Sometimes you just need to read a feel-good book, right? There’s nothing I love more than curling up with something that’s going to make me smile at night after a long day of work or uni. I’m someone who can’t read anything too complex or emotional at night after enduring 18 waking hours, so I’m always on the lookout for fun, uplifting, and heartwarming YA novels.
Today I’m going to be sharing three of them that deserve to be on your TBR! These are all recent releases and they’re perfect to read as the weather starts to warm up (sorry, anyone in the Northern Hemisphere. I absolutely love losing myself in a swoon-worthy contemporary in the summer months as I sit on the beach or eat ice cream in the park, so these novels definitely got me in the mood for that! Bring on those endless summer days.
I can’t even begin to express how much I’ve been dying to read this novel ever since it was announced. Not only are Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera two of my favourite authors of all time, and undeniably the most iconic duo, we were promised it was going to be queer! And set in New York City! With Dear Evan Hansen vibes! I’m not made up of flesh and bones — I’m made of queerness and musical references, let’s be real. What if it’s Us is about what happens when two boys meet at a post office… then manage to get in touch with each other through a Lost Connections-type notice and then go on a series of awkward dates. I knew this was going to be such a me book from the very beginning, and I could not have been more right.
First of all, the friendships and relationships in What if it’s Us are so well-developed and fully-formed, and I honestly just wanted to reach into the book and hug every single one of them. So often in contemporary novels with romance elements, minor characters feel half-done because there’s so much focus on the love interest, but never in the case of Becky Albertalli or Adam Silvera. I fell in love with all the characters, particularly Arthur and Ben, and I loved this journey of friendship and love and failed dates they undertook.
Another aspect of What if it’s Us I absolutely adored were all the New York City vibes. I’m in love with NYC, so it was amazing to feel as though I was back there, walking through the busy streets, wandering through Central Park, and recognising all the locations the characters mentioned. It’s basically New York in a book. There’s also talk of musicals I like, like Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, and Spring Awakening, and I am just all the feels. I feel like I’ve never seen so much of my passions and my dreams in a novel before. Plus, one of the characters is a writer! And they love coffee! I need to find Arthur and Ben and be best friends with them.
What if it’s Us is the ultimate feel-good contemporary novel. It has brilliant queer representation, as well as Puerto Rican and ADHD rep, and the characters are just so well-written and the ambience of New York City makes you feel as though you’re really there, walking along the busy sidewalks with them. I couldn’t have dreamed of a more satisfying, heart-stopping, adorable read. You need to add this one to your TBR immediately!
I’ve been a massive fan of Emery Lord ever since I read The Names They Gave Us, and now she’s definitely one of my auto-buy authors. I absolutely love her writing style, the way she makes me feel all the feels, and fall into her stories and never want to get out. Open Road Summer was the perfect book to read now that it’s finally starting to get warmer in Australia. It’s a book that will make you dream of summer, want to go on a road trip with nothing but a map and a good playlist, and spend endless nights out with your friends. Open Road Summer was everything I could have wanted in a fun contemporary novel, and then some.
What I loved most about Emery Lord’s adorable novel is just the whole premise! I mean, the protagonist’s best friend is a famous singer who’s forced to bring along a guy she barely knows to pose as her boyfriend on a national tour. I mean, swoon alert already! I’m a massive fan of books that talk about fame, such as Radio Silence and I Was Born for This and Eliza and her Monsters, and Open Road Summer gave me a lot of similar vibes. Even though I’m not really a country music person, this novel transported me to the world of Lilah Montgomery and made me fall in love with the characters, the American setting, and all the drama. What a rollercoaster of a ride.
I can’t even begin to explain how much drama there is in this novel. It’s unbelievable how rumours can end a person’s career, and that fear and uncertainty was portrayed so well in Dee’s character. I also loved the depth of Reagan, our protagonist’s, backstory, and how she wasn’t just like every other YA character I’d read about before. She got angry, and she made mistakes, and she hurt the people close to her, but all of that just made her a more genuine, three-dimensional person. She felt so incredibly real, and I loved watching her build herself up and allow herself to fall in love again. I just loved her so much.
Whether or not you’ve read a book by Emery Lord before, Open Road Summer is definitely one you have to add to your TBR. It’s fun, swoon-worthy, and the perfect fast-paced novel for you to consume on a sunny afternoon. I love this novel with all of my heart and I honestly can’t recommend it enough. I just want to pack up everything and road trip across the U.S. now!
This is the second book following The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, and I definitely had high expectations for it after thoroughly enjoying the first one. In The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, we saw Virginia Shreves navigate the highlights and pitfalls of teenage life — including battling with her negative self-image and self-worth, having a boyfriend no one is allowed to know about, and also dealing with family tensions when her brother is accused of raping a fellow student. What I loved most about The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things was how Virginia came to realise that being healthy doesn’t always mean being thin and how she came to love the body she has instead of trying to fit into her family’s, and society’s, narrow-minded views of what dress size people should aspire to.
So I was unsure of what the sequel would be about, as The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things is a novel that could definitely just be read as a standalone. But I really loved the voice of Virginia, and I honestly think she could narrate my work day and I’d find it hilarious. She has such a great sense of humour and I loved being inside her head, so reading The Universe is Expanding and So Am I was such a treat. In this novel, Virginia talks about everything from not looking down on yourself, how damaging it is to reduce someone to a sexualised being made only for the male gaze, and the importance of standing up for what’s right, even if that means disagreeing with those closest to you. The Universe is Expanding and So Am I was again filled with such wise words, and I loved every second of reading it.
The only thing I didn’t really like about this novel was how the main plot was already somewhat covered in the first novel, and even though we saw more of the ramifications of this act and how it continues to affect Virginia and her family, it did feel a little recycled at first. But this was still such an enjoyable read, and I loved seeing Virginia get to know a whole new love interest and explore New York City with him. I loved all the swoon-worthy scenes and the banter they shared, and this is definitely another book that’s perfect for summer. If there are any more Virginia Shreves books being published, I’ll definitely be picking them up!
Have you read any of these three? Are they on you TBR? What are some of your favourite feel-good novels? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Bloomsbury for providing me with copies of What if it’s Us and Open Road Summer and The Universe is Expanding and So Am I respectively in exchange for an honest review!