Review: NO PLACE LIKE HERE by Christina June
Published by Blink on May 21, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
NO PLACE LIKE HERE Review
Christina June’s No Place Like Here is an engaging YA contemporary story about Ashlyn Zanotti, a young woman who lives in the shadow of an overbearing father who criticizes everything she does and tries to control every aspect of her life. When the story opens, Ashlyn has just returned home from boarding school for the summer and is immediately hit with a bombshell – her father has been found guilty of tax evasion and is going to prison, and her mother, who suffers from depression, has checked herself into a treatment facility. True to form, however, before being carted off to prison, Ashlyn’s father has dictated how Ashlyn will spend her entire summer. Instead of spending it poolside with her friends, Ashlyn is being shipped off to live with family she hasn’t seen in over a decade and will work at a remote wilderness retreat. Ashlyn is furious and frustrated, but as always, feels she has no say in the matter and passively accepts her father’s orders.
My favorite part of No Place Like Here is how much Ashlyn grows throughout the story. I think Ashlyn’s situation is one that will resonate with many readers – low self-esteem, overbearing parents, not feeling like you have any control over your life, etc. I just felt so bad for Ashlyn at the beginning because she seems almost beaten down by her father’s constant berating. She’s quiet and reserved, not really wanting to draw any attention to herself. I really loved the transformation that she undergoes once she is able to get out from under her father’s shadow. She makes friends, gains self-confidence, and finds her voice, even taking on leadership roles at the retreat. For the first time, she actually feels proud of herself and the work she’s doing.
I felt like a proud parent watching Ashlyn discover her own potential. While working at the retreat, for example, an inquiry from one of the guests inspires her to organize offsite tours for guests who would like to explore the surrounding area while staying at the retreat. She really takes ownership of the idea too, doing all the research and coordinating with local businesses to bring the project to life. In addition to that, she also stands up to the incredibly unqualified woman who has been hired to manage the retreat. When she realizes the woman is consistently being negligible in ways that could endanger guests, Ashlyn starts gathering evidence to take to the owners to help get the situation under control before someone gets hurt. Ashlyn’s growth and her determination to stand up for what’s right had me really cheering her on and hoping that when she and her father finally meet again, she will stand up to him as well.
I also really loved the way the author handled Ashlyn’s mom and her depression. It was done in a very positive way to show there’s absolutely no shame in seeking help when you’re struggling. I think that’s such an important message, so I was glad it was presented in such a way. I especially liked the conversations between Ashlyn and her mom where her mom discusses effective strategies she’s being taught to better help her cope once she has returned home.
The one thing about No Place Like Here that had me scratching my head was that I went into it thinking it was a Hansel and Gretel retelling based on something I had read about the book. I kept trying to bend the story in my mind to make it work as a retelling and just didn’t see it. After I finished, I saw a comment from the author where she describes No Place Like Here as loosely inspired by Hansel and Gretel and that’s a more apt description. I wish I had seen her comment prior to reading the book. It would have saved me some head scratching, haha.
Even with my misinformed belief that this was a retelling of Hansel and Gretel, I still really enjoyed No Place Like Here overall. It’s a wonderful coming of age story, and with its wilderness retreat and summertime setting, it’s also the perfect beach read.
Ashlyn Zanotti has big plans for the summer. She’s just spent a year at boarding school and can’t wait to get home. But when Ashlyn’s father is arrested for tax evasion and her mother enters a rehab facility for “exhaustion,” a.k.a. depression, her life is turned upside down.
The cherry on top? Ashlyn’s father sends her to work with a cousin she doesn’t even know at a rustic team-building retreat center in the middle of nowhere. A self-proclaimed “indoor girl,” not even Ash’s habit of leaving breadcrumb quotes—inspirational sayings she scribbles everywhere—can help her cope.
With a dangerously careless camp manager doling out grunt work, an overbearing father trying to control her even from prison, and more than a little boy drama to struggle with, the summer is full of challenges. And Ashlyn must make the toughest decision of her life: keep quiet and follow her dad’s marching orders, or find the courage to finally stand up to her father to have any hope of finding her way back home.
I love how Ashlyn is able to take a not-so-great situation and really turn into a growing experience for herself! She sounds like a great character.
Angela recently posted…Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Time After Time
She really was cool. I enjoyed her journey so much.
I feel for Ashlyn just reading your review. Feeling beaten down by others and like you have no say in your own life is demoralizing. I like hearing that she has some real growth over the summer. Sounds like a really good read!
Tanya @ Girl Plus Books recently posted…WWW Wednesday #51 | May 22, 2019
Right? I felt horrible for her. I was actually glad that her dad got knocked down a peg or two by getting caught and sent to prison. He needed a reminder that nobody is perfect, especially not him.
Lovely review Suzanne! This one gets many positive reviews so far!
Sophie recently posted…Written With Regret by Aly Martinez is available now!
It was really good. I have a couple of her other books on my kindle and now I really can’t wait to read them.
Great review:). Thank you for sharing this one – I like the sound of it and the narrative arc of the main protagonist sounds really positive, Suzanne.
Yes, it was. Ashlyn really made the most of what she thought was going to be a bad situation.
I really enjoy June’s books. Her characters always experience a lot of growth, and family usually plays a big part in her tales. These were standout aspects of No Place Like Here for me. Like you, I loved seeing Ashlyn find her “thing” and be recognized for doing it well. I also really appreciated the direction she took with respect to Ashlyn’s family. She had bonds growing stronger, bridges being mended, and olive branches being extended.
Sam@wlabb recently posted…Blog Tour: Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small
I can’t wait to read more of her books. I have a few on my kindle that I haven’t gotten to yet but I need to make them a priority.
This sounds like one I can relate to. Ahem, not naming names, but the father character…
Thanks for sharing, Suzanne. I’ll be adding this one to my TBR.
lisa thomson recently posted…Asking For Help, Embracing Vulnerability
Yeah, that father character was a real piece of work. I was actually glad the book opened with him getting shipped off to prison. He needed a reminder that nobody’s perfect, especially not him.
Yes, it was definitely “loosely” inspired by Hansel and Gretel. But I did like how the main character grew as a person.
Brooke Lorren recently posted…Evil Female Leaders (Fangirling on Friday)
I did too. It was a lovely story in that regard.
I’m going to be reading this one soon, so I’m glad to see you enjoyed it. I hate it when I go into a book thinking it’s something specific (like a Hansel & Gretel retelling) and it doesn’t turn out that way. Expectations can mess with your head!
Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted…All the Little Checkboxes Confuse Me!! Let’s Discuss.
I agree about expectations. Thankfully it’s still a wonderful story even though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting it to be.
I’ve had this one on my TBR for ages, but this is the first review I’ve actually seen for it! I’m so happy it was an enjoyable read, and that the main character grows and becomes more confident. I also like that mentioned the author’s portrayal of depression, and that it was handled in a positive way. A lot of people suffer from depression, and there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you need help. Great review!
Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬
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I haven’t seen many reviews for it yet either, which surprised me. It’s a really good read so hopefully it will get more love soon.