fiction · YA

Book Review: Eight Nights of Flirting by Hannah Reynolds

Coming up next for the 2023 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge: a book about a holiday that’s not Christmas. Super simple for me; I peeked at my TBR and there sat Eight Nights of Flirting by Hannah Reynolds (Razorbill, 2022), the follow-up novel to her The Summer of Lost Letters, which I loved. As you can probably tell from the title, Eight Nights is set during Hanukkah, so it was a perfect match!

Shira Barbanel is spending winter break and Hanukkah at her grandparents’ house on Nantucket, along with the rest of her large extended family. Her main plan is to get a boyfriend – namely, smart, studious, solid Isaac, who’s working as her grandfather’s assistant. She’s never had a boyfriend before, but Shira’s determined. Her plan is foiled from the get-go, however, when a winter storm keeps her family away the first night and forces Shira and her former crush, Tyler, together overnight. The two strike up a deal: super smooth Tyler will teach awkward Shira to flirt, and Shira will introduce Tyler to her great-uncle, in the hopes of him gaining an internship.

Tyler’s not exactly the surface-only playboy Shira thought him to be, however. His smooth exterior hides a multitude of insecurities, and as he and Shira grow closer, she realizes there’s more to him than she ever thought. At the same time, a decades-old mystery at her grandparents’ home comes to light, and Shira and Tyler will work together to discover the truth behind the mysterious contents of the box from the attic. And along the way, they just might discover how perfect they are for each other.

Hannah Reynolds is a master of creating a wonderful setting. Just as in The Summer of Lost Letters, Eight Nights is set on the island of Nantucket, and though I’ve never been, Ms. Reynolds was able to transport me there amidst the raging snowstorm, the winter winds whipping along the coastline, the charming shops and stores still open during the off-season. I’m not much of a traveler, but she *really* made me want to go there immediately.

Shira and Tyler are great characters. Shira is flighty and awkward, unable to open up to friends or commit to activities she’s not 100% perfect at. Tyler puts up a front of being nonplussed and a major flirt, but he keeps a lot hidden, something Shira realizes fairly quickly. Despite their rocky history, the two make a good team with a huge amount of chemistry, another thing that Hannah Reynolds is a master at writing.

And the Hanukkah celebrations! Despite it being a minor holiday, Shira’s family goes all out with decorations and food and parties and family togetherness, and it’s all so much fun. Reading about the massive family get-together and the joyful chaos that ensued made me want to be a Barbanel as well so I could join in. 

Hannah Reynolds has become a YA favorite of mine, and I’m looking forward to reading more from her in the future.

Visit Hannah Reynolds’s website here

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · YA

Book Review: Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Khan

I needed a book where the main character’s name is in the title for the 2023 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge. This wouldn’t have been a tough one; everywhere I go, I see books with a name in the title, so the pickings were anything but slim. Fortunately, they were also easy; right there on my TBR was Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Khan (Scholastic Press, 2021). I really enjoyed her The Loves and Lies of Rukhsana Ali in 2019, so I was looking forward to reading this, and this challenge was the perfect push! 

Zara Hossain, the daughter of Pakistani immigrant parents, is having a little trouble in her Texas high school. One of the students, Tyler the jock, has been being a huge dick to her about Muslims and immigrants in general. Her parents are worried, but Zara’s well-supported by Nick and Priya, her two best friends, and Chloe, a girl from another school Zara’s interested in. She’s not about to let Tyler ruin things for her.

But as his racist attacks escalate and involve other students, Zara refuses to back down. This leads to his vandalizing her house one night, and when her father goes to confront Tyler’s father, he’s shot. Suddenly, Zara’s entire future is at stake: her father’s life, his safety and ability to stay out of prison, the entire family’s immigration status. Zara had been looking forward to applying for colleges; now she’s looking at a very possible return to a country she barely remembers. But Zara’s not backing down, not without a fight.

This is definitely a timely novel. There’s been so much in the news the past five or six years about how broken our immigration system is, and this novel is the perfect illustration of how, even when you do everything exactly right, you can still be deported immediately due to the whims of other people. Ms. Khan has created characters, a family, that lives on the edge all the time, even though they’re privileged and not struggling with issues that many other immigrant families face, such as poverty. Zara’s father is a doctor, and even that’s not enough to save them from the strain of immigration-related stress. 

I did feel that the book is a bit lacking in terms of the depths of the characters, that the message takes more of a center stage at the expense of character growth. I never truly felt like we get to know Zara outside of this immediate moment, outside of the current struggles she and her family are facing. I would’ve liked to have seen a few more shades of her personality and who she is outside of her sexuality (her bisexuality is an important part of this story) and her immigration status. She’s a strong character, both determined and dutiful, but I would’ve enjoyed getting to know her a little beyond these traits.

Immigrant teens will likely see something of their own struggles and frustrations in Zara’s, but teens who aren’t part of that world need these stories just as much. Our immigration system is in dire need of a fix; my hopes lie in this next generation and the inspiration they’ll take, not just from their own stories and those of their friends, but also from reading stories like these and understanding just how badly things need to change.  

Visit Sabina Khan’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · YA

Book Review: A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

The 2023 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge directed me to read a book with a forbidden romance, so I browsed through some lists and came up with A Pho Love Story by Loan Le (Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021), a YA novel about two teenagers from families who own competing Vietnamese restaurants. Super cute cover. I thought I was in for a sweet, relaxing YA love story and settled in.

Not so much. 

(My apologies for not being able to do the diacritics in Vietnamese words; I’m not familiar with the language, nor am I confident I would get them correct even if I were to copy and paste from a character map. Accuracy is important, especially in terms of names, and not being able to do this really bothers me, so please accept my apologies.)

Bao Nguyen and Linh Mai are two Vietnamese teenagers from families who own competing restaurants across the street from each other. From their early childhood, their parents haven’t allowed them to have any contact, and the families have done nothing but speak badly about each other. Though the two attend school together, they know little about each other. Linh is an accomplished artist, struggling to make her parents understand what painting means to her; Bao is content to go through life not really drawn in by anything and is uncertain what his future will hold. Both teens struggle with the reality of living with parents burdened by their refugee pasts, loss and pain and secrets a part of their families’ everyday lives.

When Linh’s best friend recruits both her and Bao to write and illustrate restaurant reviews for the school newspaper, the two get to know each other in a way that has never been allowed before, but they must keep their newfound friendship and attraction hidden from their families. Digging into the past brings long-buried secrets to light, but maybe Bao and Linh can change things for good…


Up until about two-thirds of the way through this, I was struggling. Something felt…off. Not right. Slow. A little draggy. Heavy. Which isn’t necessarily unexpected, as these teenagers are first generation Americans of refugee parents. There are going to be some tough topics here. But after thinking about it a little bit, I realized that the cover had led me to expect something of a different story.

The cover is WAY more lighthearted-looking than this story is. There are deaths mentioned; neither family left Viet Nam intact, and they carry their pain and scars with them. Their struggles to build a successful life in the US continue on into the present day; running a restaurant is tough even for people who don’t struggle with PTSD and are native English speakers, so it’s doubly tough for folks who come here with trauma and have to rebuild everything, and are at constant risk of financial failure and their entire lives falling apart again. Linh and Bao live with the pressure of this every day, and Linh has the added stress of knowing her parents don’t approve of her passion and talent for art, which she has to do behind their backs. 

This is not at all a lighthearted love story. This is a story of two teenagers living in not just the shadows of but under the strain of their parents’ trauma. They’re trying to build their lives in the dual cultures they’re raised in, but the strain and pressure are incredible and intense, and the stress of this is evident on every page.

While the romance was cute, it didn’t quite have enough intensity or chemistry for me, but that wasn’t my real issue. The book is billed as a romantic comedy, which led me to expect something very different. I think it works well more as a drama, but intergenerational family trauma, financial pressure, and heavy familial expectations don’t mesh well with my idea of comedy. What this book does well is show what life is like for kids of refugees who are working almost beyond capacity in order to rebuild their lives from nothing. It shows their stress, their fatigue, their sorrows, their confusion, their struggles to meet their families’ expectations while still being true to themselves. It’s difficult growing up in a country and culture that your parents don’t fully understand, and that’s something I think this book portrays exceptionally well.

If you pick up A Pho Love Story, don’t go in expecting a lighthearted love story. Read it to understand a little more about Vietnamese refugee culture, and what family life of Vietnamese refugees might look like. Don’t let the cover or the description as a romantic comedy fool you; this book is a lot heavier than it looks, but I think it’ll speak to kids who recognize themselves in Bao and Linh and the weight of the expectations placed upon them.

Visit Loan Le’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · YA

Book Review: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

I have wanted to read With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (Quill Tree Books, 2019) ever since it first came out. I mean, LOOK AT THAT COVER! (And I’m not usually a LOOK AT THAT COVER kind of person.) The story itself sounded fascinating as well – single teenage mom whose passion is cooking, trying to figure out her future? Yes, please. And with the 2023 PopSugar Reading Challenge prompting me to read a book written during NaNoWriMo, I finally had my chance to dive into this (AND I WON’T EVEN MENTION HOW JEALOUS I AM OF THIS AUTHOR MANAGING TO WRITE THIS WONDER OF A BOOK IN A MONTH. NOPE, NOT AT ALL JEALOUS). 

Emoni Santiago isn’t your typical high school senior. She’s a single mom to her two-year-old daughter Emma, living with her grandma, struggling through school and work and her feelings about her non-present father. Life is challenging at best, but Emoni’s making the best of it, even if she’s unsure about what the future holds. College? It’d be great, but school has always been tough, and money is an ever-present issue for Emoni and her grandmother. 

At the start of senior year, Emoni, who has a gift in the kitchen, gets the chance to take a new elective, a culinary arts class that focuses on the food of Spain, including a class trip to Spain later on in the year. This class will expand not only Emoni’s culinary skills, but her social ones as well: Malachi, the new boy, is gently pushing her boundaries and opening her eyes to the friendship-and-maybe-more she’s been missing out on during the past few years, and Chef Ayden, her instructor, is helping her to understand that a good chef also needs to sometimes follow and not just lead. Emoni’s under a lot of pressure, but this is a year of growth, and her path is as beautiful as the cover of this book.

I really enjoyed this. Emoni is strong, determined, flawed but admirable. She struggles with school but works her tail off to get where she is. She’s fierce in her parenting with her daughter; her grandmother helps out but always maintains a little bit of distance, letting Emoni parent and serving more as an extra set of hands (I truly loved ‘Buela’s later-in-the-book breakdown and desperate need to be herself and not just a grandmother and caregiver. HUGE props to Ms. Acevedo for including this; I hope every teenage girl reading this has this scene cemented in her brain for later in life, should they become parents. It’s so unbelievably difficult to maintain a sense of identity when you’re a full-time caregiver like ‘Buela is and has been for almost the entirety of her adult life, and it’s an absolute NEED that gets ignored by society most of the time. High five to Ms. Acevedo for stressing that importance and showing young girls that they should not only maintain that sense of self but demand that others allow them to maintain it). 

I loved Emoni, not only for her determination, but her consideration for everyone around her. She’s always taking care of her best friend (whose fledgling relationship is adorable), doing her best for daughter even when it’s tough (interacting with her ex’s parents is a time), with an eye on the future and what it will cost in terms of money, time, effort – not just for her, but for her daughter and grandmother as well. Life is so much tougher for Emoni than it should be, but she manages it with grace and strength, and she’s truly an admirable character.

Loved this.

Visit Elizabeth Acevedo’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · YA

Book Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

For the 2023 Popsugar Reading Challenge, I needed a book that takes place all in one day. I’ve read a few of these before and really enjoyed them, and as I browsed the lists of suggestions, I found Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (Harper Collins, 2010). I had always wanted to get to this in the past and just never did, so I was glad to have an excuse to finally read it. And it’s really well done, with a main character who is so Regina George from Mean Girls that I couldn’t put the book down.

Samantha Kingston is pretty, uber-popular, and one of the Queen Bees of the school, and she and her friends won’t let anyone forget what that means. She’s dating one of the most popular athletes in the school (even if a nagging sense of doubt keeps telling her he’s maybe not the best choice for her), she and her friends skip classes with abandon, and they treat their families and fellow classmates with all the disdain they deserve. Life is good when you’re on top, right? 

But life is about to be cut short. A terrible accident takes place after a late-night party…and Samantha finds herself reliving the same day over and over again. It’s up to her to finally get this last day right, but that’s going to take some time. Samantha hasn’t exactly been a model in terms of behavior and how to treat people…

This was really good, and despite the overarching sadness (and horror at what an awful person Samantha started off as) of knowing the inevitable outcome, a really great and fulfilling read. Sam really starts off terrible. She’s awful to her parents, her little sister, the nerdy guy with a crush on her, teachers, everyone at school whom she considers lesser than her (and that’s a LOT of people)…pretty much everyone outside her friend group (and, uh, they’re not great either). The constant repeats of her last day range from ‘she tried and failed’ to ‘burn it all down,’ including one *really* uncomfortable scene with her male math teacher. (YIKES.) 

Lauren Oliver does a remarkable job of keeping the reader turning pages for a character who starts out so very unlikeable. Samantha’s redemption arc unfolds slowly; this is a lengthy book, but each day, despite being the same, ends up with a slightly different feel to it, and Sam’s growth, lethargic as it is, is intriguing to watch. The inevitable ending is sad, of course; the reader goes into the book knowing the final conclusion, so there’s no shock there, but it’s still tough to read (and it did leave me with a few questions: how will Sam’s friends and family reconcile the last-day version of her with the person she’s been all the rest of her life, for instance), yet it’s cathartic. 

I’m glad I finally got around to this. Samantha Kingston isn’t a character I’ll forget anytime soon.

Visit Lauren Oliver’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · YA

Book Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

The 2023 Popsugar Reading Challenge called for a romance with a fat lead, so I prowled through the lists and came across one I always wanted to read: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (Balzer + Bray, 2015). I know this was a Netflix movie a while back; I always wanted to watch it, but never got around to it (with a young kid at the time, my TV time was extremely limited). This seemed like a good opportunity to finally get this book into my head.

Willowdean Dickson (Dumplin’ to her mother) is fat and that’s fine by her. She’s comfortable with herself, no thanks to her mother, who runs the biggest beauty pageant in Texas and who’s never been able to come to terms with her daughter’s size. The bigger problem right now is that Willowdean is still mourning the death of her aunt Lucy six months ago. Lucy understood about size, and she never once made Willowdean feel less-than. Thanks to her, Willowdean learned not only to love Dolly Parton, but herself as well.

But Lucy’s gone now, Mom is in full-on crazy pageant mode, her best friend Ellen is moving on in ways that make Willowdean unsure of herself, and Bo, the hot guy at work, is paying attention to her in a way she never expected he would. And suddenly, everything’s thrown out of balance. Willowdean’s confidence in herself – her one constant – is shaken. To prove to herself and her mother that she’s worthy of being a beauty queen as well, she and her new group of friends all sign up for the pageant. Texas beauty pageants may never be the same!

This was cute, and fun. Any book with unexpected drag queens has got to be a good time! There’s so much grief in this book; Willowdean’s closeness with her aunt Lucy was a major part of her life, and her grief at Lucy’s passing colors just about every part of this story, even though much of it remains unspoken. It was Lucy who taught Willowdean to love herself and be confident that she deserved all the best things in life, even though Lucy couldn’t quite seem to fully reach that point herself. I also felt bad for Willowdean’s mother; it’s easy to demonize her and she definitely has many flaws…but she’s also a product of the town she’s lived in all her life, and it didn’t seem like there were many people who encouraged her to think bigger than that (sure, Lucy’s mind was bigger, but some people are able to reach that point themselves, and others need pushing). It’s no wonder she and Willowdean have such a contentious relationship. 

I saw that a few Goodreads reviews were upset with this view for not being as body positive as it’s marketed as, and…I understand their criticism, and I think it’s valid, as it can definitely be read that way. I also think that sometimes we have to work to retain our confidence when thrown into new, unanticipated situations, as Willowdean was with her relationship with Bo. Sometimes throwing someone else in the mix shakes us and we have to fight to keep hold of who we know we are. That’s how I saw this. Willowdean became stirred, but ultimately not permanently shaken, and I liked that. 

I enjoyed this one.

Visit Julie Murphy’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · YA

Book Review: The Return by Sonia Levitin

Next up on the 2023 Popsugar Reading Challenge: a book set in the decade you were born! I was born in 1980, and luckily, on my TBR was The Return by Sonia Levitin (Fawcett Juniper, 1988), set in the 1980’s. It’s historical fiction (wait, does that mean I’m historical, at this age???), along with being Jewish fiction and young adult. It hadn’t been sitting on my TBR for too long, but I was glad to get to it, because it covered a topic I knew little about.

Desta lives in Ethiopia, a member of Beta Israel, a persecuted group of Jews who are struggling to survive. Her parents are both gone, and she and her brother and sister live with their aunt and uncle. Food is scarce; Desta isn’t allowed the education she truly longs for; the locals treat Beta Israel with contempt at best. Life is difficult, but there’s still joy to be found. Rumors are swirling that there are ways to leave, though leaving Ethiopia is forbidden for Beta Israel, and when white Jews come from America to speak with Desta’s group, her brother begins making plans to escape to Jerusalem. When their hand is forced, she and her brother grab their little sister and start out on a dangerous journey to a land they’ve only ever dreamed of.

Phew. This is a tense book, but I deeply appreciated the glimpse it gave me into the lives of Ethiopian Jews before and after making the dangerous trek to Israel. I knew the briefest bits of their story, mostly about the airlifts that rescued them, but I didn’t know the details, and this story really helped fill in some of the blanks, especially about the difficult conditions they lived under in Ethiopia and why they were so difficult. 

It’s interesting how much writing styles have changed in YA since this was published. I feel like this very much would’ve fit the style that was prevalent when I was a tween (just after this was published), but it’s so different from what’s new today. (Not a criticism, just an observation. Of course styles change, but every so often, I’m reminded how far YA has come!) I’m glad I got to this so quickly; I’m always thrilled to expand my Jewish knowledge, so this was a really interesting read for me.

Visit Sonia Levitin’s website here.

fiction · YA

Book Review: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen by Isaac Blum

Woohoo, Jewish books! Always looking to add them to my list, and I was super excited to learn about the existence of The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen by Isaac Blum (Philomel Books, 2022). There aren’t a ton of YA books set in an Orthodox community (I do manage to find some from time to time!), so this one particularly excited me.

Yehuda ‘Hoodie’ Rosen’s Orthodox community recently moved from its mostly-Jewish area to a smaller, non-Jewish area, and everyone is feeling the strain of being the new folks in town who don’t fit in (no thanks to the longtime residents who don’t exactly roll out the welcome mat). He’s a bit of a slacker at school, kind of laid-back, but things start to change in his life when he meets Anna-Marie, the daughter of the mayor. Hoodie starts to fall for her, despite her not being Jewish (really, he shouldn’t be talking to her at all, as per community norms…), and when his family finds out, Hoodie is in t.r.o.u.b.l.e.

But things aren’t going well for his community. There’s antisemitic graffiti. Nasty comments. Violence. Hoodie’s just trying to reach out, form some bonds, make things better, right? It doesn’t much matter; Hoodie’s definitely on the outs for spending time with not just an outsider, but a girl. And then the shooting happens.

This is a fabulous look into a world most of us don’t get to see. If you’re not Jewish, there may be a term or a concept here and there that’s unfamiliar; in that case, Google is your friend (understanding these things really does add depth to the story, and hey, learning is always good, so don’t miss out! And feel free to ask me in the comments if you read this and need help with anything. I’m always happy to help!). Hoodie’s world may seem a little small, but it’s really not; it’s rich with family, friends, community, learning. It may not always be the best fit for everyone, and some people may struggle a bit (and this is illustrated in the story in gentle ways), but I really appreciated Mr. Blum’s fair look at this particular community.

Hoodie’s attraction to Anna-Marie is a little heart-breaking, at least it was from my adult perspective. It’s doomed from the start, and Anna-Marie has an entirely different mindset from him, along with a streak of…I don’t want to say cruelty, maybe indifference, that shows up later on. Both characters have some growing up to do – entirely understandable, as they’re both teenagers – so they struggle to navigate their differences and places in the world, and Anna-Marie’s reasons for getting to know Hoodie in the first place aren’t exactly noble. But the violence wrought upon the community changes everything, and Mr. Blum does a phenomenal job at handling this. Truly fantastic writing in the final quarter of the book.

I really enjoyed this. The characters are complex and well-crafted, each one a distinct personality; the Orthodox community is portrayed wonderfully and fairly, and the novel as a whole works really well. For a debut novel, this is amazing, and I’m seriously looking forward to reading everything Isaac Blum writes in the future.

Visit Isaac Blum’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

memoir · nonfiction · YA

Book Review: All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir Manifesto by George M. Johnson

Okay, so a few weeks ago, I attended a virtual talk on all the garbage book banners out there and the mess they’re making and the stupid things they’re doing. Seriously, what a bunch of whiny toddlers throwing super gross adult-sized tantrums. Mind your own business, skunkbags. At one point in the presentation, one of the people presenting mentioned the book All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2020). I was aware of the book, had seen it around, and knew what it was about, but it wasn’t on my TBR…until the presenter mentioned that whiny Texas governor and human sack of lawn cuttings Greg Abbott had thrown a fit over this book. Knowing what I know about that crapweasel with no taste who is grossly lacking in humanity AND leadership skills, I knew this was likely to be a good read, so onto my list it went. And hey! I was right and Greg Abbott is wrong. Shocker, I know.

George Johnson, who has also gone by Matt (story explained in the book) is a queer Black man who grew up with more feminine traits, who took some time getting comfortable with his queer identity, and was fortunate to grow up in a family who accepted him and loved him for who he was.  All Boys Aren’t Blue is the story of his life: his childhood, spending time with his beloved grandmother, called Nanny, who worked so hard to make him feel loved and accepted; his adolescence, where he began to understand some things about himself and worked to hide other parts; his college years, where it all began to come together. Through it all, George learns and grows, and begins to accept himself for who he is: a delightful, intelligent human being who lives at the intersection of Black and queer.

He has so many good lessons for the reader, lessons about self-acceptance, love, courage, confidence, safety, and more. I deeply appreciated how he related stories from his childhood and adolescence to show how he learned about himself, what he learned, and how he applied this to his life as a whole. I enjoyed particularly the stories he told about how he got into sports and how that surprised everyone around him: an effeminate boy who could play football and run like the wind? Don’t box yourself in. We all contain multitudes. 🙂

George M. Johnson has always lived outside the box, but he’s also always found ways to thrive, and he’s sharing everything he’s learned with the YA set. This is an important book; queer kids, and queer Black kids, deserve to see themselves in books, they deserve to have books that speak to and about them. And people outside the LGBTQ+ crowd need to read these books to get a fuller picture of what life is like for their queer friends and family.

And Greg Abbott and people like him are welcome to fuck off into the sun if they don’t have the humanity to recognize that. : )

Great book. I’d love to hang out with Mr. Johnson sometime, because he seems like a great guy and tells some fascinating stories.

Visit George M. Johnson’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

fiction · YA

Book Review: The Summer of Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds

Another list of Jewish books clued me in to the existence of The Summer of Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds (Razorbill, 2021). Modern day Jewish characters? Check. Mystery of said characters’ grandparents? Check. Love letters? Check. Blossoming romance? Check. Amazing setting on the island of Nantucket? Check. Fabulous storytelling that puts you right in the story and keeps you turning pages at a breakneck speed? CHECK CHECK CHECK. Oh, how I loved this book!!! (And there’s a follow-up; it doesn’t focus on the main characters, but it is about some side characters. Eight Nights of Flirting. It’s already on my TBR, and I’ll be reading it in 2023 for a prompt on the Popsugar Reading Challenge (yup, I’m in!).

Abby Schoenberg’s grandmother died somewhat recently, and it’s upon receiving a box of her possessions that Abby discovers some mysterious letters – love letters –  from a man named Edward, back in the 1950’s. The family never knew much about her O’ma, who was a very private person who never spoke about her past. They knew she came to the US alone at four years old, and that O’ma’s parents had been killed in the Holocaust, but that was it. Upon the discovery of these letters, Abby is determined to find out more, and she sets herself up for a summer on Nantucket, where this mysterious Edward was from.

It doesn’t take long for Abby to learn more about this small island community. Edward is Edward Barbanel, the patriarch of the wealthy Barbanel clan and head of their successful business empire. His grandson, Noah, is fiercely protective of Edward and the entire family, but little by little, he begins to allow Abby access, and the two discover long-kept secrets about the romance between their grandparents, along with growing closer themselves. But the course of true love never does run smooth, and it’ll take some growth from both Abby and Noah to not only discover the full truth, but to figure out how to be together.

Ooh, this was a fun one. Abby is mature, but doesn’t always make the right decisions, which is true for this age group. She’s stressed about her future, trying to manage her relationship with her mom (this was SO well done. She and her mother have a great relationship, but Mom can get on Abby’s nerves from time to time – realistic! – something Abby recognizes and is trying to keep in check. Again, super mature of her, which I appreciated). Her willingness to take this trip to Nantucket, to discover her grandmother’s past, made her a really interesting character.

Noah Barbanel is a good hero as well. He comes from a wealthy family, but isn’t stuck up about it. He’s protective of his family, but not to the point of rudeness, and he eventually lets Abby in. Their adventures together are fun, sweet, fascinating, and Hannah Reynolds brings Nantucket alive around them. I haven’t read too much in recent years set on Nantucket, but what I’ve read in the past, I’ve always enjoyed, and this is no different. Ms. Reynolds makes me want to pack my bags and head east.

I’m not a huge mystery fan, but the mystery of O’ma’s past was perfect, enough to keep me wondering and guessing as the story progressed. Mysteries of the past are far more interesting to me than whodunit-style mysteries, so this really checked all my boxes.

So looking forward to reading Eight Nights of Flirting now!

Visit Hannah Reynolds’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.