Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales

Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales could be a Millennial epilogue to Ibsen's A Doll's House. As much as I empathized with Nora's domestic frustrations and her desire for personal fulfillment, I always wondered how her departure affected her children. In a nod to Ibsen's 1879 play, the protagonist daughter of Sales's young adult novel had a line of dolls created in her image. Arden fears that "the most exciting moment in her life was already past."

In Tonight the Streets Are Ours, a devoted stay-at-home mom has left her family without warning or explanation to move to New York City from the Maryland suburbs. Her workaholic husband retreats to his office and into fantasy football, leaving the housekeeping to their seventeen-year-old daughter. Arden mothers her little brother, supports her egocentric boyfriend and takes the blame when her best friend stashes weed in her locker. "Recklessly loyal" Arden could have starred in an Ibsen play herself, but she prefers stage crew and life out of the spotlight.

As an escape from her problems, Arden becomes obsessed with a blog, Tonight the Streets Are Ours. The arts school blogger lives big in New York City; Peter shares her frustrations with loved ones and a hope for an ideal romance. The proverbial gun is placed center stage and the reader waits for Arden to pull the trigger. However, what happens when Arden drives off to New York City defies expectations.

The cast features diverse characters with realistic flaws who make mistakes. My only criticism would be that the pace was a bit slow in the first half, but it accelerates on the road trip with reckless glee. This edgy book explores the meaning of love with both humor and philosophical depth. Risky behavior has life altering consequences. Tonight the Streets Are Ours is delightfully whimsical, emotionally poignant and true to Millennial teens.

The sassy narrative voice was spot on:
"They both watched as Dillon Rammstein lit up a joint and Matt Washington shouted at him to 'Take that shit outside, man.' Dillon shoved past the girls' couch to go onto the patio. It was reassuring to know that Matt was such a conscientious host." 
"Nobody seemed particularly interested in playing charades, or any game that didn't involve killing computer generated prostitutes."
From Peter's blog:
"I do not understand Vitaminwater, by the way. Drink some water. Eat some vitamins. Are you so busy that you need those two tasks combined into one? I mean, I know New Yorkers have a lot going on, but chill the hell out."
Bloggers will be interested in the gap between the real world and the life portrayed online. An unreliable blogger makes for good satire of social media and of the New York publishing world. The author is also an editor of young adult fiction. Sales clearly knows her Ibsen and the Brooklyn club scene. Could there be a better juxtaposition?

I discovered the author's previous novel, This Song Will Save Your Life, while browsing in Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine. After two brilliantly original books with awesome soundtracks, Leila Sales has joined my favorite author list. Her young adult novels would appeal to fans of Jennifer E. Smith's and of Stephanie Perkins's YA romances. However, Tonight the Streets Are Ours is more than a teen romance; it's also a cautionary tale for high achieving girls and their over-extended super moms.

Reviewer's Disclosure: I requested a free digital galley from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Tonight will be released in hardcover and in ebook on September 15th, 2015.

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@Barrie Summy


Stacy said...

That sounds like an interesting book. Is it too mature for a 13-year-old?

That is one gorgeous cover!

Rose said...

Although I sympathized with Nora, I always wondered, too, how she could leave her children. This book sounds interesting--now I'm wondering if and how Arden and Peter hook up.

Sarah Laurence said...

Stacy, the mature content (alcohol, drugs and sexual situations) would be better suited for a teenager in high school. Even more concerning, the protagonist tries to meet a person she only knows online. Still, it's a good cautionary tale. I'd recommend reading along with a younger teen so you could discuss the risky behavior.

Rose, I wasn't sure myself of the outcome until the end. It's not often that a book surprises me.

troutbirder said...

Real life yes. My father in law had a similar story when his mother abandoned him and three young brothers for California. This book probably wouldn't be for me though I find your reviews always fascinating...:)

Unknown said...

Great review!! I like the premise of this one! I'm curious about the soundtracks you mention though--are they listed in the book or on her website…?


Linda McLaughlin said...

Sounds different and interesting. Thanks for the great review.

Cloudbuster said...

This sounds awesome! Just ordered it. Thanks so much for the fabulous review.

Barrie said...

A novel I re-read this summer where the mother abandons her family: Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler. It sounds as though the subject is treated very differently in Tonight the Streets Are Ours.Just kind of weird that we both read books with a similar premise. :) I like a mature book. Probably because that's not what I write. So, I'm sure I'd enjoy this book. Thanks for reviewing!

Sarah Laurence said...

troutbirder, your poor father-in-law, how tragic!

Alyssa, the author interweaves reference to music throughout both narratives, but THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE (about a girl DJ) had several playlists in the back of the book. Some music I knew, other tracks I looked up online and enjoyed.

Linda, her work is very original.

Cloudbuster, I'd love to hear your reaction after you've finished the book.

Barrie, I read Ladder of Years too years ago and it did have some similar themes but Tonight is less dark. This author's writing style is somewhat similar to mine, but like you, I also read darker more literary books on the side. Thanks for hosting the book review club!

Jenn Jilks said...

Well done! I enjoyed your review. Very thoughtful.

A Cuban In London said...

Excellent review. The book sounds good and a bit more risqué than other volumes in the same category. Thanks.

Greetings from London.

Stephanie Faris said...

I love the concept--and yes, what we see online is VERY different from the reality. This sounds like one I might have to read!

Bee said...

This author's books are on my (overloaded) book shelf. Your review has nudged them to the front!

Sarah Laurence said...

Jen, thanks! I enjoy your reviews too.

ACIL, the content lines up with upper YA. There is some talk of drugs and sex but nothing graphic. Most importantly, risky behavior has consequences.

Stephanie, thanks and welcome to my blog!

Bee, I'd love to chat about this author with you after you've read her work.