Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass
Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Young Adult/Teen - Second Chance Romance
"Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Where the Rhythm Takes You is a romantic, mesmerizing novel of first love and second chances.
Seventeen-year-old Reyna has spent most of her life at the Plumeria, her family’s gorgeous seaside resort in Tobago. But what once seemed like paradise is starting to feel more like purgatory. It’s been two years since Reyna’s mother passed away, two years since Aiden—her childhood best friend, first kiss, first love, first everything—left the island to pursue his music dreams.
Reyna’s friends are all planning their futures and heading abroad. Even Daddy seems to want to move on, leaving her to try to keep the Plumeria running.
And that’s when Aiden comes roaring back into her life—as a VIP guest at the resort.
Aiden is now one-third of DJ Bacchanal—the latest, hottest music group on the scene. While Reyna has stayed exactly where he left her, Aiden has returned to Tobago with his Grammy-nominated band and two gorgeous LA socialites. And he may (or may not be) dating one of them…" - TheStoryGraph
Sarah Dass did a beautiful job of creating this story from the imagery of Tobago and island culture to Reyna's experience of love lost and found. The audiobook was just as engrossing.
Reyna and Aiden make such a sweet and creative couple. While I could feel the chemistry between them sometimes, I kind of hoped for a bit more backstory to what they were like together as teens. There are flashbacks but so many of them are cut short by interruptions, which drives home the reality of strict Caribbean parenting, but made their relationship seem not as deep as the author was trying to imply it was.
Although this story is primarily a second chance romance, it also focuses a significant amount on Reyna's memories, grief, and relationship with her mom. This gave the story more roots, I think. Like many, Reyna struggles with building up her mom in her memories as an ideal woman but keeps remembering the rifts. She strives to make her mom proud and seems to feel as though chasing her dreams would somehow disrespect her. The Plumeria was a core part of who her mother was and it makes sense that in Reyna's grief she would cling to it. It's difficult to avoid almost deifying our family members who have passed away because it's a comfort to remember only the best of them, but that's not fair to the living and the harm that their loved ones might have inflicted. This quote felt so real to me:
"I braced for the overwhelming swell of grief that usually followed memories like this. It did not come. The memory still held a somber edge, but there was a sweetness to it as well."
Moving on from loss is different for everyone, but it was nice to read a description of how I feel when I remember them.
I love that Reyna's best friend Olivia gave her some tough love. She knew that her friend was going through something that only she could pull herself out of and that she'd regret her decision to walk away from painting later. In fact, most of the folks that Reyna interacts with are pretty supportive. They may step away from conflict sometimes, but they always address it in order to move on. This book is about moving on, but it's also about realizing (with age) that the lessons and relationships that may not have worked in the past can become better when reexamined.
This is the first second chance romance I've ever read and I think I'll be reading more after this! The Soca playlist is such a bonus, too! You can access it on my Bookish Playlists page.