“When I was little, I thought that once fireworks went off, all those shiny bits would rain back down to earth like brightly colored coins [ … ] I didn’t understand that they weren’t something you could grasp once they’d been spent. Their existence was temporary — you had to lose them in order to appreciate them.”
Synopsis: For Sophie, small town life has never felt small. With her four best friends—loving, infuriating, and all she could ever ask for—she can weather any storm. But when Sophie’s beloved Acadia High School marching band is selected to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, it’s her job to get them all the way to LA. Her plan? To persuade country singer Megan Pleasant, their Midwestern town’s only claim to fame, to come back to Acadia to headline a fundraising festival.
The only problem is that Megan has very publicly sworn never to return.
What ensues is a journey filled with long-kept secrets, hidden heartbreaks, and revelations that could change everything—along with a possible fifth best friend: a new guy with a magnetic smile and secrets of his own.
Age Group & Genre(s): Coming of Age, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Point of View: First Person
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Publication Date: 2019
Marija @ Inside My Library Mind and I share a love for Emma Mills’ novels, always remarking on how fantastic the characters and plots are. So when she told me how great Mills’ newest novel was, I simply H A D to get my hands on it! Honestly, I was blown away. A number of people commented on how this was their least favourite Emma Mills novel, but this ended up being my new number one! The characters, the flow of the story, that nostalgia of summer fun throughout the novel … I was left with this feeling of happiness and delight when I finished the last sentence.
If you want to see Marija’s thoughts, here’s her review!
CONTENT & TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains death (mentioned), drug use (mentioned), guilt, loss of a loved one and trauma.
Hilarious and interesting characters that ACTUALLY reflect how teenagers act in real life! In every Emma Mills book I’ve read, she’s able to masterfully craft each character as their own unique individual. From interests to aesthetics and style, all the characters have their own voice, their own story and amazing qualities about themselves. The characters ALSO reflect teenagers in a realistic light, for they talk and behave and partake in activities that typical teenagers do. But it’s not JUST Mills’ character development and creation that does this, but the writing itself. From the main characters internal monologues to the dialogue portions among the central characters, it all READS as though they’re coming from a teenager’s perspective … and it’s HILARIOUS!
Contrary to what you may think, Famous in a Small Town is not just another romance novel. The story does focus greatly on August and Sophie’s rather complicated relationship, but it doesn’t overtake the overall plot. Famous in a Small Town is LARGELY a story about the beauty of old friendships and the blossoming of new ones. Mills explores the ups and downs of friendships, and how these strong relationships greatly and positively impact your life. This isn’t just explored with the group as a whole, but Sophie’s relationship with each individual character specifically. And the best thing? These are friendships that make you envious and want to be a part of their club — because even during the rough times when feelings are hurt, they’re still their for one another NO MATTER WHAT. It’s a contemporary novel that, FOR ONCE, doesn’t explore “girl on girl hate” nor guys getting UBER jealous nor friends that aren’t sh***y to one another … THANK GOSH!
Famous in a Small Town may be a comical story, but Mills still brings to light a number of serious and important topics. Each character’s not only special by their looks and personality, but by the struggles they each face — this is rather particular with Sophie, August, and Brit. For me, the topics in this novel hit me the most out of all of her other books I’ve read … it’s as though I could FEEL the heartbreak each character felt, crying along with them half of the time. Though a little more serious than what she usually tackles, I enjoyed how the topics remained in the realm of realistic and possible, allowing readers to possibly relate or at least empathize with their struggles as they read along. The big plot twist really got to me, but it was an eye opener to show that even the people who look like they have it together have their own demons and nightmares they struggle to cope with.
Though about a small town, Mills finds a way to add diversity and explore social injustice. It’s not the kind of obvious where it’s constantly talked about or the forefront of the plot, but it’s subtly in there. Brit identifies as bisexual and Dash as gay, but it’s not their defining quality — just another piece that makes them special. I love this, for it normalizes non-heterosexual relationships rather than making them seem like this “big deal” and “something that needs to be exploited and pointed out”. They’re just two teenagers who happen to not identify as heterosexual, which is a beautiful in itself. Mills also comments about how things aren’t always what they seem, particularly with hidden forms of racism — all because it’s not “out in the open”, doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening … and this statement’s SO ON POINT. This isn’t a BIG part — just a passing thought, but it’s a good one. I loved how just blunt it was, because it’s so true and something everyone should to keep in mind in their everyday lives.
The story’s phenomenal and engaging, but I wanted so much more! This is something I find rather common in Mills’ novels. Don’t get me wrong, Famous in a Small Town is still a fantastic novel with a lot of topics and events happening. But the story could’ve explored so many more avenues with the main characters and those that are mentioned in passing but seemed to have SO much more to offer. When serious issues arose, they weren’t explored enough … as though they’re mentioned and then we just move onto the next thing. Basically, the story felt rushed due to this lack of exploration and that the story takes place over the summer only. There could’ve EASILY been another 100+ pages to this novel.
Another frustrating insta-love story … and not a healthy one either. It’s not even the fact that it was insta-love, but the relationship in general was overly and unnecessarily dramatic. Though August had some underlying reasons for his behaviour, I still found him to be … well … a bit of a prick *inserting the gasps now*. There was this tug-o-war going on with me loving him to me hating him, especially with his treatment towards Sophie. Obviously, the novel was still R E A L L Y well done or I would’ve DNF’d it, but I feel as though Mills could’ve explored their relationship in a much more tasteful manner.
Famous in a Small Town is a completely refreshing read, beautifully illustrating how to effectively write a comical yet serious coming of age young adult novel. From the first sentence, Mills’ novel captured my attention and made it impossible to put down — seriously, I finished it in two days. From a well balanced pacing plot to a number of beautiful hidden gem moments, I simply can’t express in functional and comprehensible words how wonderful this reading experience was … hence why this review is so long ( … it was longer, folks). For those looking for a funny and heartwarming read on friendship and coping, I implore you to pick up your own copy of Mills’ YA novel and give it a go!