The last couple of weeks have held a lot of uncertainty and I, like everyone, have been adjusting to this new normal. Since I work from home all the time, my day-to-day Monday through Friday routine wasn’t interrupted too much. I do miss going to the gym though as it provides not only a physical outlet for my stress but also gets me out of the house. Social distancing is getting to me, like it is for many, and I’m just so thankful that I have my hubby home with me. I can’t imagine how difficult this time is for those who live alone. One suggestion I can offer for anyone who is struggling with staying in and staying alone is to read.
As Mason Cooley once so wisely said, “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” I’ve never felt the truth of this sentence more deeply than during this time of quarantine, isolation, and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of us in the bookish community have taken Mr. Cooley’s words to heart these last couple of weeks and have engaged in binge reading. I read two celebrity memoirs last weekend (see my Instagram for details and mini-reviews!) and read two YA novels last week by Katey Taylor, Inebriated and Neon Nights. These two books were great examples of why I love YA, and I’m excited to share my reviews with you!
In Inebriated, we meet 17 year old Cait at the start of the summer of her junior year in high school. She lives in the suburbs of San Francisco but spends as much time as possible in the city partying. She has two best friends, Steph and Allie, though Cait tends to be closer with Steph. The three girls love partying in the city, or anywhere really, as long as they can drink. They drink before they go out, on their way out, and while they’re out. Cait starts to feel the effects – the constant hangovers and lying to her parents – but she doesn’t quit. Her home life is not ideal. Her parents are working on saving their marriage and kind of live in their own worlds. They make it easy for Cait to sneak around and party.
One night while partying in the city, Cait meets Adrien Cross, the 24 year old lead singer of one of her favorite bands. Cait can’t believe her luck that he is drawn to her of all the girls in the crowd. She soon finds herself immersed in Adrien’s world of music, drinking, and drugs. She also finds herself weaving complex webs of lies to cover their relationship from her parents.
All in all, this was an interesting YA read. It was realistic. A lot of teenagers turn to drugs and alcohol to escape problems at home. Cait clearly uses partying as a coping mechanism, at least initially, but then finds that it’s hard to stop. I liked Steph’s character. She was a great BFF, but Allie kind of rubbed me the wrong way. She’s one of those girls who is your best friend until a guy comes along. Then she gets so wrapped up in her boyfriend that she doesn’t have the time of day for girlfriends anymore.
Cait’s parents really irritated me, especially her mom. They were so wrapped up in themselves! Cait makes all kinds of lame excuses about where she’s going and why she’s late when she comes home and they never even check up on her. Cait deserved more attentive parents. I like that at the end Cait has a sort of self-awareness moment and realizes that her drinking is a problem that has led to poor choices but she doesn’t quite understand why or how to stop. That felt realistic, like she knew something wasn’t right but she wasn’t ready to reach out for help.
The ending was good. There is a tragic event that takes place near the end. I was sad about it but I’m thankful that it happened because I think it serves as a cautionary tale to teens who think partying comes without consequences. The ending sets up the sequel perfectly as Cait’s journey is far from over at the end of this novel. I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend Cait’s story to teens and young adults, especially if they’re dealing with some problems at home. I think they will relate to Cait in a special way.
Neon Nights picks up right where Inebriated left off. Cait has just made a big move (I won’t say where or with whom to avoid spoilers!) I will say that reading the first book is essential to following Neon Nights. Cait is reeling from a crazy summer and a tragic loss and all of this comes into play as her story continues.
Cait and her parents return in this sequel, along with a couple of other familiar faces. New characters are also introduced, including Pete, Cait’s new classmate and new BFF. Pete is a very attractive guy, but Cait soon finds out that he is gay and only has eyes for his boyfriend. But that doesn’t stop the two from hitting it off and quickly becoming friends. Pete shows Cait around her new town and introduces her around. Cait soon finds herself back to her old ways – drinking, partying, and trying to cope with the loss she suffered over the summer. Things seem to be kind of coming together for her when a blast from her past shows up out of nowhere, sending her whole world spiraling.
Neon Nights finds Cait in much the same situation as in Inebriated. She’s still using alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism and has some emotional issues she needs to work out. Cait gains more awareness of her dependence on substances in this sequel and is open to getting help. She even agrees to see a therapist.
All in all, I felt Neon Nights was a great follow up. Like in the first book, there is a bombshell twist near the end that leaves the reader kind of shaken. But, again, I appreciate Ms. Taylor’s inclusion of these events in both books because it makes them realistic. I hope Cait’s stories serve as cautionary tales to teens, encourage those with substance abuse issues to seek help, and help those who can relate to Cait’s story feel that they are not alone.
Both Inebriated and Neon Nights are available now!