Cover Time of Our Lives: A boy and girl lean against a white wall with plants above their heads

About the Book

Title: Time of Our Lives
Published: 2020
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Confusing
BFF Charm: Yay x2
Talky Talk: He Said, She Said
Bonus Factors: College, Road Trips, Cameos, Family
Relationship Status: Let’s Be Roommates

Cover Story: Confusing

Well, they took pains to get the cover models right at least. Fitz is a tall, lanky red-head, and Juniper does have freckles and a mass of curly dark hair. The style matches the authors’ last book’s cover, so I suppose they’re trying to make a visual connection for former readers; however, the vibe does not fit the story at ALL. It’s supposed to be the middle of December on the East Coast, and I cannot see Juniper wearing those boots and mini to admissions info sessions.

The Deal:

Fitz’s mom is forcing him on a road trip with his older brother to visit colleges all over the East Coast over winter break, despite his insistence that he’s fine attending college near home. His issue? Fitz’s mom has the gene for early onset Alzheimer’s, and he knows that soon she will need him around. How could he ever think of going away and leaving her all alone?

Juniper, the oldest of five children with a very close-knit family, cannot WAIT to get away to college to find her independence and get out from under the judgmental gaze of her Tía. (She’s also super pumped about the academics part, as a self-proclaimed nerd.) Along with her boyfriend, Matt, Juniper departs on her own college tour, and it just so happens her fate will converge with Fitz’s during an info session at Boston University.

Fitz and Juniper have completely different priorities that put them at odds, but there’s something sparking between them that could challenge everything about the way they see themselves and the next four years.

BFF Charm: Yay x2  

2 BFF charms

Juniper is such a confident, studious person; a Rory Gilmore type (before everyone seemingly began to hate her) who meticulously researched universities and dreams of walking ivy-covered halls discussing famous architecture. Most of her family cannot comprehend why she longs to strike out on her own, but after years of driving around her younger siblings, providing free babysitting, and free kitchen labor at the family restaurant, she is tired of being taken advantage of. I am also jealous of Juniper’s excellent memory, but I know I’d get just as frustrated as she does when I fact-checked people using exact quotes of our prior conversation and it doesn’t go over well.

And then there’s Fitz. I wanted to smush him. He’s paralyzed by the overwhelming fear of what will happen to his mother, and filled with bitterness about how his older brother prefers playing beer pong and sleeping around than visiting home, leaving him to shoulder all the responsibility. He’s got himself so worked up about everything, and there were times I could relate to him a little too much. He carries a dictionary around as a distraction and security blanket, because if he can find a unique word to describe his feelings or a situation, he can make some sense out of chaos.

His love of linguistics, combined with his tall, wiry build and angular face, offhandedly reminded me of this super-interesting dialect coach and teacher, Erik Singer, from YouTube who dissects movie accents (and more). While that guy isn’t a redhead, I thought this is totally who Fitz could grow up to be. (Also if you’ve never watched any of his videosyou’re welcome.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

So as I was starting this book, I had to go back and double-check some early reviews, because I was told this contained a sweet romance, and yet, um, Juniper already HAS a nice boyfriend with whom she begins this road trip. How was that going to work? But never fear; while there’s obviously a connection between Fitz and Juniper, nothing is acted upon until Juniper and Matt have ended things, and they do so in a way that mostly feels believable, especially for a high-school couple really contemplating their future together for the first time.

For Fitz and Juniper’s side of the romance, it’s all a bit heady and sweet, and I was charmed. There’s a bitter sweetness that lingers over the whole affair, as we all know these two don’t live in the same state and won’t be making their college decisions based on one another (rightfully so). All the time we have is now…

Talky Talk: He Said, She Said

It’s clear my love of the first book I read from this writing duo was not a fluke (and neither was Rosemary’s!). Juniper and Fitz are very different than the brash, overly-honest Cameron, but it was as easy to fall for them in just the same way. The authors’ writing oozes vulnerability and an authentic understanding of how exciting, scary, and overpowering it feels when you’re on the brink of the rest of your life. We may not all have the luxury of touring some of the most popular colleges on the East Coast and having a hope (or a care) to get into one, but the feeling of having to pick the place and the major you’ll spend the next four years growing into is pretty universal. If you’re past your college years, you’ll look at this book with some nostalgia; if you’re still a teen yourself, you can take notes from a mostly realistic, sometimes dreamy look at this seminal time in one’s life.

Bonus Factor: College 

Elle Woods in a Harvard classroom

It’s an under-utilized locale in YA novels but a lot of big coming-of-age changes happen at college! Also, college is just fun. I was not into Greek life at all, so I would’ve ditched that frat party like Fitz, but the parties you have with your friends in your dorms just chilling ’til 3 a.m. are just as fun. And there’s cool and crazy traditions like the Primal Scream (look it up, or better yet, just read the book!).   

Bonus Factor: Road Trips

Happy Couple Driving on Country Road in Classic Vintage Sports Car

If we don’t discuss the actual act of driving during a road trip, then I wholeheartedly approve of them! Juniper and Fitz have some deep conversations in the car, which seems to be the perfect spot to air your darkest thoughts. Something about sitting side-by-side but not having to look at each other in eyes makes it easier to talk about those heavy topics.

Bonus Factor: Cameos  

Close up of Matt Damon with piercings playing a singer in Euro Trip

From what I recall, this writing pair enjoys putting little cameos of former characters in every book they write. It took me a hot second to realize we were eavesdropping on this particular couple because they were from If I’m Being Honest, but once I did, I had to go back and give it a closer reread for a glimpse into their “ever-after”.

Bonus Factor: Family  

7 family members of all ages in a group hug

Some of the “family” from this book were treading the anti-bonus waters, especially Tía, who dishes out a heavy helping of guilt and manipulation alongside her tamales. I really don’t prescribe to the idea that family should be allowed to get away with disrespecting your decisions and treating you like dirt in the name of familial loyalty, and Tía, man, she really pushed my buttons. But no one in Juniper’s family was completely right or wrong, so there was some compromising that needed to be done on both sides. Hopefully you all come out stronger for it.

For Fitz, his family squabbles really just emphasized their need for honest and open communication, though I certainly empathized with his choice to bottle things up, as a person who longs to avoid confrontation myself…

Relationship Status: Let’s Be Roommates

Oh my gosh, Book, we’re going to the same university! You are so cool and fun and real; we should totally try to get a dorm together!

Literary Matchmaking

Time of Our Lives

In I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin, our characters are already in college before life’s lessons smack them over the head with their importance.

Time of Our Lives

If there was ever a success story to point towards in the defense for more college-focused YA, it’s Rainbow Rowell’s super-popular novel, Fangirl.

Time of Our Lives

Want your coming-of-age to have a bit more European flair? Explore Italy’s coast with the college-bound protagionist from April Lindner’s Love, Lucy.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Penguin Books. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Time of Our Lives is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.