Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Publication Year: 2019
Page Count: 272
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (From GoodReads):

When Chloe Pierce’s mom forbids her to apply for a spot at the dance conservatory of her dreams, she devises a secret plan to drive two hundred miles to the nearest audition. But Chloe hits her first speed bump when her annoying neighbor Eli insists upon hitching a ride, threatening to tell Chloe’s mom if she leaves him and his smelly dog, Geezer, behind. So now Chloe’s chasing her ballet dreams down the east coast—two unwanted (but kinda cute) passengers in her car, butterflies in her stomach, and a really dope playlist on repeat.

Filled with roadside hijinks, heart-stirring romance, and a few broken rules, Kristina Forest’s I Wanna Be Where You Are is a YA debut perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sandhya Menon.

There was so much to like about this book! Even though I did prefer Kristina Forest’s sophomore novel over her debut, there was no doubt that this was a heart warming read, and one that I devoured in just a few days.

To give a brief synopsis, this follows Chloe, who has always had a passion for ballet. After her dream school is holding auditions, Chloe knows she has to go, even though her mom has strictly forbidden it. So, Chloe devises a plan to audition while her mom is out of town, even if it means driving two hundred miles. However, after the annoying neighbor Eli catches wind of Chloe’s plan, he blackmails her into taking him with her so he can visit his dad while Chloe is auditioning. And of course, nothing goes as plan, leaving Eli and Chloe on a wild road-trip adventure.

To start with the characters, I did really enjoy reading about Chloe! While I did find her a little bit passive and forgettable, I did really like the passion that she had for dance. Chloe lives for ballet, and you can tell the author had a similar experience at one time. I also liked that Chloe was a Black ballerina, because the author was able to go into detail about why some casting agencies don’t cast Black ballerinas, and how ballet in general caters to white dancers. These were very important conversations to have, and really emphasized the diversity that we need to see in the arts. However, besides ballet, I can’t really tell you much about Chloe. I didn’t find her annoying, but I also wish the author would have given her a few more character quirks that would have helped her better stand out.

As for Eli, I kind of felt the same way about him. Eli was a closed book for most of the novel, so I had a hard time trying to get a feel for his character. However, I definitely think it was cool that we got to know more and more about Eli as Chloe did, but I just found him to be a bit… annoying. He just acted a bit immature at times and I knew if I was on a road trip with him I would not have been able to handle him. Maybe that’s what the author was going for, but it just really tainted the relationship for me. This is also directed at a younger audience than myself, so perhaps that had something to do with it as well.

Because I didn’t love Eli, I didn’t really connect with the romance in this book. This is definitely an enemies-to-lovers story, and I did see the foundation for the hatred between Chloe and Eli. While they grew up as best friends, there was an incident that split them apart, and the two hadn’t talked to each other for many years. I felt like this aspect was believable, and understood why Chloe disliked Eli so much, besides him being annoying on the road trip. I also felt like the shift to lovers was gradual, as the two spent more time together. It felt believable and didn’t feel forced.

The other part of this book I didn’t adore was the plot. I have read some amazing books that follow dance this year, so I was a bit disappointed this one didn’t hold up as well. I loved the parts of the novel that surrounded dance, but it only took up a small portion. The rest was just… a bit boring. And this could once again be because I am not the books intended audience, but I just wasn’t feeling the plot. I found myself wanting to focus on the dancing aspect of the book, and not the road trip itself.

Even so, this was a very quick read, so I do not in any way regret picking this up! I think it really does come down to the fact that I think I am (unfortunately) growing out of YA contemporary. I think I would have loved this in high school, but as a 21 year old I just wasn’t vibing with it as much.

What did you think about this book? Let me know in the comments below!

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