Emma Mills has a knack for writing a book that will make you laugh and cry, possibly at the same time. I like Foolish Hearts, but Famous in a Small Town blew me away in a manner most YA contemporary books never can.
Determined to raise enough money for her high school marching band to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, Sophie comes up with a plan to convince country singer Megan Pleasant to return home and perform at their annual fundraiser event. But Megan Pleasant has sworn never to return. Meanwhile, Sophie finds herself trying to balance her relationship with a new face in town: August, her neighbor’s recently discovered younger brother. But August has secrets of his own and Sophie isn’t sure what to expect from him or herself.
As always, what I like the best about Emma Mills’ books are the relationships. Whether the relationship is centered around friends, siblings, parents, or romance, they come across realistic and relatable. In addition, the characters in this story come across as teenagers. Sometimes I read YA and think “These characters sound/act/seem too old.” But Sophie and her group of friends capture the teenager personality from their inappropriate dick jokes to their group chat banter. Basically, it is a lot of fun to read.
Sophie’s relationship with August is adorable and natural. It isn’t insta-love and for the majority of the book, they just enjoy being friends. The relationship isn’t rushed or pushed further than it needs to be to fill some kind of YA standard.
I also like how the book isn’t focused on a single plot (like the romance) but there are multiple plot threads tying things together and progressing the story. Some plot aspects are handled better than others, and there is a bigger plot twist that kind of stunned me that I wish had been given more focus near the end, but overall, I like how the story flows. A lot of it seems plotless and more along the lines of the “slice of life” genre, but I didn’t mind that. I would probably read about these characters and their lives for hundreds of pages if I could.
Overall, Famous in a Small Town is a fun, cute YA contemporary with laugh-out-loud dialogue, tons of friendship feels, and an adorable ship you can’t help but root for. If you like Emma Mills’ other books or YA contemporaries, this is a book you won’t want to miss.