Jennifer Ann Shore writes some of my favorite candy books. With a comforting and familiar writing style and characters that ring both real and unique, her YA works are quick, delicious reads. Her latest, Just For You (Indie published, 2022) is no exception, and it proved the perfect read for a stormy summer night.
Violet is in her senior year of high school. College applications have been submitted, and she and her friends are in that waiting stage where senioritis hits the hardest. Her two best friends, Kara and Erica, had a falling out with each other, and Violet tries to split her attention between the two. It makes things a lot easier since Kara goes to a different school. Kara is on her school’s varsity hockey team, and Violet is her biggest fan even though the team is her school’s rival and Erica’s boyfriend is on that team. While at one of Kara’s games, she meets Penn Westbrook, and she can’t deny the attraction.
As if juggling two friends who don’t get along and a first love interest in one’s senior year isn’t enough, Violet’s absentee father is trying to rekindle a relationship with her because he wants her to be part of his new family.
Shore doesn’t write pretty but empty wallflowers; her female characters are bold, intelligent, determined, and fierce. They’re flawed and figuring things out in that difficult not-quite-an-adult time, but unlike so many romances, they’re not defined by their love interests and they don’t have to change how they look or act to win the guy. There are characters who fit that mold, Erica being one, but what Shore does with them is noticeably different than her heroines.
Shore depicts realistic chaos with characters full of heart. The relationships that Violet has built tend to be healthy, and those that aren’t are relationships she’s working on setting boundaries with. Her relationship with her stepfather is possibly my favorite part of the novel. (Well, other than when Penn brings her a succulent instead of flowers and when Kara throws a punch.)
Penn’s kiss and Violet’s baked goods aren’t the only things that taste like sugar; this novel is sweet but not in a way that’ll leave you with a tooth or tummy ache.
Read this book.