Beautifully written, G-rated, YA, romantic drama
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: March 18, 2019
Pages: 200 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Finley, a 16-year-old junior, has been caring for her mother for some time now as her mother sinks deeper and deeper into an unspecified mental illness which involves the symptoms of delusion and depression. They live in a fictional beach town called Ocean Grove, in an unspecified region of the United States, which I’m guessing is California. Since her mother is unable to continue her usual source of income, creating expensive, hand-crafted jewelry, Finley walks dogs to support them, but it isn’t nearly enough money, and she and her mother are starving-poor. Her mother was raised in a wealthy family and years ago inherited a valuable beachfront cottage in a ritzy part of town. However, a while back she was forced to sell the cottage, both because she could not afford to maintain it, and to obtain money on which to live. Fortunately, Finley’s mother managed to retain the legal right for her and Finley to live in a mother-in-law apartment behind the cottage.
One day while walking a group of dogs on the beach in front of her home, Finley has a Meet Cute with a gorgeous teenage boy around her age who is jogging down the beach. One of the dogs she has allowed to run free races over to the boy, leaps on him, and knocks him down. As Finley attempts to pull the dog off the boy, she trips and falls, landing, alongside the dog, on top of the boy. Fortunately, he proves to be a good-natured guy who, instead of getting angry, offers a friendly smile, pats the dog, and shares quick-witted quips with Finley. However, when it becomes apparent to Finley, due to the boy’s pricey haircut, designer exercise clothing, and fancy watch, that he’s one of the ultra-rich who live in a gated community farther down the beach, she rapidly parts company from him without exchanging introductions. She has no interest in having anything to do with a person she assumes must be a spoiled, rich kid.
Soon after, Finley’s mother’s condition deteriorates to such an extent that Finley simply stops going to school, without informing anyone in authority, in order to stay home and care for her mother. Because she is required by law to attend school, not long afterward a truant officer and a social worker show up at her door. Her mother is remanded for an indefinite, government-funded stay at a residential, mental institution, and Finley is temporarily placed in a group home. Then, a few days later, Finley is shocked to learn that she is being transferred to a temporary foster placement in a magnificent mansion in the elite, gated community near her own home. Not only that, the mansion is owned by a stately, elderly woman who turns out to be the grandmother of the handsome boy Finley met on the beach, who is living with her. Finley learns that he is a 17-year-old senior named Chase, and she is to attend, along with Chase, an expensive private school, paid for by Chase’s grandmother, rather than the public school where she has previously been a student. Finley and Chase are informed by the social worker and his grandmother that they absolutely must not become romantically involved or Finley will have to return to the group home. Unfortunately, this proves to be an extremely difficult prohibition to obey, because the mental, emotional and physical attraction between the two of them is mutual and intense.
This is an utterly satisfying, classic romance plot of “forbidden love.” As a result of this particular type of romantic conflict, this story takes the form of a G-rated version of a “slow burn” romance as the two teenagers gradually move from strangers, to friends, to falling in love. In spite of the book containing no more than kissing, there is tremendous sexual chemistry between these two extremely sympathetic protagonists.
In short, this terrific romance, which is suitable for all ages, is well plotted, beautifully written, and offers a satisfying, complete resolution of both the romance and the difficult situation with Finley’s mother in order to produce a well-motivated HEA (happily-ever-after) ending.
I consider this book a “keeper,” and I have been eagerly seeking out other YA romance novels by this talented author.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Family Drama Plots: 4