I’ve been on a YA kick lately, from teens working for the FBI, to teens saving the world, to teens riding on phoenixes.
Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon is a contemporary YA romance that recently caught my attention. The main story sounded a little bit like a cross between the movies Booksmart and Before Sunrise, but with a scavenger hunt added in. Or a YA version of Beach Read that happens in a single night.
WARNING: VERY slight spoilers below.
The premise is that high school rivals Rowan Roth and Neil McNair, who are vying for valedictorian as the book opens, are thrown together on the last day of school for a senior class scavenger hunt that takes them all over Seattle. Rowan wants to be a romance novelist, but she hasn’t told anyone. Neil has family drama that even his closest friends don’t know much about. As they move through the clues and travel together all over the city, they also learn much more about the others’ lives, desires, goals, and secrets than they ever found out during the four years they were in school together.
SPOILER: Though it is solidly YA, there is one sex scene toward the end. It’s not graphic, but if your kids aren’t ready for frank discussions about sex and condom use then they’re not ready for this book. More on that below.
It was cute. Normally I’d give this type of book 3 stars on Goodreads — I liked it, probably won’t read it again, but will recommend it to others who I think would like it. But for this one I bumped it up to four. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked:
- Sex-positive and safe sex messages: there are a few times when sex comes up in the book. In the real world teenagers talk about these things, but it’s rare to see it handled in such an open way in a YA book. They discuss condoms, what it’s like to lose one’s virginity, and the double standard set for women (‘good girls don’t have sex’) vs men (‘need to be experienced’) that is rampant in our culture. If you prefer a book with no sex or talk of sex at all, then this one probably isn’t for you. But I think more material aimed at teens should be so open and honest about sex in general to demystify it.
- Female-positive messages: I also love that the characters have discussions around traditional gender roles (girls are supposed to like this or that), and the way some things (such as romance novels) are dismissed as ‘lesser than’ just because they happen to be aimed at a primarily female audience. The idea that women are allowed to enjoy sex shouldn’t be news, nor that some men don’t, and I’m glad the characters brought a number of these issues up throughout the book. These are conversations we should be having with our teens, and I’m glad to see it talked about in such an open way.
- It’s a love letter to romance novels: the main character wants to be a romance writer, and it comes up lots of times that people who haven’t even read any will dismiss the genre as a joke. If this is you, do yourself a favor and pick up a Nora Roberts book. Many of them are really good.
- It’s a love letter to Seattle: I don’t know much about Seattle, though I think I know much more now that I’ve read this book. But you can tell that the author loves it, and that makes me happy.
- It’s more inclusive than some of the romance books I’ve read: It happens that this one is a cis-gender, heteronormative romance, but some of the friends fall on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and though it’s not discussed much it is accepted without question. I like the trend to write characters that better represent the actual world, instead of pretending everyone is cis/hetero, and to accept everyone for who they are. Of course there is always room for more Own Voices stories that give a picture of what it’s like when people aren’t as accepting. It just happens that wasn’t the story this author was trying to tell (in terms of gender; the story does share a bit about what it’s like to be “the Jewish kid,” and negativity that sometimes accompanies being different).
Long story short, it’s a fun, generally positive book, I enjoyed it a lot, and some day when my teen is ready for romance books, this will be the first one I recommend.
Have you read any good romance lately? What YA are you working on? Let us know in the comments!
Photo of Seattle by Zhifei Zhou on Unsplash