*We received this book in exchange for an honest review.*
After spending her first semester at a community college, Andie Rose is ecstatic to transfer to Blue Ridge State. Both of Andie’s parents attended Blue Ridge State, so she can’t wait to be part of the family tradition.
Andie has her whole future mapped out. She’s going to graduate with a degree is psychology, become a therapist and eventually become credible enough to be a self-help icon. Also, she plans on spending forever with her high school sweetheart, Connor. It doesn’t matter that they took time off from their relationship last semester, now that they’re at the same school, everything can be perfect.
But when Andie arrives at college, nothing goes as planned for her. First of all, Connor transferred to her former community college. Also, the course work is much harder than she anticipated and she feels like her dad isn’t taking an interest in her life. At least she made some new friends, including Shay, her roommate, Milo, her RA and Valeria, her tutor.
All of Andie’s new friends agree — Andie is too focused on fixing other people’s problems and she needs to start living her own life. Through all the excitement and challenges from college, Andie starts discover that maybe her previous plans aren’t what she wants anymore. Maybe keeping an open mind and having fun aren’t such a bad thing after all.
We’ve read all of Emma Lord’s previous books (Tweet Cute, You Have a Match, When You Get the Chance) and we have to say, Begin Again is our new favorite. We love finding college YA books, which are becoming more popular. We also imagined that Blue Ridge States was set in Virginia. While this was never confirmed, it felt like the school was inspired by UVA in Charlottesville.
The most important aspect about Begin Again is the life lesson. Andie wants to plan everything, fix everything and stick to a rigid view on how her life should go. It’s her way of maintaining control. We enjoyed Lord’s commentary on this and how she handled Andie’s character development. It wasn’t quick, which felt realistic. Andie had to experience college to get that she need to just start living, instead of trying to make everything perfect.
Lord did a great job of capturing the feeling of leaving home for the first time. Everything is new, exciting and a tad terrifying. But she gave Andie a great support system. Shay was an awesome roommate from the start. She was strong, confident and never afraid to be honest with Andie.
Then there’s Milo, the adorable and witty RA. He’s going through his own problems, so it’s sweet the way he and Andie connect. Then Valeria, who becomes part of the group after she starts tutoring Andie in statistics. We loved the group dynamic and how they attended trivia nights and other events together.
As for Connor, we knew he was bad news from the start. However, we get that Andie stayed with him. He was comforting and familiar wen everything else felt overwhelming. But as the story went on, we learned that Connor was an even bigger jerk than expected. He’s definitely a symbol of getting over her past. It was obvious that Andie should be with Milo instead. It just took a while for the to get over their past relationship trauma and let each other in.
As for Andie’s family, it was nice to see that Andie gained the confidence to confront her dad about is absent parenting style. When Andie took control over her life, she decided it was time to tell the truth, no matter what happened. It was nice to see her improve her family dynamic and watch her dad try to make amends.
Begin Again was definitely a character driven story. While the plot highlighted events that happened on campus and Andie learned more about a new hobby, broadcast journalism, the heart of the story was the characters and their personal growth. It was impossible not to cheer them on.
Overall, we had a great time reading this contemporary and completely swooned over Milo. Begin Again releases on January 24th. We highly recommend it and can’t wait to add it to our list of the best ya books set in college.