From Jennifer Niven, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places, comes an unforgettable new novel about a sensitive girl ready to live her bravest life--sex, heartbreak, family dramas, and all. Before: With graduation on the horizon, budding writer Claudine Henry is focused on three things: college in the fall, become a famous author, and the ever-elusive possibility of sex. She doesn't even need to be in love--sex is all she's looking for. Then her dad drops a bombshell: he and Claude's mom are splitting up. Suddenly, Claude's entire world feels like a lie, and the ground under her feet anything but stable. After: Claude's mom whisks them both away to a remote, mosquito-infested island off the coast of Georgia, a place where the two of them can start the painful process of mending their broken hearts. It's the last place Claude can imagine finding her footing, but then Jeremiah Crew happens. Miah is a local trail guide with a passion for photography, and a past he doesn't like to talk about. He's brash, enigmatic, and even more infuriatingly, he's the only one who seems to see Claude for who she wants to be. So when Claude decides to sleep with Miah, she tells herself it's just sex--exactly what she has planned. There isn't enough time to fall in love, especially if it means putting her already broken heart at risk. Compulsively readable and impossible to forget, Jennifer Niven's luminous new novel is an insightful portrait of a young woman determined to write her own next chapter--sex, resilience, mosquito bites, and all.
Claude is still finding her footing in this world where her father does not want to be married to her mother, and it seems to her as if he is rejecting them both. She also finds out her BFF has been keeping a secret about a relationship that also has Claude second guessing. She desperately needs to talk about the things going on in her life, but she lacks the space and safety to do so.
This book largely takes place introspectively, and I liked going deep into Claude's mind. Many of the scenarios she finds herself in will resonate with YA readers. The things her parents say and the way that Claude feels are at odds, and the changes that seem to permeate her life have her feeling uncertain. She felt very genuine and real, and her problems are not unusual. There are also themes around virginity that were interesting and presented throughout as an undercurrent.
Claude is able to make the best of her situation and overall approaches her parents and friends with love that will resonate with readers. It is not always an easy read, and the beginning moves slowly. The book is quite introspective and mainly captures Claude's thinking and interpretations of her experiences. The summer romance felt to me like a smaller piece compared to Claude's mental anguish, later leading to acceptance of change and space to feel what she feels. As such, this will resonate with an older YA contemporary audience. Would recommend for people looking for a deeper character study of a young woman who is flawed but genuine.