Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on 9/15/15
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: Won It!
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
From the author of This Song Will Save Your Life comes a funny and relatable book about the hazards of falling for a person you haven't met yet.
Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But she's tired of being loyal to people who don't appreciate her—including her needy best friend and her absent mom.
Arden finds comfort in a blog she stumbles upon called "Tonight the Streets Are Ours," the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him.
During one crazy night out in NYC 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.
Tonight the Streets Are Ours is a story about breaking boundaries and discovering who you are apart from other people. The plot follows Arden who is, as the synopsis states, recklessly loyal – so she was dubbed by the doll company that made a doll out of her when she was a child, and she’s let that definition define her throughout her whole life. Arden believes it is her responsibility to take care of the people she loves, which is a wonderful goal, of course, but she does it to the exclusion of everything else, including taking care of herself. She has a best friend who she met because she made a huge sacrifice for her when she was a child (you’ll find out about that when you find out about the doll) and who she has been sacrificing for and watching out for ever since. She also has a boyfriend who she supports in all of his endeavors. And it’s especially important to take care of everyone right now because her endlessly mother just suddenly left without a backward glance and moved three hundred miles away. Arden copes by reading a blog called “Tonight the Streets Are Ours,” written by a boy about her age who she feels like she connects with more than anyone she knows in real life. When everything in both of their lives seems to go awry, she seeks him out, hoping she’ll find something she’s been missing.
What fed my addiction:
- Family matters. The situation with Arden’s family is complicated. Her mom disappeared after always focusing solely on her family, and Arden is so angry that she won’t talk to her. In the meantime, her dad has thrown himself into his work, barely paying any attention at all to her and her eleven-year-old brother. Arden feels like she has to pick up the pieces and be the one to hold things together, especially for her little brother. It does not always go well. I liked the concept of the family issues, but I wasn’t that fond of where it all went – I’ll talk about that in the next section, though.
- Learning independence. The funny thing is that while Arden has always felt like she’s taking care of other people, she’s actually very dependent on all of those people – her life revolves around them and she does very little thinking for herself. Arden doesn’t know who she is apart from her best friend and her boyfriend and her family – and she may not be anyone at all. After all, the defining characteristic of her life has always been that she is recklessly loyal – and she strives to live up to that title. Through Arden’s time in NYC, she learns a few things – first of all,, people are not always who you think you are or you’ve defined them to be. And second of all, that she doesn’t have to live a recklessly loyal life – it’s okay to let go sometimes.
- The Peter storyline. Arden doesn’t actually head to NYC to find Peter until relatively late in the book. Maybe if it had happened sooner, I would have liked the book more because I really liked the storyline that involved him. That’s not to say that I actually liked what was happening, because it was very messed up and strange, but it made for an extremely interesting story and I loved the lessons that Arden learned from the whole situation.
What left me wanting more:
- Arden herself. The real problem with this book is that Arden herself is hard to like. She goes through life feeling like she has to fix everyone or watch over them, which automatically leads to a feeling of superiority and that air of superiority starts to get old as the book goes on. I was actually fine with it for the first half of the book or so – I understood why she felt that way and how she had ended up going down that path. I could even see how some of the people in her life really did kind of mess things up when left to their own devices, so it was understandable why Arden felt like she had to police them. But, by midway over the book, I was over it. I was especially frustrated by the way she treated Lindsey – like she was a child who couldn’t do anything right. Even when Lindsey was trying hard to be helpful, Arden was too busy putting her down to notice it. So, yeah, great best friend material. And Arden did kind of learn her lesson about this in the end – but by that time, I was already too frustrated with her to see it as a huge win.
- Arden’s mother. This really made me mad. The implication was that Arden’s mother had been taking care of everyone for so long that she needed to take herself out of the situation in order to fix her own issues. And I get that, I do. I’m a stay-at-home mom who homeschools two of my three kids. My youngest son is adopted and has special needs, and I started homeschooling my older two when my oldest had so many issues at school that it was becoming nightmarish. I get it – putting yourself aside for your kids is hard and frustrating and sometimes overwhelming. Although, honestly, she had two super well-behaved kids who never caused any problems – her biggest issue was the fact that she did a lot for them and no one seemed grateful enough. So she left. Packed her bags and moved three hundred miles away. Sure, she called occasionally, but I had a hard time sympathizing with her. As a mom, I understand the urge to get away – I understand that she needed space, but I don’t understand punishing your kids for the fact that you have issues and completely removing yourself from their lives. Unless you’re a danger to them or your presence is somehow hurting their well-being, in my opinion, that’s never okay.
So, while I liked aspects of this book, an unlikable main character eventually got to me. I still appreciated the overall message of letting go and learning to be yourself without other people, but the journey there wasn’t always fun. I give this book 3/5 stars.
About the Author
I went to college at the University of Chicago, where I majored in psychology. I also performed in Off-Off Campus (an improvisational and sketch comedy troupe), competed in debate tournaments all over the world, helped judge the world’s largest scavenger hunt, and wrote a humor column for the school paper. And I wrote another unpublished YA novel, for which I was awarded the Olga and Paul Menn Foundation Prize for Fiction Writing.
After graduating, I got a job at a children’s book publishing company in New York City, where I remain to this day. My first novel was published in 2010, and since then, I’ve just kept working on more. During the daytime I read other people’s books, and during the nighttime I write my own. What more could I need?