{Review} I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE by Kristina Forest

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

   HERE'S SOMETHING YOU SHOULD know about me: I'm a terrible daughter. 
   "For the thousandth time, Chloe, you are not a terrible daughter," my best friend, Reina, groans on the other end of the phone. "We've talked about this, remember? What did we say?" 
   I lie back on my bed and stare at the poster of Avery Johnson on my ceiling. It's a still of him as Prince Siegfied in Swan Lake. He's wearing white tights and a white tunic with gold and silver trimming. His brown skin is shiny with sweat. His knees are bent and his arms are outstretched, waiting for Odette, the beautiful white swan, to waltz toward him. I've spent countless nights staring at this poster, dreaming that it was me he would twirl in his arms. And now that the opportunity to meet him is finally here, I'm lying on my bed, frozen, because I'm terrified to lie to my mom.

(Page 6, US e-book edition)

“'Confidence starts here,' she says, pointing at my heart. 'You have to take hold of the world and demand that it gives you what you want. That's what I do. It doesn't always come easy, regardless of how it looks. You are already doing it now...


It can be hard to find the confidence to stand up for what we believe in, especially when we're young and still beholden to our parents. Parents can maintain an iron fist and squash their children's dreams in favor of their own, or support them and help them achieve that starry reality whenever possible. For Chloe Pierce, her mother does both. Chloe wants to be a professional dancer, and while her mother supports her dream, she doesn't want her to move to New York City or to apply for a special ballet conservatory program run by her role model Avery Johnson, the youngest Black dancer to have created his own ballet company. Chloe is furious that she might miss this once-in-a-lifetime shot to spend her senior year learning from her idol, expenses paid, at a preprofessional dance school that could offer her an apprenticeship that could help her achieve her dreams. Chloe is afraid, too: She broke her ankle and was afraid her dreams were gone. She's worked hard to get back in shape, but what if her ankle gives out again, or she's not as good as she used to be? If she gets a spot at the conservatory, it will prove that she still has what it takes to make it.

So while her mother goes away on a romantic vacation during Chloe's spring break, Chloe has decided that she will drive from Washington, DC to audition. The only problem? She's terrified of driving, especially on the highway. Her dad died in a car accident, and it was because of a car that she broke her ankle. When her neighbor Eli finds out that she's lying to her mom and sneaking off to an audition, he blackmails her into taking him to DC so he can catch a train to his dad's -- and bringing the dog along, too. But the first thing he does when he takes over driving? Gets them into a car accident. So she not only misses the DC audition, but now the two have to road trip all the way down to North Carolina for the next audition. Now Chloe has even more things to lie to her mom. How much will she sacrifice to make her dreams come true?

The book centers around a road trip during spring break and old friends to sorta enemies? to something more. At its heart is the timeless tale of growing up and becoming who you were meant to be that we can all relate to, whether we've been through it as adults, or are going through it now as teenagers. Chloe has to find the confidence to believe in herself. She knows what she wants, but isn't sure she's strong enough to go after it. She has been through so much growing up losing her father so young, and her mother doesn't want anything to happen to her. But Chloe is almost an adult now, and needs to have that talk with her mother, the one so many of us have feared and still have to have. Even Eli must talk to his parents about the fact that he wants to be an artist, not a lawyer. This is such an integral moment to many teens, and they will identify with both characters and find their own confidence in watching the way those conversations play out.

Fans of roadtrip books are going to eat this up. On their trip, Chloe and Eli do so much in the time they are together, from a car accident, to visiting an old friend who moved away, to seeing Eli's older sister at college. Plus, Chloe and Eli have had a falling out and are no longer friends, but they still clearly care for one another. If it wasn't for this road trip, they may have never spoken to one another again or cleared the air. Because of the way they are thrown together, however, they can figure out their problems and begin to heal. Their support of one another also helps them become stronger and more confident, which helps them deal with their parents and crystalize what they want out of their futures and to actually go for it despite what their parents might want for them.

I think the messages in this book are so important, and I love that the characters aren't white. Teens of all colors go through this period of growing up and exploring what they want, and it is only fair to see themselves on the page, too. Readers often ask to see themselves having adventures and life experiences and seeing themselves on the page in these books as well. As important as books on oppression and activism and exploring sexuality are, we shouldn't ask our POC or LGBT authors to only write on such topics. Let everyone go on adventures and have road trip books and explore what they want out of life without making it about anything else, to just be something fun and light with two Black teenagers who fall in love. This book is just as needed and necessary and important, and I want to get it into the hands of as many teenagers as possible.

Out August 25th!

If you are able to, please pre-order a copy from a Black-Owned Bookstore,
such as my semi-local store Uncle Bobbie's in Philadelphia!
(And snag I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE if you don't already own a copy!)
Philly is closed due to COVID19 -- the store may reopen in June once restrictions are lifted.
BUT if you order from sites such as Bookshop and Libro.fm, the store will receive a portion of the proceeds and it will help so much!

You can also donate to their GoFundMe to help keep the store in business!

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: G ( Kissing )
Language: G ( Cursing, including the f-bomb )
Violence: --
Other:  G ( Father passed away when MC was young; she is still dealing with the aftermath of a parental death that could be traumatic to some readers. )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

It's so pretty and really reminds me of spring! Perfect for a novel set during spring break. 

Purple and blue and aqua are a few of my favorite colors, so seeing them together on a cover like this is very pleasing to my eyes! 

I also love that the cover is illustrated, instead of a photographed model, and love that the publisher didn't whitewash the cover. That is absolutely Chloe, and she is in  car -- in the driver's seat! -- and looks like she is ready to dance. It's perfect!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Kristina Forest
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press // Macmillan
Received: Borrowed from Library 

When Chloe Pierce’s mom forbids her to apply for a spot at the dance conservatory of her dreams, she devises a secret plan to drive two hundred miles to the nearest audition. But Chloe hits her first speed bump when her annoying neighbor Eli insists upon hitching a ride, threatening to tell Chloe’s mom if she leaves him and his smelly dog, Geezer, behind. So now Chloe’s chasing her ballet dreams down the east coast—two unwanted (but kinda cute) passengers in her car, butterflies in her stomach, and a really dope playlist on repeat.