Author: Leila Sales
Publication Date: 10/4/11
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Blurb(GR):All Chelsea wants to do this summer is hang out with her best friend, hone her talents as an ice cream connoisseur, and finally get over Ezra, the boy who broke her heart. But when Chelsea shows up for her summer job at Essex Historical Colonial Village (yes, really), it turns out Ezra’s working there too. Which makes moving on and forgetting Ezra a lot more complicated…even when Chelsea starts falling for someone new. Maybe Chelsea should have known better than to think that a historical reenactment village could help her escape her past. But with Ezra all too present, and her new crush seeming all too off limits, all Chelsea knows is that she’s got a lot to figure out about love. Because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it….
True confession: I love reenactors. People who wear oldey-timey outfits for work? You’re awesome. Does your job require you to shun modern technology and to feign ignorance when someone asks you where the bathroom is? You deserve a medal. This is the first YA book I’ve ever read in which the main character works at a colonial village. (My only other experience with reenactors in a book is from Chuck Pahlaniuk's Choke) There’s just something about how people having jobs at places like Sturbridge Village and Colonial Williamsburg that entertains me. They have to act oldey-timey all day, but you know that at the end of the day they are getting in their Toyota Corollas, lighting up a cigarette, and blasting Journey on their ride home to a house with indoor plumbing and an icemaker. (or whatever modern cars, music, technology, and vices they enjoy) This author is hilarious. Seriously. And snarky. I had a love connection with this book from page one.
Chelsea Glaser, or “Elizabeth Connelly” when she is working, has been employed practically from the womb at Essex, a colonial village. Both of her parents (the silversmith and the silversmith’s wife) work there and she’s grown up knowing the life of a reenactor. Every summer, the middle school/high school employees at Essex have a war with the employees at the Civil War ReenactmentLand that is conveniently (or not?) located across the street. In addition to the drama of the war, Chelsea’s ex-boyfriend Ezra is also working at Essex for the summer and the boy she finds herself attracted to is a *gasp* Civil Warrior. (I loved that term, by the by) It’s funny to me that a relationship that is not the only focus of a novel can be more riveting than many contemporary YA romances where the whole plot revolves around the two lovebirds. I actually enjoyed the progression of Dan and Chelsea’s relationship—it felt natural and their conversations felt real…and hilarious.
This book somewhat obviously talks a lot about history and how we interpret events of the past. I was just talking to a friend the other day about this. It’s like we have our own memory erasers that just remove all the horrid bits and we just prance around on merry go rounds and sing Kumbaya together in the fields full of puppies in our memories. For example, I once drove from New Orleans to Sacramento in a 15-passenger van with 11 other people. Did it suck a lot of the time? Definitely. But I remember it with a grin on my face because I collected bandannas with my friend Josh at every roadside stop, we listened to some great tunes, and they let me plan the route so we stopped at ridiculous places like a deserted ghost town and to see the huge dinosaurs from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. I love all those people like family even though I definitely wanted to murder each of them at some point during our year of living and working together. I do have a point here—I loved Chelsea’s reevaluation of her relationship with Ezra. Her box of happy relationship memories wasn't what she thought it was upon closer examination. We remember things the way we want to remember them, and when we reinsert the intentionally forgotten parts, people, places, memories might not wow us as much. I went on loads of car trips with my family as a kid and I got carsick every time. You know what I remember most though? Sitting backwards in our Volvo station wagon and listening to Cat Stevens’ greatest hits CD. I think I wouldn’t look at my childhood so fondly if I had to remember all the places I’d yakked over the years.
In the same vein, I also loved how Leila Sales talked about how we are living in the past and the present at the same time. We are still every version of ourselves that we have ever been in the past; all it takes is one sensory experience to take us back. Like when you think you are over someone and then you walk by a random person on the street wearing their cologne. Or when you remember a joke that you shared with someone but you are 3000 miles away from them and haven’t seen them in 5 years. As a total history nerd, I also enjoyed the random historical facts that were interspersed in the text and the discussion of one-sided history textbooks and the countless jokes about historical anachronisms in reenactions.
If you have a snarky sense of humor, enjoy reenactors (or reading about them), were a theater geek, or are just looking for a fun/ny read, I’d totally recommend this. I keep thinking that I should caveat it as not being especially thought-provoking but I actually thought about a lot of things while I read it. (It was, like, totally deep, maaaan) It is somewhere above 4 stars but below 5 stars for me but my eyes are shutting with exhaustion and I liked it enough to round up. Oh man, I need to go to bed.
Thanks S & S Galley Grab for satiating my need for hilarity and fun times in colonial America