Are you looking for a romance that covers that limited period of time between finishing high school and life as you’ve known it and stepping into a world ruled by the whims of you and your peers? Are you into romances full of mutual pining from the point of view of one lovestruck person in the main relationship? Where The Rhythm Takes You, a debut novel by Sarah Dass, is just the book you may be looking for!
DJ Bacchanal is your average chart-topping, reggae-influenced modern boy group—there’s the mysterious flirt, Fish, the friendly and dashingly handsome Leonardo Vale, and Aiden, the thoughtful and emotionally unavailable heart of the group who just so happened to break the heart of this novel’s protagonist, Reyna, two years prior. Children of Tobago, Reyna and Aiden spent many of their middle to high school summers hanging out when he wasn’t taking on a side hustle and she had time away from the seaside resort that her family owns and runs. Initially connected via their shared passion for creativity—she’s a painter and he composes music—their friendship grows into a romance that neither of them can let go of even after losing touch by the time he becomes an international pop star and she’s heading towards high school graduation. In fact, the book opens on Reyna learning that the two of them will be reunited after years apart at her family’s resort of all places. What unfolds over the course of the novel is a whirlwind of emotionally heavy weeks where multiple feelings get hurt, a video goes viral, Reyna’s closest relationships are pushed to their limit, and she is forced to examine her goals in life.
As someone who considers herself Type A, I enjoyed following Reyna’s journey to figuring out where her true desires lie versus the responsibility she feels towards keeping her mother’s dream to run the resort going long after the latter has passed away. It was Reyna’s uncertainty of whether or not her passion for art betrayed her mother’s vision for her life and if it was a dream better left to fall to the side that I most identified with. Having recently reconciled that I can follow my professional and creative pursuits simultaneously, I readily identified with Reyna’s—headstrong and misguided—decision to let go of her unrealistic dream in favor of a guarantee. However, there were some lingering questions that I had about some interactions towards the end of the book (which I’ll avoid digging into here in lieu of spoilers) that I feel went without clarity in her thought process. For instance, her father has a major reveal that I feel like Reyna reacts to without nearly enough questions. This may be left for reader interpretation but the ways in which this and components of her relationship with Aiden are left unexplained made me feel slightly unresolved with the ending.
Overall, Where the Rhythm Takes You was a delightful romance to pick up, particularly after more than a year of quarantine. Many of the descriptions of the island and people who make it a special place brought me into a vacation state of mind while also driving home what it is to lead a life in a landscape that others only think about for short periods of time. For this and the character work in much of the opening acts alone, I cannot wait to see the works Sarah Dass puts out next!