“The whole time, I’m here and only here. We’re an hourglass on its side, the sand suspended, hanging in temporary eternity.”
Synopsis: A boy desperate to hold on, a girl ready to let go.
Fitz Holton waits in fear for the day his single mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s starts stealing her memory. He’s vowed to stay close to home to care for her in the years to come–never mind the ridiculous college tour she’s forcing him on to visit schools where he knows he’ll never go. Juniper Ramirez is counting down the days until she can leave home, a home crowded with five younger siblings and zero privacy. Against the wishes of her tight-knit family, Juniper plans her own college tour of the East Coast with one goal: get out.
When Fitz and Juniper cross paths on their first college tour in Boston, they’re at odds from the moment they meet– while Juniper’s dying to start a new life apart for her family, Fitz faces the sacrifices he must make for his. Their relationship sparks a deep connection–in each other’s eyes, they glimpse alternate possibilities regarding the first big decision of their adult lives.
Time of Our Lives is a story of home and away, of the wonder and weight of memory, of outgrowing fears and growing into the future.
Title: Time of Our Lives
Author: Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
Published on April 21st 2020 by Viking Books For Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
As many of you know, I’m a HUGE fan of Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka’s novels. And seriously, how cute is it that they write novels together? I’m pretty sure that’s every booklovers relationship goals. I was so excited for this book that I pre-ordered it in 2019 … I haven’t pre-ordered anything since the Harry Potter books. Unfortunately, this book really didn’t do it for me. I wanted to love it so much, but the plot fell short and the characters just didn’t do it for me. But let’s get more into that.
↠ The “adventuring off to college” story’s rather relatable, bringing back some nostaglia. This could be a “WOE” if you haven’t experience college or university; but for me, Fitz and Juniper’s self-discovery journeys really brought back all the excitement and nerves of going off to university.
Though they have some overarching larger issues, the small details really brought it home: missing family, making connections with new people, being both excited yet terrified, researching schools and their programs. Not only was it nostalgic, it felt authentic to the college/university experience.
↠ Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka address a number of heavier topics, still within the context of school and planning one’s future. I really enjoyed the diverse mindsets of Fitz and Juniper. One wants to stay home to help their family, while the other feels suffocated and desires that freedom university provides. But they both learn valuable lessons under their stressful circumstances. Family matters, dysfunctional families, adoption, racial differences, overbearing homes, loneliness — the authors explore all these complex issues and emotions tied with them in a beautiful manner.
Fitz’s mom’s health is a major concern for him, constantly worrying about when her memory will fade and feeling as though he’s alone in caring for her. But he learns that he can’t stop living . He also learns a lot about appearances, learning that his brother copes and deals with things differently than him.
On the other side of things, Juniper’s family is too unbearable; she feels as though university will be her time where she can focus on herself and explore a new chapter in her life. But she starts to realize that it’s okay to still lean on her family and miss them, while they learn that they need to allow her time to spread her wings and find her own path.
↠ Since the plot isn’t necessarily that strong, that leaves more emphasis on the characters and writing; however, those areas fell short for me as well. For a character oriented novel, there’s definitely not enough focus on unfolding Fitz and Juniper’s characters. Firstly, neither of their personalities had this big spark of intrigue for me, especially when you compare to characters from Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka’s other novels. The writing was also out of whack. The story progressed too fast, leaving little room to unfold Fitz and Juniper’s characters more. By the end of the novel, I felt as though I was still missing 100+ pages of content to explore.
↠ I was excited to see some reconciliation among the characters, but it’s as though the authors forgot to address those issues. Juniper and Fitz have a LOT of unresolved tension between themselves and their loves ones. Fitz has SOME resolution between him and his brother, but we really don’t get to see it (it’s just mentioned in passing) and it’s glossed over real quick.
Then there’s Juniper, who has A LOT of tension between herself and members of her family … especially with her desire to start her own life. Though there’s some texts and phone calls that show the tensions have subsided, it was REALLY disappointing to not see her reconnect with them on a happier note in person at the end … Basically, it felt like the authors wanted to talk about SO MANY THINGS but didn’t provide enough time to really provide closure to those issues.
↠ The “connection” between Fitz and Juniper made no sense to me (WARNING: minor spoiler). Honestly, their “relationship” felt SUPER awkward; there was little to no connection between them, which caused me to grow REALLY bored of them. They simply had no chemistry, in my personal opinion. And Juniper’s reason for leaving her previous boyfriend seemed forced. I know sometimes relationships just end, but it felt as though the ONLY reason was so Fitz and Juniper could have their chapters together.
As excited as I was for Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka’s novel, Time of Our Lives simply didn’t excite and move me in the ways I was anticipating. That coming of age and going off to college story was such a treat, but the character development and story progression just fell short. By the end, I was left unsatisfied with the lack of resolutions and the abrupt ending. However, it’s a light and quick read that many others have really enjoyed. So even though it wasn’t my cup of tea, this may be the perfect summer read for you!
I recommend this novel if you enjoy: college/university preparation stories; a fast-paced read; insta-love; a focus on self-discovery and personal growth; multiple settings.
Have you read Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka’s Time of Our Lives? Have you read any of their other books? What were your thoughts on this novel or their other novels?