Kerry Winfrey
May 17, 2014 1:00 pm

Around this time last year, I wrote about Leila Howland’s absolutely wonderful YA debut, Nantucket Blue. I loved it, but you don’t have to take my word for it (please imagine Levar Burton saying that, and if you don’t understand that reference, then I guess I’m old). A little paper called The New York Times (have you heard of it?) also thought Nantucket Blue was pretty great. Leila’s been hard at work on the sequel, Nantucket Red, and it’s just as exciting, funny, and romantic as the first book.

In case it’s been awhile since you read Nantucket Blue, allow me to give you a quick summary (obviously, there are spoilers ahead, so proceed at your own risk). Cricket plans to spend her summer hanging out on Nantucket with her BFF Jules…but when Jules’s mom dies, their friendship is torn apart. So Cricket finds herself getting a job at an inn and working hard instead. She also finds herself falling for Zack, who inconveniently happens to be Jules’s brother.

In Nantucket Red, Cricket is finally beginning to mend her friendship with Jules and she’s got a lacrosse scholarship to Brown. So things are going pretty great, right? Not necessarily. When Zack went off to boarding school, their relationship didn’t survive, so now Cricket’s nursing a broken heart. She decides to go back to Nantucket for the summer to make some quick pre-college cash, even though that means she’ll probably run into Zack (and his girlfriend Parker Carmichael, who definitely has a classic mean girl name).

Although Cricket’s definitely still hung up on Zack, being on Nantucket provides her with a lot of opportunities…and not just of the monetary kind. She gets to hang out with her friends, of course, like Jules and Liz. She also gets close with a sexy bartender named Ben. Bartender Ben might just be the person who can make her forget about Zack. He even teaches her how to drive stick (like literally, not in some sort of euphemistic way, although they definitely make out a lot).

Cricket might be busy making money and making out, but that doesn’t stop her from taking some pretty big chances and carpe diem-ing all over the island. In fact, she gets herself into some pretty serious trouble that throws her whole future into jeopardy. She still learns a lot about herself, though, and that’s what I love about Leila Howland’s writing. Although the book is pretty fast-paced and covers a lot of time, it never feels like it’s purely plot. Cricket is really introspective, and we spend a lot of time in her head.

Nantucket Blue was all about Cricket figuring out her feelings and being on her own. In Nantucket Red, Cricket’s finding out how to take chances and deciding who she really is. Cricket’s always been a smart, hardworking, reliable good girl, and in Nantucket Red, she finally takes some real chances and makes her own decisions. Sometimes those decisions involve breaking the law. Sometimes they involve sandwiches. You’ll just have to read the book to find out more.

If you’re a Sarah Dessen fan, you should definitely read Nantucket Red. I mean, duh. It’s set on a beach, it involves lots of romance and heartbreak, and it’s about a girl figuring out her life. It’s also reminicent of Jenny Han’s Summer series; again, there’s a beach, romance, and heartbreak.

SOME HIGHLIGHTS:

-Something I appreciated about both of the Nantucket books is the emphasis on sex positivity. It’s great to read a book where a teenage character thinks sex is important but also doesn’t equate it with shame. Don’t get me wrong, these books are not scandalous or racy at all, but I do think the depiction of sexuality is more realistic than lots of YA books.

Nantucket Red focuses on a really important period of time: the summer between high school and college. There aren’t a lot of books that take place during that summer, and I think there should be more. I mean, mine was extremely eventful! I listened to a lot of Ashlee Simpson (it was 2004, you guys…things were crazy), got red highlights in my hair, and had jaw surgery. Okay, so in retrospect that doesn’t really seem so eventful, but you get the point. Ending one chapter of your life while waiting for the next one to start is exciting, scary, and fun. It makes for a great book.

-If you love Leila Howland’s writing, you can check out her writing advice right here on HelloGiggles! She says that 25 minutes is all it takes to get in some good writing, and she’s right.

What about you guys? Have you read Nantucket Blue or Nantucket Red? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to include in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, send me an email at youngadulteducation@gmail.com or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.

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