Hi everyone, I hope you’re well! Today I’m here with a review for a book that I feel like I am actually a bit late to the party with, it’s Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen! This was one of our picks for the Sapphic Stories Bookclub this month and I was so excited to finally pick it up, especially after hearing amazing reviews, and I was not let down!
Title: Late to the Party
Author: Kelly Quindlen
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, Young Adult
Synopsis: Seventeen is nothing like Codi Teller imagined.
She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world.
So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.
But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named Lydia.
The only problem? Codi never tells Maritza or JaKory about any of it.
Late to the Party is my first book by Kelly Quindlen and I certainly was not disappointed! I’ve heard really great things from some of my friends, especially Anja who absolutely loves the book, though there were some mixed reactions to it in the bookclub Discord. Late to the Party follows Codi who feels like she’s always been on the outside of the true ‘teenage experience’ looking in. Her and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time watching queer movies and ordering takeaway than going to wild parties, but one summer that changes when Maritza and JaKory decide to go to a party in Codi’s neighbourhood. When the two of them end up too drunk to get home, Codi agrees to pick them up, but when she arrives she sees the party’s host, Ricky, hidden away in the dark kissing another boy. The two become fast friends and Ricky shows her a whole new world, but the problem is that Codi doesn’t tell Maritza and JaKory anything about it.
I’ll admit, I was a wee but sceptical going into this book as I am probably one of the last in the bookclub to pick the book up, and most people found it to not have lived up to their expectations – mostly due to the narrative of the ‘true teenage experience’ and also the lack of parents (seriously though, where were they? These kids were staying out all hours of the night and their parents had no clue), and I really do get where they’re coming from, but I think I have to politely disagree!
The book is set over one summer and something about the book really captured the vibes of the season just perfectly – when you’ve got no real responsibilities (save your crappy part time job) and you’re just trying to have fun and do new things with your best friends. I don’t know what it was but something about the way that Kelly Quindlen wrote it just made me so nostalgic for high school summers, even though I live in Scotland and it’s more like going to the woods and getting drunk with your friends or a house party with like 20 people max! I also actually really liked how the teenage experience was written in this, as when Codi meets Ricky she tries all these new things with a new group of friends, and she thrives among them, which she didn’t with the friends she’s grown up with since elementary school, but she doesn’t fully change – she still does the things she loves, like her painting, but for once she’s actually appreciated and her new friends encourage her painting and cheer her on, and this theme of almost growing out of your old friends really struck a chord with me as I’ve had a similar experience in the past, too.
I would definitely say that this is a character-driven novel, which I absolutely love, and I really enjoyed the complexity of the characters and how real they all felt! I think Codi was a great main character and I loved seeing her growth and her becoming more comfortable in herself, including standing up for herself. She is also openly a lesbian and, alongside other queer characters and characters of colour in the book, the representation is really great (I also liked the discussion of girls kissing each other for the attention of boys alone and how not okay that is). Maritza and JaKory were frustrating to no extent, though that may just be because I have had similar friends in the past, though their stories and how they linked with Codi’s were really interesting to see! I loved Codi’s new friend group, including Ricky and the love interest, Lydia. Seeing Ricky figuring himself out and allowing himself to be open with people was so lovely and he was definitely one of my favourite characters! I loved Lydia, too, and her wee quirks, like her love of giant boxes of popcorn were so sweet! The romance was definitely a really great part of the book, too, and I loved seeing it grow! A side character I also really liked was Codi’s younger brother – their sibling relationship was shown really realistically with how they fought and held grudges, but the love was definitely apparent!
Overall, this book was just so much fun and screamed summer to me, and it’s definitely one I’ll be re-reading for years to come!