I’m really happy to say that this series really did live up to what I expected. I remembered something sort of fluffy and super fast to read. I was able to binge these books throughout August and a little into September, with just taking a short break or two in-between for other books. I found myself getting a little exhausted with the characters if I read too many in a row without switching it up for a day or two. I have a lot of takeaways from this series and overall thoughts.
- I liked that it was a third person omniscient point of view. I got to see what was happening inside the heads of each character, even the smaller ones. I loved knowing how everyone felt about what was going on. I think it was appropriate based on how many dramatic events followed this group of friends around!
- There was a lot of recap at the beginning of each book, which must have helped me when I was originally reading them. It’s the kind of series that’s easy to NOT binge, if you so choose. You get SO much recap.
- The characters were all interesting in their own ways. I love following around rich and famous people, and these folks were no exception. I’ll talk more about the negatives later, but overall I was pretty fascinated by their lives! Sam was easily my favorite character – a loyal friend, complex, and funny as hell. Cammie was an intriguing character because she was pretty complex as well, with being unashamed about her extreme bitchiness while simultaneously kind of trying to be a nicer person.
- …There was a lot of recap! I wanted to list this as both a pro and con for this series, because I definitely see it both ways. For me, with a binge-read, I did not need all that rehashing of previous events. Every single character was revisited and refreshed for the reader at the start of the next book.
- All of the characters were annoying at one point or another. I found Anna to be incredibly pretentious, even in the times she didn’t notice that she was being that way. She frustrated me the most because she was so wishy-washy about EVERYTHING in her life. She was trying to reinvent herself while simultaneously falling into old habit. She changed her mind constantly. Sam was my favorite but definitely had irritating moments, like when she assumed the worst of Eduardo when he didn’t deserve that. She had over-the-top self-image issues that she really needed to deal with, aside from just having a boyfriend who liked her curves. Cammie was a bitch sometimes and sweet other times; I was never sure how she ACTUALLY was inside. Clearly she’s not sure either.
- Similarly, these characters loved jumping to conclusions before having all of the information in front of them. Seriously, all of them did this at one point or another. Anna and Sam were the worst culprits. These individuals were actually smart and savvy in most ways, but they were huge fans of diving right into the wrong assumption and not letting it go… even when people were trying to prove them otherwise.
- Everything got very repetitive after a while. The brand names, the descriptions of the characters and their surroundings, and even specific words. (I wish I had a dollar for every time the author used “palatial” and “patrician” as descriptors.) I know that this is bound to happen in a 10-book series, but good lord.
- Now that I’ve read these 10ish years later, there are lots of outdated and problematic aspects. Lots of comments and jokes wouldn’t fly in today’s world of YA literature, that’s for sure. I won’t get too into it, but it’s honestly a lot of what I’ve come to expect when reading books from the mid-2000s.
As you can tell, there are a lot of general “cons” about this series…but that doesn’t change the fact that the nostalgia is REAL and I still love it for the quick-to-read fluff that it is. Sorry not sorry. I really think this series holds up over time, minus a few problematic things. I could see myself rereading this again someday just because it is so fast, but not any time soon. I don’t overly love most of the characters on-and-off throughout the book but Sam, my favorite, has some hilarious and interesting moments. Anna was hit or miss for me depending on the book or who she was dating at the time. Her constant back-and-forth about EVERYTHING grated on my nerves, but I guess she could have been worse?
Favorite in the series: Tall Cool One
Least favorite in the series: Back in Black
Favorite quote: “Did people really change, or did they all just run in circles only to end up where they’d been at the start? Or maybe the truth was more like in The Wizard of Oz. You could go on the longest journey only to discover that what you wanted was something you had all along. (California Dreaming, pg. 272)”
Feelings about the final book and ending: I simultaneously completely forgot how this book ended, and sort of knew all along. I have to say, for a fluffy series written back when I was an actual young adult… there were some ~deep things~ going on in this finale. I loved the thoughts about time and change and circling back to where you started. The ending of this story was absurdly appropriate and gave me quite a few feels. The fact that it started and ended with a Jackson Sharpe wedding was a fun way to circle back to how it all began. I love how the loose ends all tied up for pretty much every character too. I’m not in love with how the couples turned out but I’m not totally surprised about it at all. Overall, I’m so glad I reread these.