Publication date : March 19th, 2019
Publisher : Swoon Reads | Macmillan
Genre : Young Adult | Contemporary
Page Count: 336
Synopsis : Rule #1 – Never fall for a summer boy.
Fresh out of high school, Babe Vogel should be thrilled to have the whole summer at her fingertips. She loves living in her lighthouse home in the sleepy Maine beach town of Oar’s Rest and being a barista at the Busy Bean, but she’s totally freaking out about how her life will change when her two best friends go to college in the fall. And when a reckless kiss causes all three of them to break up, she may lose them a lot sooner. On top of that, her ex-girlfriend is back in town, bringing with her a slew of memories, both good and bad.
And then there’s Levi Keller, the cute artist who’s spending all his free time at the coffee shop where she works. Levi’s from out of town, and even though Babe knows better than to fall for a tourist who will leave when summer ends, she can’t stop herself from wanting to know him. Can Babe keep her distance, or will she break the one rule she’s always had – to never fall for a summer boy? (From Goodreads)
*I received an Arc of this book from the publisher for the blog tour, this has in no way affected my opinion*
CW: Recreational drug use, alcohol consumption, alcohol abuse (wuth dubious consent), manipulative friendship.
I have been excited for Small Town Hearts for MONTHS so of course I jumped on the occasion to read and review it when the blog tour was announced. And to no one’s surprise, much less mine, I ended up absolutely loving it. This is the kind of book that sneaks up on you, it sneaks its way into your heart and you only realize how much you love it when it’s too late to go back, when you blink up from the book and realize that you just want more.
The writing style is one of my favourite things about Small Town Hearts, if not my most favourite thing. It sets the summer vibes very early on, but that’s not all it does, it also has this nostalgic, almost melancholic feel to it that takes the story beyond the fluffy territory (yes it’s fluffy, yes it’s adorable) and makes it bittersweet, making you feel this inexplicable sense of longing that you only understand the source of later on in the story. Lillie Vale’s writing is gorgeous and very quotable too, she knows how to put feelings into words, then takes those words and pokes at your heart with them, going “hey, hi, I’m here and I get you”. And ugh, I just, my words are failing me but this book made my heart ache so much, but not because it’s sad (it’s not… not really) but because it’s real.
I went into this story for the romance and came out with so much more. Everything about it felt so real that I hated it sometimes (not really, but you know what I mean) because it hit way too close to home. I loved how heavily it dealt with break-ups, especially friendship break-ups, with how painful and, sometimes, necessary they are. Which is something we so rarely see in books. It talks about how you can outgrow your friends, how they can outgrow you or how sometimes you’re just not good for each other anymore, maybe for a while, maybe forever but you needs space to figure it out. And that is so incredibly important to show teens.
Small Town Hearts is also very introspective in that way. The main character, Babe, tries to sort through her feelings about her best friends, losing them and whether it’s a good or bad thing through most of the book, and while she does so, we can see her grow from “I never want to let go of them and don’t want anything in my life to change, ever” to “Well, maybe this is something that was needed, and maybe now is time for us to discover who we are without each other” which are all sentiments that can resonate with every person who has broken up with a friend before. Or has been broken up with.
Babe is a bisexual café manager and baker (ALL!! THE!! FOODS!!!) who is content with the life she has, her little light house, her little town and her café that she hopes to buy one day, and I never knew I needed something like this until I read it. I love how not a big deal it is that she doesn’t plan on going to college, how everything she wants from life is at arms’ reach, right where she is and that she’s happy with it, and this is something else teens need to see. That just because your dreams and the life you want for yourself doesn’t include college, doesn’t make it less good, or less fulfilling, as long as it makes you happy and your heart full, that’s what matters. Her attachement to her small beach town was understandable because it feels like a little family where everyone looks out for everyone and they all care about each other so deeply that it just makes sense.
Babe is a mess of conflicted feelings which, albeit very understandable, got somewhat frustrating, especially since a lot of her internal turmoil could’ve been solved if she voices her worries and communicated better, especially with her love interest. But as someone who tends to internalize a lot as well, I couldn’t blame her for it. But yes you could find me frowning and yell-whispering “JUST COMMUNICATE ALREADY” at my phone a lot while reading this. That being said I loved reading her growth through the book and how, very slowly, she started coming out of her shell, allowing herself to change and doing what scares her the most: Letting someone close enough that they can hurt her. Which is her biggest struggle throughout the book.
I love Levi, her love interest, with my whole heart and then some. He’s an artist and has such a calming energy to him that I couldn’t help but smile every time she was interacting with him. He’s so soft and open about his feelings, hopes, dreams and even his insecurities. He lets Babe in with such ease that you can’t help but root for them. He’s also so thoughtful and I absolutely adored how the author portrayed their relationship, the tentativeness and uncertainty of it at first, and how organic the development was, especially with her including not only *key* moments but also the small day to day things, them doing mundane activities and just talking about life. These especially made my heart melt.
Next character I want to talk about is Penny, and BOI do I have a mouthful to say about her. I disliked her so much that just her breathing in Babe’s vicinity annoyed me, she’s lowkey manipulative and the way she treats Babe, even before the conflict, irked me and she was so self-centered that she never saw when she made Babe uncomfortable, as long as she got her to do whatever it is she wanted. THEN, after the kiss happens (not a spoiler, it’s in the synopsis), homegirl completely lashed out, which is understandable on the one hand because she feels hurt and betrayed, but on the other hand, she takes it too far and becomes downright cruel. Which is something that was definitely interesting to read because friendships, especially those that used to be super tight-knit, tend to go VERY south when the break-up happens. One thing I liked is that Babe was *still* there for Penny when she needed her most, even after she rejected her, she never gave up on her, even while letting go of their friendship.
On the other hand, I adored Lucy and how she was just a steady and calming presence in Babe’s life. Her friendship and the way she made that she was there for Babe without ever overwhelming her and allowing her space to hurt and grieve is something that I loved. I also loved her as a character, how honest and funny she is.
The ending made my heart so so full. It was so satisfying in a way where it was sweet and hopeful and still realistic and somewhat open, allowing the reader to ask “What’s next?” and answering that question however they see fit. I HIGHLY recommend Small Town Hearts if you’re looking for a cute summer romance that will leave your heart aching but smiling.
About the Author
Lillie Vale, upon discovering she could not be one of Santa’s elves or attend Hogwarts, decided to become a writer to create a little magic of her own. Enjoying the romantic and eerie in equal measure, she’s probably always writing a book where the main characters kiss or kill. Born in Mumbai, she has lived in many U.S. states, and now resides in an Indiana college town where the corn whispers and no one has a clue that she is actually the long-lost caps lock queen. She can be reached on Twitter @LillieLabyrinth and Instagram @labyrinthspine. Small Town Hearts is her debut novel.
Lily @ Sprinkles of Dreams – guest post
Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books – interview
Eloise @ Eloise Writes – review + aesthetic
Elin @ Annotated Paperbacks – creative
Morgan @ The Bookish Beagle – review + creative
Fanna @ Fannatality – review + creative
Syndney @ Sydneys.books – creative bookstagram
Fadwa @ Word Wonders – review
Tiffany @ Read by Tiffany – creative
Haley @ Fangirl Fury – review + creative
Romie @ Romie We Deserve Love – creative
Many many thanks to Mana for the gorgeous Blog Tour Banner. Check out her portfolio here: https://t.co/g0zYi3KXOY
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Small Town Hearts? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.