Rating: 4.5 / 5
(And honestly, the only reason I had to take half a star off was because it could’ve used a smidge closer Ameri-pick because Studer is Canadian and there are a couple times I noticed.)
It’s been a long time since I burned through a whole novel in one day — in fact, I don’t even remember the last book I read in such a hurry. But It Falls Apart, Kate Pawson Studer‘s debut Young Adult Romance, got its hooks right into me from the get-go. This YA romance is a great summer read with relatable characters, Big Picture issues, and fantastic pacing.
By way of summary, here’s the back cover blurb for It Falls Apart:
There’s no one more tempting than the person you’re not supposed to touch…
When Harper Donnelly’s best friend, Chloe, moves out-of-state halfway through their senior year, she figures things can’t get much worse. But then Nan, her grandmother and sole guardian, falls ill, throwing Harper’s life into chaos. Hoping to lighten Nan’s burden, Harper dives headfirst into helping with the family business, shuttling tourists from the airport. The job itself is easy enough, except it brings her into regular contact with Chloe’s ex-boyfriend, Luke, who’s been kinda broody since Chloe left—and kinda gorgeous since forever.
Harper has never been particularly fond of Luke, but with Chloe gone, she starts noticing a different side to him, one that makes her pulse race, and soon their stumbled-upon friendship evolves into something far more intense. Keeping their relationship a secret isn’t so hard—it’s even kind of exciting—until Chloe unexpectedly returns for the summer, leaving Harper torn between the guy she’s definitely falling for, and the best friend she swore she’d never betray.
Studer’s writing is so clear and so vivid that, when she described an ice storm during a Maine midwinter, I actually forgot it was June and 90°F outside. Whether she’s describing the hum-drum of managing a small business or the hustle and bustle of a high school hallway, the atmosphere of this cozy story is easy to enjoy.
It’s been 10 years since I graduated from high school, but this book definitely brought it all back. Like Harper, I grew up with a close-knit group of girl friends and things got hairy when we liked the same guy. Having to choose between friends and boys is agonizing, and Studer does a fantastic job of ratcheting up the tension as the story progresses.
When you combine teenage romance and drama with the looming threat of medical and financial issues, It Falls Apart is a refreshingly intimate tale that keeps the stakes realistically high. It’s a close-up look at real-world problems with a dash of laughs and sexy fun, which is a fantastic contrast to the current market saturation of sagas, franchises, and end-of-the-world crises.
And in between the drama, there are small moments of realistic character growth, both for Harper and for supporting characters. This novel is a great example of how Young Adult literature can be simultaneously entertaining and edifying — teenage life is full of drama, and this book provides natural, healthy representations of how to approach situations like sex, parties, and family emergencies. These beats throughout the novel were so natural and made me proud to be part of this new generation of writers tackling the (still fairly new) genre of YA.
There were small issues that pulled me out of the story, but they were few and far between. Studer, a Canadian author, slipped up a couple times when describing the schedule of an American public high school, such as having a character say, “I just wrote that final,” instead of, “I just took that final,” and having a separate finals week at the end of the semester, which universities have but public schools do not.
But these instances are easy to overlook because the USA is vast and there are so many types of schools across the country that, who knows, maybe there is a high school in New England that operates this way (I’m a Western gal; I wouldn’t know).
I did find myself wondering a few times how big or small this Northeastern town of Berne Harbor is because it seemed to have multiple concert venues, a taxi company, and a nearby commercial airport but also had a distinctly small-town feel with camaraderie between local businesses and a certain residential familiarity. But I’m also very aware that I was reading as a reviewer, not a writer, and these small questions in no way impacted my enjoyment of the novel.
I highly recommend It Falls Apart for any teen, young-adult, or young-ish adult audience who is looking for a fun, breezy read this summer.
Favorite quote: “I’m my own person. I can follow my heart and nothing’s going to explode. Nobody’s going to die. Everything’s going to be fine.”
You can pre-order the Kindle e-Book of It Falls Apart from Amazon, available June 28, 2018.