Saturday, October 3, 2015

Tonight the Streets Are Ours (Book Review)

Title: Tonight the Streets Are Ours
Author: Leila Sales
Publication: Farrar Straus Giroux
Genre: YA Fiction
Plot: Arden is that rarest of things – a selfless teenager – but it is stressful to be surrounded by a host of selfish people: her parents (including her mother who just walked out on the family), her boyfriend, and her best friend Lindsey. Wearied by the people in her life who take and offer nothing back, Arden finds escape by reading the blog of a young New Yorker. Naturally, his life seems more interesting and more perfect than her own, so when everything seems to go wrong in her small town of Cumberland, Arden impulsively heads to New York to find the blogger, with her friend Lindsey in tow. As in all quests, not everything one finds turns out to be exactly what one sought...

Audience: Fans of YA authors such as Sarah Dessen, Susane Colasanti, and Sara Zarr
Leila's Booksigning
What I liked: Each of Sales’ four books is very different but friendship and loyalty play an important role in each. This Song Will Save Your Life, her third book, is a unique blend of darkness and irrepressible humor. I have recommended it to people who don’t usually read YA but were captivated. This book is just as readable but much lighter, although Arden’s family situation is as complicated as Elise’s in This Song. Arden’s mother decided she was being taken for granted and simply left her family. Arden could cope without a mother but her little brother seems lost, and their workaholic father is clueless. Arden’s teachers and principal (and father!) don’t know her well enough to realize she does not use drugs, and her boyfriend is narcissistic and thoughtless. I also enjoyed the description of Just Like Me Dolls, which chose little girl Arden to be the face of one of its dolls and matching books:

Out of all the thousands of girls between the ages of eight and twelve who sent in their essays, Just Like Me Dolls had chosen Arden as their winner.

Because Arden was Girl of the Year, she got free copies of her books, with titles like Arden in Charge and Arden’s New Friend. She got a free doll, designed with peach-colored skin and light brown hair and hazel eyes, just like her. She got every single one of the Arden Doll’s accessories for free, too: a doll-size tire swing and doll-size metal detector, a doll-size cat and doll-size dog to mimic her own pets.

Arden’s impulsive decision to drive to New York to find the boy who writes the blog she has become obsessed with and her interaction with him is the best part of the book, as she matures before our eyes in one night. It’s also great that Arden realizes her happiness does not depend on a teenage (or older) boy.
Alice and Leila
What I disliked: A minor quibble, but I thought the beginning, which jumps into the middle of a pivotal 24 hours for Arden, then goes back two months in time, was both abrupt and unnecessary. Sales could just have begun with the day Arden gets called to the principal’s office. The author told us that some readers complained the plot was improbable: I found it reasonably convincing although would not have been brave enough to drive a car to NYC at 17! I don’t really enjoy it even now.
With the author
Source: I bought this book at Leila Sales’ recent booksigning at the Brookline Booksmith. By attending with my friend Alice, who is the librarian at the school both Leila and my nieces attended, I got to meet Leila (pronounced Lye-la) and her delightful parents as well. I recommend all Leila's books, especially This Song Will Save Your Life.

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