Author: Lauren Gibaldi
Synopsis: Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over a no-good ex-boyfriend. Graduate from high school without any more distractions. Move away from Orlando, Florida, where she’s lived her entire life. But Matt—the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player who just moved to town—was never part of that plan. And neither was attending a party that was crashed by the cops just minutes after they arrived. Or spending an entire night saying “yes” to every crazy, fun thing they could think of.
Then Matt abruptly left town, and he broke not only Ella’s heart but those of their best friends, too. So when he shows up a year later with a plan of his own—to relive the night that brought them together—Ella isn’t sure whether Matt’s worth a second chance. Or if re-creating the past can help them create a different future.
Huge thank you to Haper Teen for sending me an advanced copy of this to review!
I was NOT expecting to love this book as much as I did. It wasn’t really on my radar, and I’m not the biggest fan of books that take place in 24 hours or less and I thought that this was going to be like that. In one aspect it is, but at the same time it takes place over a much longer span of time.
Then: Ella meets Matt and they instantly feel a connection. He’s the bassist in her friends’ band and new in town. They meet at a party, which gets busted by the cops, and the four friends run off into the night. Ella, Meg (her bff), Jake (Meg’s off-again-on-again & the band’s lead singer) and Matt decide to play a game where when someone suggests doing something they can’t say no (within reason). This leads them on a night of dares and fun (and more running from the police), self discovery, and even a blooming romance (which does bloom into something great because Ella and Matt date for six months after that first night). This all takes place in the ‘Then’ chapters.
The book is written in alternating chapters between ‘Then’ and ‘Now’. In the ‘Now’ chapters it’s a year later. Matt has returned from Texas, where he’d moved with his family and then just… stopped contacting everyone. No phone calls, one pathetic letter. Ella was left heartbroken, Jake pissed off that he’d lost his best friend, and Meg picking up the pieces of the two.
Now: Ella and Meg run into Matt at a party and Matt asks Ella to go with him while he tries to explain himself and at the same time he tries to reenact the night that they’d first met on. Ella is torn between what she wants, feels, and thinks. She spends the night hating Matt, remembering what they had, and trying to figure out and understand what she wants, needs and what is right for her.
This book struck so many chords with me. When I was in my late teens/early 20s I was really into music. I dated a bass player. I fell in love with a boy named Matt. I dated a douche named Nick. I was jerked around by a boy who’s name started with a J. I was able to related to both Ella and Meg and I’ve been in both their shoes. I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted Ella to go but I could understand it. I feel that a lot of people will want a clear, clean cut answer, like Ella did. But if you’ve ever been in love with someone who hurt you and given them a second chance, then you will understand. Sometimes second chances are given, sometimes you just have to walk away.
Lauren Gibaldi’s writing is GORGEOUS. As I said, I wasn’t expecting much from this book, and was so happy when I just sank into the writing and got so lost in the story. She’s a writer to watch out for and I can’t wait to see where she goes!
If this book wasn’t on your radar and you love contemporary PUT IT THERE. Trust me.