Josh has a car and his dad’s credit card. Lil has her cellphone and a hunch about where Penny is hiding. There’s something else she needs to find: Are she and Josh meant to be together?
OPINION: 4 STARS
The Short Version:
Fun and romantic, Don’t Stop Now does a great job of mixing drama with the awkwardness and sweetness that comes with a best friend wanting to move to being a couple. With a spunky, easy to like, and level headed protagonist, and a quirky but sweet and endearing love interest, Lil’s journey focuses as much on finding Penny as it does getting Josh. Giving insight into Penny’s head and taking on a darker note for it, but still light in nature overall, Don’t Stop Now is a quick and engaging read that is perfect for summer.
The Extended Version:
Lil is definitely an easy character to like, a girl you can see yourself being friends with while still appreciating that she prefers to keep a small group of close friends than a large group of acquaintances. Though it’s clear she likes Josh as more than a friend, she also very much would prefer to have him as a just a friend than not at all, and this is pitched in a great way that builds her character. Her personal development is well handled, nothing too drastic but the shifts are still clear.
Josh is a typical guy in some ways, seemingly oblivious to Lil’s feelings, while still being incredibly sweet and in tune to her in other ways that maybe matter more. His quips and comebacks are hilarious, but also say a lot about his personality in a bold way that makes him even more likable for readers. His interactions with Lil are confusing at times, but generally have a very tender note to them.
Though the plot centers very much around the actual road trip Lil and Josh take, the frustration and questions centering around Penny’s kidnapping ploy filter in at all the right moments to remind both the pair and the reader about the real reason for the trip. Halpern mixes in first person accounts from Penny’s perspective, going back to even before she and Lil became friends, to really give the reader strong insight into why she fled. Painful and heartbreaking, but never outshadowing Lil and her story, these sections add a tremendous amount to the book.
Outside of these asides, the pacing remains steady, with the pair traveling at a good clip while still taking plenty of touristy stops along the way. Adding in the emotional element, yet having a knack for keeping things light overall, the writing ties everything together. Strong in voice and filled with character, Halpern’s writing is easy to get into from the start.
Setting wise, this one is fantastic, bringing the different towns and motels Lil and Josh stay at to life in a very vivid, engaging manner. Making it feel as though the reader is right there with them, Halpern’s descriptions give just enough to get the imagination flowing before turning the details over readers in a way that makes everything stronger. This is definitely a case where the setting is as memorable and bold as any character.
The build up and questions about whether Lil and Josh will end up together drive things as much as Penny and finding out what other places the pair will stop at, and Halpern has straddled the line between the two beautifully. Enjoyable in concept and execution, and with hints of darker stuff set against an otherwise light, even fluffy air, Don’t Stop Now is a great contemporary that will hit a range of readers.
Source: ARC received from author/publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (June 7, 2011)