Review | Late to the Party

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AUTHOR: Kelly Quindlen
CATEGORY/AUDIENCE: Young Adult
GENRE: Contemporary
RELEASE: April 21, 2020
PUBLISHER: Roaring Brook Press
LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Late to the Party: Seventeen is nothing like Codi Teller imagined.  She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world.  So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.  But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named Lydia.  The only problem? Codi never tells Maritza or JaKory about any of it.  From author Kelly Quindlen comes a poignant and deeply relatable story about friendship, self-acceptance, what it means to be a Real Teenager. Late to the Party is an ode to late bloomers and wallflowers everywhere.

Codi’s teen years aren’t turning out like she thought they would—she’s never been kissed and she’s definitely never been to a party. When her best friends JaKory and Maritza convince Codi to come to a party, Codi accidentally catches popular guy Ricky kissing another boy. Codi, who is also gay, finds herself caught up in an unexpected friendship with Ricky’s crowd that she doesn’t know how to tell JaKory and Maritza about. As her summer unfolds, Codi is drawn further into a new world that her friends aren’t a part of.

Late to the Party is a sweet summer story of friendship, first like, and growing up. This YA coming-of-age novel touches on so many important themes with an incredibly relatable protagonist. Codi is worrying that she’s not enough: not cool enough, not pretty enough, not special enough, not brave enough. Her story is very much about feeling stuck in your own way and being afraid to go after what you really want. Throughout the summer we watch Codi come into her own with the help of her newfound friends and her crush, Lydia. I loved reading about Codi learning to see herself and realize that she has so much to offer the world.

Codi also struggles with uncertainty about her future and friendship growing pains. As she, JaKory, and Maritza each find their own places during the summer, Codi deals with guilt over building new friendships. She hides her new friendship with Ricky, who quickly becomes another best friend, from JaKory and Maritza. Codi—just like so many of us—is afraid of her life changing, and wants her world to be bigger and to never change all at the same time. Her conflicting feelings about her future are so real, and something that many teen readers will recognize.

I adored the diverse cast of characters in this YA contemporary: our main character Codi is gay, Maritza is bi and Panamanian (an ethnicity I haven’t seen represented much in YA), and both JaKory and Ricky are queer and Black. There are several other supporting characters who are POC and/or queer. The inclusion of so many diverse queer characters was so authentic; I love reading books that show the role that community can play for a young queer person. Each character had their own dreams, passions, and quirks that made them each feel real—from passionate dancer Maritza to JaKory, who’s falling for his first crush online, to Ricky’s complicated feelings about his sexuality, to Lydia, who’s struggling with having not gotten into the “right” college. 

This was my first Kelly Quindlen book, but it won’t be my last. Her writing was easy to read and love, and I flew through this book very quickly. The pacing of the novel, which follows Codi through the summer, worked so perfectly for a coming-of-age story. Late to the Party is a touching, funny, and incredibly authentic summer story of change. It’s perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli, Amy Spalding, and Julie Murphy. I will shout about any YA book that celebrates queerness in all its nuance, and I’m happy to add Late to the Party to my list.

 

Thank you to Fierce Reads for the free review copy.

Happy reading! Ari

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