A sequel offers an ongoing melodrama set on a university campus.
Poole’s (Don’t Let Me Fall, 2013) new novel in her Village series brings back several characters from her earlier installment, notably college sophomore Ciara Capers, a smart and emotionally brave young woman returning to Aurbor Grove University after her adventures in the first book. AGU star quarterback Xander Oliver reappears as well. A sensitive “preacher’s kid,” Xander tries not to become ensnared in the typical partying ways of college (he remembers his religious upbringing often, with its calls for “a clean head, a clean heart, and clean hands”). Ciara rooms with her best friend, Faraji, and an archly competitive young woman named Brooklyn, with whom she often clashes. Mixed into this tense combination are romantic entanglements: Ciara’s clingy ex-boyfriend Trey continues to show up on her cellphone, for instance (“It’s a never-ending saga with him,” she tells Brooklyn. “Every time he calls or texts me, I have to relive all my mistakes”). And while Faraji’s boyfriend, Nick, provides her with a steady source of emotional support, he also delivers some complications, since he and Ciara earlier had a brief fling they’ve decided to keep a secret from Faraji. In steady and well-controlled dramatic advancements, Poole shapes the events of her story to bring Ciara and Xander closer together despite the schemes of Brooklyn and the boorish antics of Xander’s squad mates. Most memorably, the author creates a richly believable atmosphere of college life—the parties, the academic pressures, the swings between tedium and debauchery, the struggles of students to forge their own identities as they move into adulthood, the emotional baggage of ex-lovers and new attachments, etc. (Poole also refreshingly works in an element of real-world, old-fashioned financial concerns, an aspect usually left out of campus fiction.) The action of the book takes place independently from its predecessor, although the two novels are best read in sequence; together, they present a warmly convincing tale of 21st-century university life.
An emotionally satisfying story of two college students finding love amid chaos.