Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners

A quick rundown… Once Grace meets Tyler Wilkie, her incredibly organised life turns upside down and inside out.

Strengths: Ty is easy to fall in love with; the plot unfolds in ways you weren’t expecting…

Weaknesses: It finished!

Why I read it: Sent to me by Allen and Unwin and The Reading Room – thank you!

Pages: 325 (ARC)

Published: 2012

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Setting: America (primarily New York)

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

The first thing that struck me when I saw Grace Grows was the excellent idea on the front and back covers. The ARC copy I received has the usual testimonials you see, but this time they are with a twist – they’re written by people at the publishing house. Such an awesome idea. The people have spoken – this is one of the sweetest stories you’ll read for a very long time.

Before you think, ‘Ugh, I don’t like sweet and it’s probably all predictable anyway’ – STOP. This is not to a formula. Grace Grows takes the formula, adds reality, twists and the most lovable hero for a long time. People, it’s that good. I can’t recommend it highly enough – and you’ll see why it’s quirky, funny and gorgeous from the first line, “The first time I met Tyler Wilkie, I was dressed like a call girl”. Now, Grace, our protagonist is actually a textbook writer/editor, so we know that this is probably wrong for a cautious young lady who carries the world in her named bag (Big Green) and lives a safe life with her boyfriend in New York.

The first time we meet Tyler, he’s walking a bunch of dogs that can’t get their feet wet. Why? Because he’s a struggling musician trying to make it big in New York.

The immediate chemistry between Grace and Tyler should cause the book to carry a warning for electric shocks but Sumners teases things out. She tells us how gorgeous Tyler (Ty to his friends) is, writes his songs in full (complete with Ty’s lack of knowledge of your/you’re) and taunts us with ‘oh so close’ moments.

Then Grace’s life begins to unravel and her cautious, predictable life ends in a heap. Even though Grace’s pain seeps through the pages, this is where things become exciting for the reader as the plot becomes unpredictable. Things happen in the wrong order and it looks like Grace will never admit her feelings for Ty. I haven’t seen such an edge of your seat relationship since Carrie and Mr Big. Both Grace and Ty’s parents are quirky and/or memorable – Grace’s mother is an uptight lawyer while her father is a world famous artist who has premonitions – but only about Grace. Ty’s parents aren’t averse to smoking the odd banned substance, but their love is palpable as they work together as florists. It’s these little touches that make Grace Grows sparkle – and plants the book firmly in your memory.

Sumners has an incredible talent for feelings – I haven’t had a crush on a book character for a long time, but Ty would be the type. But as we know so much about Grace and have suffered with her, I can’t crush on him because he just belongs with Grace.

I read this for so long that the bath water went cold and I didn’t finish my lunch. It’s that addictive!

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