Summary: Where the Rhythm Takes You
Where the Rhythm Takes You is Sarah Dass’s debut YA novel. Seventeen-year-old Reyna is working at her family’s hotel, The Plumeria — as she has since her mother’s death two years before. Everyone around her seems to be moving forward with their lives. Her best friend, Olivia is going to art school in England, her first love Aiden moved away to the US where he has become a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter. Even her father seems ready to move on. But Reyna is stuck, and now Aiden is back on a surprise trip to Tobago — where Reyna lives — to celebrate his birthday.
Things get even more complicated when Reyna’s father asks her to be a tour guide for Aiden and his friends — Eliza, Fish, Hayley, and Leonardo. As we follow their adventures in Tobago, Dass also takes us up to five years back — alternating between past and present until two years before — as we see how Aiden and Reyna met, how their friendship and love blossomed, and exactly how things fell apart.
I LOVED this book. This is like the perfect YA book for me. The balance of family, friendships, adventure, personal issues, and romance is flawless. Plus, that Tobago setting made this book 100x more appealing. I’ve never been to Tobago but I lived in a Caribbean island for five years and I have several Trinidadian friends, so hearing the audiobook narrator and the Trini accent warmed my heart — as well as the authentic storytelling and Caribbean scenes. Yes to all of it.
I also liked Reyna. She’s stubborn, often difficult, and very passionate about The Plumeria and her mother’s memory. I thought Aiden was such a good match for her and I loved seeing their journey from friends to lovers in the past and the transition from awkward to reconciled (spoiler!) in the present. There’s enough drama between other characters to propel the story without things lagging and enough creativity between Reyna’s art passions and Aiden’s music to keep readers inspired.
Overall: Where the Rhythm Takes You
Where the Rhythm Takes You is an alluring, immersive, and swoony YA coming-of-age story with a heartwarming second-chance romance. Featuring a heroine grieving the loss of her mother and caught between carrying a burdensome legacy or following her dreams, this YA novel will resonate with one who’s ever felt stuck in life. The Tobago setting and a native Trinidadian audiobook narrator make this book (and its audiobook companion) the perfect escapist read. If you like YA by Black authors or YA books about music, you’ll enjoy this one.