Small Town Hearts: a cute YA romance

Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale is a sweet romance with an exploration of friendships and growing up. This is not my typical read, but I enjoyed the pace and the story as well as the diversity among the characters, both in sexuality and ethnicity. I think that it has an interesting take on the dynamics of growing and leaving, or not leaving a small town and as such will be easy to relate to for people in similar situations.

The story
Babe is having a rough start to her summer vacation. With no plans to go to college and her two best friends breaking up, she is really unsure where her head is and where to go from here. When a ‘summer boy’ shows an interest in her, Babe is hesitant to fall after her ex-girlfriend left her the summer earlier. However, in an idyllic seaside town with sandcastle making competitions and incredible seafood, how could anybody resist the pull of those heartstrings?

My thoughts…
Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale is very sweet and romantic, with an excellent sense of place and setting. The stunning Maine landscape painted is enough to make you want to drop everything and run off to live there and build sandcastles for the rest of your days. Babe is a nice character who knows what she wants and has her head screwed on properly, but I preferred supporting character Lucy who takes a real interest in Babe and wants to see her happy more than anything.
Out of the other characters, Levi came across as a romantic soul but didn’t enthral me as he could have done because he fell for Babe almost too easily and was too eager to please. Penny and Chad are just awful people, especially Penny, and they definitely had me revisiting my teenage years with toxic friendships turned bullies. Elodie did not get painted in the best light, but I felt the most for her. Feeling unable to come out to her family, she is torn and displays it in erratic ways. I would love to see a follow-up story from her perspective, as we didn’t get to see her happy in this one.
I will say that the bisexual element was not strong enough for me here. It felt too predictable, with Babe and Levi having a typical straight relationship, while Babe avoided her past with Elodie so much that we never got to see it properly explored. I personally think that Babe is too harsh on Elodie, who is clearly scared and confused.

Overall, this is a 3.5* read. The plot is a bit simple, with Babe’s melodramatic rants encompassing a lot of the narrative. I enjoyed reading this, though and feel that a lot of people would relate to this if they grew up questioning sexuality, or had a diverse friendship group that is not explored in similar young adult fiction. Thank you, Lillie Vale for my e-proof copy of Small Town Hearts in exchange for an honest review.

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