by Sarah Tomp
Reviewed by SA
Romance and moonshine make for a good novel. Sweet, smart, and positively gripping, I would describe My Best Everything as a teenage Breaking Bad, and it is just as addicting. It is also possibly the most believable YA romance I had read in… well, quite possibly ever.
Summary (From Goodreads)
Luisa “Lulu” Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out.
Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (definitely illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends, Roni and Bucky. Quickly realizing they’re out of their depth, Lulu turns to Mason: a local boy who’s always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything – including her heart?
The summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating. My Best Everything is Lulu’s letter to Mason – though is it an apology, a good-bye, or a love letter?
While primarily a romance, what I feel sets this novel apart is the fact that Lulu doesn’t make Mason her primary focus in life. Mason is not the usually ‘dreamy brooding teenager’ that you usually find in YA: he’s older than she is, a high school dropout, and struggling with alcoholism. She doesn’t drop everything when she meets him, her life doesn’t radically change: no, her relationship with Mason is something that grows naturally, and you feel the chemistry between them; it does not seem forced or unhealthy. The novel manages to be a romantic, without being a romance novel, making Mason important to Lulu’s growth.
And yet, this romance is not what defines Lulu: Lulu defines Lulu. There is just something fantastically appealing about driven characters. When I first picked up this book, I immediately felt Lulu’s drive, her determination to reach her goal, and it made her just so reachable. Lulu is a smart young woman, and this is her coming of age story, her experience with alcohol, men, and money. She was entirely relatable – for me, a whole lot more than I would like to admit – and everything she did was with one goal in mind: raise the money for university.
The story itself is a letter to Mason, so he is always addressed in the second person, always referred to as “you,” “you did this” “you did that”. The letter format made the entire novel seem more honest and intimate, which only added to the list of reasons I could not put it down. It was an entirely realistic look into their lives, and I was hooked.
Not to forget the moonshine. Moonshine! Lulu’s adventures in distillery are fascinating to follow. Her friends too have an interesting dynamic, both with her and each other. Their problems are just as real as Lulu’s, and the reader is drawn into their lives as well. They break the stereotypes of small town, southern Americans. Though they do enjoy the occasional potato chips in ice cream.
I loved this book. I felt an instant connection to Lulu; I loved the moonshine; and I respected her relationships. It is a novel about love, betrayal, ambition, and the tough choices. Come for the moonshine, stay for the character development; you will be intoxicated.