Today, we're honored to be a part of the Nantucket Red blog tour being hosted by the fabulous Shane Morgan at Itching For Books!
Start here for our review, and then move on to our dream cast + giveaway
Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: May 13th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
Format read: E-ARC via publisher
As Cricket returns to Nantucket for the summer, Leila Howland proves to readers that even though our choices in life may not go according to planned, it's the journey that ultimately helps us define who we are.
When Cricket is offered the chance to earn enough cash to afford a real college experience, she heads back to Nantucket for the summer. But the faraway island challenges Cricket in ways she hadn't anticipated. It's hard to focus on earning money for next year, when she finds her world opening up in entirely new ways-to art, to travel, and, most unexpectedly, to a future completely different from the one she has been working toward her whole life. A friendship blossoms with Ben, the gorgeous surfer and bartender who encourages Cricket to be free, even as she smarts at the pain of seeing Zack, her first love, falling for her worst enemy.
But one night, when Cricket finally lets herself break all her own rules, she realizes she may have ruined her carefully constructed future with one impulsive decision. Cricket must dig deep to fight for her future, discovering that success isn't just about reaching goals, but also about listening to what she's been trying to ignore-her own heart.
So when Shane at Itching For Books gave me the opportunity to join the tour for Nantucket Red, I totally jumped for it, and I'm so glad I did! This book was amazing, and everything I was hoping for!
Things that worked:
In Nantucket Red, we meet up with Cricket and Zack again as the end of the summer, as they have to figure out what's next for their relationship. Zach's been accepted into Hanover Academy, and the two of them ultimately decide to take a break.
Even though I was completely frustrated with Cricket and Zack for making the decision to take a break within the first few pages, I was also seriously intrigued. It's not that often where you see an epic couple make the decision to end it in the first few pages of a new novel, so I wanted to figure out how Howland would use this break to propel their characterizations forward.
Because the book is Cricket's journey first and foremost, we see how Howland guides her growth at school and after her acceptance to Brown, all the way back to her return to Nantucket. While Cricket is just as sweet and considerate as she's always been, we also see how her time away from Zack and the island have changed her.
Without giving any spoilers away, I think readers will find a lot to relate to when it comes to Cricket's decisions and growth, and I can't wait to hear what everyone thinks.
The bookish things (world building/ plotting/writing):
This is definitely a book that doesn't suffer from the sophomore slump. Howland expertly guides the story through Cricket's time at school, before guiding the reader back into the familiar territories of Nantucket.
She paces Cricket's return to the island with thoughtful, confident writing which reminds the reader that even though Nantucket is familiar territory for Cricket, it lacks a lot of the comforts and certainty of the previous summer. There are a lot of memories hanging around the island, and it's up to Cricket to decide whether to ignore it or embrace them.
Howland is an expert at writing romance, as anyone who has read Nantucket Blue will be able to tell you. She ups the ante in Nantucket Red, by not only adding in a new romantic interest, but also ultimately showing readers (and Cricket) the value of true love.
The (further) relationship factor:
While the heart of Nantucket Red (and the Nantucket duology) will always be Cricket and Zack, Howland does a pretty good job of reminding readers of the value of other relationships throughout the course of the novel.
Howland revisits Cricket's relationship with Nina, and uses it to help propel Cricket's journey into post-high school/real-life self-discovery as she works through the summer. But outside of Nina, Howland also shows how even the other (and occasionally, more minor) relationships in Cricket's life - e.g. her occasionally shaky relationship with her parents; her recovering relationship with Jules - are all important, and help contribute to the ever-growing, ever developing picture that is Cricket.
Without getting too detailed or spoiler-y, I liked Howland's tacit, underlying message that relationships are always things that have their highs and lows, but they are things that will always impact a person's life. Even if you meet someone and never talk to them again, they will have made an impression on you and your journey - as Cricket finds out throughout the book.
Without giving any spoilers away, Howland has created a fantastic ending that's both reflective of the journey that Cricket has gone through during the novel, but also fitting for the overall (swoony) themes of both books.
Long story short: It's perfect, and readers will definitely love it. (And I love you, Leila, for writing it!)
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
I loved watching Cricket, Zack and even Jules (!) change throughout the course of the book, growing and developing into the best versions of themselves. Howland does a great job of showing how relationships, regardless of whether they're friendships or romantic ones, can go through highs and lows, and come out on the stronger side. This is the type of honest realism I want in my YA contemporary fiction, and will totally be sharing with the younger readers in my life.
I strongly recommend Nantucket Red for previous fans of Nantucket Blue, but also for fans of Sarah Dressen, Jenny Han and Huntley Fitzpatrick.
About the author:
A graduate of Georgetown University, Leila spent five years acting in New York where she was a company member of the award-winning Flea Theater in Tribeca. Nantucket Blue, for which she was named a Publisher's Weekly Flying Start Author, was her first novel. Leila now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and dogs. Visit her online at www.leilahowland.com and at