Huge thanks to Jamie from Disney Hyperion and Leila Howland for making today’s post a reality! I’ve been at the edge of my seat wanting to share my review with you, and finally (cue the trumpets and confetti!), today is the day! (It’s also Nantucket Blue‘s release date… even more exciting!)
Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland ( tweet | tumblr )
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: summer, family, friendships, divorce
Format read: ARC from NetGalley via Publisher (Thanks!)
Summary: When an unexpected tragedy threatens to change her friendship with her best friend, Cricket decides to find her own way to Nantucket to hopefully bridge the distance growing between them. Her summer of waves, romance, and time with Jules becomes a summer job at a hotel, an unexpected (forbidden) romance, and lots of time to reflect.
If you like your summer with starry skies, a boat, and a bottle of (stolen) champange, Nantucket Blue is going to sweep you away.
I’ll admit the romantic embrace featured on the cover is a tad misleading. There is romance and there is sand, but this story is so much more about Cricket and the unexpected discoveries the summer brings her. She goes to bed one night, knowing she is going to spending the summer with Jules and the entire Clayton clan and when she wakes up the next morning, everything has changed: her summer plans, and most importantly, her relationship with Jules.
Cricket and Jules have the kind of friendship where you can call each other when you get your first period or want to divulge your most embarrassing secrets; the kind of friend who you can tell your meanest thoughts to and never feel judged or like they are going to spill the beans. Cricket never imagined the day that Jules would not be her partner-in-crime, not there on the other end of the telephone. Instead Jules makes her feels like she is out of some exclusive club and Cricket doesn’t know what to do.
I gotta give it to the girl, she takes lemons and finds a way to spend the summer in Nantucket anyway. She works at an inn with the awesome and hilarious Liz (so Rebel Wilson-esque) and even finds an (unofficial) internship to keep her busy. Her attempts to talk to Jules are short-lived and she starts spending time with someone pretty unexpected (though I could sense the chemistry from early on) and unearthing her mom’s scandalous younger years in a book of Emily Dickinson poems.
Howland’s writing isn’t perfect; some scenes seemed too strategically placed, as if the movement wouldn’t have propelled forward without them. While I like my stories to progress a bit more naturally, I felt so much for this character who, after one event that isn’t even necessarily connected to her, is forced to deal with a ton for the first time — the aftermath of her parent’s divorce, the crumbling of a long-term friendship, and wonders and fears that come along with falling in love. Cricket spent so much time calculating her every move (don’t be a slut; don’t be a prude) to stay under the radar, and dodging her real life that all her true feelings had no choice but to rise to the surface at some point. Welcome to that point. (“Feelings find each other. I thought. Let one up and the others follow.”)
Nantucket Blue is one of those books I can see myself picking up time and time again. Howland’s fulfilling descriptions make me yearn for summer days in the sun (there’s also a good dose of funny!), and she found a great rhythm when it came to the highs and lows that Cricket went through that summer. She’s a character we get to watch grow, through her mistakes and her triumphs; her heartbreaks and happiness. Everything about it feels so good (especially the honest ending that doesn’t have to be tied up in a pretty bow — love that!).
Leila Howland, you have certainly made a fan out of me!
As a special bonus, Leila Howland stops by and answers some questions about Nantucket Blue and more!
EMH: Setting is so crucial in Nantucket Blue. It takes a lot for me to be transported into summer when it’s freezing in New York City, and I’m wearing a dozen layers just to get to work. But with NB, you totally nailed it. I felt like I was there. Does Nantucket have special significance to you or was the setting a combination of your favorite spots?
Leila: Thank you! I was worried about getting it right because Nantucket is so specific and so meaningful to so many people. It’s one of the most gorgeous places I have ever visited. Stories just live in the air there. I don’t know how to explain it! There’s so much history and for the most part it’s been preserved. You really know you’re on an island when you’re there. You’re out at sea and you can feel it. I worked there for a summer when I was 18 and it was the first time I’d really ever felt like an outsider. It was striking to feel so lonely in such a beautiful spot, and I suppose that’s why I was able to absorb so much and why it really stuck with me. Also, the beaches are just pristine. Just heaven. As my 90 year-old friend who grew up on Nantucket puts it, it’s like swimming in champagne.
EMH: Cricket and Jules seem to have this solid friendship until an unexpected tragedy reveals the cracks. I thought Cricket was pretty loyal (and slightly insane) for following Jules out to Nantucket even though she wasn’t really wanted. Back then, would you have gone to the same lengths to save a friendship or would you have waited it out at home?
Leila: I would have gone to the same lengths, without a doubt. My friendships have always been very important to me and I was brave about going new places on my own at Cricket’s age. And yes, Cricket is loyal, but I think that she’s also running away from something as much as she’s running toward something else, even though she may not quite realize it. Of course, that’s open to interpretation!
EMH: I thought it was a lot of fun that Cricket worked at the inn and interned for the writer staying there. Did you ever any fun summer jobs when you were younger?
Leila: Just like Cricket, I was a chambermaid at an Inn on Nantucket. It wasn’t very interesting, and it was kind of gross, but I learned how important it is to tip the maid and how essential it is to be kind and polite to people who work behind the scenes and clean up after us. I wish I’d had a George to intern for! Other than that, I did A LOT of babysitting. My favorite summer job was working at The National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. I loved being around all that creativity. I met so many cool actors and writers. I don’t even remember what my job duties were, but they were very menial. I think I did laundry?? The point was to be somewhere where cool stuff was happening!
EMH: Being that NB is your debut novel, what was most surprising to you about the process? What inspired you to write it?
Leila: The most surprising thing to me about the writing process was how crucial it was to stay in the world of the book. I wrote most mornings in a café down the street from my house. If I took more than one day off in a row, I’d have to warm up to the characters all over again. But if I wrote every day, even for just half an hour, it stayed with me throughout the day, and I could pick up right where I left off the next time I sat down at my computer.
A few things inspired me to write Nantucket Blue. I started teaching teenagers and realized how much I enjoyed their company; my agent thought I had a good voice for YA and sent me a few books that rocked my world (Lost It by Kristen Tracy and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart); but most importantly, I had a terrible fight with my best friend. I was devastated. I looked everywhere for books about friend break-ups, but couldn’t find any that really got it. So I wrote about a friend break-up because I wanted to read about one. The romantic storyline actually took me by surprise, though once I discovered it I was like, “Yes!”
EMH: I can totally see myself (and many others) re-reading Nantucket Blue on many upcoming summer adventures. What are some of your favorite beach reads?
Leila: Thank you! Let’s see, when I’m at the beach I want to be swept away. I just finished The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston. It’ll be out on May 14th and it’s a real page-turner! Some of my other favorite beach reads are: The Summer Series by Jenny Han, and The Love Season and The Island by Elin Hilderbrand (not YA, but also take place on Nantucket). Where the Peacocks Sing is a memoir by Alison Singh Gee about falling in love with a real, live Indian prince and living in his broken-down castle in India. It’s not YA, but it’s one of those transporting books that will make you want to travel to far off lands.
EMH: I’m already pumped to read your next book! Is there anything you can tell us about what you are working on right now?
Leila: I am working on Nantucket Red and I’m so excited about it. I think we can all agree that Jules and Cricket have a lot to work out before they head off to college, and what better place to do it than on Nantucket?
Friends, I am so excited about the prospect of reading more about Cricket and Jules… I yelped when I read Leila’s answers! I do hope you’ll check out Nantucket Blue — just a perfect summertime read!
Before you go, don’t forget to try your luck and win a copy of the Leila’s book!