Nantucket Red by Leila Howland | Review

Posted November 4, 2015 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Books, Reviews / 4 Comments

Nantucket Red by Leila Howland | ReviewNantucket Red (Nantucket, #2) by Leila Howland
Also by this author: Nantucket Blue (Nantucket, #1), Hello, Sunshine
Series: Nantucket #2
on May 13th 2014
Pages: 288 •Goodreads

Cricket Thompson's lifetime of overachieving has paid off: she's headed to Brown University in the fall, with a spot on the lacrosse team and a scholarship that covers almost everything. Who knew living in the dorm cost money? An Ivy League education seems to mean living at home for the next four years.
When Cricket is offered the chance to earn enough cash to afford a real college experience, she heads back to Nantucket for the summer. But the faraway island challenges Cricket in ways she hadn't anticipated. It's hard to focus on earning money for next year, when she finds her world opening up in entirely new ways-to art, to travel, and, most unexpectedly, to a future completely different from the one she has been working toward her whole life. A friendship blossoms with Ben, the gorgeous surfer and bartender who encourages Cricket to be free, even as she smarts at the pain of seeing Zack, her first love, falling for her worst enemy.
But one night, when Cricket finally lets herself break all her own rules, she realizes she may have ruined her carefully constructed future with one impulsive decision. Cricket must dig deep to fight for her future, discovering that success isn't just about reaching goals, but also about listening to what she's been trying to ignore-her own heart.

My Review

There’s something about Leila Howland’s writing that makes it compulsively readable among the huge selection of YA contemporaries on the market today. I think it’s due to a combination of the dreamy, beachy setting of Nantucket along with her willingness to go just a little farther than other YA authors in her heavier content, from sex to grief to bullying. There’s a rawness around Cricket’s experiences that makes the narrative hit home a little more without compromising its status as a fun, beachy read.

The first thing that I, (and many other reviewers, I’m sure), have to bring up is that the beginning of the book goes fast. It picks up only a few weeks after Nantucket Blue ends and drops a huge bomb on you early on, View Spoiler » It rushes through Cricket’s senior year in just a few chapters in order to get to the aspect that readers really crave: the quaint yet fabulously wealthy summer on Nantucket.

Returning to Nantucket in Red really felt like a convincing return to characters who had gone through realistic change over the course of the year. Cricket is less responsible and more focused on questioning than excelling. Liz is now the new Gavin, and Jules doesn’t ignite quite as much fury in me when I read about her. Cricket’s redefining the relationships in her life, especially with Jules’ family, and Nina’s presence still hovers awkwardly yet kindly above them all. A new romantic interest appears in the form of an older guy who Cricket uses to experiment with and try other sides of herself. Overall, Cricket faces a mini-existential crisis of sorts, which leads her to finding herself in a very compromising situation, and the fallout forces her to reevaluate her childish behavior all summer and focus on some major life choices.

Though I found Cricket’s behavior cringe-worthy throughout most of the novel, I appreciate that she screwed up in some pretty bad ways and had to face realistic consequences to deal with afterwards, consequences that had even me, who is usually less than sympathetic toward characters’ who’s stupid behavior gets them into trouble (it’s the Capricorn in me), nervous for the outcome.

While Nantucket Red really focuses on Cricket’s coming of age and debating which path to travel down post high-school, there is the continuation of some themes from Nantucket Blue that I really appreciate in this series. I like how the story shows the service industry side of Nantucket, as the YA genre is already over saturated with series featuring the fabulous wealthy and shockingly unsupervised teenagers of such expensive destinations. I admired watching Cricket work as a waitress and house keeper in this series, and that it didn’t seek to portray her as a stereotypical girl in poverty; rather, she’s middle class with a good life but has to work on her own to provide for the extras she wants out of life. I also like how there wasn’t a complete demonization of the upper class either, as Cricket is heavily involved of the lives of Jules and Zach who are definitely wealthy but not obnoxious about it (well, at least not all of the time).

Overall: Nantucket Red delivers on all of its promises from Nantucket Blue, from the dreamy setting of Nantucket to the painfully raw teenage emotions and hormones raging inside of its characters, while still not falling into the category of being a “heavy” or “issue” book. It features realistic character development (for better and for worse) and doesn’t hide any of its characters flaws or triumphs. While there were aspects of the characters story arcs I disliked, I have to acknowledge that they were well done. A solid contemporary read, Nantucket Red indulges readers just as much as Nantucket Blue does, although it does likewise deliver on some of the more problematic elements from earlier in the series, such as slut-shaming, girl-hate, etc. (which is what ultimately kept it from being a 5 star read for me). If you liked Nantucket Blue you should definitely pick up this sequel, as it really adds depth to its’ characters stories.


Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Goodreads Challenge

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4 responses to “Nantucket Red by Leila Howland | Review

  1. I really enjoyed Nantucket Red! I liked getting to revisit Nantucket with Cricket again, particularly as she (and the others) have changed. It’s quite fascinating to see what a difference a year makes, and I definitely think Howland managed to handle it mostly well. Glad to see you liked it!

  2. I’m SO glad to see you liked this one too! I’ve been meaning to pick it up to finish the series but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I asked for the PB for Christmas so maybe it’ll be a good summer-feelz-in-winter book hahah

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