An actor and memoirist’s debut novel for teens explores the exhilaration—and heartbreak—of passionate first love.
Fifteen-year-old Wren attends a life-changing party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (her father is its director), where she connects with her older brother’s new friend, the charismatic, talented musician Nolan. Though they’ve just met, the two feel a magical connection and slip away to another dance party with Nolan’s friends, ruining Wren’s borrowed designer gown and upsetting Wren’s parents, who promptly ground her. Smitten Wren persists in seeing Nolan, despite her parents’ wishes. Gillies captures the impulsive nature of teen love and its consequences along with nicely detailed secondary characters (little sister Dinah’s a cutie with her own cooking show; Wren’s parents draw sympathy with their real-time reactions to Wren’s relationship). Authentically depicted mother-daughter clashes allow readers to empathize with besotted Wren and outraged Nan—especially when Wren abruptly abandons long-cherished dreams of attending an art program in France to be near Nolan. Occasionally, amateurish moments disrupt (some dialogue sounds stilted; some transitions are announced at chapter beginnings). Still, readers willing to overlook such moments will find themselves engaged by Wren and her headlong dash into love; the lack of tidy happy endings underscores the grittily real feeling of the story’s emotional affairs.
An imperfect but authentic look at teen love and betrayal that will entertain and touch readers. (Fiction. 12-16)