It’s wedding weekend and everything that can go wrong does go wrong in Save the Date, the latest YA contemporary novel by Morgan Matson. Set over the course of three days, you’ll dive into the drama of the Grant Family as Charlie tries to make sure the last weekend with her family all together in their childhood home is as perfect as it can be while a wedding goes on underfoot.
Save the Date really packs everything into one novel. While the plot focuses on the wedding preparation, a lot happens outside of the ceremony. The novel begins with the revelation that the wedding planner the Grants had hired to plan their oldest daughter’s wedding has absconded, leaving them with a back-up planner and his nephew. There’s an interview for Good Morning America planned for the day after the wedding and the shelter dog being featured in the interview gets dropped off two days early and won’t stop howling. The house alarm won’t stop going off, there’s unexpected wedding guests like a scammy uncle and a new girlfriend who isn’t pleased that no one knew who she was. One of the brothers returns home after basically disowning the family two years ago. Charlie ends up taking on a lot of responsibilities since she wants her family to be united and happy, but things just keep going wrong. Along the way, she’s struggling with boy problems, best friend issues, and the revelation that maybe her happy family isn’t so happy after all.
Before I delve into the meat of the book, I have to rant about the subplot that begins in chapter one, which takes place months before the wedding. Basically, Matson opens the novel with a hookup between two characters we literally know nothing about so far. Charlie says she’s always had a crush on Jesse Foster and I get that, but he’s never shown interest in her before now, he’s older and her brother’s friend, and he is literally leaving to go back to school the next morning and if that isn’t a red flag parade, well…it is. It just is. And the Jesse Foster subplot gets woven through the novel pretty poorly. Charlie, and me as a reader, forgets about him for huge chunks of time because he’s just not that interesting. I know his purpose, and I think the resolution with him shows a lot of growth on the part of Charlie, but I hated every single moment of him. I know guys like that. They’re the worst. I don’t want them in my books.
Anyway, on to other things. I love novels confined to a set amount of time or a certain location, so I liked how compact this novel was. Other than the prequel with Jesse,the novel opens on Friday and ends on Sunday. It’s tight. The weekend has a purpose and Matson sticks to it. We also get to learn a lot about the family and the guests involved in little details like through their reaction to the dog or to missing bagels or a police car showing up. We get to see them in time of joy and reckless abandon (a capture the flag game described in pretty good detail) and in times of great stress because of family issues. Sometimes the issues that arrive are laugh out loud funny, and other times they are absolutely infuriating, but it’s a fun ride. It’s also kind of a moving family drama. They have issues and will always have issues but seeing how much they love and care for each other in moments of triumph and trouble is great.
One thing I particularly loved about the book that both fed into the backstory of the wedding and created a nice motif was that Charlie’s mom is the author of a pretty famous comic series about a fictional version of their family, Grant Central Station. Not only does it reflect the history of their family and their closeness, it also feeds into some of the family drama. It also sets the scene for some of the plot points like the Good Morning America interview and the foster dog. It was a really original kind of origin story for the family and it played into the plot nicely without overshadowing it.
Overall, this book is interesting. If you like YA contemporary novels and don’t want it focused entirely on romance, this is for you. Personally I was a little frustrated that Charlie didn’t notice the romance brewing right underneath her nose ,but it was kind of realistic because she was single-handedly trying to save a wedding. There are a lot of humorous moments interwoven in the trouble, like a Journey cover-band and a barking dog and all that jazz.
At the end of the day, this book as a lot to offer to a reader.It’s got humor and sadness and family drama and friendship and growing up, but I left feeling like Charlie had a lot of growing up to do emotionally and that Matson wasted her time with the Jesse Foster subplot. But I loved the family ensemble aspect of it and the backdrop of a wedding weekend was perfect.