The Little Things Publishing, 2011
The title caught my eye on this one - it made me think of Tolkien, something the dreamy-nature of the cover art supported. Then I read the blurb, and realized this was going to be a contemporary novel about a girl not so very different from me, and I was hooked. (PS: Did you see my interview with Geeta yesterday? Check it out, this girl is fun, y'all!)
Annabelle always thought leaving Riverdale was the answer - that somewhere, out there, would be the solution to her problems, the dream she couldn't even define. So when she left for college, she never planned to come back. Well, she thought she'd visit, but she never saw herself staying. Eventually visits proved to be impossible, and Belle's first return to Riverdale came on the heels of her graduation from Graduate School. What happened next would change everything. Literally. Planning to stay for only two weeks before heading south to Georgia and a high-profile office job, Belle never expected it to be so easy to slip back into the routine of daily life in Riverdale. She had no idea how much she'd missed the small town - and it's cast of characters - until she found herself inundated by memories and slipping right back into the paths she used to travel. Fighting her initial response to Riverdale, Belle quickly realized that maybe - just maybe - life didn't always go as you mapped it out. Maybe, you have to leave the map and follow the trail.
I loved Belle - actually, I loved Riverdale; it reminded me of the small towns I've grown up with, and the town and its people breathed on the page. But I really like Belle - I could relate to her, and the struggle to make what you think you want and what you really need match up. I'm roughly Belle's age, and have my Master's degree in-hand but no real clear picture in terms of where I'm going. So I was feeling her story, you know? (And I may or may not have been able to recognize myself in her relationships with other characters). I always like when I can make a personal connection with the characters I'm reading about, and it's always doubly-nice when they're roughly my age and in realistic, true-to-life contexts (surprisingly hard to find, I might add!). My immediate connection with Belle aside, all of the characters in Riverdale are well-drawn and make me think I might run into them on the street one day. Their personalities are clear, their conversations and responses to each other are pitch-perfect. I'm telling you: this story breathes. I loved the ending, but it made me sad too -- because it meant there was no more story. Yet! I'm holding out hope for a return to Riverdale.
Digital copy of book provided by publisher for review.