How to inaugurate this section without mentioning the first book I read in 2021?
Impossible. Billy Lemonade by Sarah J. Maxwell is a book I picked sometime in February out of a Twitter list. The title and the blurb intrigued me, and it seemed like a good place to start due to my heavy reading slump. Now, I don’t particularly like or read a lot of YA fiction but since adults were jumping in, I figured this book might be for me. I wasn’t disappointed.
Image from Whisper Publishing.
The review I posted on Goodreads
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5: it was amazing
“This book got me out of my reading slump. Billy completely whisked me away. I didn’t expect a fairytale; I saw most reviews mentioned how real and poetic this book was. How human it was. And I must say, it didn’t disappoint.
“The first chapter was hard for me to get through because I wasn’t used to the scenery that was painted — a countryside as charming as it was dreadful, and Billy killing ants (lol). I thought this was going to be the beginning of a teenage drama, where the younger girl falls in love with the older boy.
“Needless to say I was wrong. Dead wrong.
“The story unfolds pretty quickly, and it’s easy to be in Jane’s shoes. She hates school, she can’t make friends, every other girl in school is hard to connect with. She only has Billy and Billy only has her. Their friendship is endearing but mature; a real trip down memory lane for whoever experienced deep male/female friendships in school. But then the truth about Billy comes out and honestly, I was devastated. I’m not easily shaken by a story but that part really made me tear up. It wasn’t what I expected at all, and then I started having doubts about Jane as well but still — I wasn’t prepared for her reality as well.
“Sarah is a wizard with words; her vocabulary is amazing, and there is a sensibility in every sentence she writes that takes Billy Lemonade somewhere above your usual YA book. This isn’t ‘just’ a YA book. This is a book for YA and adults, and anyone else who misses innocent summers.
“If by the end you don’t fall in love with Billy — oh, wait, no. That’s impossible.
“I can’t wait to read more books by this author. She’s a precious stone.”
Some thoughts on the author’s writing style
I’ve said it before and Sarah must think I am a real ass-kisser if she reads this because I always shower her with compliments but honestly, you can see that this is a book written by someone who masters the English language. Every sentence feels polished and at the same time, there’s no purple prose or anything too wordy. It’s concise and manages to take you some place that you feel you’ve visited before and yet can’t quite remember. I think they call it nostalgia. And with the paranormal setting, it’s perfect.
Final thoughts on the book weeks after reading it
Ultimately, this is still a book I will remember. Quite often we read books that we enjoy in the heat of the moment and then some days after you can’t tell what happened or why the characters got there in the first place. This is not the case with Billy Lemonade. I can still tell how I felt from beginning to end and I wish there were more books like this in the spotlight. The YA scene is often cluttered with two-dimensional characters in some fantasy realm either because it’s more popular or because the big publishers market their butts off to sell it. Billy Lemonade was published by an independent publisher but the quality? The quality is far above the average when it comes to the audience and the themes. This is a book about pain, domestic violence, friendship, first love, loss, and grief. And everything is handled the way it should.