I was kindly sent a copy of Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale from the publisher via Netgalley. All views are my own.
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?
Trigger warnings: manipulative friendship, mention of casual drug usage (weed, not shown on the page), alcohol consumption (on page), alcohol abuse
I absolutely adored this book, for many reasons. First of all, the setting was absolutely perfect. Our main character Babe lives in a tiny seaside town called Oar’s Rest, and it was perfect. I lived in Bermuda for most of my life, which is basically the epitome of small seaside town. I have to assume that the author has lived in a small town, because everything was so accurate. The tourists, the way that businesses operate, the way that everyone becomes a little bit different in the summertime. It felt like Oar’s Rest was a character itself.
I also loved Babe. She is a complicated character who has equally complicated relationships with her mother and her friends. She has ambitions, but not to go to university. Instead, she wants to take over her local coffee shop, the Busy Bean. She wants to stay in her home town, even while her peers are leaving. I thought she was such a refreshing change from most main characters in YA.
Babe is also one of the few bisexual female characters in a book who ends up in a relationship with a man. This is exactly my own experience, so it was great to see! It was also really nice that the majority (if not all) of the other characters are 100% accepting of her sexuality. However, I didn’t think that this acceptance made the book unrealistic. Babe’s ex-girlfriend kept their relationship a secret because she was afraid to come out to her parents, for fear that they wouldn’t accept her. This is definitely a situation that I’ve seen happen in real life.
I wish that I had waited to read Small Town Hearts during summer, though! It was such a summer-y book, and the fact that the romance took place over summer was such an important plot point. If you can, wait until it gets warm to read it! I was also not particularly interested in the love interest, Levi, but I liked Babe and the rest of the book enough that this didn’t matter to me too much.
All in all? Small Town Hearts might be one of my new favourite books. I can’t wait to read Lillie Vale’s next book!