Ahh, summer days in a small midwestern town when you’re a high school junior-soon-to-be-senior working the usual low-wage jobs, attending summer band practice, planning for college and worrying about just how far away you want to get from home once you graduate. Sophie, Terrance, Dash, Flora and Brit, have grown up together and been friends for ages, naming themselves the WWYSE (Where Will You Spend Eternity?), a chat group that “contractually requires” each member to respond immediately.
Each of them deals with issues: Sophie’s older sister Ciara left for college and she misses her tremendously; Dash is tentatively stepping out of the closet; Flora’s military dad died and his absence is sorely felt at home; Terrance is shyly attracted to Flora; and, finally, Brit’s brother was involved in a drug-related incident that physically and emotionally wrecked him, and she wants vengeance on the guy who caused it.
While all these undercurrents are swirling around, Terrance and Sophie, the incoming vice-president and president of the Marching Pride of Acadia Student Fundraising Committee, are tasked with helping the Booster Club raise enough money to send the band to the next Tournament of Roses Parade. Sophie sees this as a great opportunity to beef up her academic resume and decides that asking country-music superstar Megan Pleasant to return to her hometown for a benefit concert is the answer to the band’s problem. Meantime, mysterious hot boy August Conlin moves to Acadia to stay with his newly-discovered half-brother Kyle and is gradually inducted into the WWYSE friend group.
This well-crafted book captures that period in high school life in such an evocative way that I can’t imagine any YA reader not responding to it. Relationships between the WWYSE are complicated but realistic. All the major topics are addressed: How do you leave home and then return the same person? Is it being “mediocre” to want to stay where you love to be? Can longstanding friendships survive betrayal? Is it possible to make reparations and get forgiveness from people you’ve wronged? Do you have to lose something to appreciate it? Surprise after surprise hits as the story winds to its close, and readers will appreciate how everything ties together satisfactorily.
Sexual activity between some of the characters is implied. There is, regrettably, frequent use of sexual slang as well as common YA and religious profanity in their conversations. Teenage drinking, drug experimentation, and some violence are also present.
Categories: Controversial YA Topics, Death and Grieving, Grief, LGBTQIA, Mysteries, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Social Media, Summer Camps