As usual, Andie Rose has a plan: Transfer from community college to the hyper competitive Blue Ridge State, major in psychology, and maintain her lifelong goal of becoming an iconic self-help figure despite the nerves that have recently thrown her for a loop. All it will take is ruthless organization, hard work, and her trademark unrelenting enthusiasm to pull it all together.
But the moment Andie arrives, the rest of her plans go off the rails. Her rocky relationship with her boyfriend Connor only gets more complicated when she discovers he transferred out of Blue Ridge to her community college. Her roommate Shay needs a major, and despite Andie’s impressive track record of being The Fixer, she’s stumped on how to help. And Milo, her coffee-guzzling grump of an R.A. with seafoam green eyes, is somehow disrupting all her ideas about love and relationships one sleep-deprived wisecrack at a time.
But sometimes, when all your plans are in rubble at your feet, you find out what you’re made of. And when Andie starts to find the power of her voice as the anonymous Squire on the school’s legendary pirate radio station–the same one her mom founded, years before she passed away–Andie learns that not all the best laid plans are necessarily the right ones.
Filled with a friend group that feels like family, an empowering journey of finding your own way, and a Just Kiss Already! romance, Begin Again is an unforgettable novel of love and starting again.
As college stories go with a coming-of-age trope, Begin Again made itself unique with its fun, personable characters that feel like your friends and an intriguing ribbon hunt organized for freshmans in their second term only. It made me reminiscent of my own college days (though with not quite so much drama). I thought the themes and message were great, but the pacing sometimes was a little slow to the point it became a struggle to push to the end. Otherwise, a solid book by Emma Lord although not what I consider her finest.
**Begin Again comes out January 24, 2023**
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
Cue the music, fellow Swifties. Begin Again is everything I thought it would be from the synopsis: the fun antics, anxiety-inducing identity crisis, and epic love affairs that can start and end within a school term.
Andie Rose was immediately a protagonist I recognized in myself. Having been abandoned by her father after the death of her mother (okay, that part I don’t relate to), Andie struggled with boundaries and pleasing those around her. While love should’ve been unconditional, it was hard to feel anything but the need to fix everything for those around her to earn the love and belonging she longed for. Boundary issues? Yep, got those in spades and I felt a little called out by Andie’s extreme antics.
Balancing Andie’s fix-it attitude are the plethora of fun secondary characters. I immediately fell in love with her two grandmas that came to live with her after her dad left. Grandma Maeve, the sassy and foul mouthed one, and Gammy Nell, the old fashioned and sweet one. They were polar opposites but loved Andie unconditionally. Every time they were on the page I couldn’t help but smile. Petition to have their own spinoff novella, anyone?
Andie’s roommate Shay and her tutor Valeria also weren’t your two-dimensional sidekick characters. I loved that Shay’s a bookstagrammer. #Relatable. And Valeria was a budding novelist who struggled to show her personal work to others. While these attributes could’ve defined them, I liked that Emma only used these elements as aspects of who they are and not relegating them to this sole interest as their whole personality.
But of course, this book isn’t without its romantic escapades. Enter Milo, a constantly sleep deprived, coffee-addicted RA. Their interactions were platonic (for far too long in this book, in my opinion) as Andie had a long distance boyfriend, but you can FEEL the romantic tension between them through the pages. That’s the mark of excellent writing, if you ask me. I loved how they built a solid friendship foundation but allowed room for it to become romantic if given the chance.
There were several messages and themes of the book, but it largely focused on Andie’s almost impulsive need to hunt as many ribbons possible to feel closer to her mom who created the pirate radio show and associated ribbon events when she went to school here. Trying to figure out how to live up to her mom’s huge legacy left no room for anything else, especially studies. Also, what is self-esteem if everything you do is not as great in relation to said legacy?
Identity is a big thing, not only for Andie but also her friends. I mean, college is the time to really figure yourself out and see who you are outside of your family and hometown. Not to say they aren’t factors in making us who we are, but it helps to be away from it a little to make such personal decisions. I feel this setting and the way Emma told Andie’s story was done superbly for this theme. It was a little slow, however, in places, but once I powered through those slow bits in the middle, the last 25% were well worth reaching.
1 thought on “ARC Review: Begin Again by Emma Lord”
Great review, Andge! I’ve been seeing this one make the rounds on the blogosphere and I haven’t yet read anything by Emma Lord but this does have me intrigued. It also has me immediately singing the TS song which is a fave. 😍 I love that the side characters are so fleshed out and the grandmas sound really cute as well. Might have to keep this one on my radar for when the mood strikes!