I don’t normally read Young Adult (YA) novels. Not that I have anything against them; I just haven’t been a YA for a long time, although I remember with great fondness always being directed by any church we attended to the class for young couples. But even then we would have been too old to be classified as YAs.
But I’m interested in all things fiction, and Travis Thrasher, whose books I enjoy and have reviewed here, is currently writing a series of YA novels under contract. So when I received an email asking me if I might be interested in a review copy of Renee Riva’s Heading Home, I said yes (Federal Trade Commission – please note that I have made my disclosure here). (I’m going to be very disappointed if I find out that the FTC is not monitoring my blog to make sure I spill the beans when I get a free book to review.)
Heading Home is the third novel in a trilogy, preceded by Saving Sailor and Taking Tuscany (yes, I noticed the alliteration in all three of the titles). So I was starting at something of a disadvantage, and not quite sure what I would be reading.
In Heading Home, 18-year-old A.J. Degulio returns home to the Pacific Northwest after eight years in Italy with her family. The family remains in Italy; she’s coming back to see her dog Sailor, renew her friendship with her childhood friend Danny Morgan, and to start college, where she intends to study veterinary science. Sailor remembers her, Danny turns out to have become something of a hunk (A.J.’s words, not mine), and vet studies might have to take a back seat to A.J.’s intent to become a nun.
How about a would-be nun who gets jealous when Danny begins dating someone else?
It’s complicated. The lives of YAs are always complicated.
Here’s what I learned from this well-written, fast-paced YA novel.
The audience is not YAs; the audience is most likely YA females.
Someone reading this book would not be embarrassed if her mother or father found her reading it. It’s clean. For whatever reason, I was reminded of reading the Hardy Boys mysteries when I was slightly younger than a YA.
It’s funny. Riva, the author of several children's books in additiont ot hese novels, writes humor well, and there are scenes (including one involving blackberries) that first provoke a smile and then a laugh. Once the family arrives from Italy, and then the extended family from all over, the story moves into an ongoing series of funny scenes.
And Heading Home is touching, including one scene between A.J. and her father that’s happened a million times in fiction but here seems fresh, tender and real.
Heading Home is not the kind of fiction I usually read, but it’s aimed right at its target audience, and the target audience’s parents (and grandparents) won’t mind reading it, either.