Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant
Release Date - January 5, 2021
Publisher Website - Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 384 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for an honest review from the publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Jane the Virgin meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in this charming debut romantic comedy filled with Black Girl Magic. Perfect for fans of Mary H. K. Choi and Nicola Yoon, with crossover appeal for readers of Jasmine Guillory and Talia Hibbert romances.

Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson has never felt like the protagonist in her own life. She’s rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves. The only place she’s a true leading lady is in her own writing—in the swoony love stories she shares only with Caroline, her best friend and #1 devoted reader.

When Tessa is accepted into the creative writing program of a prestigious art school, she’s excited to finally let her stories shine. But when she goes to her first workshop, the words are just...gone. Fortunately, Caroline has a solution: Tessa just needs to find some inspiration in a real-life love story of her own. And she’s ready with a list of romance novel-inspired steps to a happily ever after. Nico, the brooding artist who looks like he walked out of one of Tessa’s stories, is cast as the perfect Prince Charming.

But as Tessa checks off each item off Caroline’s list, she gets further and further away from herself. She risks losing everything she cares about—including the surprising bond she develops with sweet Sam, who lives across the street. She’s well on her way to having her own real-life love story, but is it the one she wants, after all?

Happily Ever Afters is a story of discovering who you are along with fun romantic elements wrapped in the love of writing. It also is fast paced read that announces a new author to watch in the young adult contemporary genre.

Elise Bryant has taken a clever hook of  meet cute tropes to write what is essentially a coming of age story. It may feel fairly predictable but there is a comfort in that fact. It's one of those books that is exactly what you need when you're search out this specific genre. 

I have seen many calls for stories with Black main characters that don't just focus on trauma and pain. These types of books are important because representation matters. This book's entire premise is that Tessa is writing the types of books she has never gotten to see herself in previously. This book only offers up  the typical angst teenagers deal with - friend drama, family dynamics, crushes, school stress, and discovering who you and your beliefs. 

The fact that Tessa writes romance in her free time was such a perfect framing for this story. It will instantly connect with those readers who also write (or those who only wish they did) and it is used as a means to effectively push the plot forward. Tessa learns so much about herself through her writing and her writers block that it becomes a meaningful part of the story. 

Tessa's journey really is one of finding out who she is and discovering what she wants for herself. She definitely feels like an imposter at her new school and struggles with who she is outside of her writing and what it means if she can't do it anymore. She also feels her writing isn't as important or worthy because of what she is writing. All of this makes her very relatable. Many people struggle with imposter syndrome and feel out of place. 

Everyone has heard the saying 'perfect on paper' before. Something (or someone) can appear perfect because you don't really know anything except surface level stuff. This allows you to make that thing (or person) fit into the idealized version that you have in your head. This usually ends in heartbreak because rarely does the dream match the reality. Tessa's journey through a few of these discoveries was well done and written in a way that felt realistic to me. 

While the romance is important to the plot of this story I was happy with how much weight was also given to the relationships Tessa has with her friends and family. Tessa has to learn about herself and how she acts within both of these dynamics. These relationships actually provide the most opportunity for character growth. I, particularly, liked how complex her relationship with her mother was and the connection she had with her brother. The brushstrokes of friends growing at different speeds is woven in really well and captured in a realistic way within these. pages. 

This is an excellent choice for fans of young adult contemporary novels. It has a main character you'll root for, and offers a fresh take on a comfortingly familiar story. Just be sure to have some sweet treats on hand before diving into this one because it will definitely leave you craving them.

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