Emma Lord's BEGIN AGAIN
Thanks to partners NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the digital ARC of Emma Lord’s Begin Again. The book is out today!
Emma Lord has become one of my go-to YA authors. Her books are sweet but not saccharine, they’re romances but not *just* romances, and they focus on characters whose struggles are authentic and require some real growth.
I should say that I still—somehow—haven’t read Tweet Cute, but I’ve adored each of her other books, including this newest one, Begin Again.
Andie Rose has clawed her way into a mid-year transfer to Blue Ridge State, her dream school, the college where her parents met . . . and her boyfriend Connor’s school. In a moment of misplaced romance, she decides to make her transfer a surprise. And then she discovers, in a sort of Gift of the Magi twist, that her boyfriend has also made a surprise transfer to Andie’s much-less-prestigious college. Cue chaos and angst.
Despite the less-than-fortuitous start, Andie decides that her boyfriend can just transfer back after this current semester, and she resolves to make the best of the situation, as she often does. She and her new roommate, Shay, hit it off, and though she faces some academic challenges, she’s ready to dive into the traditions that her parents and, particularly, her deceased mom told her about.
I’m going to pause here to say that I absolutely loved this book. Lord captures Andie’s college experience so well, the promise and peril of seeking a promised fresh start when you know that you’re still just the same person you’ve always been. Andie is an amazing character who is strong and inspiring and always willing to help her friends, yet she’s simultaneously fragile and all too willing to avoid conflict, even if it means sacrificing something that means a lot to her.
The development of Andie’s formative relationships is clearly a huge part of Andie’s identity. Lord shows us the grandmas who dropped everything to raise her after her mom’s death, the father who became distant in his grief, Connor who has been her friend since childhood and whose family became a second sort of family for her, and of course the mother she lost who has become such an inspiration—and someone to live up to—for her. Yet Lord balances the ways that her new relationships help to shape who she’s becoming. Those include Shay but also Milo, the RA who quickly becomes a source of support, and Valentina, who starts as her much-needed math tutor but quickly becomes another friend.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of this book. There’s so much here that it’s tough to cover it all in a review, but it doesn’t ever feel like there’s too much going on. Instead, Andie’s story feels like the real story of a college freshman who is both building a new life for herself and still working to figure out the life she has.
I read this one in as close to one sitting as I could because I just had to know what would happen next. I can’t recommend Emma Lord’s Begin Again enough.
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I'm Jen Moyers, co-host of the Unabridged Podcast and an English teacher.