Book Review: Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey

Previously: Consent Book Review| Coming Soon: Friday @ Cymera

Last Chance Books is a YA contemporary romance from debut author Kelsey Rodkey. It is published by Harper 360, who was kind enough to provide me with an ARC and will be released on the 18th of May 2021. The book follows Madeline Moore who is working in her family’s bookshop during the summer when she comes face to face with the son of the owner of a rival bookshop, who happens to be very attractive.

As I’ve already mentioned, an ARC of this book was provided to me by the publishers, but this in no way affects my opinions on the book.

Cover of Last Chance Books shows an illustration of a teenage boy and girl on separate stacks of books. The tagline reads 'Book lovers can be haters too'.

This is the sort of book that just oozes summer. Not just because it takes place during the summer, and the author does a great job of conveying that through her descriptions. But also, because it has the feeling that time is both static and running out, just like a real summer holiday feel. It made me wish I was reading it on a beach somewhere, rather than curled up under a blanket because we’ve been having a ridiculous amount of wet weather for this time of year.

The vibe that the book coveys is also conducive to the type of plot. At its core, this is a story about relationships, and the blooming relationship between Madeline, and the love interest jasper, is brilliantly fun and flirty. In the beginning, when the rivals to lover’s trope is especially prevalent, it borders on silly as they try to sabotage one another, but it the best way. The rivals to lovers element does not last as long as I would have liked, and other elements of the plot are sometimes lost in favour of the romance, but there is plenty to keep you invested in the story.

The romance itself was very sweet, as you might expect from this sort of book. I do wish we had a dual POV narrative because the book is only told from Madeline’s POV. I think that the inclusion of Jesper’s POV would have enriched the book. However, I may be a bit biased because I generally love a dual POV. Since it was just Madeline it did take a long time for us to learn much about him, and he does have an interesting story to tell. By sticking to the single POV the author left behind the You’ve Got Mail plot very quickly. This is completely fine because she did not advertise a You’ve Got Mail retelling. However, this did mean we lost some of the potential tension between the two. If we had Jaspers POV then the author would have been able to build and maintain a bit more tension. That said, what we did get was completely fine, and readable, and very sweet.

There is something gorgeously frenetic about this book. That’s to say there’s always something happening, and you always feel as though you’re moving forward rather than stuck somewhere. To me, this suggests that the author felt very free to do whatever she wanted when she was writing. I would love to know how she plotted this book, and whether she had a stringent plan or not. This feeling of movement was a great way to keep the energy of the book high, and to keep me reading chapter after chapter. I wouldn’t say that I could not put it down, but most of the time I didn’t want to.

As you read it is very clear that Rodkey is a lover of books and is familiar with the bookish online communities. There are references to BookTube, as a side character is a BookTuber, and these are handled very naturally. Unfortunately, there were some references to Harry Potter, which though they disparaged the books, were a little frustrating. If you had cut these out or replaced them with something else, it wouldn’t have had much of an effect on the book itself. I could happily go the rest of my life without seeing Harry Potter referenced in another book ever again.

Although this book is marketed as a romance, there are also several other relationships that Madeline has in the book. The relationship with her absent mother is an obvious example. The author does a great job of making this feel like a fully fleshed out plot line without it overshadowing the romance that we all signed up for. In a similar vein, there are quite a few characters for a romance, and yet everyone was well balanced. I never felt bored with them and yearning to return to someone else. Rodkey was very adept at keeping a lot of elements on a slow burn and turning them up at just the right time.

Overall, I enjoyed Last Chance Books and gave it 4 out of a possible 5 stars. It is a fun and flirty YA romance that is perfect for anyone who loved books. Rodkey was not afraid to let her characters make mistakes, and this made them feel a lot more real. I would recommend it if you’re looking for a good summer read.

Last Chance Books is available to pre-order from all the usual places. Remember to support your local bookshops and libraries wherever possible.

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