“It was that feeling like when the lights come up after a movie—how it takes a minute to let go of the world you’d been immersed in. ”
I’ve been patiently waiting for this newest Matson’s book, back when its release date had been set for the same day as Sarah Dessen’s Once and For All, both surrounding the wedding season, though, the latter is more on planning than attending one. Save the Date still holds the same hectic atmosphere since the main event – the wedding – is taking place at the Grant’s house with a bunch of siblings set to arrive all at once.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning:
Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster—all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.
The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.
Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.
I forgot how quickly these contemporary reads go by. You start to get into it and then poof the book’s over.
Save the Date, in particular, hit it off with a bang by starting with a romantic get-together that swept me right into the storyline. I’m a (low-key) sucker for obsessional crushes, so seeing Charlie’s keenness on her childhood crush was all too real; Jesse Foster is no longer a boy in her eyes, but a mythical figure that can do no wrong.
The book hits the mark on experiencing unrequited crushes and observing from the sidelines. Like my favorite quote from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before conveys: ‘You’d rather make up a fantasy version of somebody in your head than be with a real person.’
I mean, I can’t stop thinking about this:
“Jesse didn’t move over from his spot on the middle cushion, so when I sat on the couch, I was closer to him than I had ever been before, except for two memorable occasions—when we’d been stuck in an elevator together at a laser tag place for Mike’s fourteenth birthday, and a memorable car ride when I was twelve and we’d been coming back from playing mini golf in Hartfield, all of us crammed into the car, and somehow, I’d ended up in the way back next to Jesse, Mike on his other side. And Jesse kept turning to talk to Mike, which meant he kept leaning into me, his bare leg pressing against mine. It had been a thirty-minute ride home, and the whole time, I’d prayed for a traffic jam, a road closure, a flat tire—anything to keep it going longer. So, as I sat on the couch next to him now, it was with full awareness that this proximity to him—voluntary, as opposed to car-logistic mandated—was a brand-new thing.”
rubs hands together Now, it’s getting good.
“She didn’t know what it was like to look and wish and want, always two steps behind the person, always on the edges of their life. What it was like to stand next to someone and know you weren’t registering with them, not in any meaningful way. That you thought about someone a thousand times more than they’d ever thought about you. To know that you were just a face in the crowd scenes while they were center stage. And then, all at once, to have the spotlight finally swing over to you. To suddenly be visible, to be seen, no longer one of the people in the background who never get any lines. To suddenly be in the midst of something you’d only ever looked at from the sidelines. What that felt like when it finally happened, dropped in your lap when you were least expecting it, like a gift you were half-afraid to open.”
This right here is exactly why I so love Wren’s line from Fangirl: “That moment,” she told Cath, “when you realize that a guy’s looking at you differently—that you’re taking up more space in his field of vision. That moment when you know he can’t see past you anymore.”
I’ll never tire of seeing books get it right when discussing something close to heart. I was living vicariously through Charlie and Jesse’s interactions, which is why this became such a pivotal reading experience for me when it went the extra mile of showing the reason these types of crushes don’t tend to develop any further is because you hold them on this invisible pedestal, whereas for them you’re just a body in a crowd.
“He was a nice guy. He was cute, and he was a great kisser. But that was actually all I really knew about him, Jesse the actual person. I couldn’t have told you his favorite movie, or his roommate’s name, or his greatest fear. He wasn’t who I thought he was all those years, because that person didn’t exist. That Jesse was just a compilation of everything I’d projected onto him, coupled with a handful of real-life interactions that I’d given far too much value to.”
Her anthem should include Dua Lipa’s New Rules.
Analysing and reading into their every move can become exhausting really quickly, so I was beyond grateful to safely experience from the sidelines where all this can lead to with Save the Date. (Another great book that touches upon this is The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.)
I’m putting that major revelation aside by moving on to discuss the actual book, which is ‘what you see is what you get’ synopsis-wise since the entirety of it is set around three hectic wedding days (without any major flashbacks). Consequently, the usual contemporary, summer fun isn’t quite as present here as with Matson’s previous books, especially when each developing storyline could be detected from a mile away.
The only remaining upside Save the Date held for me were Charlie’s siblings with their dynamic personalities put into one house. It’s the little things that made them seem so close to me. Like, calling for “witnesses” when making a bet, or their “not it” gesture of pulling on their earlobe.
“This was one of the thousands of tiny things that only happened when we were together, one of the things you didn’t know you’d miss until it was gone.”
It’s these details that are able to procure real, authentic moments.
“No!” I said quickly. Mike Drops were something that J.J. and Danny had done a lot when Mike was in elementary school and they were much, much bigger than he was. It was true to its name—Danny would pick up Mike, yell “Mike Drop!” and toss him in the air and J.J. would dash in and catch him just before he hit the floor. All of which had worked out great when Mike was six. But as they’d all gotten older, J.J. sometimes forgot to catch him, and they had a way of getting people injured, sometimes all three of them in the same Mike Drop.”
They were a never-ending hoot to read about. As well as the scarcely Grant Central Station comic strips scattered throughout.
Plus, there’s the added bonus of featuring quite the creative chapter titles that make for a compelling road ahead, with favorites including: “Or, Acronyms Are Not Always a Good Idea Or, AANAAGI” & “Or, 98% of All Statistics Are Made Up on the Spot.”
Overall, Save the Date was an enjoyable YA read, though a bit rushed in places, and included just the right amount of fun and laughter.