Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale (336 pages) Purchase at your local bookstore!*
Overview: Babe lives in Oar's Rest, an idyllic Maine tourist town. She works at the Busy Bean, which she loves, and she's ready for an epic summer with her best friends Chad and Penny who will both be going to college in town at the end of the summer. Nothing has to change. And then it does. Babe's ex-girlfriend that no one knew about comes back to town after ghosting her all year, Penny and Chad, who have a love story for the ages, break up for no reason, and a hot new boy starts renting Babe's mom's house. She doesn't know what to do with so much change, and the thought that her future is so uncertain does not help. Overall: 4
Characters: 4 Babe really faces a lot of shocking things at once. She's out of the school system for the first time and suddenly the rug gets pulled out from under her. I think that readers will really identify with Babe's fear of change and the way that she hangs on to negative people in her life because she doesn't know what she'll do without them.
Lucy was probably my favorite character. She works with Babe at the Busy Bean, and she's always been on the outside of all the high school social groups. I love how she befriends Babe and works to remind her that the friends she once had aren't the only friends she can have.
I guess my main issue with these characters is that they don't quite pop with the full dimension that I was craving. It was missing just a little fleshing out that would have helped me understand all the characters and their motivations better. I get not wanting to face change, but Penny never seemed like a good friend to begin with.
Plot: 3.5 I loved a lot of parts of this book. Living in a resort town myself, I enjoyed hearing about another girl watching the tourists flood into town and finding all the little gems that just belong to the locals. I also had fun experiencing Oar's Rest. All the scenes in the coffee shops were just delicious. For some reason, I gravitate to books where characters work in restaurants. The problem, though, is that the book tried to go in every single direction at once. Everything was brought to the forefront instead of reducing threads to subplots leaving certain storylines a little half baked.
Writing: 4 The themes that Vale explores makes the book. While there were moments that got a bit bogged down by a bit of overwriting, Vale shines when she talks about the setting. Even though I was sitting in my house, watching the snow fall, I could smell the ocean and feel the costal sun on my face. I had a great time learning about Oar's Rest, the coffee shop, and the cool houses that all the different characters live in. If the plot was a bit more focused, I would have been all over this book.
I appreciate that Vale wrote the characters post senior year. It has a very YA voice, but it has old enough characters to set it in the older YA group. It's wonderful to see the questions about adulthood hitting you in the face and being explored on the page. I can't wait to see the What's Next? explored more in the future.
I can't wait to chat with Lillie on Friday about making Oar's Rest come to life, her favorite part of writing the book, and telling stories based on shifting friendships!