Tonight the Streets Are Ours: A Book Review

Hello!

Happy Friday, friends! We’re switching things up before this lovely long weekend and posting a book review instead of a Love List – a little variety never hurt! :)

Tonight the Streets Are OursTitle: Tonight the Streets Are Ours
Author: Leila Sales
Published: September 15, 2015 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Pages: 342
Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary
Source: Library / Hardcover
Series: Nope!

Recklessly loyal.

That’s how seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley has always thought of herself. Caring for her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But lately she’s grown resentful of everyone—including her needy best friend and her absent mom—taking her loyalty for granted.

Then Arden stumbles upon a website called Tonight the Streets Are Ours, the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter, who gives voice to feelings that Arden has never known how to express. He seems to get her in a way that no one else does, and he hasn’t even met her.

Until Arden sets out on a road trip to find him.

During one crazy night out in New York City filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was, either. {Goodreads}

When I discuss young adult literature with my non-YA-obsessed friends, some of the first names to come to their mind are authors who regularly make the bestseller lists, known to adults just as much as to emerging tweens to the intended audience themselves, teenagers. John Green. Rick Riordan. Rainbow Rowell. Stephanie Meyers. These writers are not bad, not at all – I mean, they’ve found ultimate success in their field – but do I want to exclaim about the hundreds of stories my friends are missing by ignoring authors with less familiarity? You bet. But of course, the book blogging community has its list of favorites too: Sarah J. Maas, Becky Albertalli, Jenny Han, to name just a few.

Leila Sales is one such author I saw repeatedly on my Bloglovin’ and Twitter feeds. I had not read her other novels, notably Past Perfect and This Song Will Save Your Life, but when I caught a glimpse of the well-designed cover of Tonight the Streets Are Ours, I couldn’t pass up the gorgeous typography, nor could I resist an intriguing new release in my favorite genre. Thankfully, Sales’ novel is a fortunate case of the hype matching the work: she won me over with her well-drawn characters, her quiet, yet compelling, writing, and her honest reflections on society through the teenage lens. If that sounds like a lot for a seemingly light read, that’s because it is. If it sounds like too much, however, let me assure you, it’s not.

Arden Huntley, the protagonist, is what one would call a giver, consistently putting others before herself. When her best friend, Lindsey, finds herself in trouble at school, Arden takes the blame. When her mother leaves unexpectedly, Arden assumes the job of caring for her little brother and the home. When her boyfriend, Chris, cancels their anniversary date the day of, Arden barely raises a fight. Some may categorize her as selfless, but Sales takes a less superficial approach, exploring the complexity that comes with being selfish and giving simultaneously. Her supporting cast illustrates an equal care to characterization, and I admire Sales for crafting them with little regard to reception; you don’t have to like the character to recognize the merit in including them.

The characters prove that Sales’ talent lies in the contemporary genre, but it’s also a skill she exercises in developing the plot as well. She finds the delicate balance between being serious and being fun, as she sends Arden and Lindsey in search of Arden’s obsession, blogger and native New Yorker Peter. What could easily turn into a story of stalking gone wrong, Sales forms, instead, a well-written observation of how we warp information and memories to fit our needs in the digital age. Similarly, what could have been an emotionally harrowing story is instead intermingled with doses of cute romance {theater fan I am, I wholeheartedly approve of the backstage-born relationship} and scenes of short humor.

But, of course, not every aspect of the novel was done to the same high quality. While I thought Arden’s actions were interesting to read and study, I can’t say I found her personality, or, to better say, her lack of one, all that easy to connect with. This was made no better by the pace of the novel, which took several chapters until it settled itself out. In addition, the plot requires readers to suspend their disbelief – I’m not sure how else I’m supposed to read of a high school junior driving off to a faraway city on a whim over the weekend – to a degree that it becomes a distraction.

Tonight the Streets Are Ours is not perfect, nor, dare I say, is it all that positive. The epilogue brings Arden to college, but even that “fresh start” rings hollow; there’s no ultimate revelation so much so as there is an acceptance of the fact that, in simplest terms, we’re all obsessed with ourselves. I like novels that ask questions, that spark discussions within the fictional and realistic world. Joining several other books I’ve read this past year, Tonight the Streets Are Ours poses the thought: where is the divide between what is art, be it writing, design, or painting, and what is life? I recommend this one, if only to satisfy your curiosity or typography-loving heart.

Have a terrific weekend!
B

Psst. If you’re looking for other books in the same vein as Tonight the Streets Are Ours, consider these other book recommendations: The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, Like It Never Happened by Emily Adrian, and Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot. And, finally, if you’ve left a comment in the past week or two, can I just say that you rock my socks off? I’m hoping to do some blog-hopping this weekend to catch up on what I’m certain is a good batch of posts.

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3 thoughts on “Tonight the Streets Are Ours: A Book Review

  1. I really enjoyed this book, and I agree with much of both your praise and criticism. I agree that Arden seems a bit flat aside from her loyalty (she even admits that her overwhelming niceness is the most interesting trait she has going for her), but Sales did such a good job portraying Arden’s slow realization that she couldn’t be so selfless ALL the time that I didn’t mind too much. And yes, I loved seeing the Internet’s impact on the characters’ growth; I mentioned the same aspect in my review (which will be going up soon), and it was so refreshingly realistic to see Arden and Peter connect over technology.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The cover is so beautiful! Also I loved this book because it was intriguing and didn’t have an exactly happy ending – it was rather “hollow”, as you put it. Nevertheless, it was a lovely read <3

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