This summer, my best friend was talking to me about a book she’d read which took place around where we’d grown up, and was written by a local. I was still unemployed at the time, so she very kindly bought the book for me–and then I promptly failed to read it for months. (Because I’m really good at doing that.) So at the beginning of the year, I made a promise to myself that I was going to start reading through the books sitting on my Kindle and Nook that had been there for ages.

I don’t know why I waited for so long on this book. I was denying myself such joy.

One of my biggest pet peeves in books is putting yourself in an established place–a real setting, a real city–and then making references that don’t make any sense. The last book I reviewed, THE PASSENGER, had a character head to Erie, PA at one point, and described them as leaving the bus/train station, strolling down the street, and searching for a motel. I know for a fact that where the station sits is not an area of Erie that one would “stroll” around in, and there are no motels anywhere even remotely close to that area. (And I have absolutely no memory of a motel with the name she gave, but I’m more lenient about invented place names–but to be fair, this is meant to be taking place in our world, as it is right now, so…)

Anderson suffered from none of this. She knows the area around Chautauqua Institution like the back of her hand, and it shines through with every word. She knows how the locals think, she nails the mentality of the tourists, she puts in places and I can see them in my mind’s eye perfectly. It was genuinely like I could be walking around southwestern New York along with the characters. Events described really happen, places only locals know about are named… It’s hard for me to put into words how amazing it truly felt being able to recognize absolutely every landmark.

In addition to this, our lead male–Carter–is Deaf, and I have an absolute fascination with ASL and deaf culture. In addition to this, despite the fact that a core piece of the plot revolves around Carter being Deaf, the story is not truly about Carter’s Deafness. Too often, when a character introduced has any kind of disability or Otherness, it becomes to core of who they are. Carter is not a Deaf guy who does stuff and falls in love. He’s  a young man who falls in love with a musician…and he happens to be Deaf.

(And yes, that’s the core conflict, along with the fact that it’s a summer romance story: Robin, our lead female, lives for music…and Carter is Deaf. This may cause problems.)

At its core, the romance is simple and predictable. The ending left me flailing and wishing for more because HOW CAN IT END THAT WAY, but it didn’t end the way most romance stories like this end, and I appreciate that. Not everything gets tied up in happy neat bows at the end of all stories. It’s a sweet YA romance with believable characters and perfect setting, and sometimes that’s all you need out of a story.

Rating: ***** – Highest Recommendation


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