YA Contemporary Review: The Start of Me and You (2015) by Emery LordThe Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on March 31st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Goodreads
five-stars

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it's never too late for second chances. 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?

Illuminations:

ATTENTION: Strong recommendation for New Emery Lord YA ahead!!

Was I ever surprised at how much I loved The Start of Me and You…

The book opens after Paige has lost her boyfriend, who was killed in a swimming accident, and she’s still working through her grief. But she determines to put her best foot forward with the new school year, and she wants to open her heart again. Maybe to a new relationship. Ryan Chase shows up, and seems to be the guy Paige hopes to be pursued by. But a surprising decision to get involved with “Quiz Bowl” (trust me—you’ll love it!) introduces Paige to new friendships and faces. What ensues is fantastic—though Paige may not see it at first.

Paige, Max, Ryan, Tessa, Kayleigh, Morgan…these are characters I came to care about, and Lord describes an amazing friendship among the girls. Sure, they have their bumps along the road in their friendship (and that makes it more realistic) but this group of girls has been through thick and thin, and they’re intentional about being there for one another.

“In friendship we are all debtors. We all owe each other for a thousand small kindnesses, for little moments of grace in the chaos.”

Emery Lord’s dialogue: I love it. I can’t remember the last time I read a book where I was so aware of how fantastic the dialogue was between characters. In a way, I felt like I was eavesdropping on a hangout between friends. The banter wasn’t choppy, but authentic and humorous at times. This was definitely a strong point in the book for me.

Paige’s relationship with her grandmother is another connection in the book that is extremely significant for her. It’s lovely to watch how her grandmother encourages her, and helps her to gain insight into those situations and relationships in her life that are a bit tricky to navigate. There’s the situation with Paige’s parents—though divorced, they begin dating! This requires a lot of adjusting for Paige, but in fact, it’s another opportunity for her to grow.

Who Should Read This Book:

Here’s a confession. I haven’t read Open Road Summer. I know! I’m sure you’re shocked—apparently this debut of Lord’s is fabulous and most people became solid fans of the author after they read it. I have every intention of reading this now that I’m finished The Start of Me and You. This is a fantastic YA Contemporary that features endearing characters you can’t get enough of, a storyline that builds gradually into a satisfying resolution, and themes readers can relate to (even if they’re older!).

I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary—you’ll see I tend to stick to fantasy and historical fiction in the YA realm, though in Middle Grade I read more Contemporary. Because of this, there are still a lot of the YA Contemporary “greats” I need to read.

I would say, though, that if you do read this genre, you’re probably already familiar with this author, or you’re going to be. Emery Lord depicts appealing but flawed characters we grow to care about. Her settings are vivid, and at least in this one, there are lots of visits to coffeeshop bookstores! That alone makes me excited…

The Final Illumination:

I have to admit to you—I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this YA read depicting the journey of a girl as she works through the death of her boyfriend, deciding to open her heart to friendship, love, and new experiences. Though the story’s pace is slow at first, I didn’t want to stop reading. And as the narrative progressed, I began to speculate on who would end up with whom, but that didn’t take away from the pleasure I found in watching it all play out.

This book is strong and authentic in its depiction of relationships among friends and between boy and girl. If you’re looking for a story that has drawn refreshing and endearing portraits of relationships in different stages–whether friendships or blossoming romance, this is the book for you.

I grew to really love Paige as a character—to watch her craft her “perfect plan” for the new school year, and to then see how this plan unfolded, bringing surprises and unexpected twists along the way. I have to admit that I was sad when I turned the last page of the story—I had grown to love the trips to the bookstore café, the friends dropping by with coffee, the movie nights with the entire gang. This is a fabulous book, readers—please do pick this one up when it releases on March 31st!

five-stars
What Katie Read