The Getaway List by Emma Lord: ARC YA review
Thank you to the publisher for gifting me an advanced copy of The Getaway List for review purposes. All thoughts are my own.
Overview: Tom and Riley were best friends from the time they were kids. Then Tom moved to New York City with his mom when they're young teens and everything changed. Suddenly, Riley didn't have her best friend anymore. As they miss each other's major life moments, they create The Getaway List of all the things they'll finally do when they get back together. The summer after high school graduation, with neither of them planning to attend college in the fall, Riley defies her mom's wishes to go to New York and reconnect with Tom. Reunited, they let the Getaway List fill the gaps that have emerged in their friendship since they last spoke. Overall: 4
Characters: 4 Riley is a hyper, adventurous, and outspoken, but she also has a shy side. She's grown up being extremely close to her mom, who is a single parent, but a rift develops as she learns that her mom has intentionally separated her from Tom all these years. Riley isn't sure how to cope with the distance that develops between her and her mom, even as she's excited about a summer reconnecting with Tom and hopefully improving her writing. This struggle between asserting your full adult independence and still deeply loving and caring for your parents is the most compelling part of the book. She so desperately wants to be a fully formed adult, but her footing is shaky and unsure, and all of her defaults still operate on being a kid. Emma does a fantastic job of capturing how difficult it can be to figure out how to navigate that divide at the end of your teenage years.
Tom was the glue that held Riley's Virginia life together and the center of the friend group, but he shrunk into himself when moving to New York. Over the course of the summer, Riley sets out to help him rediscover his old confidence in the context of his new, confusing world.
The friend group they form in NYC and Tom and Riley's single mothers that heavily figure into the plot. There's Tom's distant friend they run into making deliveries for an app service who instantly becomes part of their mini friend group, and then they run into a boy at a creative writing class who sticks to them like glue. While there are compelling elements to this story of friendship, they didn't quite feel genuine. The friendships were just too instantly close without anything forging such a tight bond. Everything was just a touch too manufactured or contrived to fully sink into the novel.
Plot: 4 The book follows a loose structure based off the Getaway List to guide Riley's journey of coming into her own across a New York summer. I was surprised to find out the book was barely over 300 pages, though, because I found myself doing a lot of skimming and jumping around to the dialogue to get through it. The writing is solid, and many of the ideas are interesting, it just wasn't quite drawing me in as wholeheartedly as past Emma Lord books have unfortunately. There aren't enough points on the Getaway List to fully rely on it for structure, and the book unfolds somewhat aimlessly without much to support it. The characters just aren't strong enough to carry the book and the pacing felt somewhat off.
Writing: 4 Emma Lord has such a bubbly writing voice that is somewhat infectious, however, as someone who is twenty and relatively close to having credibly been a teen, the number of times the word "teenybopper" was used really threw me out of the book. It's a word I've only ever heard my mom use, and it just felt dated. I've never heard someone my age or my brother's age (he's seventeen) naturally use the word in speech. There were just a few moments like this that didn't quite click for a contemporary YA novel. I've loved Emma's past books (particularly Begin Again, which was an early 2023 favorite), but there was just something about The Getaway List that didn't fully click with me.
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