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Title: My Best EverythingWhen I think about the fact that I almost missed this book, my stomach does an unhappy flip. So, I suppose the best way to start this off is by saying that this book needs to be on your radar. It isn't an issues book and it isn't particularly easy to read the description and say 'if you like X you'll love this book too,' but, if you love beautifully written, sincere contemporary YA fiction, My Best Everything is for you.
Author: Sarah Tomp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pub. Date: March 3, 2015
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 14+
More by this author: N/A
You say it was all meant to be. You and me. The way we met. Our secrets in the woods. Even the way it all exploded. It was simply a matter of fate.
Maybe if you were here to tell me again, to explain it one more time, then maybe I wouldn’t feel so uncertain. But I’m going back to the beginning on my own. To see what happened and why.
Luisa “Lulu” Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out.
Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (definitely illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends, Roni and Bucky. Quickly realizing they’re out of their depth, Lulu turns to Mason: a local boy who’s always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything – including her heart?
The summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating. My Best Everything is Lulu’s letter to Mason – though is it an apology, a good-bye, or a love letter?
Sarah Tomp's debut is an epistolary novel and I can't imagine a better format for this particular story. Through a letter to Mason, a boy she formed an unexpected and deep relationship with during a summer of trials, tribulations, and illegal moonshining, Lulu pulls the reader in. She's writing this letter after the events of the summer, which creates a soothing sense of inevitability while infusing the story with a bit of mystery. Only Lulu knows why she's writing Mason this letter, recounting events, sharing realizations, and reminiscing - the reader is left to put the pieces together and, if you're like me, worry about how it will all end.
“I heard the missing in her voice. Knew she dreaded me leaving, but even more, Bucky. He'd been in all of my AP classes, quietly earning grades almost as good as mine. He was only headed two hours down the highway to Virginia Tech, but Roni knew there were more than miles between here and there, more than hours between now and what might come. Bucky was way too smart to stay in Dale and pump gas so other people could go places.” - from My Best EverythingLulu's story begins in a place many readers will recognize. She's wrapping up her final year of high school and ready to leave her small town - where dreams go to die - in the dust. Nothing and no one is going to hold her back or change her mind - until the day her dad breaks the news that, thanks to a bad investment, the money to pay for Lulu's education is gone. She takes one look around Dale and swears that this isn't happening. Her solution: produce and sell enough moonshine during the three months of summer to pay her tuition. Given the fact that plenty of backwoods, dead end hicks can do it, Lulu is sure she can figure it out. After all, it's just a bit of chemistry, right?
“I wasn't in a place to judge any choice she'd made. The moments when we feel most untouchable, that's when we most need a hand.” - from My Best EverythingWhat I most appreciated about My Best Everything is that it takes people, actions, and stories that you think you understand - that perhaps you even judge - and challenges those assumptions. Lulu, Mason, Roni, Bucky, and the town of Dale are all so much more than a cursory glance could ever reveal. Each is a beautiful collection of good and bad, right and wrong. They are so wonderfully, exuberantly real.
“I didn't know how to say it, but I'd learned to love Dale. More than I ever thought I could. I loved the rush of the river and the hundred different shades of green. The sun on the hills and the shadows of the valleys. The smell of the air first thing in the morning and the last breath at night. The rhythms and sounds. Also, the people who made their way through this place. Like you. And me too. We tried to make things better, but we also made do with what we had. We weren't too proud to scratch and scrape by. We knew how to spot beauty within the rough.” - from My Best EverythingAnother reason I so loved this novel was it's treatment of small town life. As someone who grew up in a small town, who left the town for something I was convinced better in every single way that mattered, I related to this novel in a very intense way. Like Lulu, I worked hard, did the right thing even when it wasn't nearly as fun, and longed for the day I would be able to escape my small town full of narrow minded and backwards thinking. Unlike Lulu, it took me a lot longer to realize the beauty of small town life. To admit that every place has elements of light and dark. And, most importantly, that while the light might sometimes feel overshadowed by the dark, it's important to acknowledge elements that shine.
My Best Everything will surely become one of my go-to recommendations for readers looking for a contemporary YA novel with romance and depth.