Love Edy by Shewanda Pugh
Extended Description: Late bloomer Edy has been in love with her lifelong bestie, Hassan, since she stopped thinking boys were gross; but as the only girl in her clique, her four overprotective footballer friends see her as just another one of the guys. When the far less privileged Wyatt moves to town, Edy’s surrogate brothers conspire to keep him on the fringes. What ensues is a classic, yet superbly-written love triangle in which Edy must choose from among a set of opposites—the one who loved her from the beginning vs. the one who was blind, the devotee vs. the man-slut, the one her parents will vs. won’t approve of, the one from the privileged world she has known vs. the one who will never fit in.
Genre: Young Adult
Primary Tropes: Coming of Age, Love Triangle, Friends to Lovers, Family Drama
Secondary Tropes: Class Warfare, Diverse Author, Forbidden Romance
What Makes it Stand Out: Beautiful writing that is so rarely seen in romance—writing that meets and exceeds fine literary standards—is a glowing strength of this book. It is far above what’s topping the bestseller lists right now, yet remains accessible and romantic without feeling overly highbrow. Elite worlds that are deeply rooted in specific, and elusive, sub-American cultures contrast deliciously with the world of the rather average Wyatt. As a woman of color who grew up similarly—as part of an impenetrable elite ethnic sub-culture that is rarely acknowledged in popular media—I loved that this romance discussed race, class and culture in meaningful ways while managing not to overshadow the core conflict and theme (the love triangle and coming of age) within the book.
What You’ll Love About It: Pugh nails character, not only in terms of maturity level (which most young adult books don’t do very well), but also in her duly tense and halcyon portrayal of the path to adulthood. As with most kids today, loss of innocence comes before high school, yet these kids are still kids and every season brings with it a number of “firsts”. Edy’s evolving relationship with her parents, with the people she’s been surrounded by all her life, with people around her who disappoint her, and even with the things she loves (for Edy, ballet) are teaching her who she is. This book deals phenomenally with this exploration and rings so true around what formative lessons and the awakening to adulthood are really like.
Truisms, Complexities, and Other Themes: The tension of deciding between Wyatt and Hassan is heightened when she begins to realize how many other familiar things in her life were not what they seemed. She thinks she loves (and knows) dance until she sees a form of dance that stirs her, but one that shows her that she is empty of the emotional depth to master it. She thinks she understands her strained relationship with her mother, until she hits puberty and her mother treats her differently. She also discovers the shadow sides of those she thought she knew best. The solid ground she always stood on begins to shake violently beneath her, which only confounds the choice she has to make.
The Standout Side Character: The perfectly-written son of Edy’s parents’ friends, who is enlisted to “babysit” Edy while she stays with them over the summer, is outstanding. Anyone who grew up in a culture in which same-aged kids are forced against their will to spend time together because the parents are friends will deeply appreciate him. Pugh aptly avoids an overdramatized, eye-rolling, ‘I guess I’ll tolerate you-type relationship’—instead, she gives us amazing conversations that could only be had between two people who know so much about each other on one level, but who know nothing at all on another. This timeless familiarity permits them to say things that would never be said between strangers. But what goes unsaid, and unrequested, can’t be voiced because they are, indeed, not really friends.
Our Prediction: I’ll admit it. Shewanda Pugh barely meets our submission requirement (that we don’t write about bestsellers). But I’ve decided to include this book because the author appears to have taken a two-and-a-half year break from publishing and she’s too amazing for me not to play a part in making sure she gets back on everybody’s radar.