3.5 star, YA

ARC Review: Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off meets Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist in this romp through the city that never sleeps from the New York Times bestselling author of Since You’ve Been Gone, Morgan Matson.

Two girls. One night. Zero phones.

Kat and Stevie—best friends, theater kids, polar opposites—have snuck away from the suburbs to spend a night in New York City. They have it all planned out. They’ll see a play, eat at the city’s hottest restaurant, and have the best. Night. Ever. What could go wrong?

Well. Kind of a lot?

They’re barely off the train before they’re dealing with destroyed phones, family drama, and unexpected Pomeranians. Over the next few hours, they’ll have to grapple with old flames, terrible theater, and unhelpful cab drivers. But there are also cute boys to kiss, parties to crash, dry cleaning to deliver (don’t ask), and the world’s best museum to explore.

Over the course of a wild night in the city that never sleeps, both Kat and Stevie will get a wake-up call about their friendship, their choices…and finally discover what they really want for their future. 

That is, assuming they can make it to Grand Central before the clock strikes midnight.


**Take Me Home Tonight comes out May 4, 2021!**

Thank you Netgalley and Simon Schuster Canada for this copy in exchange for an honest review

Let me first start off by saying, “phew, what a wild ride!” this book truly was. It took a little warming up to at first but by the end of the night, it was like we went down a very long journey with each girl. Take Me Home Tonight lives up to the Ferris Bueller theme as besties Stevie and Kat journey into the heart of the city on their own with hardly a soul knowing where they were up to. This is a story about friendship (the best of kinds), facing what is holding you back, and being able to grow from these things instead of letting it tear you back down. While it may focus on two teenage girls, I do think the themes here teach a great lesson for any age.

I will say it took a while to get into the story. We have a slower beginning as Morgan sets the stage for the girls’ trek into NYC. Both Stevie and Kat are theatre kids and they LOVEEE and live for this. When the list for the next play’s casting unexpectedly does NOT go up when it should have before the weekend, it particularly drives Kat insane who has her eye on a specific role she absolutely needs to land. I understood her drive although the lengths she goes to drag Stevie downtown for ulterior, self-serving motives drove me mad. Meanwhile, Stevie has family issues to deal with as her father has remarried, giving her 3 grown-up stepsiblings who all live in the city and get to hang with her father more than she could.

With each girl figuring out their future and what it is they want, they set off to have a quiet, fun night in NYC and then hopping back up to their suburbia home before anyone (aka their parents) know any better. Little do they know, things are about to get CRAZY.

Out of the two, I definitely connected with Stevie more. She was the quieter one while Kat was more spontaneous and wild. They balanced each other out, which can be a great thing when it comes to a dynamic duo friendship like theirs. But I definitely felt Kat had more growing up to do because…she really seemed like an immature teenage girl. Which is weird to say because these days, most YA protagonists do not sound or feel like teenagers. Yet Kat was a little self-absorbed, knowing Stevie didn’t have enough of a backbone to yell at her/fully disagree with her plans for them. She would always take Stevie’s phone – out of her hand – without asking to just use it. Her first inclination was to NOT take responsibility for things that were, well, her responsibility! Doesn’t this sound like a wonderful, full-blooded teenager figuring herself out?

However, Kat was right in the sense that Stevie really had no spine in the beginning. She would not tell anyone she was hurting, physically or emotionally, because she didn’t want to bring attention to that or make them uncomfortable. It’s oddly enough a character trait I see in Asian cultures, that sense of trying not to be a nuisance or bother to other people. It definitely requires some balance because self-care is important too.

Thankfully, these things each girl has to work with is something they have to come face to face with in one night. I won’t give away the crazy sequence of events that happen to them, but let’s just say their phones aren’t with them anymore at some point, there is a dog thrown into the mix somehow (see gorgeous cover!), a kiss or two with an interesting guy and some potential moments of danger (but you know, not too dangerous although you never know in the big, bad city!).

Oh, and the best part? Each of them have to face this alone. No distraction, no excuses, no friend to rely on for the things they usually avoid. Both Stevie and Kat go through some interesting things in one night – like, can someone go through such events in only several hours? – but perhaps only in the City that Never Sleeps, right?

One thing I wanted to note is that technically, there are 3 POVs in this story. While the majority is between Stevie and Kat on their respective adventures, their third, mutual friend Teri also has a strange adventure of her own back in their suburbia town.

Firstly, I have mad respect for Teri. How does a girl slot herself into a tight friendship like Kat and Stevie’s without feeling like you’re the constant third wheel that is always second thought? I’m not sure I could do that. But here she was, being the “lie” the girls gave their parents for what their evening was going to be. When a parent calls Kat for last minute babysitting, who has to cancel their night to ensure Kat doesn’t get into trouble for not being where she’s supposed to be? Uh, Teri of course. What a great friend! I would love to have a girl like that in my corner.

Okay, so babysitting sounds like nothing super special. Maybe a diversion from a nice evening planned at home but still, how exciting can this POV be, you ask? Well, let’s just say these kids are ridiculously smart (are 11 year olds actually that brilliant?) and hilarious. The (mis)adventure they find themselves on with Teri is perhaps wilder than anything Stevie OR Kat faced. The only thing was that I wished there was more of this. These POVs were only snippets in between chapters or at the end of one of the other POV chapters, like a little tension reliever from all that was going on emotionally with either girl.

Also, it’s in Teri’s POV where we encounter the ever lovely Canadian stereotype. What is that, you ask? Well, you know, the idea that every Canadian is super polite and our police force is ALWAYS the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (also, no one says the whole thing, you shorten it…because it’s long). I always find it fascinating seeing Canadian representation in literature from non-Canadians. I mean, it could be a worse stereotype so I can’t complain.

To conclude, the beginning definitely was a little longer than I wanted it to be to get to the adventure in New York but it was worth the wait. The lessons learned along the way and the adventures all THREE girls go on in one evening was super fun to follow along. The protagonists definitely act like teenage girls so it’s understandable I was quite annoyed with them for a good 45% of the book for doing dumb things. But, like some things that take time to get good, Take Me Home Tonight is one of those stories that do get good, even great, if you are willing to push through the parts that may not be what you’re looking for.

Overall Recommendation:

Take Me Home Tonight is a story of friendship that is tested and growing from the things we avoid, all against the backdrop of an evening adventure in New York City. Split across 2 (technically 3) POVs, we follow besties Stevie and Kat as they each encounter interesting individuals, places/sights they have never seen and a new perspective of who they want to be. While the beginning was a little slow to get the pieces laid out for this wonderful evening, and the girls definitely acted like their teenage years, it was surely balanced out with wonder, reflection and even some romance. Who said one night can’t change you forever?

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