From the first moment I read an Emery Lord novel, I knew that reading her words would be like sinking in to the most comfortable bed, curling up with the most relaxing blanket. Her stories and characters are like walking in to a warm house where you know you’re loved and accepted. I always know that my heart will be broken and put back together within the pages, no matter what is going on in the outside world or with my personal life and I’m so grateful to Emery as a writer for creating such accepting and wonderful characters and worlds.
It was an absolute treat to read The Map From Here To There, th much anticipated sequel to her incredible novel, The Start of Me and You mostly because I felt such a connection to Paige and her story but also because it wasn’t clear that there would be more after the hopeful ending of the first book. I’m so glad there was.
Paige Hancock’s spent her junior year putting herself back together after the horrible accident involving her first boyfriend. Her grief created a hole that anxiety quickly filled and she was determined to start again, creating a planned list to enjoy the school year again. By the end of The Start of Me and You, Paige had grown out of her comfort zone, opened herself (and her heart) up again and felt closer to normal. But what happens after that? What happens after happily ever after?
Paige’s senior year becomes a mixture of anxiety and expectation in The Map From Here To There. The pressure she feels to commit to her new boyfriend, Max, spirals out of control when college decisions bring their separate future’s into focus. Added to the strain to be a perfect student, friend, and daughter, Paige feels herself stretched beyond her limit and must take action to find a happy medium, one where anxiety and fear won’t rule her life.
It was refreshing to read about a character with anxiety, one that created a funnel of indecision. I’ve felt that before, not only as a senior in high school but as a young adult as well. Reading about Paige’s struggle with it and the way her friends and family buoyed her was cathartic. I loved seeing such a supportive cast of characters, young girls and boys who lifted each other up rather than tearing each other down. There’s no needless unnecessary drama. Characters who fight When Paige’s anxiety about her own future bleeds into her friendships and creates rifts, her friends are ready to bounce back and support her when she tells them the truth. Her parents too, are accepting of her struggles and ready to help her when she’s ready to ask. I loved seeing that and it felt so hopeful to see these relationships play out in books. Like her friends and her relationship with Max, her boyfriend, her family relationships are flawed but loving and supportive.
And I LOVE Max. There’s a reason that Bloomsbury gave out “I heart Max Watson” buttons as promo for The Start Of You and Me. Max is quintessential book boyfriend material. He’s sweet and witty and seems to be the perfect partner to Paige, who is a mess of indecision and overthinking. He smooths her sharp anxious edges throughout the book, even when she begins to stress about their relationship.
Overall, it was really amazing to read more of my favorite characters and get a glimpse at what happened to Paige after her junior year. It was important to see that more hope and happy endings can occur when you think the story is over. It felt more realistic to see Paige struggle, even when things seemed perfect.
This book further cements my understanding that everything Emery Lord writes is perfect and I hope readers to get to see for themselves. I highly recommend reading Open Road Summer as well, which is one of my favorite books of all time. If you haven’t read Emery, you need to get on it, immediately. Her books are like the first warm day after winter, the first smell of salt air at the beach, the thing you need the most. Her characters might be different from you but they’re so real and wonderful that you’ll find something to connect to them and you’ll no doubt feel better after reading.