cute and engaging summer read
NO PLACE LIKE HERE is an engaging and summery YA contemporary that emphasizes healing and friendship. Ashlyn is at the boarding school she attends as punishment (imposed by her father) for being crime adjacent when she learns that her father will be going to prison for tax evasion. When she speaks to her parents, she learns even more will be changing, with her mother checking into a rehab facility for “exhaustion”- later revealed to be depression- and Ashlyn going to stay with/near her aunt and uncle and work at a summer camp with her cousin, Hannah.
As Ashlyn tries to do her job and get to know her cousin, she begins to learn more about herself and come out of her shell. With summer job fun, a tiny bit of romance, and a whole lot of friendship, Ashlyn’s summer is anything but boring.
This is a quick read, which makes it perfect as a summer tagalong to the beach. It could easily be read in a sitting. The content could be heavy but is infused with a lot of hope and growth plus a few moments of kissing and fun. The biggest part of the book is Ashlyn starting to deal with her own anxieties and coming to realize who she wants to be- outside of what her father wants for her. There is also a great friendship that forms, as a secondary plot, between Ashlyn and Hannah, as well as another character. It was great not to have a romance take the primary plot.
I also appreciated the way the mental health of her mother was handled, acknowledging the stigma in that it is referred to as exhaustion but ultimately showing her mother getting help and starting to heal. There is a lot of character growth for Ashlyn and her parents in this book.
As a small point, the dialogue was a little stilted in places earlier in the book (particularly a few teen conversations), but it does improve later. I would also have loved more story- for it to be longer so that we could see the post-summer changes. The book was complete, but I really enjoyed the characters and would love to see more from them.
Overall, this was a really fun YA contemporary about being yourself that could appeal to a wide audience (I think even older middle grade readers would enjoy this one). There are some fantastic themes/messages herein, and this would be a wonderful book to grab on the way to the beach this summer!