Protect the cookie.
I originally asked for this book from Netgalley because I loved Megan McCaffery’s Jessica Darling series. Plus the early 90s in New Jersey is such a niche nostalgia, how could I turn that down? I am extra thankful that Wednesday Books asked me to be part of their book tour! So welcome to my stop on The Mall‘s blog tour, and thank you for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Publish: July 28th, 2020
Read: July 2020
Genre: YA, “Historical Fiction” Coming of Age
Content Warning: Slut shaming, cheating, divorce
Rating: 4/5 Moose
From the Jacket Copy:
New York Times bestselling author Megan McCafferty returns to her roots with this YA coming of age story set in a New Jersey mall.
The year is 1991. Scrunchies, mixtapes and 90210 are, like, totally fresh. Cassie Worthy is psyched to spend the summer after graduation working at the Parkway Center Mall. In six weeks, she and her boyfriend head off to college in NYC to fulfill The Plan: higher education and happily ever after.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans…
Set entirely in a classic “monument to consumerism,” the novel follows Cassie as she finds friendship, love, and ultimately herself, in the most unexpected of places. Megan McCafferty, beloved New York Times bestselling author of the Jessica Darling series, takes readers on an epic trip back in time to The Mall.
Rants, Raves, and Reviews
I should start by admitting that while I ventured to the malls some in the 1990s, I was too young to get the full impact to have the nostalgia for malls at the height of their touchstone of society. Still, this book held plenty of nostalgia for me in different ways.
The book opens up with Cassie, our main character, getting ready to get her life back on track after a vicious round of mono that cost her the end of her senior year. Honestly, I’m glad I waited a little while into the pandemic to start reading this because the first chapter’s lay out of everything Cassie missed and why… I would have burst into tears at all the unfortunate seniors who have lost out on their end of Senior Year traditions. Cassie doesn’t seem overly bummed by this, instead she feels she is even more desperate to get on track and prepared to go to college. With the right boyfriend (maybe one who she loses her virginity to?) and with a job that gives her some spending money for when she finally moves to New York City.
Ah Manhattan. Don’t we all wish to run away to you for one thing or another, but always with the hopes of finding our best self.
Unfortunately for Cassie, man plans, and god laughs. And at this point, I really wasn’t sure what direction the book was going. I worried it would be an entire book about Cassie trying to win back her ex-boyfriend (who cheated on her while she was out with mono, with a girl who will forever leave me terrified of Bath and Body Works sprayers) or a book where she ends up realizing small time life is so much more fulfilling than life in the BIG CITY.
Instead, this book offered a fun mystery that reminded me of all my summer wishes. Cassie ends up finding a job at her former friend’s mom’s boutique, which her former friend (Drea) agrees to in exchange for Cassie helping her find the hidden mysterious treasure in the mall.
My brain definitely made a record scratch noise at that.
Sorry, if I had the opportunity to spend a summer looking for a secret treasure while working my mundane summer job?? SIGN. ME. UP.
Of course, it isn’t always about the treasure, but the adventure along the way. The fact that Cassie has to learn that you can’t plan everything in the future, no matter how much you want to. And that perfection isn’t always the only option. (Also I spent so much of the book yelling “JUST FLIPPING GOOGLE IT” while also knowing it is 1991. Man, I never have been so appreciative of my college classes that didn’t allow computer research or I would feel lost forever.)
Since this book is entitled “The Mall,” I didn’t expect a deep dive into Cassie’s relationship with her parents. And yet, that relationship is a side I found lacking some true depth. It is clear she doesn’t have a deep relationship with either parent, and they’re definitely to blame for the goal setting plan Cassie embodies as a personality. Yet their divorce plays out as a weird side plot to the main story. Cassie seems to be upset by it, incredibly so, but they don’t seem to want to help her come to terms with the whole situation? It has a quick resolution that shows it’ll take a long time for any resolution to come, but it is also really clear that true resolution is going to take much, much longer.
Also, what was it with parents and telling their kids they wanted a divorce over a meal? Did they just want to ruin that kind of food for their kids?
Divorce discussion aside, the romances and friendships in this book have the exact vibe of summer, where they feel like they can last forever, even when you know they are likely not to survive past Labor day (maybe one will, one important friendship). The flings are left exactly where they should be, and fulfill their palette cleanser for what college is to bring.
This book, even with the quarantine discussion in the first chapter, is the perfect nostalgia summer book. It is best read on a Brooklyn fire escape as the sun goes down, with a glass of hard lemonade and a hand-made fan to keep you cool. It will make you miss your teen summers, even if yours were nothing like the summer in the book. I never worked at a mall, and my summers were spent in the sweltering Southern heat. But after this book, I can feel a little bit of Jersey in me.
So go pre-order this book (out Tuesday, July 28th!) for a perfect way to end your summer with some nostalgia….and maybe an orange julius. If you can find a recipe.