Back When You Were Easier to Love Emily Wing Smith
Zan was Joy's perfect boyfriend, one of the few things that made life in Haven bearable. Until the day he decided he couldn't take Haven anymore, got his GED, left town and cut Joy out of his life completely. Joy needs closure and ropes Zan's best friend Noah (the epitome of everything that is Stepford-creepy-perfect about Haven) into a roadtrip to seek Zan out and get some answers.
But, as we flip between the past of ZanandJoy and the current of Joy searching for him, we realize that Zan might not have been everything Joy thinks he was...
First off, this one gets mad, mad props for being a book about normal Mormons. Nothing scary, no compounds or sister-wives. Just a story that happens to have Mormon characters. I think Mormons tend to get shafted in teen lit and in pop culture in general. There are some freaky scary interpretations out there of *every* religion, not just LDS, but that's not how we paint it. I remember last year a request came through on YALSA-BK to help put together a list of books about Mormons. The suggestions that came back were Sister Wife, Chosen One, Burned... none of which paint a pretty picture of the Mormon faith-- in fact none of which paint a picture that most LDS-ers would recognize as their faith.
So, score one on that one.
I also love that there is a faith-based struggle here. One of Zan's big things, that it takes Joy awhile to realize, is that he doesn't believe. I also love that Joy does really believe, but she still struggles with Haven (which I think is a suburb of Salt Lake) which she describes as "a town where it's hard to tell where belief ends and culture begins-- I don't like the culture, but I do like the belief." (p107)
I like that there is definite swoon-worthyness here, even though kisses are treated very carefully by the characters. It may be just hand holding, but trust me, it's hottttt. And I read bodice rippers. Anyone who can make hand holding this steamy gets definite props. I also loved the guy reversal. It's not unusual to have a girl fixated on one unattainable guy and eventually realizing that the perfect guy has been right next to her all along. Usually, Mr. Unattainable is the most popular boy in school and Mr. Perfect is the geeky artistic type. Not in this one. Mr. Unattainable is geeky and artistic (but totally pompous and his poetry sucks) and Mr. Perfect is the popular jock.
It's funny and snarky and all around wonderful.
It gets a perfect 10 on friendships, heartbreak, recovery, road trips, and enough Barry Manilow to make Jessica Darling swoon.
ARC Provided by... publisher at ALA, at my request
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