review: TIME OF OUR LIVES by emily wibberley and austin siegemund-broka // ft. gatsby references, talk of the future, and cannoli appreciation


Look, one day I’ll write a piece on what constitutes addicting, memorable reads, or maybe even how hard it is and what it takes for a fervently-anticipated book to live up to the hype you’ve built for it, and when someone asks me to name an example, I’ll pelt them with copies of this book and tell them to see what I’m talking about for themselves.







I’ve made it no secret that I’ll pick up anything this author duo writes. Ever since I sneak-read IF I’M BEING HONEST (2019) back in early April of last year instead of studying for AP exams (I loved it AND did well, so it was a win-win, okay?) and picked up ALWAYS NEVER YOURS (2018) over the summer before college, I’ve been solidly hooked.






I admit I have a special relationship with these books. You know those old 2000’s Disney shows whose seasons span a period of time so you see both yourself AND the actors grow up at the same time, and it makes you feel extra close to the show? It becomes nostalgic, relatable, and almost personal, in a way. This is how I feel about these books. I read IF I’M BEING HONEST when I, like the MC, was an ambitious senior in high school. And now, as a college freshman still getting over this weird transitional life phase, I get to read about TIME OF OUR LIVES’s two MCs also trying to make sense of this uncertainty, and this emotion is captured so perfectly that I actually had to just stop and reread and admire because my sole thought – put oh-so-eloquently – was: holy shit, this is it. This, right here, is the feeling exactly.






But now you ask – what is this book actually about, Tala, and what makes it so special?



Simply put, TIME OF OUR LIVES is about two college-bound seniors with different outlooks on the future who meet during a time when a pressuring countdown clock hangs over them both. Fitz fears the future. Juniper races for it. And through skilled author-y sorcery, the reader relates to them both from page one even though, from the outset, they appear to be polar opposites.



I’m gonna bring out the infamous List of Loves. It’s the only way to keep my thoughts straight when all I want to do is rave.







It’s dual-narrated (!!!) this time with voices that are super distinct but still seamlessly connected. To give a super-quick rundown of the leads:




Fitz Holton

  • cares deeply and is Worry Incarnate
  • is a quiet soft shameless word nerd
  • is very relatable. for example, i, too, can only do one (1) successful push-up before i immediately Die.
  • when realizes he has Feelings his plan is immediately just –



hi penguinteen can this be the paperback cover pls



Juniper Ramirez

  • will steal all your chocolate
  • is fiercely ambitious and won’t let you forget it
  • could punch me and i’d say thank you
  • will fight u on occasion
  • disrespect said ambitions and she will CERTAINLY fight u so beware


2. The dynamics, the dynamics, the dynamics


There’s so much to talk about here. The exploration of something as commonplace – but nevertheless terrifying – as voluntary but radical life changes, and our reactions to it, is top-notch. Fitz and Juniper are foils but not, similar but not, messy and charming and vulnerable and so very real.



And it doesn’t stop with our leading duo. The writing knows exactly when and which threads of the intricate family relationships web to pull, too, whether it be the macro family unit or the more microscopic sibling/sibling relationships. It’s all there, and it’s all real.






3.  Acknowledgement of the weight the subject matter carries


Fitz’s mom has early-onset Alzheimer’s, and much of his decision-making revolves around what’s best for her. With this initial setup, I was curious how this would factor into the overall tone of the book – compared to its two fun rom-com-y older sisters, TIME OF OUR LIVES has an in-your-face, harsher, darker tinge,  rom– with less –com, and less –com and much more –CRY because heads up: this will very much make you cry. But it has to. This is the necessarily-harsh realness of it all, and the authors don’t shy away from it. This is a book that knows exactly what it’s talking about, and I like it, nay, I adore it, for not taking the easy way out and sugarcoating.





4. The writing


We’ve got that signature trademark Wibbroka Witty Dialog (no one writes dialog like they do, you guys) in addition to, I think, the writing’s greatest asset: its attention to detail. Whether its physical detail, geographical detail, emotional detail, all of it. Think: The Raven Boys-era Maggie Stiefvater’s charmingly detailed writing – but with humor that’s actually funny (sorry, Stiefvater). There’s attention given to the details that matter. It’s why it was so hard to stop reading and I ended up finishing TIME OF OUR LIVES in one sitting: it’s deeply, addictively immersive.



Notable mention also goes out to the way TIME OF OUR LIVES seamlessly integrates elements of THE GREAT GATSBY (a book I slowly grew to love and love intensely after initial hatred; everyone please take a moment to applaud my character development). I love when a book can make me see a classic in a new light without obviously setting out to do so. When done right, as is the case here, the fusion of classic and contemporary is as subtle yet impactful as a final flourish of a brush on a masterpiece.



And all that aside, it’s the Roaring Twenties again, you guys, and look at these 2 books’ release dates. Coincidence? I think NOT.





If you haven’t read this yet, I envy the fact that you still get to experience this book for the first time almost as much as you should envy me for actually getting to read it this early. It’s a vicious envy-cycle, my friends.














releases: April 21, 2020




A reflective, romantic coming-of-age novel that explores life after high school–perfect for fans of Fangirl and Emergency Contact

A boy desperate to hold on, a girl ready to let go.

Fitz Holton waits in fear for the day his single mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s starts stealing her memory. He’s vowed to stay close to home to care for her in the years to come–never mind the ridiculous college tour she’s forcing him on to visit schools where he knows he’ll never go. Juniper Ramirez is counting down the days until she can leave home, a home crowded with five younger siblings and zero privacy. Against the wishes of her tight-knit family, Juniper plans her own college tour of the East Coast with one goal: get out.

When Fitz and Juniper cross paths on their first college tour in Boston, they’re at odds from the moment they meet– while Juniper’s dying to start a new life apart for her family, Fitz faces the sacrifices he must make for his. Their relationship sparks a deep connection–in each other’s eyes, they glimpse alternate possibilities regarding the first big decision of their adult lives.

Time of Our Lives is a story of home and away, of the wonder and weight of memory, of outgrowing fears and growing into the future.






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