Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.
It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?
Rating: ★★★★★ (4.75/5)
I really really enjoyed this book! Like REALLY enjoyed it. It was overall a cute, fluffy, emotional yet somehow lighthearted novel that I feel I really needed to read lately (especially after the more complex and sometimes vastly disorienting world building of adult sci-fi/fantasy books I’ve been reading (ahem. Red Rising series). There were many components of this book I loved which are structured below so I hope they make sense and you might actually want to pick this book up cause you might love it too ^_^
Lord knows how to write a good group of friends because friendship was so solid in this novel, at times it felt like I was reading a scene straight out of the Sisterhood of Travelling Pants movie. The girls were so tightknit and close to each other, I was very much envious I couldn’t have the same with an extra pair of cats to keep me company in my house. Doubt we could share jeans though. Nevertheless, the flow of the conversations, dialogue and banter was gorgeous and smooth. It made me laugh and cry and laugh again and wish I could live so close to some of my friend’s houses so we could do more stuff together like they did and have that deep trust and bond that I think not many friendships even have now nowadays.
In general, the characters were all very likable, even Leanne (well except for Eric). The writing flowed so well that from the start, everything was easy to read and the characters had such a great tone and had defined individual voices in my head – although it took me a while to characterise each best friend since their 3 names kind of sprung up on me real fast during my page that I must’ve overlooked and I panicked when I mixed up Morgan and Tessa – oopsie. my bad…
Max – I love you, Max. Be MY boyfriend. Make ME watch Indiana Jones. You’re too gorgeous of a person to stay inside a book. If you can’t tell by that proclamation, I loved his character. He was goofy and cute, smart and witty, everything I’d like one day *sigh* A particular metaphor that he mentioned really stood out to me; about how sometimes we do things even if we know it might hurt later, like rereading a favourite book you know will end in tragedy (*cough* Stranger the Dreamer). That was really deep bro.
Paige – Similarly to the expression and reference used by Max, I was definitely an Elizabeth when I started this book, especially when it comes to Paige. I initially thought she was kind of boring, judgy and annoying for dissing nerds. Not to mention that I kept forgetting that Paige was her actual name (you’ll see why once you read this book :D). It felt like she was the stereotypical ‘normal girl’ with nothing exciting about her except for the intolerable pity and sympathy she got from others because of her boyfriend’s death. However, as I continued reading I warmed up and saw the deeper side of this novel (come out come out wherever you are Jane) including her personal hobbies and her unique mannerisms that really made her Her.
The personal and meaningful transformations and changes Paige goes through are very realistic and very relatable. At more than one point, I remember thinking ‘omg I totally get that’ – especially the strict mum issue. The revelations she makes throughout the book shows such a well thought out and more complex character development than I’ve seen so far in my YA contemporary repertoire (mind you I haven’t read THAT many yet). It feels like this is more than just a romantic contemporary but also a coming of age. Grief and loss are experiences anyone can have, and so much grief at a teenage age is overwhelming and hard to get over. I think Lord translated that in writing amazingly well.
One of the biggest representations in this novel is definitely grief. Not only grief for a loved one but grief for someone you might not know very well but still grieve because it is the end of a life. The way it’s handled in this book is so well done in my opinion. I’ve never personally experienced this kind of grief but I could relate to how she felt and I cried at many points in this book because of the raw, pure emotions pouring off the pages. One of the most remarkable quotes that I think describes the hardest stage of grief “floating on the surface of grief”, I love that this book explained that grieving isn’t one continuous action and Paige’s planned list to help her ‘move on’ almost complements this metaphor as she slowly goes through it towards finally moving on with her life.
Another big part of representation is, of course, diversity. I don’t talk much about it topic (hello controversy) but I believe there was great diversity in this book and it was talked about very well and appropriately even in the tiniest bits of dialogue or descriptions people may not pick up on.
And lastly for representation is Alzheimer’s disease. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and although I wasn’t particularly close to her, the way it’s portrayed and represented was amazing IMO. I like that it is in the novel in the first place because it is something people need to be more aware of as well.
Movies & Trivia
I think the movie references and the trivia in this book was genius and executed so well. The references were so cute and ranged from Firefly to Star Wars to Mean Girls and it was so interesting finding out the trivia questions. For the mini-tournaments, writing it in short and sweet paragraphs made it enhance the adrenaline rush of emotions and how fast paced it’s supposed to be. The writing was so lush and so entertaining it felt like reading an exciting scene right off from a high-speed quiz mix of St Trinians and The Chase with a drum beat-driven soundtrack in the background.
Really enjoyed, probably in my top 5 contemporaries so far. It made me laugh, cry, reminisce and think of complex concepts that actually made me contemplate life. The characters were fun, the twists not so surprising but that’s not an issue for me (hello I love spoilers ha) and it was so very entertaining and lighthearted. The only reason that it’s 4.75 instead of 5 is probably because 5 stars are reserved for books that have truly blown me away. This was an amazing read but just didn’t have that extra oomph for me. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book. A great quick, light read that ought to trap your emotions and your feels for a little while at least.
PS: Thank you Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with this review copy.