Hilary Weisman Graham
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Back in middle school Tiernan, Alice, and Summer were best friends united by their love of the band Level3. Four years later the girls are no longer friends but, after graduation, embark on a road trip in Alice's old Pea Pod (the old RV the three girls used to hang out in) to see Level3 at their one-night-only reunion concert. It's a chance -- maybe -- for reconciliation between the three of them.
Rarely do I think to myself, "you know, I may be too old for this YA book," but with this one it happened. Alice, Tiernan, and Summer made some staggeringly bad decisions that made them seem younger than their 18 years. (These bad decisions included getting super drunk all over New Orleans and also agreeing to go to some swimming hole in the middle of the night with three random college dudes.) The girls encounter plenty of minor catastrophes (the Pea Pod getting stuck in mud, a door coming off, running out of gas...) on their road trip, but many of these problems had to do with their own decision-making skills, or lack of. I mention all of this not to rag on the characters or the book but to point out that sometimes a person such as myself just doesn't entirely fit with a book. I've always been much more cautious than these girls and I found it fairly difficult to see many of their actions as realistic, which put me a little off-balance while reading.
But about the actual book. It's a cute, run-of-the-mill road trip book with a unique twist in the form of the girls' lapsed friendship and their obsession with Level3. Alice, Tiernan, and Summer have grown into three very different people over the course of high school and each of them fits nicely into a "type:" Summer's the popular one; Tiernan's the bad-girl/rebel; and Alice is the good, smart, normal one. The stereotypes are obvious and while there are moments where the girls become a bit more than what they're depicted as, it's not often. For the most part what you see is what you get. I'm a fan of turning stereotypes on their head and this book never quite did that although it tried at times, especially with Summer (who was, not coincidentally, my favorite of the girls). Each of them have their own reasons for coming on the road trip and each is trying to run away from something -- either literally or figuratively. For the most part these reasons are side-stories that provide context to who these girls are in their "real" lives, but in the case of Tiernan, whose running away from the mom she sees as way too strict, the side-story overtakes everything else. The inevitable confrontation between Tiernan and her mother struck me as melodramatic and unearned, especially since many of the big issues in Tiernan's life hadn't really been explored before that moment when they became bigger than everything else. I felt a bit lost at times, as if I was supposed to know more about her life and her family than I did. This is a sample of the biggest problem I had with the book: many issues that the girls have don't seem like problems at all until the moment (usually during a heart-to-heart) when they suddenly become the focus of the story. It threw off the balance for me a bit,
Reunited isn't a heartwarming, emotional road trip novel, though it often seems to be trying for that. What it is instead is a fun, slightly gimmicky story of three ex-friends. For all my issues with it the book was a fun read that I found myself enjoying even though some parts were a little too cringeworthy. It's one that might be best for readers looking for a light, fun, but ultimately forgettable read.