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ARC Review: Late to the Party

Late to the Party, Kelly Quindlen Pub. Date: April 21, 2020 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ *This Advanced Reader’s E-copy was provided through NetGalley and Roaring Brook Press, free of charge.*

In every stereotypical teen movie, there are multiple milestones that must be reached for the teen protagonist to have reached their full potential. Prominent examples include going to the prom (Pretty In Pink), first love (Perks of Being a Wallflower), and having your first kiss (Never Been Kissed). Kelly Quindlen’s debut in traditional publishing, Late to the Party, tackles what is perhaps the most iconic of all of the teenage tropes - going to a high school party. This heartfelt tale of growing into a new version of yourself while trying to balance elements from the old you is refreshing in today’s overpopulated teen movie environment. Late to the Party not only allows you to show up whenever you want, but welcomes you with your favorite drink and friends you never knew you missed. Codi Teller has never been kissed. Codi Teller has never had a crush on someone. Codi Teller has never gone out to a party. During the summer before her senior year, Codi and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory realize that they have played it safe with their social lives throughout their high school careers. They are more comfortable in Codi’s basement watching gay movies that speak to them, than they are hanging out with their fellow teenagers. Maritza and JaKory try to persuade Codi to go to a party in an attempt to become ‘grown up’, but Codi resists until asked to drive them back home. At the party, Codi meets Ricky, a closeted popular kid who takes her under his wing. Throughout the rest of the summer at Ricky’s, Codi blossoms into a new version of herself who is brave and tries new things - parties, beer, and kissing girls just for starters. But will she lose her old friends in an attempt to find herself? Or can Codi find a way to combine the best of both worlds?

"You grow up with these ideas about Teenagers, about their wild, vibrant, dramatic lives of breaking rules and making and Being Alive, and you know that it's your destiny to become one of them someday, but suddenly you're seventeen and you're watching people cannonball into a swimming pool in the pouring rain, and you realize you still haven't become a real Teenager, and maybe you never will."

Codi is a wonderful protagonist to root for. Her wallflowery tendencies make her journey into Codi 2.0 even more remarkable as the reader gets to change alongside her. But let’s be honest - Codi would have never changed if not for the awesome friendship that sparks between her and Ricky. What originally started as two gay people bonding over the fact that they are not out to everyone they know becomes a worthwhile and valuable relationship. Ricky constantly accepts Codi, all while pushing her to new limits, in an attempt to help her grow. Meanwhile, Codi challenges Ricky to not settle where he is now, but to reach for new boundaries. This relationship is the most developed, and personally my favorite, one out of all of the friendships, which is saying a lot. The LGBT+ representation is done very well here. It is not made to be a big deal by any outsiders, but rather is accepted and even celebrated once it is known. Furthermore, there are no negative tropes here - no ‘bury your gays’ or queerbaiting. Five of the main characters are all confirmed nonheteronormative and are not necessarily defined by their sexuality. They are all just teenagers who like to party or to dance or paint, who live and love and laugh through their summer. When their sexualities are brought up, it is relevant to the plot. Kelly Quindlen’s Late to the Party is a wonderful debut to be compared to the likes of Booksmart. This tribute to wallflowers and late bloomers will have you laughing and sighing with either nostalgia or anticipation, depending on where you are in life. I heavily recommend getting this book - thankfully you won’t be late to the party yourself as it is coming out today! Get a copy at your local bookseller or online at IndieBound!

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