First, we’d like to announce some exciting news. *Drum roll please*
We’ve been featured on Feedspot’s Top 100 Young Adult Book Blogs!
We are so honored to be ranked 11th on this list with some of our favorite YA book blogs. Check out the full list here!
Okay, now on to the review!
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, then you know that we love YA contemporaries. We recently took a deep dive into the black hole that is Goodreads and found Emma Mills’ latest release, Lucky Caller. Now, of course we couldn’t just read one of her books….so during quarantine we embarked on a mission to read all five of her publications. Our job? Do the recon on the books so that you, our lovely readers, do not have to get your hands dirty scrolling through pages of Goodreads reviews.
We’d like to start off by saying that Emma Mills’ books are laugh-out-loud hilarious. Her writing style is engaging, her dialogue is superbly written, and her characters have memorable personalities. Basically, all the things we love most in the universe! Also, Mills’ books take place in the same “world,” where cultural phenomena, like bands, actors, etc., are mentioned throughout all of her stories. She so seamlessly weaves the books together via these little details (though none of the books are related in any way/are not companion novels). We also love how Mills’ books are diverse, in terms of race, sexual orientation, etc.
Here is our ranked list of Emma Mills’ YA books:
1. This Adventure Ends
When Sloane moves from New York to Florida, she is not expecting to fall in with a group of friends after years of flying solo. There’s Vera, a social-media star, and Gabe, Vera’s twin brother and the most serious person Sloane has ever met. As she grows closer to the twins and their friends, she realizes that this group is what she has been waiting for. When a painting by the twins’ late mom goes missing, Sloane embarks on a journey to track it down with her new friend Remy. In the process, she becomes closer to the twins and forms real friendships with people for the first time in her life. She also may fall in love along the way. This is a story about friendship, family, and first love!
Okay, so we know the description seems lacking— but trust us, the heart of this book is in the story itself. You’ll find yourself wanting the twins and their friends to be your own friends IRL, just like Sloane did. Each of Mills’ characters is unique and well thought out. Vera is full of life, while her brother is more serious but also incredibly deliberate and thoughtful. Sloane herself is a bad ass MC. She is witty and super charming, and she does not take crap from anyone. When she meets the twins at a party, she does not expect to fall into their friend group, but it happens so naturally that the reader does not question it. Sloane forms a tight bond with the twins, and learns that when Gabe Fuller befriends you, he has your back for life. Gabe and Sloane— much to Sloane’s surprise— form a close bond…that may or may not grow into a super adorable romance . Remy and Aubrey, two other members of the friend group, are exes trying to figure out why their relationship did not work and how to navigate friendship. Lastly, there is the enigmatic Frank Sanger, who makes the reader LOL throughout the entire book. Also, Sloane’s dad is a Nicholas Sparks-type romance author who writes fan fiction on the side about a teen werewolf drama. How fantastic is that?! He is hilarious and extremely supportive of Sloane. More importantly, there are healthy female friendships in this story! When the characters face conflict, Mills did not pit the women against one another.
The mystery of the painting really keeps the reader on their toes, and you find yourself rooting Sloane on as she tries to find the painting for her new friends. At first, Sloane does not know how to be a friend to the twins— she has little experience in this department after all— but she uses her secret plan to get the painting back as a means for showing the twins how much she cares about and appreciates them. Watching Sloane learn how to be a good friend is endearing. She had great character development throughout the novel. Not to mention that she was incredibly relatable. She was goofy and sarcastic, and uses humor to cover up her insecurities.
Now, you are probably wondering, “how about the romance?” Well our answer to you is: ADORABLE. Gabe does not immediately seem like someone the reader would see Sloane with, but as Sloane slowly removes some of his layers, the reader cannot deny their chemistry. Gabe has a harder exterior than Remy and Frank, two members of the friend group, but he has an incredible heart. Sloane also has a wall up with her new friends because she has never had to be vulnerable with people before. Watching these two grow closer was great and also entertaining— their banter was witty and hilarious. They had a very interesting dynamic that could go from light hearted and witty to serious within a few lines of dialogue.
We absolutely loved this book, so if you are looking for a YA contemporary to fill your time during quarantine, definitely check it out!
2. First & Then
Devon Tennyson is blissfully happy with the thought of her senior year being unremarkable. She wants nothing more than to attend Friday night football games and watch her best friend (and long-time crush), Cas, from the stands. She also wants to forget about her impending future after high school. Those plans come to a halt when her cousin Foster, a social outlier, moves in with her family. When Devon and Foster wind up in the same gym class, she thinks it’s the end of the world. Things go from bad to worse when Ezra, the superior (and maddeningly hot) star running back joins their class. Ezra discovers that Foster has a surprising natural talent for football, enlisting him as the team’s newest kicker. As Foster and Ezra work together on football, Devon finds that she cannot escape Ezra…and the little flutter her heart gets whenever they see one another.
We should note that we are naturally predisposed to loving this book because it is pitched as Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights. Both of which make our hearts happy. Fitzwilliam Darcy is one of Claire’s dream men and Ezra fits the bill perfectly. We loved the football aspect of this book as well. Foster and Devon started out having a rocky relationship, but football brought them closer. It was heartwarming to see Devon warm up to Foster, who in turn started to view Devon as his sister. We appreciated that Mills touched on deeper topic of complicated family relationships (Foster’s mom suffered from drug addiction) while still maintaining the humor and lightheartedness of the love story. Devon was relatable in that she was nervous about the future, including college, what she wanted from life, etc. Who in their life hasn’t found themselves in a similar situation?
Now, let’s talk love interest. Ezra was a dream boat and we loved that he had hidden depth. We love a good hate-to-love trope, and we enjoyed watching Devon chip away at Ezra’s tough exterior. Their scenes together always left us dying for more, mainly because their banter was hilarious. Devon did not take any crap from him, and we liked that she pushed his buttons. They both grew from their interactions with one another, and we were invested in their respective journeys.
Definitely pick this one up— it’s Mills’ first publication!
3. Foolish Hearts
Foolish Hearts follows high school senior Claudia, who accidentally eavesdrops on the breakup of her school’s it couple, Paige and Iris. When Iris discovers that Claudia witnessed the entire showdown, she is humiliated and sets her sights on making Claudia’s life difficult when the two are paired up for a school project (which they totally bomb). To make up for the poor performance on their paper, Iris and Claudia are forced to work together on the class production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is a co-production between Claudia’s all-girl school and the neighboring boy’s academy. While working on the costume design, Claudia learns to navigate a new world of friendships and romance with Gideon, one of the goofiest and most charming boys she’s ever met. She also may learn a thing or two about the importance of expanding your horizons and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
This book was amazing and so endearing! Fun fact: this is Mills’ highest rated book on Goodreads, in case you were wondering. Claudia was an incredibly entertaining and relatable MC. She— like all of Mills’ MC’s— is witty as heck and uses sarcasm to hide her emotions. In particular, Claudia is afraid of getting her heart broken after her ex-boyfriend said he did not think he felt love for her in the way one is supposed to feel for their partner. Ever since, she has been afraid of being vulnerable with the people she loves, including love interests and friends. When she is paired up with Iris, she begins to realize that there is more to her than Claudia thought. Iris is cold and hard on the surface, but on the inside she is struggling with her parents not knowing about her relationship with Paige and people not liking her at school. The two butt heads at first but form a heartwarming friendship and bond…including over a boy band (which, another fun fact: Claire loves One Direction and actually named her corgi after Harry Styles, so this plot point made her heart warm and fuzzy). More importantly, Mills tells the story of the importance of strong female friendships, and we couldn’t have loved this book more!
The side characters were also incredibly well-developed. Noah and Gideon, the main male characters, were best friends and had a strong bond as well. Until joining the production, Claudia only had one friend, who attended a different school. She had never opened herself up to the possibility of other friendships until meeting Gideon and his friends. But along the way she learns to love them. The cast of characters were all unique and entertaining in their own way. Gideon in particular was hilarious. He was so witty and goofy, he really brought out the best in Claudia.
Their romance was a-freaking-dorable. Gideon and Claudia had amazing banter. Of course, this love story was not without its complications, as Claudia misunderstood parts of Gideon’s character at first due to her past relationship issues. Watching the two come together was worth it in the end!
We completely understand why this is Mills’ highest rated book on Goodreads! It has heart and character. Definitely do not skip out on this!
4. Famous in a Small Town
Sophie lives in a small town in Illinois, but it has never felt small. She has four best friends that she loves fiercely. What more could she need? When Sophie’s high school marching band is selected to march in the Rose Parade, she is tasked with raising money to get them to LA. Her plan is to persuade country star Megan Pleasant, her town’s only claim to fame, to perform at Acadia’s fall festival. The only issue is that Megan has sworn that she will never step foot in Acadia again. With her best friends, and the new kid in town, August, in tow, Sophie tries to unravel the mystery around why Megan won’t return, all while saving her band and maybe falling in love along the way.
This book was super cute. The mystery behind why Megan wouldn’t return to Acadia was the basis of the story and drove most of the plot points. It kept us guessing from start to finish, and the real reason she wouldn’t return was….unexpected. Not necessarily a let down, but not what we had in mind when we first set out reading this book. Sophie’s friends— in true Mills fashion— did not disappoint. Each one had their own issue they had to work past, but in the end it made the friend group stronger. The addition of August also complicated matters, as he had to find his place in the group. Their interactions as a group were always fun and unexpected.
August and Sophie also had a cute romance, but, unlike Mills’ other books, this one was a bit more insta-lovey. Sophie immediately liked August from the beginning, which took away from the “chase” so common in YA books. We did not hate their romance, we just weren’t as invested as usual. We do really like that they both grew from knowing one another. Sophie had some issues that she needed to work past, stemming from her relationship with her sister, while August had some much needed soul searching to do. The sub-plot between Sophie and her sister was well executed. We won’t give it away, but make sure you pay attention to the text messages between the two. In the end, we really enjoyed Sophie and August’s story.
If you are looking for a light summer read, then this is the book for you!
5. Lucky Caller
Lucky Caller is Mills’ most recent YA release. The book follows high school senior Nina, who is enrolled in a radio broadcasting class— which she expects to be an easy-A. Little did she know that her show would start out as a complete disaster. Her team includes her former best friend, Jamie— who she has not spoken to in years, the charismatic and goofy Joydeep, and volleyball star, Sasha. Too bad none of them have anything in common. When they decide to do a show with 90s themed music, they expect it to be a walk in the park. The school’s archives has primarily 90s themed music, and as a music-only show, they have to do very little talking, what could go wrong? When their teacher tells them to spice up their show, they concoct a plan to bring a surprise Indiana-born celebrity— Nina’s radio host father— on as a guest star, dangling clues about the person’s identity during their show. When their show gains more attention, an out-of-control internet rumor about the guest’s identity starts a war between two fandoms. At the same time, Nina’s mom is re-marrying and Nina’s life as she knows it is about to change, leaving Nina to discover the importance of losing control.
Nina was incredibly relatable. She really struggled with change, and the major family upheaval she was facing proved challenging. As the book went on, Nina adapted and learned to accept that some change is out of your control. Nina also had an extremely tight bond with her sisters, Rose and Sidney. Their relationship was incredible and made the story better. Nina also had to learn to accept Dan, her soon-to-be step-father (dubbed the “Dantist” because he is Dan…the dentist…get it?).
Nina’s new friends were also a joy. They had some rocky moments in the beginning, but they learned to co-exist. Nina did not have many friends outside of her siblings and casual school friendships, so it was great to see her learn how to grow close to other people. She really grew into her own throughout the book. Joydeep and Sasha were hilarious as co-hosts of the radio show. The friend group had a great banter and closeness, like usual in Mills books. Additionally, Jamie was unlike any other Mills love interest. He was kind and a bit on the quiet side. He was witty as well, but in a less confident sort of way, which was refreshing. Their romance was very sweet, and it was kind of a slow-burn because the two had to overcome a past issue from their childhood.
Overall, we enjoyed this book. The reason we gave it three stars is not because we did not like it, we just did not feel as connected to the MC as we did in other Mills books. Nina was entertaining, but she lacked the same je ne sais quoi as Sloane, Devon, and Claudia. She also made some questionable decisions in the beginning part of the book that made us want to shake sense into her.