Summary:  Nothing is going as Rebecca planned.  She selected a college across the country where she could get away from her parents.  Now her father’s job is taking the whole family exactly where she is going.  And, what about Jackson, her amazing boyfriend?  Everyone knows long distance relationships don’t work, right?  But before she can even really decide what to do about him, her family is shaken with news that makes Rebecca question absolutely everything.

Thoughts:  I read an interview with author Justina Chen about the inspiration for the novel and then heard her speak about it in person at a Little, Brown dinner at ALA Midwinter.  In both interview and talk, Ms. Chen eloquently described how she went through a devastating life change but she came through it, the pain and dust ultimately transforming to beautiful stardust.  She penned Return to Me to tell a story of redemption and to remind her children (and readers!) that it is possible for good to come from the bad.

Return to Me completely succeeds.  It is a powerful story of redemption as well as first loves, expectations, disappointments, and self-discovery.  As in North of Beautiful, Ms.Chen incorporates complex characters, complicated family relationships, the power of art, and the potential to find oneself through new experiences and travels.  This time the art is in the form of architecture (a subject I love!) and the adventure takes place in Hawaii (what’s not to love?).

Read Return to Me if you …

  • enjoyed North of Beautiful (be watching for some former characters to make a brief appearance!)
  • have an interest in architecture
  •  have experienced a painful family conflict
  • enjoy stories of first love