It takes a special kind of book to take you back in time almost a decade and remind you of exactly how you felt. Time of Our Lives, which is available to buy now, is that kind of book.
When Fitz and Juniper meet during a college tour, the two couldn’t be more different. Fitz is a begrudging participant of a college tour set up by his mother, begrudging because he’s already convinced that he will be going to school close to home. Juniper, on the other hand, has been waiting her whole life to take these tours, eagerly eating up all of the details and sights. They are total opposites. Juniper isn’t even sure that she likes Fitz when she first meets him. Still, there’s something there—something they can’t identify but also can’t deny.
Fitz is obsessed with memory, knowing that it’s only a matter of time before his mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s begins to eat away at her own. He dreads the day that everything will change. Juniper feels stifled by her large, close-knit family and all of the guilt and obligation she feels around them. She cannot wait for things to change. Neither live in the present, both too consumed with the past and the future, respectively.
It speaks volumes about Emily Wibberley’s and Austin Siegemund-Broka’s (Wibbroka, as they’re fondly called) writing ability that I was able to relate to this book so deeply despite having been out of college for five years. I was fortunate enough to have been able to spend hours researching and looking forward to college, to take college tours, and to eventually attend college, and reading this book brought back so many fond memories. Wibbroka perfectly captured the spirit and privilege and nervous excitement of this time—the excitement and trepidation that comes with knowing that the future is full of unbridled possibility and the fear of turning your back on who you are and where you’ve come from.
I adored both Fitz and Juniper, but growing up on an island, I could especially relate to Juniper’s claustrophobia.
[T]here’s a point where the changelessness of everything becomes enveloping instead of encouraging. There’s a claustrophobia in comfort. The threads become a web, confining the person I want to be to the person I was.
I, too, felt intense claustrophobia. Like Juniper, I spent years fantasizing about going far away for school. It’s only now, almost a decade later, that I realize that I couldn’t have become who I am today without being who I used to be. It sounds so simple—obviously, we are all shaped by our experiences—but when you’re young, hungry, filled with hubris and a misguided sense of certainty, it’s hard to see.
The story was a little slow to start, but at the same time, I appreciated the love and care Wibbroka put into writing Fitz and Juniper. I dare you not to fall in love with both of them. Juniper’s drive and zeal were infectious. And Fitz’s love of language and words added such a lovely element to the story.
It’s unusual, his thing with words, but not in a bad way. Knowing the repertoire he has at his disposal gives everything he says to me a deliberateness it’s difficult to find in casual conversation. He speaks to me like he’s reading dialogue from a novel, each word chosen with care and precision. The effect is . . . disarming.
Time of Our Lives is a resonant coming-of-age story, filled with so much more than just excitement and anxiety over college. I particularly loved the dynamics between Fitz and his brother, Lewis. And Fitz’s passion for linguistics and Juniper’s passion for architecture were invigorating. Also, for fans of If I’m Being Honest (one of my favorite YA books!), you’ll love Cameron and Brendan’s cameo! (I could honestly read an entire phonebook’s worth of Cameron and Brendan content, I love them so much.)
Time of Our Lives has a perfect message for those who are on the precipice of great uncertainty and change—that who you were and who you are meant to be aren’t mutually exclusive. Your future does not exist in a vacuum. You do not have to only look one way—forward or backward—you can, and should, look both ways.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has not impacted or influenced my opinions.