feel like that. It felt like an explosion that came from nowhere and went nowhere. The conflict – both the arguments she was having with her friends and with her dad – were just waved away like they didn’t happen. This was partly because they needn’t have happened.

The conflict didn’t feel earned, legitimate, or in some cases, consistent with the characters as we had known them up until that point.

It was disappointing.

Throughout the whole book I found myself wanting more: more development of characters, more information about certain situations – Sloane is concerned about the state of her parents’ marriage based on an exchange that is less than a page long and only referred to once in the entire book – and more back story to Sloane herself. She presents as a complex, quite emotionally closed off character, but those elements of her are never really explored. For much of the book I found myself wondering why.

All that aside, I found This Adventure Ends to be an enjoyable, if frustrating read. It’s slightly flat plot is saved by a cast of engaging, #friendshipgoals characters probably better suited for reading on the beach rather than on the train home, delirious after working a 12 hour shift.

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Book Boyfriends for Valentine’s Day

Because boys in books are just better.

vday

Victoria and the Rogue by Meg Cabot

Lady Victoria Arbuthnot is not amused. She’s been shipped from India to England to live with her less-than-ideal relatives, the Gardiners and their zoo of children. If that weren’t bad enough, she’s also being forced to keep her engagement to the charming Lord Malfrey a secret.

It’s all very tedious. As if the family circumstances weren’t enough, Victoria can’t seem to shake the infuriating Captain Carstairs, whose primary hobbies consist of vexing Victoria and spreading rumours about her new fiancé.

For Lady Victoria Arbuthnot, it’s a long road to happily-ever-after.

Captain Carstairs: The, he’s-mean-to-you-because-he-likes-you type. As much as I loved this book it sent me barking up a lot of the wrong trees throughout high school. Totally worth it.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Since Cath started university and her identical twin, Wren ditched her, she doesn’t know what to do with herself. After spending her teens immersed in the world of her Simon Snow fanfiction, Cath honestly doesn’t know how to operate in the real world.

One thing she absolutely does not feel ready for is falling in love. With anything. So the sudden appearance of new friends, new passions and potentially a new boy in her life have her beyond freaked out.

Will Cath figure out how to open her heart before it’s too late?

Levi: Your best friend who you can’t help but fall in love with.

First and Then by Emma Mills

Devon has been crushing on her best friend Cas since forever. He either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. Devon doesn’t even mind any more. She’s pretty much given up on it ever happening.

The butterflies in her stomach haven’t, however.

The drama begins when Devon’s weird cousin Foster comes to live with her family. Foster immediately bonds with Ezra, captain of the football team and prized jackass.

A prized jackass who also happens to be super-hot.

Devon’s life is about to get complicated…

Ezra: The broody one with the tragic history.

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

From the outside it seems like Annabel has everything.

On the inside, she’s crumbling. The girl she thought was her best friend is trying to destroy her. Her family is coming apart at the seams. Her sister is trying to starve herself to death. All Annabel wants is to disappear.

Then she meets Owen. Owen is obsessed with weird music and his radio show, Anger Management. He doesn’t take any bullshit.

He sees the cracks in Annabel’s façade. And he doesn’t leave

Owen: The guy who’s working through some stuff. The one who’s life you can’t help but fall into.

Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway

Emmy and Oliver planned to be best friends forever. Then Oliver’s parents split up and his father kidnapped him.

Ten years later, he’s back and Emmy has no idea what to do. He’s her best friend and a stranger and the defining disaster of her life to date. Oliver barely remembers her… until he does.

As they grow closer, Emmy has to ask herself, is it possible for them to get back to the people they were supposed to be?

Oliver: The cute guy who got kidnapped by his dad. You know the one. The guy who disappeared for ten years then made you feel like he was never gone.

 

 

 

December Wrap-Up

Hey, 2016.

This week I plan to crawl from my Christmastime cave and back into the world of the blog.

Last month I reviewed:

First and Then – Emma Mills

Feelings: This ties with Emmy and Oliver as my favourite YA contemporary of the year. That’s pretty much the highest praise I can possibly give it.

Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs: 100 Years of the Best Women’s journalism – edited by Eleanor Mills and Kira Cochrane

Feelings: This is the book that made me realise I was a feminist. I love it.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

Feelings: Everyone who wants to live the creative life should read this.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

Feelings: Surprisingly funny, heart wrenchingly difficult, totally worth it.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

Feelings: Love, love, love, but creepy Santa haunts my nightmares.

I also read:

PS, I Still Love You – Jenny Han

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

How to be a Parisian Wherever You Are – Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Caroline De Maigret and Sophie Mas

And I suppose it wouldn’t be a proper December wrap up if I didn’t finish The 12 Days of Christmas…

12-days-of-christmas-blogging

What was your favourite childhood Christmas present?

Christmas of 1995, I got a dollhouse. My mum decorated it with left over wallpaper she had laying around. It’s decorated exactly like our house was when I was three. I spent hours playing pretend in that house. My mum managed to find one of the only single parent Sylvanian families I’ve ever seen to live in it. We still have it today. The house sits under the stairs. Sometimes I open it to check when I’m feeling stressed. I still like to think that the dolls living in there move around when I’m not looking.

What are you grateful for this Christmas?

My family. Obvs.

I spent a lot of time this year thinking about how much better things are than they used to be. Even times when they aren’t easier, they’re still better. However I look at it, that’s something to be pretty grateful for.

First and Then

Devon Tennyson doesn’t know what she wants from life. Apart from her best friend Cas to fall in love with her. And for her annoying cousin, Foster, recently sent by his ‘troubled’ mother to live in her house, to leave her alone.

But neither of those things seem to be happening. Instead she has to take gym class with Foster, and deal with his budding friendship with the attractive but socially inadequate jock, Ezra.

Meanwhile Cas is off falling in love with Lindsey, the nicest girl in the world.

IMG_0287.JPGIf First and Then, by Emma Mills had come out when I was seventeen, I would have lost my freaking mind. It achieves the perfect balance between romance and good old Life Lessons. If Sarah Dessen and John Green had a baby, it would be called Emma Mills. I want to open a worm-hole and throw this book back six years to my seventeen-year-old self.

(aside: Oh dear god I can’t believe I was seventeen six years ago.)

(I just paused writing this review to text this realisation to like five people.)

‘My college essay was entitled “School Lunches, TS High and Me,” and it was every bit as terrible as you’d expect.’

So goes the opening line of First and Then. Devon is sitting with a teacher going over her lacklustre college applications. She was going for the ‘witty’ essay, but it didn’t work out so well, mainly because she was writing it during the commercial breaks of the previous night’s television. Devon doesn’t care all that much. But, I should add, she is completely charming in her apathy.

You read a lot of driven YA heroines. There are a lot of girls saving universes or falling hopelessly in love with a guy that they just have to have, but there aren’t all that many that aren’t especially bothered by it all. Devon hasn’t figured out what she’s passionate about in life yet. She’s smart, funny and confident, but she lacks anywhere to channel that energy. She’s applying to a college because she liked the picture on the front of the brochure. Even though she’s been into him forever, she doesn’t actually believe that her relationship with Cas will ever develop into something more. Devon is a witty retort followed by a shrug, and I loved that about her.

I really empathised with Devon, because when I was at school, I didn’t care much either. Honestly, I was ninety-percent of the way through before it started to feel like it mattered. What Emma Mills does really well is to explore how insular the high school world is, and how it can be hard to really care about the future when the present is the only sort of life that you know. It’s hard to imagine a new place and different people, when this place and these people have been the everyday reality for-literally-ever.

I was talking about this not caring thing with my mum a couple days ago and she said that she’d gathered that from my school reports. I always thought my reports were amazing, so I was like how?

Mum: they were fine, just a little… indifferent.

That was a revelation. Both that my reports weren’t as good as I had always thought and that I was so apathetic that I didn’t even notice.

Anyway, back to Devon. I absolutely loved the parts of the book dedicated to her evolving relationship with Foster. He’s come to live with them after circumstances with his mum had become so bad there was no other option. He never talks about it. Devon doesn’t know how to talk about it either. Her family has been stable her whole life – the biggest upheaval being Foster’s arrival – so she doesn’t know how to relate to anything that’s happened to him. And yet they manage it, in the occasionally aggressive, frequently misguided way that siblings do. The writing of Foster is beautifully subtle. I could probably count on one hand the amount of times he directly addresses his history in the book. Mills deftly navigates it, and without going into too much detail leaves us with the impression of his pain. Mostly she just lets him get on with being the weird and wonderful human that he is.

Devon’s growing dedication to Foster was my favourite part of the book. The moments are fleeting, but, you could draw a map across First and Then detailing the journey Foster takes from being Devon’s cousin to her brother. All Devon’s character development is like this. There is no flash of understanding after which all is revealed to her. Instead, you get small insights into the person that she could be. Like during her trip to her college of choice. The example of what life after high school could look like lights a fire under her that carries her through the rest of the book. She even rewrites the essay without the TV on. It’s not complete yet, but the vague outline of what she wants floats to the top of the pool of options and expectations.

And the romance… No spoilers, but a certain boy in this book may have renewed my faith in the broody types.

Just read it.