Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey (368 pages)
A Meet-Cute Quickly Dissolves into an Angsty Rivalry, In Last Chance Books.
Now that she’s graduated high school, Madeline Moore is hoping that her aunt Astrid will start to seriously consider making her manager of Books & Moore, the third-generation, family-owned bookstore that Madeline grew up in. After Madeline’s mother left her and her half-brother Benny nearly a decade ago, they moved in with their aunt and the family business became their home. Working alongside each other and their coworkers, the Books & Moore staff are not thrilled when the flashy new bookstore, Prologue, decides to open its second location right across the street. Madeline is even angrier when she realizes that her crush and regular customer, Jasper Hamada, not only works at Prologue, but is the owner’s son.
After Jasper’s cover is blown, the two start a prank war with competing store signs and coupon drives trying to lure away each other’s customers. But what Madeline quickly learns is that this rivalry might not last very long. Thanks to increased rent and falling sales, Astrid has already made the decision to close the store at the end of the summer. To make matters worse, Astrid tells Madeline and Benny that their mother is coming to stay with them. With Madeline’s once certain future completely up in the air, she starts turning in unexpected directions for comfort.
A Genuine Protagonist in a Diverse Setting
Madeline is a dynamic protagonist. While she’s endearing and generally wants to do the right thing, she’s also competitive to a fault and a bit petty. This makes her all the more relatable. Her angst, particularly in regards to her mother, is also relatable and authentic and seems earned even with the confines of the story. While readers can assume that Madeline is white, Rodkey does an artful job of weaving aspects of diversity into the story in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Madeline is plus-sized and challenges her own negative feelings about her self-image throughout the story. Benny is brown-skinned and Jasper is Japanese American. While all of these identities are important to their characters, none of them seem token or are objectified in any way. Rodkey also took the time to make Madeline’s situation with her mother more than just background in the story, which adds complexity to Madeline as a character.
The Bottom Line: 4.5/5 Brookie Stars
With most bibliophiles, I’m a sucker for any book set in a bookstore or library. Madeline and Jasper’s meet-cute immediately turns into a sworn enemies situation, like a modern Montague and Capulet situation, and I was hooked. I really enjoyed reading Madeline and Jasper try to remain loyal to their families while also trying to be true to themselves. And I found Madeline to be an intriguing character, one that seemed to be dealing with all kinds of issues, both personal and familial, which is much more authentic to what it’s like to be a teenager these days. On a surface level, I felt personally invested in Books & Moore’s success, having watched all the bookstores in my town close over the years. So I’d definitely recommend picking up this book, either from your own local bookstore or through bookshop.org, which enables you to support indie bookstores by shopping online!
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Rachel Gomes is a 30-something high school English teacher who lives with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their son. Rachel is a voracious reader who loves to learn and has her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. She’s happiest listening to podcasts and talking to friends about the latest news in nerd culture.
Favourite book: Don’t make me choose between A Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter
Favourite brunch spot: The Farmer’s Table