The Map From Here to There (The Start of Me and You, #2) blurb:
Paige Hancock is finally living her best life.
She has everything she needs:
? Great friends (core four forever)
? A boyfriend who totally gets her (even if Max is in Italy all summer long)
? A fun cinema job (spilled nacho cheese and weird tuxedo aside)
But her last year in high school is approaching fast, and with it, come Big Decisions. Weighing up the rest of her life, Paige feels the return of the anxiety she thought she’d conquered. Her head’s saying, ‘You know things have to change. There’s so much out there to experience.’
But her heart, is it terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?
Book 1: The Start of Me and You
If The Start of Me and You was the sweet contemporary that made me fall head over heels with these characters, then The Map From Here to There was definitely my first proper fight with them. This book was so good, but in the most bitter-sweet way of things.
The friendships in this series are AMAZING. Sure, the girls talk about guys some, but they are emotionally and physically there for each other. I’m not sure I highlighted this in my review of book 1 (and I refuse to go back and read what was probably a trash-fire of a review), but not only do we pass the Bechdel test, it’s wholly realistic. These girls share their dreams and fears, hopes and wishes, their mental and physical health state, their grief. They talk about everything from families to colleges to what they want to be when they grow up. They fight about real things. THIS IS WHAT GIRL FRIENDSHIP LOOKS LIKE.
The mental health talk in this book is #goals. The normalisation of things like counselling, therapy, anxiety, panic attacks and medication is so good. I long for the day when these aren’t defining characteristics, but common-place. Like having brown hair or wearing glasses. Hi, I’m Meeghan. I have brown hair (naturally, not right now) and green eyes. I wear glasses, I take anti-depressants, I’m bisexual and I love books. The end.
I’ll talk more about this in the ‘thoughts’ section, but this book feels real. The fights and the arguments, while sad because I don’t want to see my poor babies upset, fighting and stressed out, makes this story feel less like a happy-fairytale, and more like a ‘this could be me’ story. It makes the characters more relatable. We learn things about them that maybe cracks the veneer of their ‘perfectness’, but in the best way possible.
I want more of this story. I equally love and hate where it ended. In saying that, I could read about Paige and Max going grocery shopping, so you know that the characters are great. But I would like more (perhaps this could be a trilogy??).
The anxiety in this book was stressing me out. And I’m not putting it in this category because it’s bad – it’s really not – but just that I had to push through to read it because I really felt for the characters. And it’s not just Paige, either. This is a stressful time in people’s lives, and it hurts to see the characters beating themselves up or having angry arguments when they’re hurting themselves. So I took my time to read it, having a couple of breaks.
I want to rate this book 5 stars, but at the same time, I didn’t love it as much as the first book. Is it the sweet first love vs the ugliness of reality? Perhaps. Was the book meaningful and delivered a painstaking message to the reader? Yes. Was it because the main characters who I adored went through tough times and weren’t as sweet as what I wanted them to be? Probably. Did I cry while reading it? Absolutely.
But even through all of this, with the nostalgia and the growing up and Paige becoming such a great person and taking leaps and bounds with her maturity, I still think it’s four stars. Which is STILL GREAT!! I highly recommend this book. But it’s that bittersweet recognition, like really noticing your grandparents or parents properly aging, that makes this book so wonderful.
The innocence of childhood and being young is lost in this story. It’s a true reflection of the messiness of growing up: fighting with friends, hearts being broken, having to make difficult decisions. But that’s life, and I think that Emery Lord took that and represented it well in this story.
Recommended for: fans of Rainbow Rowell, Morgan Matson, and those who want to see what happens after the “happily ever after”.
Thank you to Bloomsbury for providing me a free copy to review.
All thoughts and opinions are my own.