Leila barrels into four teen’s lives with nothing but a red car and a mission to see the Northern Lights. First, she meets Hudson, a small-town mechanic whose dream may not be what he thought it was all these years. Next comes Bree, who carpe diem attitude includes everything from hitchhiking to cardboard cut-outs. Elliot’s prom goes haywire the minute Leila steps in to save the day, and his happy ending may not be the same riding-off-into-the-sunset he planned it to be. Finally, Sonia’s crazy night causes her to cross in and out of the US one too many times while trying to find out if she can love again. Leila and her completely red car change all their lives and these unforgettable moments accompany her on her own journey to find herself in the lines of the highway.
I met Adi Alsaid at the Decatur Book Festival before I read this book, and after talking with him for a while, as well as my friend raving about this book, I knew I had to get my hands on it as soon as possible. And during a 14 hours car ride (very appropriate for the book, right?), I finished it with rolling hills and open roads to set the scene of spontaneous road trips and hidden adventures.
Let’s set a little disclaimer: I had a bookish epiphany before I read this book. I don’t like short stories. Period. I find that the characters aren’t developed well, I don’t get wrapped into the story, and I feel like I’m wasting my time. Sorry, short story lovers. It’s just the truth.
That being said, this is a collection of five short stories. Sure, Leila is present in all of them, and there are tie-ins between the stories, but it’s basically just short stories. And they’re magnificent.
First of all, I’ll address the cliches and the cheesiness of this book. Yes, it’s there. It’s littered between the lines and heavily stirred into the plot line. Cliche-haters need to stop now, click away, and pick a different book. I, for one, love a little cheese now and then and revel in the unrealistic spontaneity, exciting adventures, and life-changing moments. It’s gorgeously written and fun to read. Because let’s face it: fiction is all about doing things you wish you could do, and I wish I could jump into these pages and go on a long road trip alone and casually stumble upon interesting people and places.
Now, moving on. The writing really is gorgeous. There’s a lot of imagery and life-pondering. Aslaid captures the coming-of-age spectrum of still figuring out who you want to be and what you want to do. Nothing is set in stone, and everything shifts around all the time. Yeah, teens don’t contemplate life all the time, but the moments he zeroes in on portray realistic problems with difficult solutions. Nothing is the right or wrong way, and compromise is always present. For instance, when Elliot asked the girl of his dreams out, he was rejected. And when he decided a huge display was the way to go, she wasn’t even there to watch it. So now, battered and bruised, he must chose whether to give up or continue to try and woo her.
It’s a book about choices and love and getting lost to find yourself. It’s corny, but it’s accurate. It’s sweet and moving and each of the characters cause the reader to fall in love with him or her. Each stories could have been one book, but by only focusing on a couple eventful days or nights, the pace never drags and the excitement of change never leaves the reader. After each story, it leaves you wanting to know more but satisfied with the ending and enthusiastic about the next person.
It’s very heartwarming and fun to read and leaves some interesting thoughts after the reader closes the book. Afterward, I completely spiraled into a hole of contemporary romance, and I couldn’t wrench myself away from that genre until The Maze Runner. I love the quickening heart-rate that comes with characters’ first kiss or the slow smile that creeps up when an especially adorable scene just happened. And this book exemplifies it all.