ARC Review: Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen

Late to the PartyLate to the Party by Kelly Quindlen
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Seventeen is nothing like Codi Teller imagined.

She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world.

So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.

But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named Lydia.

The only problem? Codi never tells Maritza or JaKory about any of it.

Late to the Party had me at its concept itself – about feeling like you are missing out on life. Codi has a myopic view of what it means to be a Teenager, and her best friends Maritza and JaKory are sort of in the same boat; all of them feel, that at 17, they should have had some romantic/sexual experience, and being queer themselves, they all have found few prospects, compared to their ‘straight’ classmates. Maritza wants them to change the dynamic, to go out looking for love, to put themselves out there, but Codi is afraid, partly of rejection, and partly about feeling like she doesn’t know how to be that person. When she comes across Ricky, they sort of form a bond together, and though her best friends are also queer and she can share that with them, with Ricky she is able to come out of her well-worn track and try out new things. The fact that the girl she met at his party, and is crushing on, is one of the people in his circle of friends is an added bonus, and soon she becomes comfortable and absorbed in that group, while cutting down on how much time she spends with her old friends.

I wanted to grow. I wanted to feel like someone different. I wanted to know that my friends and my weekends and my crushes were things I was choosing for myself.

The book explores so much – about being shy and queer, about putting yourself out there, and how much caution and walls you can build up, about identity, and coming out and learning to set your own pace about your growth but also not letting it stifle you. Codi’s and Ricky’s wlw-mlm solidarity is also so well-developed, and it is not really what you expect at first – Ricky is wingman-ing her, but is keeping his own troubles close to heart as he figures out his sexuality. Most of the teens in this book are also only out to their close friends, so it is also about trusting your people and letting them know your troubles. Codi’s relationship with Maritza and JaKory is not sidelined, either, and the distance she feels with them is thoroughly explored, as well as the things that bring them back together again. The book does a great job with exploring the different side of their friendships, with the fact that they are queer in mind.

Of course, Codi’s romantic prospects are also a part of the plot, as she tries to figure out if Lydia (her crush) could be interested in girls, too. Through that, she also challenges her own notion of what it means to be ‘ready’, and the shame she feels over being a ‘late-blooomer’ (I could argue that 17 is hardly late, though, lol). But Codi’s low self-esteem is not just about that, and it is tied into more complex matters.

Overall, I loved the themes of the book, the tone it takes with respect to those themes, and evoking that feeling of being a teen and the insecurities you have.

Is it diverse? lesbian main character; queer secondary characters including two black gay guys, a bisexual girl of Panamanian origin; sapphic love interest

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Roaring Brook Press, via Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

Buy links

The Book Depository | Wordery

Releases on April 21, 2020

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