About the Book

Title: Tonight the Streets Are Ours
Published: 2015
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Cover Story: Saves (Type) Face
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Talky Talk: Straight Up Droll
Bonus Factors: Female Friendship, American Girl, Stefon
Relationship Status: Love IRL

Cover Story: Saves (Type) Face

While it can’t top the cover of Leila Sales’ last novel, this design is totally respectable, mostly due to the fact that its typography game is strong. Sure, there’s no hint of New York City, and I don’t get the feather reference, but all is forgiven because that title just looks so damn good.

The Deal:

“Why doesn’t anybody love me as much as I love them?”

This is the question that Arden Huntley types into Google one fateful night. She’s tired of taking care of Lindsey, her mess of a best friend; she’s angry at her mother for walking out on her, her little brother, and her distant father; she’s sick of taking cues from her theater-obsessed boyfriend. And, most of all, Arden is completely over being herself.

So when this question is echoed by a website called “Tonight the Streets Are Ours,” Arden instantly connects with the voice of the site, Peter, who writes about love, heartbreak, and his dreams of the future. Comforted by his honesty and thrilled by his adventures, Arden develops a kinship with him, a boy she’s never met, that feels powerful and real—so real, in fact, that she decides to drive to New York City to find him. But what she discovers there is both infinitely more and substantially less than she bargained for.*

*And I don’t mean that in a Catfish kind of way. Nor in a To Catch a Predator way. Y’all know Leila Sales wouldn’t pull shizz like that!

BFF Charm: Big Sister

BFF Charm Big Sister with Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All's face

I can’t tell you the number of times I exclaimed, “Oh, Arden!” while reading this book. But underneath my exasperation at her naiveté and her penchant for martyrdom, there was a deep love for this lost, lonely girl. She’s loyal to a fault, and while they occasionally get twisted, her intentions stem from the best of places: wanting to make people happy. Her resentment toward her life and the people around her definitely resonated with me, but there were plenty of times when I wanted to sit her down and give her a few lectures with titles like, “Just Be Honest with Your Boyfriend**” and “You Can’t Fix Yourself by Fixing Other People.” (I was also dying to volunteer as the fun-but-responsible chaperone on her road trip to NYC.) Arden’s a good egg, just a little cracked—which is why she’s such a compelling, if frustrating, heroine.

**Alternately titled, “I Think Your Boyfriend Might Turn Out to Be Gay in Three Years.”

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Sure, Arden has a boyfriend, but the real attraction (pun intended) here is Peter. He’s emotionally available through his writing and yet alluringly enigmatic beneath it—in other words, he’s the ideal blend of a Mysterious Loner Dude and a guy who can talk about his feelings. With lines like this, it’s obvious why Arden is drawn to him:

“How long do you have until everyone expects you to hang up some dreams as impossible and commit yourself to being responsible?”

Anyone who’s ever obsessed over an online crush will connect with Arden’s fixation, particularly that delicious, slightly wicked feeling of intimacy that comes from reading a stranger’s private thoughts. While it’s easy to shake your head at her foolish mission to find him, it’s impossible not to feel a rush when she actually succeeds.

Talky Talk: Straight Up Droll

Leila Sales has always had a knack for burrowing into the minds of teenagers and then broadcasting their thoughts in surround sound. Her dialogue rings true, but her powers of perception really shine in the impulses and emotions that race through her heroines’ consciousness. Once you hop on to Arden’s train of thought, you become fully absorbed in the ride and engrossed in the shifting scenery of her mental landscape, which is dotted with landmarks that might echo your own. This line, for example, struck a chord with me:

Already she felt nostalgic for tonight. Already she could imagine herself months from now, wishing she had made more of this one night while she was still in it.

When I read those words, my teen self simply went, “EXACTLY.” (Hell, my adult self did too.)

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that this book is also funny. Sales’ sense of humor is dry with a touch of whimsy, resulting in passages like this one:

A couple years ago, when Arden’s family went to Atlantic Beach for a grand total of eight days, Lindsey had decided it would be a good idea to dress up in a sheet and stand alongside the road in the nighttime, to make drivers think they’d seen a ghost. One driver panicked when he saw her, swerved, and crashed into a tree. Nobody got injured, but the car required thousands of dollars of repairs, which Lindsey was still paying off. This was the sort of thing that happened when Arden left Lindsey alone.

Tonight The Streets Are Ours is a deceptively easy read, so when you find yourself racing through it like Arden devouring a new Peter post, force yourself to slow down and savor the journey that Sales has so carefully and lovingly plotted.

Bonus Factor: Female Friendship

Characters from Baby-Sitters' Club show sitting on a bed talking and laughing.

Most YA books feature some kind of best friend, but when it comes to the heart of the story, they usually play second fiddle to romance or family drama. While those latter two elements both feature heavily in this novel, I was pleased to see a strong focus on the relationship between Arden and Lindsey. Their friendship is that special breed born only out of a shared childhood, when being attached at the hip feels like a natural, biological state.

Maybe they would marry identical twins and the four of them would live in one big mansion together. One time Lindsey suggested that she and her twin husband could get a separate house, across the street from Arden and her twin husband, and Arden was like, “I don’t see why that would be necessary.”

Of course, that kind of bond begins to weaken as people grow and change, and Sales does a bang-up job of exploring those fractures in Lindsey and Arden’s relationship.

I also feel the need, while on the topic of friendship, to mention that Sales gives a nod to one of her besties, Rebecca Serle, with a little nugget that I won’t spoil for you. (But it totally made me squeal when I read it!)

Bonus Factor: American Girl

As a kid, Arden experiences a major life event revolving around Just Like Me dolls, which are basically American Girl dolls. And that life event is…awesome. In other news, Leila Sales is a genius.

Bonus Factor: Stefon

Okay, so Stefon isn’t actually in this book, but if he were, he would be losing his mind over Jigsaw Manor, the setting for one heck of a party. It’s got everything: fairy sculptures, a 10-piece band, rope nets, a musical chest of drawers, bubble wands, and a giant rabbit made of moss. I want to go to there!

Relationship Status: Love IRL

The surface qualities of this book—interesting premise, intriguing boy, irresponsible road trip—automatically make it appealing, but as we got to know each other, I discovered that it’s even better than its profile suggests. Meaningful and engaging, Tonight The Streets Are Ours pulled me in with its heart and humor, and my affection for it runs deep. I adore its vibrant spirit, but I also appreciate its pensive side, and whether we’re partying at Jigsaw Manor or baring our innermost secrets, I’m ever so glad that this book is part of my reality.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. Tonight the Streets Are Ours is available now.

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.