Review: Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 15, 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Verdict: Very Good
Recklessly loyal. That’s how seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley has always thought of herself. Caring for her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But lately she’s grown resentful of everyone—including her needy best friend and her absent mom—taking her loyalty for granted.
Then Arden stumbles upon a website called Tonight the Streets Are Ours, the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter, who gives voice to feelings that Arden has never known how to express. He seems to get her in a way that no one else does, and he hasn’t even met her.
Until Arden sets out on a road trip to find him. During one crazy night out in New York City 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.
Since reading and enjoying Mostly Good Girls when it first came out, Leila Sales’ young adult novels have always been on my radar. The author’s novels are contemporary, containing some of the more common teen elements of high school romance, friendship and coming-of-age- but with a tendency toward slightly edgier narrations or unexpected/unusual arcs.
Atypical of YA novels, Sales’ novel is written in third person; for some readers, this could be unwelcome, but for me, it is a treat. I personally love that this novel was written in third person; our protagonist, Arden, is so much more intriguingly presented this way. Angry about her mother’s recent departure from their family to go and explore herself and find a life in New York, Arden is in flux. Taking care of her younger brother while her father drowns himself in work, Arden is expected to be dependable. Loyal. In a relationship with a handsome and by all accounts talented classmate, Arden feels that that side of her life is…okay…safe. But when a strange and sad question she poses on the internet about love leads her to a hypnotizing personal blog of a young man named Peter, Arden starts reevaluating herself in relation to everyone around her.
What could have been either a cautionary story of misplaced obsession or a tale of fated young lovers becomes something so much more interesting. Arden does indeed track down the writer of Tonight the Streets Are Ours, but that ends of being just one facet of a layered story. It is the build up to Arden’s decision to find Peter in New York City that is so compelling and moving, and how she confronts carefully crafted truths. The relationship between Arden and her mother, of learning half-truths, Arden’s history of ‘saving’ her best friend Lindsey, and her questions about the depth and reciprocation of love– all of these essential elements and points come together and culminate after her night of meeting Peter.
Overall, I found myself pretty engrossed in Tonight the Streets Are Ours. While I felt that the plot and character arcs (especially that of Lindsey) started to whither and drift a tad toward the end, I think the novel as a whole is very interesting, well-crafted and well-written. I feel as though Sales tried to go beyond the expected in YA- in terms of narrative structure and story arc- which led to something surprising and accomplished. The way in which Sales combined the third person narration of Arden and first person blog entries of Peter is so well done here- and made this novel all the more interesting. Readers and fans of authors such as Sarah Dessen, Morgan Matson, and Jennifer E. Smith might especially enjoy this young adult title.
I received this book as an ARC from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.