My "Leaving Green Island" by Em Barrett Review

The perfect summer beach read, Leaving Green Island is more than simply a modern love story. It is a poignant yet lighthearted tale of friendship, family and the search for a place to belong in the complex world of today's twenty-something women.

With a new job at a prestigious Chicago law firm and an engagement ring on her finger, everything seems to be falling into place for Brecken Pereira these days. However, all this perfection quickly unravels when Reed Whalen, Brecken’s first love, unexpectedly resurfaces. The complicated history of the enigmatic Reed unfolds as the two summers that Brecken spent as a teenager on posh, exclusive Green Island in northern Michigan are interspersed with her relatable and humorous modern day trials and tribulations.

After Reed's reappearance, Brecken is torn between her longing for the past and the life she has carefully built for herself since Reed vanished years before. Her true-to-life and complex relationships with her two best friends provide the backbone that supports Brecken, both as the life she knows quickly dissolves around her and as she struggles to pick up the pieces.

This highly anticipated and unputdownable novel is certain to pull on the heartstrings of anyone who ever had a first love.

My Review:

Leaving Green Island is the story of a woman who, over the years, has acquired a nice life for herself. Brecken works as a junior associate at a law firm in Chicago, has the love of a man named Will, has two of the best friends anyone could ask for (who are also her roommates) and puts her talents as a violinist to good use as a member of the band Ishmael. Things seem to be going smoothly in this young woman’s life until she’s hit with a blast from the past that leaves her wanting to seek out her first love in search of unanswered questions.
Throughout the story (told from Brecken’s point of view – in the first person) we are transported from present day 2009 to the summer of 1999 and 2000. In the beginning of the novel, Brecken is shocked when she learns that her long lost love, Reed Whalen, is back in the area. Having heard nothing from him in eight years, not even a good-bye when he dropped off the face of the earth and broke her heart, Brecken is a little unsure how to process this information. A part of her desperately wants to see him, to have him answer her questions and give her some closure so she can move on with her life with Will. But the other part of her knows that if she does see Reed that it will open up the feelings she’s pushed deep down inside of her, and all that’s going to lead to is more heartbreak. Her logical side wins over her heart’s desire and she decides to put Reed out of her mind. By the end of Part 1 of this book, Brecken and Will (her longtime boyfriend) are engaged. Part 2 of this book takes us back to the summer of 1999 when Brecken’s best friend, Lizzy, asks her to accompany her and her family on their vacation to Green Island for the summer. Brecken, wanting to escape her family’s drama and recent heartbreak, talks her parents’ into letting her go. We spend the summer with Brecken and Lizzy as teenagers enjoying the lavish lifestyle that is the Green: bonfire beach parties, underage drinking, and lazy summer days. This is the summer Brecken meets Reed and although they only have the one night together before Brecken’s departure (just spent talking and getting to know one another) it is a significant night that she holds dearly to her heart. The rest of the novel revolves around Brecken actually running into Reed on the street (in present day 2009), dealing with that and the emotions she felt when it happened, then jumping back to the summer of 2000 when they fell in love and became an item, and coming back to present day 2009 where Brecken agrees to meet with Reed (per his request) and Brecken finally gets her long awaited questions answered, leaving her more confused than ever.
When I first started reading this novel I was immediately drawn towards this Reed character and instantly wanted to know more about him and his story. So the first half of the novel kind of lacked my interest a little bit because Reed was barely in it, but I did enjoy learning about Brecken and following her life as she coped with her resurfaced feelings for Reed. I absolutely loved the flash backs to her summers on Green Island. For me it kind of felt like watching an episode of Gossip Girl where all of the teenagers are left to themselves to indulge in whatever activities they choose to do. It’s that ritzy lifestyle that I have never known or personally experienced, so it was cool to have been in Brecken’s shoes as she joined that world. I also enjoyed all the references to stuff from the 90’s and early 2000’s that brought back some of my own memories (ex: Dylan and Brandon from 90210, Sex and the City, and Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall—sigh). My other favorite parts of the novel included any scene with Reed. I can’t really pinpoint one particular thing that I liked most about him, but he just seemed to be the total package: he oozes sex appeal, is ridiculously charming, has a sweet and sensitive side but also this dark and quiet side that just brought him to life and made him seem like an actual real person. I swear every time I saw his name appear on the page I got excited and couldn’t wait to read what was going to happen. I just wish he appeared more throughout the story than he did, but that’s the hopeless romantic in me. I appreciate how the author kept things real and not over the top. All of the characters in this novel were well written and I really liked all of them, except for Brecken’s boss Stan. That man got what was coming to him and I’m so happy with how Brecken handled herself with that whole scenario. All in all this was a well written book with loveable characters, fun dialogue (especially Brecken’s little side notes here and there) and a great story that ended the way I hoped it would.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Book Content: Adult language and a few mild sexual situations