Kerry Winfrey
Updated March 28, 2014

If you’ve been reading Young Adult Education for awhile, you know how much I love Justina Chen. She created one of the most badass characters ever–Patty Ho. She also created one of the most crushable dudes in YA in North of Beautiful. Naturally, I was stoked to find out that she had a new book, Return to Me…and it didn’t disappoint.

First, though, I should warn you that Return to Me is much slower than the two books I just mentioned. The main character isn’t as sassy as Patty Ho, and there aren’t any crazy hijinks like buildering or geocaching. But that’s not a criticism! Just be prepared for a slower pace. With that in mind, are you ready to hear about Return to Me? (I’m imagining you said yes, because I’m on a computer and I can’t actually hear your response, no matter how loudly you yell). Let’s get to it!

Rebecca Muir dreams of being an architect, and going to college at Columbia is a step in the right direction. Sure, she’s brokenhearted that she has to leave her perfect, dreamboat of a boyfriend Jackson back in Seattle, but everyone in her life is telling her she shouldn’t tie herself down. But when her dad gets a job opportunity that moves Rebecca’s entire family to the East Coast, she’s not sure she’ll even get a chance to be independent.

Rebecca, her mother, and her brother have only been on the East Coast for a little while when her dad drops a major bombshell (slight spoiler ahead!): he’s having an affair. Rebecca’s entire life is upended, and she doesn’t know what to believe. Her seemingly perfect dad suddenly doesn’t seem so great. Does Rebecca even want to be an architect anymore, or was that just her dad’s dream for her? And how can she trust Jackson to be faithful when she couldn’t even trust her own father?

Facing a lot of questions and in need of some serious soul-searching, Rebecca’s family goes to stay with her grandfather in Hawaii. This is the part of the book that you can live vicariously through if you’re going through a crisis. I mean, who among us wouldn’t love to jet off to a Hawaiian retreat when facing a problem? There’s a yoga room and macadamia nut muffins and a volcano…listen, all I’m saying is that it’s currently about 30 degrees in Ohio and Return to Me is making Hawaii sound pretty great.

Rebecca and her family manage to work through their problems together, although you’ll actually have to read the book if you want more details. As I said earlier, this is a slow-paced book, but I imagine it would be extremely cathartic for anyone dealing with a similar situation. Return to Me is like the book version of the treehouse retreats Rebecca dreams about.

If you’re a fan of Sarah Dessen, I’d recommend checking out Justina Chen’s books. In fact, the back cover of Return to Me announces, “Look out, Sarah Dessen. You may have met your match,” which sounds vaguely sinister. Either way, be sure to check out Return to Me and Justina Chen’s other books!


-A major part of the book deals with Rebecca and her female family members’ visions of the future. You know who that reminds me of?

That’s right, Rebecca is SO RAVEN.

-Although I mentioned the romance in the book and Rebecca’s relationship with Jackson, that’s not really the main plot of the book. Instead, it’s way more about Rebecca’s career aspirations and her desire to figure out what type of architect she wants to be. It’s great to read about a badass girl who goes after what she wants when it comes to a job, and there’s actually some pretty solid career/interview advice in there, too.

-If you’re a Justina Chen superfan, you’ll appreciate that there are a few small shoutouts to her previous books hidden in Return to Me. I won’t spoil them for you, but rest assured you’ll get some brief glimpses of your favorite characters.

-Justina Chen has a new book coming out this year, A Blind Spot for Boys. It sounds great and I can’t wait to read it.

What about you guys? Have you read any of Justina Chen’s books? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, send me an email at or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn. I love hearing from you!