Last year, I was on a mission to read all of Emery Lord‘s books. I read The Names They Gave Us in 2018 and absolutely fell in love with Emery’s writing and characters. At the beginning of 2019, I read The Start of Me and You without knowing there was a sequel in the works. I enjoyed it. It was a cute contemporary romance that ended on a positive note, but it didn’t speak to me the way The Names They Gave Us did. Fast forward to the end of 2019 and I had the opportunity to read an early digital copy of The Map from Here to There.
These were the same characters I had read about earlier in the year, but something had shifted. The story was so much more than the first book. Harder to read, but more important, more impactful, more resonating.
It’s the summer before senior year and Paige has everything she’s wanted: a fun summer job, great friends, and the most charming boyfriend ever. But as senior year takes off, life changing decisions start piling up and Paige’s anxiety claws its way into every area of her life. Torn between experiencing new possibilities and keeping everything the same forever, Paige feels lost.
At times, The Map From Here to There was hard for me to read. I haven’t gone through everything Paige has, but there were a lot of similarities between the way she thinks about life and the way I do. Her fears after the car accident, her uncertainty about college, her worries about her friends, her relationship with Max, her anxiety—all of it felt familiar. I’d been there before. There are days I’m still there.
What I love about Emery Lord’s writing is that her characters are realistic. She doesn’t hold back on giving them real issues to deal with, whether that’s mental illness, parental problems, or friendship struggles. Paige’s thought process, while at times could be whiny or even annoying, felt real. There were moments while reading where I wish I could have reached into the book and grabbed Paige by the shoulders and tell her to breathe.
And then there’s Max. Oh, Max Watson. You adorable dork. I seriously think the YA genre under-appreciates the sweet boy factor. I love Max so much. Even when he got on my nerves, I loved his character.
I love all of the characters. Paige’s friends, her sister, her parents and their odd relationship. Like I said, Emery has a way with writing characters that come across realistic and important. Side characters play just as big a part in Paige’s life as her parents or Max. No one is left behind in this story. They are all important because they are important to Paige.
YA contemporary is slowly winning me over, and it’s because of amazing authors like Emery Lord. Give me sweet boys and girls whose struggles are real and profound. Give me stories that make me laugh and cry and cringe and sigh. Show me how someone can become bigger than their anxiety. Bigger than their flaws and mistakes. Bigger than the thoughts pouring into their head. That’s what this book did for me. I reminded me that no matter how much I worry or stress over things in life, there are people standing next to me ready to help me. Ready to catch me. I just need to remember to look.