Author: Trish Doller
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: 8.13.19
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Two teens go on a life-changing sailing trip as they deal with the grief of losing their best friend in this heartwrenching, hopeful novel from the author of Something Like Normal and In a Perfect World.
Willa and Taylor were supposed to spend the summer after high school sailing from Ohio to Key West with their best friend, Finley. But Finley died before graduation, leaving them with a twenty-five-foot sailboat, a list of clues leading them to destinations along the way, and a friendship that’s hanging by a thread.
Now, Willa and Taylor have two months and two thousand miles to discover how life works without Finley—and to decide if their own friendship is worth saving.
From acclaimed author Trish Doller comes a poignant tale of forgiveness, grief, and the brilliant discoveries we make within ourselves when we least expect it.
While this may look like a breezy summertime read, don’t be fooled by the vibes of this cover. This isn’t a serious issue book, but it does have a weight to it that most summery YA lit does not. This book follows two girls, Willa and Taylor who are friends, but not. They have been in each other’s lives for years but only because of their shared connection through their common bff, Finley, a young woman who recently lost her life to leukemia. Before Finley’s death, the three girls had planned to conquer “the loop,” a way to travel from the hometown on Lake Erie down through the Florida Keys. After her death, the two remaining friends decide that they are going to honor her wishes and set off on their shared sailboat with a list of clues Finley left them that of course starts with the words: Start Here.
There was a lot that I enjoyed about this book. The first was the growth that both girls (but imo, especially Willa) make throughout the course of the book. The girls are in that exciting and terrifying summer after high school and before what comes next, and the author does a great job making their voices authentic to that time.
The second thing I really enjoyed was the different stops along the way. I’ve been to their hometown of Sandusky, OH several times because it has one of the best amusement parks in the country. Trish Doller did a fantastic job of making each stop along their journey both believable and meaningful. Each stop was used in both a physical and emotional way — showing both the internal and external journey of the two girls.
I also really enjoyed learning more about sailing. I love sitting on a boat in a lake, but I have never been on a sailboat. Have you ever heard of the lock system in traveling canals and the Great Lakes? It’s insane! I would have been terrified to travel the way they did, but it did make me want to hop on a boat in the worst way.
Finally, and most importantly, what I loved most about this book is the way in which the author depicted the girls (somewhat non)friendship. The girls have a long history of grievances between the two of them. I have had three-way friendships and they can be, frankly, almost impossible to navigate. Both girls want to get along for Finley’s sake, but it is hard for them to be honest with each other about the scars that still exist for them both. Namely, jealously of Willa and Finley’s friendship on Taylors part, and Taylor always making Willa feel less than because she has grown up significantly poorer than her friends and feels she has to do so much more than them just to prove she isn’t “trailer trash.”
While I did enjoy this book, there were a couple of things I didn’t love. The biggest was Willa’s relationship with Taylor’s brother (and Finley’s crush). I won’t go into specifics as most of what I didn’t love happened once you are significantly in the story and I don’t want to spoil anything, but the romance aspect wasn’t my favorite. The pacing of the story was also a bit slow, dragging in the middle especially, although not enough to hinder my overall enjoyment of the story.
Overall, I would definitely recommend Start Here. Again, while this certainly isn’t an issue book that will have you bawling your eyes out, it does have follow a true-to-life experience of two girls at a turning point in their lives. I definitely want to hop on a boat now and travel the world.
*An arc of this book was provided to me via the publisher in exchange of an honest review.*