‘Tonight the streets are ours’, by Leila Sales, tells the story of Arden, a girl whose selflessness once got her made into a doll with the tagline ‘recklessly loyal’, but at 17 those qualities are beginning to take their toll and when she finds herself questioning everything she turns to the internet and finds a website called ‘tonight the streets are ours’ where she finds what she hopes is a kindred spirit and decides to go on a roadtrip to meet them.
I bought this book on a whim, I liked the title, and what I read on the back.
It spoke of internet friendships, reading someone’s posts and feeling like they’re your soulmate.
The actual story is a bit different though,which was disappointing, I must say.
It’s generally a good story, but it’s not what I thought it’d be, and I feel that for a story about friendships and the internet it didn’t do much use of it. it’s all very vague, and i’m not sure if that’s intentional or if the author themselves don’t know much about it besides ‘blogging is a things kids do’
I liked the premised of loving someone’s writing online, but when I have done that, usually I leave some sort of comment, it’s how I’ve made a lot of friends. which I why I found it strange that Arden didn’t. It would’ve made sense if Peter had been famous and his blog got thousands of hit,hundreds of comments. but the book specifically tell us that is not the case. but it does not tell us why Arden doesn’t reach out.
I thought Arden would befriend the author of the blog and later have the opportunity to meet him, I think that would’ve made more sense that ‘I’m running away to NY to go meet someone who has no idea I even exist’.
It would’ve created more of a connection between the two characters and made it a bigger deal when we find out later he hasn’t exactly been telling the truth.
I also thought it was odd that Peter’s blog was so anonymous, with no contact email or social media listed. to me, that screams catfishing. which is barely even thought of as a possibility. it also brings to mind the question of where is peter blogging.
on tumblr, being anonymous isn’t that strange, most people only list basic stuff, since they’re not just making longform text posts but sharing all kinds of content. on sites like wordpress,blogger or even medium is far rarer. people with more professional-style blogs tend to put identifying details. and then we go back to sites like livejournal, where people certainly didn’t add details and was a site were people would only post long text posts. now, if he had been hosted at LJ that also means that it not set in modern days since LJ isn’t really a thing anymore. dreamwidth,however, still is.
this is what I mean when I say it is vague. we know peter has a blog. we know the characters have phones. said phones can use maps, connect to the internet and run out of battery so they’re likely smartphones. arden uses a computer to search and find his blog. that’s about it.
social media does not exist at all in this book. which again makes me wonder if the author is being vague on purpose,if it was written in a pre-social media era or if they are just ignorant.
the way they find him is by calling every bookshop in new york and asking for an employee named peter. I don’t know how realistic this is. seems very time consuming.
This vagueness on the technology was my first issue.
my second has more to do with the way the story is framed I guess.
we start in some undefined moment where a big thing happens,though we don’t know that yet, and then go back several months,and then several years, and then head back to the previous previously where we stay for a while till catching up to the place we start where it changes a bit. it seems needlessly complicated.
why doesn’t it start at the beginning? why doesn’t it start with arden meeting peter and then backtrack to who arden is and who peter is? why doesn’t it start with the roadtrip and during it have arden tell lindsay the story so far?
and the third part is the ending.
it feels a bit abrupt. I do like that we get an epilogue, but it feels a little too neat.
I would’ve preferred more lessons learned,more explanation, more thoughtfulness I guess. It feels like it is over too quickly, problems solved too easily.
Now,what I did like.
it starts by telling us it is a love story. and it is, but not the way one expects. in the end, it is about arden learning to love herself. we learn throughout the book that she is utterly selfless, always helping others beyond the point of hurting herself, and while I generally agree with Padre Hurtado’s doctrine of ‘give till it hurts’ I don’t think you should give so much of yourself there’s nothing left for you.
Arden is struggling with her mother’s recent departure and we learn that she left because,like Arden,she gave and gave and gave until she lost herself, so she did something selfish,something for herself, and left to put herself back together.
of course, this is a terrible thing to go through, for the children and the mother. . it is quite a harsh thing to do as a mother. I understand wanting time and space for yourself, but abandoning your children,not so much.
Let’s talk about Peter. He’s the blogger Arden stalks. He talks about his life, his wish to be a writer, a family that doesn’t understand him, his complicated relationship with his girlfriend,etc.
the tone of his entries is decidely different from the rest of the book, I’d even say it sounds better than the rest of the book.
We learn that his entries don’t tell the complete truth,they just paint a picture designed to make Peter look good, and I can’t say I’m surprised, I don’ think anyone tells the truth all of the time, and I don’t think Peter was lying either. or at least I don’t think he considered it lying,exactly. it was a jedi truth. I found Peter to be an interesting character, at least more than Arden or Lindsay and found myself wishing we’d seen more of him.
Sure, he was self-involved and arrogant, but he was a rich boy from new york, so is that really a surprise? His posts speak of an easy life, he whines about his family not getting his deep artist’s soul, talks about summer in the hamptoms and crazy parties. from that, not exactly a leap to self-involved arrogant asshole. but at least his blog made for an interesting read, and isn’t that what we’re after? Peter knew that.
I thought Arden was way too naive,even. when I first started the book, it seemed almost too idealistic and perfect, but I was surprised at the turns it took. not sure I liked them.
Like I said,I was interested in the premise of meeting kindred spirits, and how helpful the internet can be in finding people like you, so I was disappointed that wasn’t where the book was going.
I was even surprised lila herself wasn’t a blogger. after the traumatic event of her mother leaving and all, it would’ve been the perfect time for it, she felt conflicted,alone, wanted someone to talk to, and the internet is there. it would’ve added more layer to her story. she gains an audience of her own,makes friends, runs off to meet Peter,is disappointed but still learned a lot and found good people along the way.
in fact, I found Arden to be kind of a passive character in her own story. her story isn’t particularly interesting. even her relationship with her boyfriend is dull. the only interesting thing she does is run away to new york,really.
This is one of those books where I don’t necessarily agree with the characters and their choices, and I kept thinking about all the things that I would’ve done differently but I still enjoyed the book, after all, I read it in 24 hrs, one does not do that with boring books. of course part of it was me hurrying up trying to get to what I hoped was the good part.
Should you buy this book? I don’t know it. I’d say check it out from the library if you can. not really worth the money, but it’s not a complete waste of time.