Last year, a friend of mine gave me the gift of a bunch of random books (both published and ARCs) they’d acquired, read, and were willing to part with. I’ve been slowly working my way through what I was given and reviewing them as I go. There is absolutely, no rhyme or reason to my pattern. I literally eenie meenie miney mo my way through my TBR pile. Which is probably how I ended up accidentally reading this book, which is a sequel, without ever having a clue that it was, in fact, a sequel. So, here’s my adventure in reading something and having a very strong feeling I missed something.
The Map from Here to There, a sequel to The Start of Me and You, is by Emery Lord, and was released January 20, 2020.
It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?
What I Enjoyed:
Despite my complete foul up, I totally understood what was going on and everything I missed in the first book, with only the vague idea that this seemed like enough backstory for a whole other book, so that was pretty damn impressive.
This book, much like the last one I read, was great anxiety representation. I felt for Paige and her panic about the huge, life-changing decisions that come with being a senior in high school and having to decide on colleges. Add to that the fear of a new relationship that everyone around her sees as inevitable, and the fact that her divorced parents have been dating again, and you’ve got a major anxiety cocktail.
And it’s not pretty. Which is probably my favorite thing about this. Paige, who seems like a decent and nice person on the whole, does some epically stupid stuff while in the grasp of this anxiety, and it does some real damage to her relationships. There are consequences and they matter.
Another thing I loved? The characters and what they faced. Paige’s struggles weren’t the only ones. Paige’s boyfriend, Max, struggles with a renewed relationship with his previously absent father and deciding what he wants to do with his life, as well as the fallout of Paige’s decisions. He also has to decide whether he wants to choose his college to go in line with where Paige gets accepted, an issue that helps push Paige’s anxiety levels up a few notches. Never mind the fact that Max is just adorable. His confident nerdiness with a slice of vulnerability made him the perfect boyfriend and foil for Paige’s nervous overthinking.
Paige has three close girl friends, and they each have their own storylines that are real struggles. Tessa also struggles with her newly long distance relationship, as her girlfriend heads to college. She tries her best to help Paige, her closest friend of the friend group, and often ends up getting the brunt of Paige’s attitude. Kayleigh’s father is getting remarried, and she is dealing with choosing a college that is not the college she and her bestie Morgan agreed upon. Also, Morgan may be falling for her brother and she isn’t sure how she feels about it. After Morgan receives a negative diagnosis, she strikes out on a quest to spread sex education and women’s health education through the state, fighting the school board as she goes.
And then there’s Hunter. Hunter is Paige’s friend from her job at the local movie theater. For reasons I can’t get into without spoiling things, I really loved the arc of his character. I loved the fact that tropes were completely tossed out the window when it came to him, and I really appreciated the resolution his character reached in the end. He was extremely well-handled, despite the fears I grew toward the minute of the book.
What I’d Avoid:
I really think it should say the book is a sequel somewhere on the book. I seriously had no idea I was getting into a story midway. I mean, the author did a good job of recapping, but I kinda wish I knew beforehand. I spoiled the previous book for myself! I wish I could have gotten to see Paige and Max fall in love. Dang it.
The other thing I had an issue with also might be spoilery. The ending was lovely, however, I wish there was more closure. I get that that was kind of the point at the end, the idea that some things, you don’t know, you will never know, until life and its infinite twists and turns decides them for you. However, there were a couple of questions that I think could have been answered more definitively before the closing of the novel…unless, of course, there’s a third story planned for this series.
What Can I Learn From it:
This was prime ensemble casting. As someone who tends to overstuff and then have to cut down on my ensemble casting (you don’t want to know how many characters I had to cut out of Order to streamline the story into something I could be proud of). The author manages to handle a large ensemble of characters without any of them ever feeling like they get lost in the shuffle.
Would I recommend it:
Yes. But I would recommend you read it in order. *facepalm*