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Book Review: Take Me Home Tonight by Morgan Matson

Last year, a new book by Morgan Matson was published. I read Morgan Matson’s books before and really enjoyed them. When I found out the book is about two theater fans lost in New York City, I wanted to read it. As soon as I found a copy, I purchased it and read it.

Before I talk about the book and what I think of it, I wanted to talk about the book and the book cover itself.

The book’s dust cover used on Take Me Home Tonight is the most unusual and telling book cover I have come across. From the front of the book, it’s looks normal. It shows the two main characters walking through a street in New York City with a dog on a leash following them…

Did I mention I bought my copy from Target? Because I bought my copy at Target. You can tell because there is a sticker on the front of the book saying it is 20% off list price.

Aside from the Target sticker on the front of the book, the cover looks normal. On the back of dust cover, there is a photograph of a Pomeranian dog…

This is where the author’s photograph should be located.

The front fold of the book is also normal and gives a summary about the story and what it will be about…

And the back flap is normal as well. There is a photograph of Morgan Matson and an author biography…

When I began reading this book, everything about the dust cover looks normal, except for the huge photograph of the Pomeranian dog. There is a Pomeranian dog in the book, so I thought that is why there is a photograph of one on the dust cover. While reading the book, I did something to the book (I don’t remember what, but I think I may have dropped it) that cause the dust cover to come off the book. That’s when I saw the back side of the dust cover.

The back side of the dust cover was different than the one that is on the book. It looks like this…

Basically, there are two stories in the book. And this is what the back side of the dust cover is for.

Here is what the front would look like if the dust cover is put on the book in reversed…

I’ll talk about this story in a little while.

The book is about two friends, Katrina “Kat” Thompson and Stephen “Stevie” Sinclair, two teenagers that live in Connecticut. They are in their high school drama program and are best friends. Kat is a tall, blonde, fair skinned former ballet dancer that stopped dancing around her freshman year. Stevie is shorter than Kat and has olive toned skin and dark hair. She is an only child and her parents divorced. She live with her mother in Connecticut while her father lives in New York City with his new wife who is also his former secretary and mistress. Stevie has three step siblings through her step mother. They attend school and is in the drama club with Teresa “Teri” Tsai, who has a boyfriend she met while working as a summer camp councilor, yet neither Kat and Stevie believe he actually exists.

Kat and Stevie decide to go on an impromptu trip to New York City without their parent’s permission after school. Kat wants to go in order to see their drama teacher, Mr. Campbell, in a new play that he wrote, directed, and stars in on its opening night. Stevie wants to go in order to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant. The reservation was originally supposed to be for Stevie and her father for her birthday. Her father canceled at the last minute to work and told her to go to the restaurant with her mother for dinner. Her mother couldn’t go to dinner with her, so she planned to go with Kat, eat a dinner, and then watch the play.

Their plan is to go to New York City without their parents knowing by telling their parents they would be having a sleepover at Teri’s home. Teri would then back up their stories by posting on social media as if they were at her home for a slumber party. (If anyone is wondering why Teri won’t get into trouble for this, she actually doesn’t live in the same home as her parents. She moved into the guest house and her parents don’t bother checking on her much, if at all.)

Kat and Stevie’s plan goes on without a hitch… until they reach New York City. That’s when Stevie runs into on of her step sisters, who was on the way to a job and ropes Stevie and Kat into taking something back to her apartment. After mishaps that cause her roommate’s dog, a Pomeranian dog named Brad, and Stevie and Kat to be locked out of the apartment without the keys or their wallet, Stevie’s phone, the only phone the girls had on them, was destroyed, and they get separated from each other on the Subway. Stevie had the dog while Kat had the only money the girls had on them: a $100 bill.

This book is fun book to read. It is written like a movie aimed for teenagers in the late 1990’s and 2000’s, specifically the Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen movies (Such as New York Minute) and The Princess Diaries movies. It was enjoyable to read a book inspired by these movies. The movies’ humor is woven into the book and situations are set up with the jokes in mind. The scenes in the book are also heavily inspired by the movies and cut away and start at the right time when the movies would use for humor and story telling effect. As someone who loved to watch the movies as a teenager, I’m very impressed by Morgan Matson’s writing style and shows the amount of attention to detail paid in the book. I can absolutely see this book inspired by a movie, except there is no movie and the only way to enjoy the story is by reading the book.

A huge detail that is included in the book that I love very much is Teri’s story. Initially, she is a background character that covered for Kat and Stevie while they had their adventure in New York City. 1/4 through the book, she begins to have a story of her own that takes place at the same time as Kat and Stevie’s. This side of the story is usually titled “Meanwhile, in Connecticut…” before switching back to Kat or Stevie’s sides of the story. Unlike Kat and Stevie’s, Teri’s side of the story is not told in a first person view. Instead, it is told in third person.

Teri’s story starts as she begins her night watching Kat’s cell phone, which was left in order to post on social media, while she binge watched Netflix alone. Earlier that night, she began to have problems with her boyfriend, who actually exists. The relationship is on the brink of ending and she was feeling down. That’s when a family called her mother, asking if she could babysit their three children while they attended a party that night. Without asking Teri first, her mother agreed Teri would babysit the children for the night.

After going to the home to babysit, Teri’s night went from bad to chaotic, absolutely insane, and worse in every way possible. She and the children she was babysitting are thrown into an FBI investigation into organized crime, stolen diamonds, and a double crossing member of organized crime that stands over state lines and into Canada.

This story is not the main story, which focuses on Kat and Stevie, but it does happen at the exact same time as Kat and Stevie’s. Because of this, the plot becomes hard to follow, which, for me, is the major drawback of the book. In order to help the reader keep track of which part of the story and which character they are reading about, the chapter that focuses on Kat and Stevie’s stories are identified as either “Kat” or “Stevie” whenever a new chapter starts. Teri’s story is usually identified in new chapters as “Meanwhile, Somewhere in Connecticut…”.

If you have trouble following the novel’s plot as it changes focus between the two main character and a secret third main character, then try to read all the stories that focus on Teri until the end of the part. The book is split into parts, so it makes it easier to see how the stories take place at the same time frame. Teri’s story is different from Kat and Stevie’s, so it would be easier to read her story until the end of the part without confusing or spoiling any of the details that happen in Kat and Stevie’s story.

The book is a fun adventure story with main characters that are flawed, but still likable. I really enjoyed reading it and am still in awe of the attention to detail in the book. It is a well thought out book full of complexity and depth in ways a movie in this style of storytelling may never be able to go into. It is a really enjoyable book and I highly recommend it, especially if you are a fan of the teen movies of the 1990’s and 2000’s (And even 1980’s such as Adventures in Babysitting, which I can see as a loose inspiration for Teri’s story). The book may not be for everyone, especially if you don’t like such movies or stories, but I would suggest to give it a try. It may be complicated, but like any book that inspired a movie or movie series, it could be more enjoyable that a movie ever could be.

Well, that’s all for now! Thank you for reading!

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