Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen | a beautiful story about self-discovery and growth

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Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen

April 21, 2020, from Roaring Brook Press
Young adult contemporary
Goodreads | Amazon

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.

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5 stars

When I picked up this book, I was not expecting it to make me ache for things I’ve never done, friends I’ve never had, and a teenagerhood I never got. Late to the Party is a great queer coming-of-age about self-discovery and friendship and experiencing all the firsts of life.

I could relate SO MUCH to Codi, and I found her such a wonderful narrator. She’s a typical wallflower—shy and nervous to talk to people, and it was so wonderful to see her open up. I saw so much of myself in her. I have fairly severe social anxiety, and even though Codi doesn’t I loved seeing her challenge that and fight through it so she could make friends. To brave rejection and terror with the chance of trying new things. It was so inspiring; I loved reading about her character growth.

I fell in love with all the side characters, too. Ricky and Codi’s friendship was everything to me; peak mlm/wlw solidarity, and I loved it. This book showed a side of the Cool Kids and the Losers that wasn’t stereotypical, that blended the two groups together and showed that they weren’t so different after all. I also loved how delightfully queer this book was—and how it’s about finding yourself while being queer, not finding that you’re queer. This is distinctly coming-of-age, and there is coming-out, but the book isn’t about coming-out-as-queer as much as it is about emerging as your own person. The friendships are real, tumultuous but caring, and the relationships felt so raw in every way, and it was wholly good.

This book is an ode to late bloomers. I had my own whirlwind summer just last year, at twenty-one and eleven-twelfths—the first time I’d ever been out dancing at a club, the first time I sat around with s group of people my own age just hanging out, and getting to be someone I couldn’t be under the scrutiny of people who already knew me from childhood who I was too scared to change around. I had to move past my fear of change yet my deep yearning to grow in order to have those experiences. Like Codi, I launched myself out of my comfort zone and found I hated being comfortable. I get this book. I get this book so much. It made me ache for that summer, to get that feeling of freedom and infinity back.

I would definitely recommend Late to the Party to fans of Alice Oseman’s Radio Silence; it has similar vibes. It’s a contemporary that’s full of nostalgia and what it’s like to be young and feel like the world is infinite, and I really loved this book.

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content warnings | drug and alcohol use

representation | lesbian mc, bisexual panamanian major character, two gay black major characters, bisexual side characters

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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are you going to read late to the party? what are your favourite coming-of-age books?

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