Title: Nantucket Red
Author: Leila Howland (Nantucket Blue)
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.
Last year, I read Leila Howland’s debut, Nantucket Blue, and even though I enjoyed Cricket’s story, I had trouble with all of the slut- and fat-shaming in it. I wanted to continue Cricket’s story with this sequel, but I was worried that Cricket wouldn’t have learned better. Luckily, after finishing this sequel, I think Cricket has grown as a person, both with the almost complete lack of slut- and fat-shaming (and I think she was only really critical of people who were, admittedly, not the nicest people, and it was more being catty than slut-shaming), but also her journey throughout the book.
I was a little thrown at the beginning of the book since it starts off right after Nantucket Blue ends, rather than the following summer like the summary suggested. In fact, it took at least five or so chapters before Cricket even made it back to Nantucket. It was certainly interesting seeing how Cricket’s relationship with Zack goes off the rails and how her senior year ended, but it did throw me slightly simply because I was confused.
This story is very much about Cricket’s journey to learn who she is and what she really wants with her life. She starts off the summer wanting one thing – to earn enough money to get the true college experience at the prestigious Brown University, which is in her hometown of Providence and just minutes away from her parents – but begins to realize that she might want something different. She might not want to be the perfect student and lacrosse player and Nina-wannabe (the mother of her best friend who died in the first book and whose death was the starting point of the whole story) – she might have dreams she never even realized.
There are plenty of characters from the first book who showed up again in this one – and some of these characters even had their own small journeys, which was great to see. Cricket’s two friends, Jules (who was her best friend since she was little but ended up kind of hating her for an unknown reason that you’ll have to read the first book to understand) and Liz (who was a bit of a sex-crazy new friend in the first book), both show up in this book and it was great to see their friendships change and grow. She also met some new people, and while I don’t know if they’ll be as memorable as Jules and Liz, it was nice getting some new characters and dynamics.
It was nice getting back to Nantucket with this book. Howland is good at making a book into a real “summer” book – July felt like a perfect time to read this book, and I definitely wanted to go back to the beach and spend some time reading this book outside in the sun, which is something I pretty much never do because I am very pale and putting on sunscreen just to read a book I can comfortably read on my bed is just too much work.
The Adult Situation
Since Cricket is back at Nantucket and on her own, her parents aren’t around much, but their presence still seemed larger than in the first book because her relationship with her parents grows and becomes stronger. Since Cricket is no longer quite so reliant on her parents and is getting to the point where she has to deal with her mistakes on her own, her relationship really does have to change and grow into an adult-child-and-parents one, which is something you obviously don’t see as much in young adult books. So, even though the parents aren’t in this book much, I did feel their presence, especially toward the end.
The romance didn’t wow me as much. There’s this older guy that Cricket meets at the beginning of the book, but there’s also her broken-but-still-has-something-there relationship with Jules’ brother, Zack. He isn’t around in the book so much, but it’s like his ghost is still haunting Cricket even as she tries to move on. I liked Zack in the first book, but I didn’t care about their relationship as much in this book. I liked the new guy as well, but I wasn’t really excited when I read their scenes together – I was entertained enough, but I just wasn’t that interested. This book had a good attitude toward sex, but otherwise I was kind of meh about the romance.
Before I got to the end, I had an idea where it was going, so I was a little disappointed that things would be too predictable. When I actually did get to the end, though, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was still inspiring and heartwarming and such. Cricket’s journey toward discovering herself made me kind of want to go out and work on a journey of my own!
So, this book definitely improved upon the first book with much less slut- and fat-shaming. The characters and the relationships were my favorite things, but I could have passed on the romance. I’m definitely interested in seeing what Howland writes in the future.