Save the Date: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“These memories, I was now realizing, had never been mine. They’d never been real, just ink and paper that I’d somehow folded into my real life, a revisionist history that I’d bought without a second thought.”

cover art for Save the Date by Morgan MatsonCharlie has always been proud to be a Grant. Not everyone gets to say their family inspired a beloved comic strip like her mother’s, Grant Central Station.

Charlie has been looking forward to the weekend of her big sister’s wedding for months. Finally, she’ll get to hang out with her siblings all at once without any distractions before the wedding and before her parents sell the family home.

But even before the big day, things start to go wrong. The wedding planner is on the run. The house alarm won’t stop going off. A shelter dropped off a dog for when Good Morning America talks with Charlie’s mom about ending her comic strip after twenty-five years. Then Mike, who has been estranged from the family for the last eighteen months, suddenly decides he does want to come home for the wedding. And that’s all before the guests start to arrive and the groom’s suit goes missing. Not to mention the wedding cake disaster.

Charlie is already having a hard time processing the sale of the house and starting college in the fall. She isn’t sure how to cope with all of these other problems. Pining after her longtime crush and helping Bill, the new wedding planner’s cute nephew, problem solve are both good distractions. But after she gets through the wedding, Charlie still has to decide how she’s going to get through the rest of her life when it feels like nothing stays the same in Save the Date (2018) by Morgan Matson.

Find it on Bookshop.

Matson’s latest standalone contemporary is an absolute delight. The novel starts with a cast of characters and also features fun chapter titles and key comic strips from Grant Central Station. Despite its length the madcap shenanigans and pacing of this story–set over one short weekend–make Save the Date a quick and utterly entertaining read. (It might also be my favorite Matson novel to date!)

Save the Date features a true ensemble cast filled with characters who are as memorable as they are lovable. I would happily read a book any and all of the other Grant siblings (or long suffering paper girl Sarah Stephens). Matson makes this large cast shine in scenes filled with snappy dialog and witty banter while making sure every character is worthy of their own story.

Charlie’s family home, the site of numerous wedding mishaps and much drama, also feels like another character as evocative descriptions help readers understand Charlie’s grief over losing this key part of her youth.

While Save the Date is ostensibly a story about a wedding where everything that can go wrong does, Charlie’s character arc is about a lot more as she comes to terms with growing up and realizes that her longtime crush and even her family memories have realities that don’t quite match up with her idealized memories and hopes.

Save the Date is a fast-paced, hilarious novel filled with big personalities and memorable moments. A solid story about accepting change, embracing imperfections, and making peace with life’s complexities. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett, Once and For All by Sarah Dessen, 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston, The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, Love and Other Train Wrecks by Leah Konen, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud, Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt, Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith, Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon, Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian

The Unexpected Everything: A Review

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan MatsonAndie and her father haven’t been close since the death of her mother five years ago. Spending a summer in the same house as her father while he is not working is unthinkable.

Unfortunately, when Andie’s internship opportunity disappears thanks to her father’s political scandal, a summer with her father is also a harsh reality.

Andie has her best friends Bri, Toby, and Palmer (and even Palmer’s long-time boyfriend) to keep her company during the summer. Which is great. But finding a way to her internship would be better.

Instead, through a series of mishaps and surprises, Andie becomes a reluctant dogwalker and starts scoping out a cute boy named Clark as her potential summer romance.

But with her first unplanned summer in a long time, Andie soon learns that you can’t plan for the best things in life in The Unexpected Everything (2016) by Morgan Matson.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Unexpected Everything is Matson’s standalone follow-up to Since You’ve Been Gone. (Set in the same Connecticut town, readers of Matson’s earlier novel will also recognize a few character cameos.)

Matson once again evokes the lazy and timeless feel of a summer adventure in her latest novel. Andie is a driven heroine with a singular focus on her future. Raised in her father’s world of politics, it’s hard for Andie to connect or foster genuine interactions–something that she has learned first-hand is quite simple to fake with the right cues. Over the course of this meandering novel, Matson explores Andie’s character and her growth as she begins to understand that there is more to life than having a master plan.

Andie is a very different character in a lot of ways. She’s savvy and jaded. She’s unapologetic about chasing superficial romances that seem easy and safe. Andie spends a lot of The Unexpected Everything keeping people (and readers) at a remove while she tries to protect herself from loss or heartbreak. While it’s understandable when the loss of her mother is a physical presence for much of the story, it also makes it difficult to connect with Andie. It makes it even harder to be invested in her story as the book nears five hundred pages.

A thin plot makes the novel feel even longer as do heavily broadcasted plot twists. Fans of Matson will be happy to return to her familiar and evocative writing. A sweet romance and solid female friendships make The Unexpected Everything a lengthy but mostly enjoyable read filled with summer fun and thoughtful characters.

Possible Pairings: Never, Always, Sometimes by Adi Alsaid, The Best Night of Your Pathetic Life by Tara Altebrando, Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Reunited by Hilary Weisman Graham, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, In Real Life by Jessica Love, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, Charming As a Verb by Ben Philippe, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Since You’ve Been Gone: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan MatsonEmily had planned to have the Best Summer Ever with her best friend Sloane. Ever since she met Sloane two years ago, it felt like everything was better. Emily could be braver and more interesting just by virtue of being around Sloane.

But then Sloane disappears. No emails. No calls. No texts. Suddenly, the perfect summer Emily had imagined with her best friend is a lost cause. With her little brother busy trying to climb everything in sight and her parents starting a new play, Emily is expecting some quality wallowing time in her near future.

Then the list arrives after Sloane has been gone for two weeks.

This isn’t the first time Sloane has sent Emily a list of random, sometimes scary, things to do. But now, with Sloane gone, Emily hopes that completing the list might also help her figure out where exactly Sloane has gone.

With the help of some unlikely friends, Sloane starts working her way through the list. Apple picking at night should be easy. Dancing until dawn might actually be fun. Kissing a stranger could go either way. Skinny dipping? Stealing something? Those might take a little more work in Since You’ve Been Gone (2014) by Morgan Matson.

Find it on Bookshop.

Since You’ve Been Gone is Matson’s third novel. (It includes a surprise behind the dust jacket so be sure to check that out!)

From the cover and book design to the plotting and story, Since You’ve Been Gone is a perfect package. Every piece makes sense. Every aspect of the story clicks. Matson delivers a strong and immediately accessible story here.

Most of the story occurs during the course of Emily’s summer. Matson also includes key flashbacks to Emily and Sloane’s relationship to highlight the arc of their friendship. The flashbacks also add just the right amount of tension to the story as readers wonder what might have changed between these two girls.

Emily is a deceptive narrator, initially seeming passive and very meek. During the course of Since You’ve Been Gone readers can see Emily’s obvious growth as a character. Matson also delivers spot-on secondary characters ranging from Emily’s quirky brother and playwright parents to the friends she never expected to find in Frank, Collins and Dawn.

While Emily loses Sloane before the novel even starts, this book is very much about finding things–including a very authentic and charming romance. In her efforts to complete the list, Emily finds inner courage and maybe even a little bit of herself. Sloane’s tasks also add a nice structure to the story as each chapter focuses on one task and how its completion unfolds–often in unexpected ways. Since You’ve Been Gone is an effervescent, delightful read that is sure to leave readers smiling.

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, City Love by Susane Colasanti, A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley, Reunited by Lauren Weisman Graham, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, Everywhere You Want to Be by Christina June, The Romantics by Leah Konen, Everything All at Once by Katrina Leno, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart, Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Love and Other Foreign Words by Erin McCahan, This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills, Flannery by Lisa Moore, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, Even in Paradise by Chelsea Philpot, Damaged by Amy Reed, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott