Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Review: Tonight The Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales

Publication Date: September 24th 2015
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Length: 342 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan Children’s Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

From the author of This Song Will Save Your Life comes a funny and relatable book about the hazards of falling for a person you haven't met yet.
Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But she's tired of being loyal to people who don't appreciate her—including her needy best friend and her absent mom. 
Arden finds comfort in a blog she stumbles upon called "Tonight the Streets Are Ours," the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him.
During one crazy night out in NYC filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn't exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn't exactly who she thought she was, either.

This is a very complex mix of a novel. It isn’t what I was expecting and in some ways that’s a very good thing and in others not so great. I’m feeling a little conflicted because it’s fascinating and interesting and very well written and with some beautiful twisty elements, but at the same time I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t like any of the characters, so that kinda dampens any enthusiasm I would otherwise have.

Arden is a complex and intriguing character that I really didn’t like, but she was still fascinating to follow. Her ‘thing’ is being ‘recklessly loyal’. She is labelled this when she was young and she thinks this is all she is, the sum total of all of her parts and that shapes everything she does, every decision, every conversation. Some people will identify and love her character for the way she goes out of her way to look after others and how that leaves her feeling, and I could identify with her to a certain extent, but there were decisions and elements that I really struggled with because she really takes it to extremes. Add in her attitude and thought process and she comes across as someone who enjoys being a martyr, who likes feeling hard done by that no one loves her as much as she loves them, because she never really allows anyone else to have any autonomy. Basically she’s a control freak, which becomes increasingly obvious with every interaction she is with others, particularly with Lindsay. She doesn’t ever actually consider whether the people she being recklessly loyal to actually want that. She just keeps on sacrificing herself over and over again without discussion, without allowing the people to be people. They are just a means to her being her ‘recklessly loyal’ label. It’s complicated and messy and fascinating.

The rest of the characters were all layers of ‘what the hell’ awfulness, but also kinda relatable characteristics. Her Mum who walks out on the family because she can’t deal with the lack of support from her husband and children. On the one hand it is incredibly selfish, particularly putting it on the kids in part for her not having the space to fulfil her dreams. But on the other, I completely got where she was coming from. The lack of support from those we love when we go out of our way to care for them can be soul destroying, so whilst I couldn’t get behind how her storyline plays out, I could fully understand it as what happened emerges.

The same cannot be said for Arden’s Father who I loathed all the way through. The sort of man who has the family dog put down because he can’t deal with the hassle? No. Not even a little bit. The same goes for Chris, who really frustrated me all the way through. He was awful towards Arden, expecting her to just be a passive ‘thing’ that he could say was his. No hassle, no drama, no sort of inclination to be there and support her. It makes the reader hate him from the start which then begs the question, is that done purely so we are on Arden’s side when she rushes off to find Peter?

And Peter. Oh boy, let’s talk about Peter. I really didn’t like him, right from the start. His blog just grated. He was so creepy and kinda overblown romantic but most definitely not in a good way. And he pursues a girl he knows is taken and shows no remorse. Just, no boy. I find his blog posts frustrating and then we meet him and he’s so much worse because he’s so full of himself and his own importance and I wanted to smack him. I get incoherently angry just thinking about him.

Some of the decisions that drive this story are as side eye worthy as the characters. I’ve already touched on Dad putting the dog down and Mum leaving, but the big one is always going to be Arden’s decision that what Peter most needs when his girlfriend breaks up with him, is her. It’s weird and terrifying and stalkerish and frankly Peter should have run the other direction, but it’s also fascinating. It takes a good long look at how the internet allows us to build up relationships with people that are entirely one sided. Because whilst Peter had no idea who on earth Arden was, she had built up this entire persona of him based on the pieces he was choosing to portray. She had turned to his blog when she needed comfort and distraction and this facet of Peter had become a major part of her life so for her, he was damn near perfect (because hey, when you’re shading in the gaps in someone you don’t really know but you also kinda do, of course they’re going to be perfect) and it made perfect sense that what he needed was her. It’s such a strange phenomenon these internet relationships we form. Some of them go both ways, some are one way, and it’s intriguing and complex and scary in places but this aspect is really well explored in the novel. And to see that relationship form on Arden’s side and then have her go and seek out the reality and see how that plays is really well done.

Other than characters and plot there’s just the pacing to talk about, because it gets a little bit strange in the middle. When Arden is discovering Peter’s blog we stop hearing anything very much about her life other than the odd ‘hey, bored, going to look at his blog again’ so you suddenly have an influx of Peter’s story and none of Arden’s and when you’re invested in Arden’s it can be very frustrating until it balances out again. I did however love the time jumps all over the place, both with Arden reading Peter’s blog out of order to start with, but also with Arden herself. We have anecdotes about her childhood, her past, her and Chris, and it’s fascinating to piece it all together into one narrative and works really well.

So as I said, this one was mixed. I really didn’t get along well with the characters, yet they were fascinating and intrigued me. I found a lot of the decisions really hard to process, but the results were complex and I found myself becoming increasingly invested. I loved the reveals and the twists as everything unfurled and we see the full picture, and I loved how the book explores relationships. And all sorts of relationships at that. Parents, siblings, partners, friends, random people on the internet. It’s a book of many layers and sifting through them is half the fun. It’s a book that isn’t afraid to make the point that we can never know the full story, we only see what other people allow us to see and what we allow ourselves to see.

It’s not a book I particularly enjoyed, but it’s a book that I think is done well, and one that I’m curious to see responses from other people when it comes out at the end of the month.


  1. I AM SO CONFLICTED AFTER READING THIS REVIEW. UGH WHY DID YOU HAVE TO DO THIS TO ME ROSY. I've been sort of anticipating this, but thankfully not enough to request it. Arden sounds like she might irritate me quite a bit. I can definitely appreciate that loyalty, but I get really frustrated when people devote ALL of their energy towards other people and don't even consider that they need a bit of time for themselves, to do their own things. Or when they devote everything to people who aren't even worth it. That's something that I always struggled with (and still do) and I see it in books and I JUST WANT TO TAKE EVERYONE BY THE SHOULDERS AND SHAKE THEM.

    1. I AM QUITE CLEARLY THE WORST :D Arden is definitely frustrating, and if you take the book at sort of surface level then it's really irritating, but there is an awful lot to it that make it a really interesting read. So definitely pick it up, but be prepared to shake ALL THE PEOPLE and then TELL ME ALL YOUR THOUGHTS.