March 25, 2015

How to Begin Again

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

Release Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 384 pages
Source & Format: Publisher; ARC
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Summary (from Goodreads)
It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, 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?

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.

Thoughts on The Start of Me and You
Emery Lord has done it again! I fell head over heels in love with Open Road Summer last year, as you probably know if you read my review. It wasn't just one of my favorite reads of 2014 - it's an all-time favorite for me. So, I jumped at the chance to read The Start of Me and You for review. Let's be honest: I was going to read it either way.

When I love an author's debut, I sometimes worry that their subsequent books won't live up to my expectations. With Emery, that thought never crossed my mind. I knew this was going to be an unforgettable read, and I was right. I first read it in September, but I put off writing about it. I like to let my favorites sit with me for a while! But then, I decided to re-read so I could do this book justice with my review. Since I listed reasons I loved Open Road Summer, I thought I'd do the same with The Start of Me and You. Let's begin!

1. Best Friends.
I have to start with this first because I have so much love for the friendships in Emery Lord's books. It was one of the most memorable aspects of Open Road Summer, and the same is true for The Start of Me and You. So many of my favorite quotes in the book revolved around Paige and her best friends (Tessa, Kayleigh and Morgan).
"Whatever happened with my parents, my friends and I would still be here trading stories and sips of our lattes. Together, we made four walls, holding each other up even as the world around us shifted."
I feel like I don't often see female friendships portrayed in such an admirable way (especially in YA). And what made it even better? The Start of Me and You focused on a group of four friends. I loved watching them all interact with one another! If you asked me to describe the female relationships in this book, I'd use words like loyal, supportive, protective... and then add in teasing, familiar and comfortable. Though they may not always agree, they're always there for one another. And it's such a beautiful thing!

2. Max Watson.
Sweet, darling Max Watson. I wasn't sure how he'd compare to the talented and gorgeous Matt Finch, but Emery certainly knows how to write some swoonworthy boys. In a way, he reminded me of Cricket Bell (from Lola and the Boy Next Door). His quirky goodness is just irresistible!
"Max was the human equivalent of a cult-classic TV show. Most people didn't get it. But the people who did? They loved it for all of its quirks."
Max is adorable, kind, smart and more than a little nerdy. He's such a great fit for Paige, and I couldn't wait for them to realize how perfect they could be together. I loved that he is wise beyond his years and isn't ashamed of his passions (even if other people don't get them). And it's probably not surprising that I'm a sucker for a boy who knows a thing or two about Pride and Prejudice, too!

3. The Perfect Plan.
Paige is a planner to the core! She's definitely Type A, which I related to a lot. It's been a year since her first boyfriend died in a tragic accident, and she's just now returning to the world around her. Grief has changed her, but she wants to feel normal again. So, she develops A Plan.
"There, I thought. A plan. At the top, I wrote: How to Begin Again."
I'll let you read the book to find out what happens next, but I definitely felt Paige was a kindred spirit. From a shared love of planners to the need to turn plans into lists, she's my kind of heroine. I loved seeing her growth in the book - and was just waiting to see how she's react when things didn't work out the way she planned.

4. Nerdy References.
Paige and Max are both totally nerdy, and I adored them for it! I can't even begin to tell you how many fun things they referenced - including two of my all-time favorite things (Anne of Green Gables and Pride and Prejudice). I kept catching myself wishing I could hang out with them and just talk!
"Sorry to break it to you on your birthday," I said, "but you're not my type." 
"Oh?" He grinned, raising his eyebrow. "You have a type now?" 
I shrugged. "Possibly."
"Yeah." He thought for a moment. "Your type is nerd." 
"Maybe your type is nerd." 
"Oh, it absolutely is."
And though the book is filled with fun nods to popular culture, it never feels forced or too dated. It fits these characters and makes them feel so realistic! I wish they were real because I'd totally work my way into their little friend group if they were. These are my people.

5. The Real Thing. 
Sometimes when I read YA, I get swept up in the relationships... and later question whether or not it's something that would last in the real world. After all, you don't often end up with the boy you fall in love with in high school! But sometimes you do. The romantic relationship in this book just seems like the real thing.
"But Max was the first bite of grilled cheese on a snowy day, the easy fit of my favorite jeans, that one old song that made it onto every playlist. Peanut-butter Girl Scout cookies instead of an ornate cake. Not glamorous or idealized or complicated. Just me."
I could explain all the reasons I love Max and Paige, but Estelle already said it best. She absolutely nailed all the reasons I loved the romance in this book, and why I related to it so much. While I didn't meet Nick in high school, this love story reminded me of my own. I adored the way this book portrayed falling in love - and how, as Paige says, "It was also a choice." So true!

6. Introspection & Reflection.
Even more than Open Road Summer, The Start of Me and You is a character-driven book. There isn't a lot that happens with the plot. Sure, there's a little conflict and a climax, but it's ultimately focused on the people in it (especially Paige). I absolutely love character-driven books, so this worked perfectly for me.
"I had changed... It was a new group of friends, it was freedom, learning, failing, grieving. It was getting back to my old self and defining a new self at the same time."
Paige is an introspective character, and there's a lot of reflection in these pages. A lot of the conflict is internal - Paige's desire to face her fears and her slow realization that what she thought she wanted might not be right for her after all. So, the pace is a little slower and it doesn't always feel like a lot is happening, but it was a strength of the book for me. Bonus: I was highlighting away because I loved Paige's thoughts!

7. Just Pick It Up.
Do I really need to keep rambling about my love for this book? Just read it already! When I reviewed Open Road Summer, I wrote "Emery Lord has written a story about loyalty, love and loss... and all the complicated things in between." And honestly, that's true for The Start of Me and You, too. Emery's debut blew me away, but this release proves she's here to stay. And I, for one, can't wait for more!

So Quotable
"But knowing what happens isn't the same as knowing how it happens. Getting there is the best part."
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

4 comments:

  1. I loved Open Road Summer, too, and definitely have this one on my radar -- especially after your rave review! It's so refreshing to read about awesome female friendships in YA, and Lord knows how to write a swoonworthy male lead for sure! :)

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  2. I love your review for The Start of Me and You, Hannah! I think you did a brilliant job highlighting all the best parts of Emery's sophomore novel. Just seeing what you had to say makes me want to reread it again already - and I just might when I get it next week :)

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  3. Great review. I loved this one even more than ORS and am so excited to see people starting to talk about it!

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  4. Hannah you basically said everything I thought about this book. While Open Road Summer wasn't my favorite, I've found myself wanting to read this book over and over again. The romance was so sweet and slow burning but not enough to make me annoyed at the pace. I loved the female relationships but the biggest relationship for me was Paige's relationship with her grandmother. It really made me miss mine but showed the importance of knowing what you have when you have it.

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