Contemporary romance faves Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka are back with a tale of college, family, and unexpected romance in TIME OF OUR LIVES!
Juniper Ramirez knows she has major potential and she’s ready to go out into the world to explore it, but her dreams are meeting some pushback. She’s the oldest child in a large family and her relatives, particularly her great-aunt, aren’t shy about highlighting the disruption her departure will cause. It doesn’t help that her boyfriend, with whom she’s embarking on her big college tour, sees college as a fun, responsibility-light experience rather than a path to better things. Meanwhile, Fitz Holton has every intention of staying in southern New Hampshire to help his mother, who has a complicated health history. His mother is practically forcing him to go on a college tour, escorted by his distant older brother, Lewis.
As you can tell from the description, this story isn’t just a straight-up meet cute. It’s got lots of layers! Juniper and Fitz don’t fall madly in love at their first meeting, but each time they speak to each other, you see a little bit of a spark that’s so warm and inviting. You watch their chemistry build and be challenged as they try to find themselves through their college exploration. The circumstances of their road trip are a bit unrealistic– both high school seniors are essentially given free reign to travel alone by their parents and of course, both are baby geniuses who are pretty confident that they can get into any college they want– but their journey is still fun and profound.
And a minor spoiler just for those who feel uncomfortable about the implication in the description: There’s no cheating involved.
Their relationship is carefully juxtaposed by their relationships with their families, which play a huge, important part in the story. Time Of Our Lives is as much about discovering yourself as it is about discovering the ways people in your life vary. Juniper’s family leans on her too much for her tastes and her great aunt is shaming her for wanting to leave. Fitz’s brother is more concerned with parties and his lucrative future job prospects than their mother’s health. Or so it seems. Slowly, the story pulls things back and we see the levels of nuance that the character’s couldn’t originally understand, and it’s pretty beautiful.
That being said, I did still have a couple of qualms with this one. I really like a strong, definitive conclusion and Time Of Our Lives leaves things very open to interpretation. I don’t think it will irk everyone, but it didn’t totally work for me. I wanted a better idea of where life would take these characters and their loved ones. Additionally, I’m from the area where much of this story takes place and went to college in the area where Juniper grew up. While the book’s feel for major cities like Boston and New York City felt right, there were a few inaccuracies about the rest of New England that kind of drove me up a wall. For instance, treating Springfield, MA like a small town devoid of much to offer when it’s actually one of the largest and most diverse cities in the state. Mind you, I have an early ARC of the book and it’s possible these things were corrected before publication.
If you like a coming of age story that’s as heartfelt as it is romantic, you’ll enjoy Time Of Our Lives despite the story having some quirks. It’s just so fun to see two characters come together and exploring the world through their eyes was part dreamy, part hopeful.
RATING: 3.75 OUT OF 5 STARS
A boy desperate to hold on, a girl ready to let go.
Fitz Holton waits in fear for the day his single mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s starts stealing her memory. He’s vowed to stay close to home to care for her in the years to come–never mind the ridiculous college tour she’s forcing him on to visit schools where he knows he’ll never go. Juniper Ramirez is counting down the days until she can leave home, a home crowded with five younger siblings and zero privacy. Against the wishes of her tight-knit family, Juniper plans her own college tour of the East Coast with one goal: get out.
When Fitz and Juniper cross paths on their first college tour in Boston, they’re at odds from the moment they meet– while Juniper’s dying to start a new life apart for her family, Fitz faces the sacrifices he must make for his. Their relationship sparks a deep connection–in each other’s eyes, they glimpse alternate possibilities regarding the first big decision of their adult lives.
Time of Our Lives is a story of home and away, of the wonder and weight of memory, of outgrowing fears and growing into the future.