Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 31st 2015 by Bloomsbury
Format read: ARC via publisher
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?
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.
Lord introduces us to Paige Hancock, who has been in limbo since her boyfriend died in a drowning accident a year before. She's been that girl ever since. She's the girl who gets sympathetic comments from strangers; awkward whispers from classmates, and now also has to deal with an overprotective mother, who doesn't want to let Paige out of her sight.
So when Paige and her three best friends return to school, Paige makes a list of things that she wants to accomplish throughout the year. Her list ranges from small to large, including joining a club and getting long-time crush Ryan Chase to date her. However, when she becomes friends with Ryan's cousin Max, Paige's list gets an unexpected overhaul...
There are many things I can say about The Start of Me and You, but I think it's important to point out first and foremost, that this is a tale that skillfully interweaves grief and recovery, with a coming-of-tale that absolutely sparkles with hope and unwavering optimism.
Even though Paige didn't date Aaron for more than a few months, Lord makes it clear from the very first chapter that Page has been defined by his death for so long, other parts of her identity have fallen by the wayside. People look at her and see tragedy, including from her own parents. So when Paige makes the decision to pick herself up and begin to move on with her life, it isn't just smart, it's also brave.
And while it's small steps for Paige at first, it's the fact that she keeps taking steps that matter the most.
From mustering up the courage to speak to Aaron's best friend, to joining Quiz Bowl - even though Paige readily admits to feeling overshadowed by teammates - to even pursuing her dreams of a summer screenwriting program at NYU, Lord really emphasizes the courage needed for Paige to think about her future and become recognized on her own merit, than be defined by anything or anyone else.
This is emphasized all the more as Paige meets Max, and their friendship begins to develop.
What essentially begins as an odd-duck pairing and a means to an end, quickly evolves into smoething meaningful and taking deeper root in Paige's heart. Lord adeptly shows that as Paige continues to grow, she also realizes more of what she wants in a relationship. She doesn't find fault with Ryan - a rare trend in YA, where idolized crushes often end up lacking on some way - instead, Paige has the maturity and growth to realize that Max is more compatible with her overall. It's just up to the two of them to make it work.
Outside of Paige and Max, readers will most definitely appreciate the other people who surround Paige daily. From Tessa and her other friends, to Paige's family, and even her new relationships with Ryan and Aaron's old friends, Lord skillfully shows how each of these people have played a role in shaping Paige into who she is, while also helping her decide who she wants to be.
These are the people who bring out the best in her, but they also push Paige to challenge herself and rethink her position on things. She's more daring, more accepting, and even more forgiving, thanks to those around her. Readers will likely appreciate all of the Paige's interpersonal relationships, but I had a personal fondness for her family. They challenge each other, but are also realistic and reflective with each other, in a way that helps all parties grow.
It's a great story about the courage that it takes to recover in the face of loss. It's a heartwarming tale about the truest form of friendships; one where friends will always support you and also help you become the best version of the person that you were meant to be.
But most importantly, it's a book that celebrates the possibilities of the ordinary, and how it can quickly become extraordinary. Emery Lord shows readers just how friendship and relationships that may initially seem very typicaly, can quickly become the most important part of a person's life. Paige and Max may have been thrown together
I highly recommend this book for everyone, full stop.
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