Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #39: Nantucket Blue

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #39: Nantucket BlueNantucket Blue by Leila Howland
Series: Nantucket #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on May 7, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 294
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
AmazonThe Book Depository

For Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.

Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.

When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.

But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on--most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits--that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

Recommended by: Kim of The Nomadic Book Hoarder

Generally, I’ve got a pretty clear idea of how I feel about a book. I love it or I hate it or I’m totally indifferent. Nantucket Blue falls into that much rarer category where I love and hate it in almost equal measure. On the one hand, Leila Howland’s debut left me with a lot of feelings, both sad and swoony. On the other, Nantucket Blue also made me rage many times over. What it comes down to is that, problematic as the main character is, Howland’s Nantucket Blue still charms with its honest portrayal of emotions, first love, and sex.

Things That Made Me Go HECK YES:
As the book opened, I loved the relationship between Cricket and her friend Jules’ family. Cricket’s basically accepted as their third child. She sleeps over all the time, knows where the spare key is hidden, and the code to the alarm. Cricket loves Jules and Nina, Jules’ mother, especially. Thus, when Nina dies of an aneurysm, I really felt Cricket’s pain. And when Jules is struggling to deliver a eulogy and Cricket goes to help her friend, that was the pinnacle of my positive feelings for Cricket. Her eulogy is touching and really gets to the heart of this woman I only met briefly over a phone call.

The resulting disconnect between Jules’ family and Cricket following the funeral is heartbreaking. Cricket still resents both her parents for the divorce and now has been rejected by her adopted family. The fight between Jules and Cricket has a lot of problematic elements as well, which I’ll delve into later, but, at its heart, I think it’s an honest portrayal of how the loss of a parent can affect someone. The fact that Cricket’s well-meaning gesture resulted in rage on the part of her friend made perfect sense. So often in life, friendship problems aren’t caused by actual, intentional betrayal but by help gone wrong.

My favorite aspect of the book by far was the romance between Zack, Jules’ younger brother, and Cricket. Clearly, Zack had been crushing on Cricket for a while, but she was totally unaware, though I suspect that Jules had some inkling, based on some snide comments made about the two early on. Initially, Cricket’s obsessed with the guy her social status means she should date, but when that falls apart a chance encounter with Zack leads to a secret relationship. Zack is a wonderful guy, supportive and kind. He’s more than she deserves, really, especially given her behavior toward the end.

Howland really captures the emotions of their relationship and Cricket’s confusion at her changing opinions of Zack. Where he’d just been Jules’ little brother, he’s now this highly desirable person. Cricket has to choose between her feelings and her popularity, as it’s considered desperate and sad for an older girl to date a younger guy. Howland’s portrayal of all of the physical elements of their relationship is charged and honest. This is precisely what I look for in young adult books. Cricket mentions how little she’d enjoyed making out before Zack, and also the awkwardness involved in their first time, which frankly isn’t all that good. It really does feel like they fall in love over the course of the summer.

Finally, I loved the evolution of Cricket’s relationship with her mother, who she’d come largely to despise for her depression and hermit-like habits post-divorce. Cricket can’t understand why her mom is so pathetic and won’t date when her father has already remarried. The real gamechanger is Cricket finding her mother’s diary from her own summer on Nantucket, when she was the same age as Cricket. In the diary, Cricket meets a version of her mother she’s not seen, and finds just the thing to draw her mother back out of her cocoon. The novel’s conclusion almost focused more on them than the romantic arc, which made a nice change and added a more serious tone.

Things That Made Me Go HELL TO THE NO:
The book opens with a lacrosse game in which Cricket is playing. During a lacrosse game, a girl from the opposing team goes all Tonya Harding on her because they’re both crushing on the same guy, Jay Logan. The girl who attacked her is popularly known as Nora the Whore-a. Expect such slut-shaming to occur from the beginning to the end of the book. Cricket has very strict opinions of what’s acceptable with regards to women and sex, and these things made her intensely not likable. Some Cricket rules: boys should lose their virginity by eighteen, but it’s okay if girls don’t; having sex with a guy before you’ve been dating six months makes you a slut. View Spoiler »Hello, hypocrisy.

Continuing on the vein of the bad sexual modeling in the book, sadly couched alongside the healthy depiction of Cricket’s first ventures into life as a sexual being, I need to talk about Liz. Over the summer in Nantucket, Cricket works as a chambermaid at a cute little inn. She works alongside Liz, an Irish firecracker. Now, for the most part, I love Liz, second only to Zack, however, she virgin-shames Cricket which is one of the things that upsets me most in fiction.

“Cricket’s a virgin,” she sang as she jumped on the bed. “I knew it. That explains everything.”
“Oh my god, Gavin is like, wandering the halls!” I said.
“You’re getting a bit old. How old are you?”
“I’ll be eighteen in August.”

“We’re going to fix this by your birthday,” Liz said. “I’m going to make it my mission.”

Before I finish talking about Liz, I need to talk about another one of the reasons I like her and hate Cricket. Liz is a confident woman, both of her body and her sexuality. In addition to thinking some slut-shaming sort of thoughts about her, Cricket fat-shames her. Only in her head of course, because she wants everyone to like her. Cricket also regularly comments on how thin people are, but not thin like they’re anorexic. When she first sees Jules on Nantucket, she mentions how she’s gotten even slimmer, perfectly thin, jealous even though the weight loss is clearly due to grief in the wake of her mom’s death. Cricket’s attitudes towards body weight are unhealthy and judgmental.

Liz had a definite swagger. She was not a skinny girl; her boobs were big and unwieldy, and she had mom thighs with cellulite. She was wearing short shorts and a baby T anyway. She sauntered down the steps like a perfect hottie even though her pudge was poking out the top and bottom of her shorts.

The worst of it is that Cricket never learns anything. At the end of the book, she’s still the same person. These elements wouldn’t have been so problematic were it not for the tacit implication that her attitudes are correct and healthy. As a reader, I’m meant to like Cricket. I’m meant to see her as a nice girl who’s getting a raw deal from her best friend and going through a rough summer. However, horrible as Jules is, which I’ll talk about next, Cricket’s actually worse. At least Jules makes no pretense to being a nice girl; she owns her bitchiness. With Cricket, though, she’s an utter hypocrite, believing herself to be an angel while doing and thinking horrible things.

Howland tries to get the reader to sympathize with Cricket by putting all the blame on Jules. She sets the stage even at the beginning, when Jules and Cricket are hanging out and good friends. The slut-shaming first comes from Jules, as she insults Nora at the lacrosse game after the attack. So, too, is Cricket’s bitchy comment about Jay’s brother, which becomes a big plot point, accompanied by a comment that Nora seems to like Cricket even more when she says mean things. Howland also establishes how desperate Cricket was to befriend Jules when she moved into town. Clearly, Cricket’s a nice girl led astray by big bad Jules. Now, Jules definitely is a horrible person, but that does not make Cricket’s behavior acceptable. Jules is a bad friend, and I think Cricket was ridiculous to keep holding out for her, but Cricket has to own her own choices and words. It’s one thing if someone’s narrow-minded and awful because their parents modeled such behavior, but Cricket was already old enough when she met Jules that everything she thinks is a choice, not brainwashing.

Finally, the whole plot line with Cricket’s father felt unresolved. Now, thankfully, I’m aware that there’s a sequel now, but that would have been a big drawback before that announcement a couple months ago. As it is, we’re left up in the air with their relationship. Cricket says some cruel, if somewhat justified things, runs out, and that’s the end of that. Given how nicely her issues with her mother are handled, that felt weak. I hope that her relationship with her father is covered in the sequel.

There it is. I both love and hate this book in equal measure, which I’m averaging out for a 3. I’m hard-pressed to say whether I recommend this, because there are books that handle the positive well without the negative. However, if those issues I mentioned don’t bother you, then read away, because otherwise Nantucket Blue is really well done. I will be reading the sequel, because it was good enough that I’m curious, but I’m a bit afraid of it as well. I dearly hope Cricket learns, rejects her shaming notions, and treats Zack well, but, given the need for drama, I’m somewhat doubtful.

Favorite Quote:

“”Americans.” She stepped off the bed with narrowed eyes. “People think British people are prudes, but the truth is that Americans are. And why should it be any different for girls?”

Up Next:

My Life Next Door

The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. Many thanks to Gillian (Writer of Wrongs) and Ash (Yadult Review) for putting this one in Sadie Hawkins TOTALLY OF THEIR OWN VOLITION. I didn’t put them up to it, because that would be cheating. Of course not.

Want to tell me what to read? Fill out the following form with a suggestion! For more details, check this post.

14 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #39: Nantucket Blue”

  1. Gillian says:

    YES. Exactly how I felt. Every single word.

    Also, LOL, no, you toooootally didn’t tell me to put MLND into SH. That would be COMPLETELY against the rules.
    Gillian recently posted…The Sorting Hat: YA Heroines EditionMy Profile

  2. This is pretty much how I felt about the book too, and I’m glad I’m not the only one. Everyone else seemed to LOVE it, and there were parts I liked, but all the things mentioned under HELL to the NO? Yeah, that was me too. I just didn’t feel like Cricket had much of a character arc, really. If she had actually shown more character growth from the beginning, I might have liked the book(and Cricket) more, but I just couldn’t.
    Stormy @ Book.Blog.Bake. recently posted…Horror October Fun: YA Title GameMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      It makes me so sad, because this could have been a favorite, but then there was all this stuff where I wanted to hurl the book against the wall. Especially that thing about mom thighs. That strikes WAY too close to home. Makes me sympathetic with Nora. Haha.

      And, yeah, I don’t feel like she exhibits any character growth. More like she makes exceptions for herself and Jules. X is unacceptable, unless WE do it. Well, la di da, aren’t you special?

  3. Yeah, I’d pretty much hate Cricket. So many unhealthy attitudes in one book makes me grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
    Kat (AussieZombie) recently posted…Showcase Sunday #57 – Goodbye Book Buying Ban!My Profile

  4. Wow, I think I would also be fustrated with the reasons you didn’t like the book. I find it so hard to read past books that have unfortunate implications like this.

    Love your blog layout ! It’s cute.

  5. I agree with your review …for many of the same reasons. I loved it , and hated it..I don’t get those many feelings in the same book.
    Julie@my5monkeys recently posted…Anywhere but HereMy Profile

  6. Alessandra says:

    Uhm. I think I’ll stay away from this book.
    Alessandra recently posted…Book Blitz: Say Yes by Tara WestMy Profile

  7. Nara says:

    hahaha I didn’t read the blurb and so thought Jules was a guy until about three quarters of the way into your review. Nice one, Nara.
    The romance sounds like a pretty unconventional one. I guess it’s not often in YA where you see a female protagonist dating/being interested in a younger male.
    Um…”Nora the Whore-a”? Seriously? Well that’s creative…the slut shaming definitely seems quite irritating. And kind of unnecessary.
    Cricket certainly doesn’t sound likeable at all! And what’s with her name…Is that her actual name or a nickname? Why would you name your FEMALE kid Cricket?

    In other news, MY LIFE NEXT DOOR IS AMAZING. The romance is so dang cute 😀
    Nara recently posted…Discussion + Quiz: The First LineMy Profile

  8. Hmmmm. I think I would rage a bit over Cricket, she sounds like a dick, TBH.


    I am not sure if I want to pick this up. The state of my TBR pile says NO.
    April Books & Wine recently posted…Allison: All The Truth That’s In Me | Julie Berry | Book ReviewMy Profile

  9. Angie F. says:

    Hm, I can definitely understand the divide in your feelings. It seems like in general, everyone is loving this one, but I think I’d be annoyed by Cricket, too. I don’t mind that she has flaws (although that fat-shaming quote is terrible!), but the fact that she doesn’t change is problematic.
    Angie F. recently posted…Review: Hot Knight in Paradise by Sofia HarperMy Profile

  10. Was hoping that you’d review this soon (after I saw your rating for it up on GR yesterday). Thank you for such a detailed and well-thought out review.

    I can see that this book may be slightly problematic for me since I can’t really stand heroines like Cricket. I also can’t stand it when the parents of the protag split up and the dad remarries first (rather quickly) and the mother is left to wallow in depression all alone.

    I think the main thing that stands out for me is the romance between Cricket and Zach, which is what I’d like to read about. I haven’t read much YA stories (if any) that have this.
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  11. OOH! Forgot to mention that I can’t wait for you to start MLND! I completely and totally loved that book. Hard.

    Lisa (Fic Talk) recently posted…Comment on Cover Reveal for Ride by JC Emery by Lisa FicTalkMy Profile

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