Title: All The Ways To Here
Author: Emily O’Beirne
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT+
Date of Publication: 1st November, 2017
Word Count: 83,280
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
In this sequel to Future Leaders of Nowhere, Finn and Willa come home from camp to find everything is different. Even as they grow more sure of their feelings for each other, everything around them feels less certain.
When Finn gets involved in a new community project, she’s forced to question where her priorities lie at school. Meanwhile, her dad has moved interstate, her mother is miserable, and her home feels like a ghost town.
Willa’s discovering how to negotiate the new terrains of romance and school friendships when an accident at home reminds her just how tenuous her family situation is. Suddenly, even with her dad in town, she’s shouldering more responsibility than ever.
As they try to navigate these new worlds together, Finn’s learning she has to figure out what she wants, and Willa how to ask for what she needs.
I previously reviewed Future Leaders of Nowhere (here) and fell in love with Finn & Willa and co, so imagine my excitement when the author contacted me to offer a digital copy of its sequel for review. 😀 My only concern was whether or not All The Ways To Here would live up to my high expectations, and I’m so relieved and thrilled to report that it did indeed! ❤
For me, sequels after the couple have gotten together are a tricky thing – it’s easy to lose interest once the unresolved sexual tension becomes resolved and they’re all schmoopy and in love. I find that a lot of writers tend to make up for this by throwing in numerous obstacles like new love interests, stupid misunderstandings and manufactured drama to avoid the relationship becoming stagnant, but that just makes it worse!
Fortunately, All The Ways To Here expertly avoids those common pitfalls and actually manages to make me all the MORE invested in Finn/Willa, even when they spend chapters apart! The obstacles to true love running smoothly are perfectly in character and were set up in the first book – they have to juggle being at different schools, various leadership responsibilities and extracurricular activities, Willa’s duty to her younger siblings and Finn visiting her father interstate, among other issues that crop up. But there was never any question of their desire to be a couple and it was simply a matter of how they would work through the problems in their way so they could be together.
I don’t think I’ve ever loved a YA couple more than these girls, they are just simply the best. It’s so endearing to see Finn easily take Willa’s brother and sister under her wing, unquestioning that they had to be Willa’s first priority and making playdates for all of them to spend time as a group instead of being sullen about not coming first. And watching Willa work to overcome her shyness so she could get to know Finn’s parents and friends was heartwarming, considering how hard she finds socializing!
Teens in YA can sometimes be complete brats and prone to making asinine decisions – a defense I hear all too often is something along the lines of ‘well, the story would be over if they didn’t make this stupid choice‘. This book shows how you can depict a teen couple with realistic struggles, who don’t have it all together and are still trying to figure their lives out, with interesting dilemmas and dramatic developments, who actually possess common sense and maturity! PRAISE BE TO THE WRITING GODS.
Of course, Finn and Willa aren’t perfect – I wouldn’t be so fond of them if they were! The former is working through hangups from her first relationship and the latter is prone to bottling up her emotions and then lashing out when she can’t contain it anymore. But these flaws are so well-written and understandable, I completely sympathized even as I winced and crossed my fingers for the girls to work it out.
I’ve talked a lot about the main two girls, but another thing I enjoy about the Future Leaders books is the vibrant and lively cast of supporting characters. Everyone is so well-drawn and believable, no matter how small their role! A lot of times, I admit that my main investment is in the couple we’re meant to be rooting for, but I ended up being interested in Finn’s interaction with her teachers (lol, Mr Granger) and fellow students (especially the rivalry with Zehra), as well as Willa navigating the strange new world of friendships at Gandry and having her erstwhile father coming back into her life, with all the heartache and complications that entails.
In short: I can’t recommend this highly enough (although note that you do need to read the first book in order to properly enjoy this one). Emily O’Beirne has an amazing ability to create realistic teenage characters with relatable issues, an easy-to-read writing style filled with warmth and humor, and incorporates topical issues like the marriage equality vote and need to protect LGBTQ safe spaces without crossing the line into preachy after-school special. The only downside is that it had to end!
Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 kitties approve this book!
Disclaimer: I received a digital copy free from the author in exchange for an honest review.