Seventeen-year-old Reyna has spent most of her life at her family’s gorgeous seaside resort in Tobago, the Plumeria. But what once seemed like paradise is starting to feel more like purgatory. It’s been two years since Reyna’s mother passed away, two years since Aiden – her childhood best friend, first kiss, first love, first everything – left the island to pursue his music dreams. Reyna’s friends are all planning their futures and heading abroad. Even Daddy seems to want to move on, leaving her to try to keep the Plumeria running.
And that’s when Aiden comes roaring back into her life – as a VIP guest at the resort.
Aiden is now one-third of DJ Bacchanal – the latest, hottest music group on the scene. While Reyna has stayed exactly where he left her, Aiden has returned to Tobago with his Grammy-nominated band and two gorgeous LA socialites. And he may (or may not be) dating one of them…
Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass is the kind of book that feels like a love letter to Tobago, all the loves that we’ve lost and found, and also to teen girls who are scared of wanting something more for themselves. I loved this gorgeous novel; loved how the story transported me right to Reyna’s seaside resort, the Plumeria, where the story predominantly takes place.
If you are looking for a summer read – or, you are about to enter the colder months and want something to warm your skin and heart, then Where the Rhythm Takes You is an excellent choice – and I cannot recommend this book, especially the audiobook, more! But, just in case, here are five reasons why you should pick up this gem of a book.
1. The story is inspired by Persuasion by Jane Austen
I read Persuasion years ago and remember very little of the Jane Austen classic, but Where the Rhythm Takes You takes all the great beats of Persuasion and gives it its own flair and rhythm. Like Persuasion, Where the Rhythm Takes You has the second chance romance that hits all the right notes, the tension and drama that comes with it (but more on the second chance romance later!), the several times in which the characters run into each other, cueing sometimes-funny, sometimes heart-aching moments.
2. Set entirely in Tobago – and it’ll make you want to be there too
The entirety of Where the Rhythm Takes You takes place in Tobago, specifically in Reyna’s family-owned seaside resort. Dass beautifully captures the feel of Tobago, not only in the the descriptions of the summer heat, the sights and also the music, but also in the way that the depiction of Tobago feels like a love letter to the island and its people. I loved how the story captures the community in Tobago encircling Reyna and how everyone supports each other (like how Reyna supports local businesses!).
3. The second chance romance is stunning and filled with yearning
If you love second chance romance, then Where the Rhythm Takes You will make you weak in the knees. The story follows Reyna, who reunites with her first love who left to become part of DJ Bacchanal, one of the hottest music groups in the world, when he returns home to Tobago with his bandmates.
Through flashbacks, Where the Rhythm Takes You beautifully builds up Reyna and Aiden’s relationship and the journey of their ‘first love’ where they chose each other but also captures the heartache of their separation when Aiden decides to leave Tobago to pursue a career in music. Their reunion is awkward, intense, but the two cannot deny the chemistry and connection they have for one another – and thus the story explores whether the two will ever overcome the divide between them, and what follows is stunning. Better yet, the intensity between Reyna and Aiden is not without lots of quiet moments of yearning, which I loved.
4. It also tackles family, dreams, and grief
As well as the story’s great romance, Where the Rhythm Takes You also has a meaningful and tender exploration of grief and loss, and the remnants of it years later. Years ago, Reyna lost her mother whom she had a complicated relationship with. As a consequence, Reyna forsook her dream to become an artist and painter to instead grow roots in Tobago and look after her family’s seaside resort.
It is through this story thread where the emotional moments of Where the Rhythm Takes You really shine. Mixed with Reyna’s complex family dynamic, giving up her dream to look after her mother’s seaside resort and dream, Where the Rhythm Takes You offers a complex yet compassionate portrait of grief, and how grief can manifest in different ways and drive us to hold onto things tighter.
5. Ultimately, a profound story about the inevitability of change
At its heart, Where the Rhythm Takes You is a gorgeous story about the inevitability of change and how, eventually, we must all move on. I resonated so much with Reyna’s character, not only in how she resists change but also how she fights its inevitability by self-sabotaging her potential for greater things. Parts of this story are confronting – but in a gentle way through its compassionate storytelling – and Reyna’s journey of grappling with the grief she’s held onto for years and letting herself dream and pursue something she genuinely loves is so profound – and pairs beautifully with the romance.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A teen reunites with her first love when he returns home to Tobago amid changes happening at her family’s seaside resort.
Perfect for: Readers who love second chance romances; readers who are looking for a romance with ‘summer’ vibes; readers; readers interested in a retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen.
Think twice if: You’re not a fan of second chance romances and the drama that comes with them.
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Trigger/content warning: mentions of death of a parent