Loving Emily by Anne Pfeffer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was a pleasure to read and experience. I wish I could remember how I found it, so I could properly thank the wonderful Goodreads friend who recommended it, and try to reciprocate with an equally charming book. The story starts with MC Ryan so smitten with his lovely classmate Emily that he tells his life long friend Michael (boys don't do bff's, sorry)he'll have to drive himself to Emily's sweet sixteen party so Ryan can get there early and maybe have a chance at conversing with Emily before she gets swept up in the festivities. When Michael does finally arrive, trashed with his scuzzball new friend Chase, Ryan tries to help his friend out, despite his egregious party manners, but things don't work out and Michael drives off alone. Cue the music for uh-oh, some bad stuff is about to happen. When it does, Ryan blames himself, especially his desire to be with Emily, for Michael's death. Ryan has some other issues to deal with too. His parents are emotionally and physically absent, leaving Michael and his charming twin second grade sisters alone most of the time with their surrogate parent, Rosaria, the housekeeper of their Hollywood mega mansion (I hope she has help, this sounds like one of those places where dusting is a full time job!) Academically, he's in a bit of a slump, and he gave up on tennis after Michael's earlier overdose drove an even deeper wedge between Ryan and the fam. Speaking of tennis, Michael's brief encounter with Chrissie, the cute aspiring actress who works in the pro shop, has left some complications. Ryan sees helping Chrissie as a way to redeem himself for failing his friend, but things get complicated. As his reluctant relationship with Emily deepens (he doesn't deserve to be happy, when M is dead!), the conflicting commitments he's made pull him in different and demanding directions.
Not that many YA books like this (a family drama, coming of age with romantic overtones) feature a male protagonist, so that is a refreshing change. It's always great, to me, to know what the guy is thinking, they are usually so opaque, and to be left wondering what is on the girl's mind. Ryan is a great character, he initially comes across as a little too good to be true, but as you come to know him you begin to understand where his maturity and seriousness have come from. The way the romance develops with Emily is sweet and tender, and yes, very intense. The supporting characters are interesting, well developed and real feeling (Emily's father, especially is quite the piece of work), and contribute to the rich immersive world the author creates. Seeing Ryan find his way as he tries to do the right thing (and it's not easy sometimes to figure out what that is!), is touching and draws you deeply into the world of the story. This is really a wonderful book, and I urge you to give yourself over to the pleasure of enjoying it!
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