I've previously read one of this author's historical fiction titles, Highland Storms, which was a really enjoyable, well written period adventure and romance. I like to read a young adult novel from time to time, as I enjoy a nice variety in my reading matter! This is Christina Courtenay's first novel for young adults, and it is the first in a trilogy all to be set in New England.
Rain Mackenzie is expelled from Blakeborough boarding school in England and travels to join her wealthy parents where they currently live, in a small town north of Boston in New England. They hope to teach her a lesson after her exploits at her previous school where she was found in the boys dormitory surrounded by empty tequila bottles, by sending her to the local school, Northbrooke High, and bringing her down to earth. She is intent on not enjoying it at Northbrooke High, determined to keep to herself and not get involved with anyone. After all, she thinks she won't be there long. However, her opinion starts to waver when she gets to know fellow student and musician Jesse Devlin a little better. Despite a definite attraction between the pair, there's a complication because Jesse is already attached, and his girlfriend Amber isn't at all keen on Rain spending any time with him. The story follows Rain's time settling in at the school and getting to know Jesse.
I thought this was an easy, enjoyable, fun and undemanding read, with a sweet storyline, featuring an independent, sassy heroine and a troubled, sensitive and handsome hero. It was an escapist read, and the development of friendships and romance were nicely portrayed. The author writes with a compassion for her characters, and captures the high school environment with its cliques and rivalries. I enjoyed the bonding day episode when the kids went out into the forest. I felt perhaps the outcome was a little easy to guess at, but I was glad that it concluded the way it did. Rain developed as a character, moving from her initial disgruntlement at finding herself thrust into a new school in another country, to an acceptance and even appreciation of the new people she meets, and happiness at how things turn out. There's a lot more to Jesse than initially meets the eye, and his tougher background is in stark contrast to Rain's privileged upbringing. There's some highlighting of the contrasts between the UK and USA, in terms of language and cultural comparisons; I'd have liked a bit more of this, and I'd have loved a little more about the New England setting and landscape.
Overall New England Rocks is a fairly quick read and an enjoyable teenage tale with heart, and I'd be keen to see what the author does in the next book in this series; in the meantime, I'll be hoping to read some of her other historical fiction.
You can read the prologue and first chapter on the Choc Lit website here.