I usually sit down to write a review soon after having finished reading a book, but pretty much everything about my usual for The Map from Here to There was thrown off. I read the book in small sips, dipping in and out, thinking about it and trying not to when I wasn’t reading it. My love of The Start of Me and You is intense. I adore Max and Paige. I also adore Emery Lord and her magnificent ability to write anxiety onto the page. Unfortunately for this book, the anxiety representation made my own anxiety worse. Between that and my own expectations and desires for what I wanted this to be, my rating was definitely affected. What I will say is that The Map from Here to There is a really fantastic look at senior year of high school when you have a boyfriend you want to keep, but also you really want to explore your own life and identity.
So much of this book reminded me of who I was at 17, although at least Paige was confident in the direction she wanted her life to go. Or, at least, mostly. I loved the way a particular college campus was described as giving Paige a sense of home, because that’s how I felt the first time I set foot on UNC – Chapel Hill’s campus. (That is not where I went to undergrad.) I loved the representation of the disappointment of not getting into a school and also the sense of relief that came alongside it because I felt that way too. I loved Paige’s friendships with Morgan and Tessa and Kayleigh still being explored and how the real HEA is knowing their friendships will stand the rest of time. I loved the anxiety representation, even as it made it hard for me to read because it was so real. I loved the funny moments and the way this book seems to capture the lyrics of 22 by Taylor Swift (which is maybe weird because they’re 17) that things are “miserable and magical at the same time.” So much of life feels that way, but it’s hard to write it, I think. I loved the parental relationships in this book because it felt real.
You may have noticed a glaring omission here though. Because what I didn’t love is Max. Not Max himself, I guess, just the overall arc of Paige and Max, which was not what I wanted. And the truth is, that’s not fair. The book is great and if I wasn’t almost exclusively a romance reader, I would have just loved this book for all the great things it did give me. But I am, and this book is both realistic and has an open ending. Sometimes that’s fine and sometimes it’s not at all what I want. I don’t want the realism of the pressures of other people talking about you and your high school boyfriend causing you to freak out. I want the blithe confidence and adorable was of how cute Max and Paige are together without that pressure.
However, my issues with the romantic arc aside, this book was really, really great. I just wanted something a little different. If you’re a teenager though or someone about to start senior year of high school? I can not recommend this duology enough. Because like Paige’s teacher says in this book, where you go to college is just one choice. You’ll have so, so many to go. And I know, for me, this book would have made me feel so much less alone during that time of my life, which is really all we can ask for in a book.