By Kelly Quindlen
My rating: 5 stars
Goodreads Rating: 4.08
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary / Romance
Date Published: April 21st 2020
Format Read: Audiobook
Goodreads Summary: Seventeen is nothing like Codi Teller imagined.
She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world.
So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.
But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named Lydia.
The only problem? Codi never tells Maritza or JaKory about any of it.
From author Kelly Quindlen comes a poignant and deeply relatable story about friendship, self-acceptance, what it means to be a Real Teenager. Late to the Party is an ode to late bloomers and wallflowers everywhere.
I absolutely loved this book. I will caveat somewhat to say that my five star rating is for what it is: this was a coming of age YA story so I did not expect it to be literary genius. However, I also did not expect to enjoy this book nearly as much as I did! “Late to the Party” tells the story of high school student Codi as she tries to figure out who she is in the world. She has had the same two best friends– Maritza and JaKory– since elementary school, and while all three of them have come out as queer (Maritza bi, JaKory and Codi gay) only Maritza has kissed someone, and that kiss was a boy.
They decide that they want to make this summer one of adventure, with the goal of kissing someone by the end of it. The only problem: Codi is somewhat socially anxious (not in the disorder way, at least not in a way where it was written out) and doesn’t want to go to a party. So when her friends go without her and admit that they knew Codi wouldn’t want to go anyways, a gap is formed between the friends. This gap increases when Codi meets Ricky, a cool kid in a secret gay non-relationship, and starts to hang out with him and his friends without telling Maritza and JaKory.
What I loved about this book was that it was a coming of age story that was told with care and nuance. There was a romantic plot, but what was optimally important was the relationship that Codi had with Ricky, Maritza, and JaKory. She grew into a different person over the course of the summer, and her friendships were always at the forefront of her mind. I think Quindlen did a really great job of getting into the headspace as a highschooler (except for when she said “he screened my calls” a phrase I only recently learned upon watching Sex and the City for the first time). Codi felt real and raw and emotionally complicated in a way that I think a lot of other books avoid.
Other good things about this book? Almost everyone was gay. It normalized queerness without making it seem like an easy breezy thing, which is something that’s extraordinarily hard to balance. These characters struggled with whether to tell their friends and families, none of them were fully out to everyone, and yet their coming out was never the full focus of their character. They had real personalities.
I think the character development especially from Codi and Ricky was great over the course of this story. It was adorable and real and I was cheering for them the entire time. JaKory felt like a fully fleshed out character who’s motivations I understood. Maritza was on the light side for character development, at times coming across a little like a frenemy, but I think it was effectively pulled off with some revelations that were spaced throughout so as not to seem like they were changing her character completely at the end.
The epilogue-type part was SO CUTE and I honestly think books should have more of that type of epilogue scene, where we get to see the characters living in their happiness for a bit before ending.
The pacing of the novel kept me reading the entire time, it was fast paced but still sat long enough in Codi’s head that we understood her decisions at each turn.
Overall would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a super wholesome YA coming of age story!