Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett
Jenn Bennett is one of my favorite YA romance authors. Although I adore a “totes adorbs” rom com, Bennett’s romances are more mature in several ways - her characters are older (usually just graduated from high school) and her main characters are dealing with complicated issues, not just the ups and downs of falling in love. What makes Bennett stand out, though, are her settings. Sarah Dessen is the only other YA author I’ve read that writes her settings with such care and significance and almost makes them characters in the story (BTW, I can think of no higher praise to give a YA author than to compare him/her to Dessen).
In Chasing Lucky, the setting is a tiny, seaside town in Rhode Island that dates back to colonial times. The bookstore that Josie and her single mom are returning to town to run for the summer has been in their family for generations (it was formerly a printing house notorious for printing seditious revolutionary handbills; the very printing press responsible for those papers is a fixture in the shop). The last time Josie lived in Beauty, RI, she was a child. After a raging fight with her grandmother (a final straw kind of fight), Josie’s mom loaded her and their stuff in their pink Beetle and began their hardscrabble life of moving from town to town and ended Josie’s friendship with Lucky, the boy with whom she was inseparable. Ten years have passed. Grandma is off to Nepal for a year and reaches out after all this time to beg her daughter to come home to run the shop. Josie is conflicted about their return. On one hand - the bookshop, the seaside, Beauty, stability. On the other hand - family secrets, small-town gossip, Lucky. What follows is the story of Josie wading through the garbage of the past, discovering truths, and rebuilding her relationship with Lucky.
Although the re-establishment of Josie and Lucky’s friendship and the development of their romance is the main plot of this book, Bennett fully fleshes out other facets of Josie’s life - her relationship with her mother, her photography, her absent and famous photographer-father, her family’s history, and so much more. It’s all terribly interesting. And Lucky is just extra especially swoony - leather jacket-wearing, motorcycle riding, scarred bad boy who welds scrap metal into art when he’s not working on boats at his family’s boat repair shop or attending huge Greek family cookouts. He’s also willing to die for his cat. Josie, this boy is a KEEPER.
Chasing Lucky is the perfect escape read. Save it for a day you really need to get away. Perhaps a day like today - the day after the 2020 Presidential Election, awaiting results . . .