If you’re looking for a well-written YA romance that is sweet with endearing characters, look no further than Jennifer Ann Shore’s The Stillness Before the Start (2020). Shore is phenomenal at capturing the voices of teenage girls who are strong and confident while still figuring life out. I don’t read this genre often, but I will always make an exception for Shore because of her female characters. Metallic Red remains my favorite Shore novel, largely because of Mina, but The Stillness Before the Start and Harper Reed are a very close second.
Harper is a high school senior who is accustomed to planning her every move. To date, she’s been wholly successful at it; she’s going to be valedictorian, she’s going to win the scholarships, and she’s going to be able to pursue her dreams. Her dreams include James, the best friend who is as close as family. Harper is playing the long game, and she plans for her relationship with James to move beyond friendship once in college because high school sweethearts never last.
Enter Dylan Archer. He’s gorgeous, rich, and James’s sworn enemy. What could he possibly want with Harper? When he asks for her help in AP English, she can’t say no; she loves English far more than she dislikes Dylan. As she gets closer to Dylan, she begins to see that she can’t plan for everything and that maybe the things everyone thinks she should want aren’t the things she actually does want. Dylan shows her the contours of her heart.
The Stillness Before the Start made me nostalgic for 1990s teen rom coms – She’s All That and 10 Things I Hate About You in particular. It’s a connection that isn’t lost on Shore, who openly nods to these sweet movies of my teenage years.
The Stillness Before the Start is a sweet teen romance – a candy read that features a lot of candy (there’s always candy in Shore’s novels!). This feel-good read is perfect for folks who want believable characters, and a little more sweetness and little less angst in their teen romances. I’m sure you’ll love Harper and her defiant curls as much as I do.
Read this book.