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“It’s easier for people to reject those who live, think, and behave differently than it is to try and understand, question the assumptions on which they have built their own lives. It doesn’t help that the definition of ‘different’ varies by location and culture and community.”

We fell in love with Brooklyn James’s writing when we read The Boots My Mother Gave Me back in 2012. Her writing is flawless and ensures that you experience the characters’ stories as well as making you feel the words and see the scenery before you. Just Shelby is a complex friends to lover’s small-town romance which has a sense of deep-rooted foreboding and heartbreak. It immediately gripped us and we felt for the characters who are struggling with family rifts, poverty, buried secrets and small-town menacing gossip. Ace and Shelby stole our hearts early on in this YA romance.

“Don’t say it,” I whisper back. Those fucking strings tightening and just like a song, all they need are the right words before I lose myself to them. “I want you, Ace.” Yep. She said it, so innocent, so trusting. And I’m gone. There is no coming back from this.

First love is always one of the most remarkable of loves, they’re the ones we never forget, the newness of romantic love and the heightened feelings. Whilst Ace and Shelby experience young love, they experience it with ‘old souls’. Their childhoods marked by trauma and struggle – having to grow up before their time. Theirs is no ordinary love, rather it is kismet. The beauty of their entwined path from birth was unique and quite frankly one of the most heartfelt romances we’ve read in a while. It was truly the most wonderful thing about this book. In a story that felt at times extremely hopeless with its sombre undertones and a grim snapshot of life. Rock & Roll, suspense, and darkness, Just Shelby had it all!

‘Picture, love letters, sheets we slept in. Soaked in better days, saltwater, and gin. It was here forever, now it’s gone. Nothing left worth keeping, stand back and throw it on. Bonfire and whiskey, going out the way it came. We never looked better, baby, going up in flames.’

You can absolutely tell that Brooklyn James is a lyrical poet at heart. Her musings are intricately woven into a tapestry of realism and fiction. The story of Ace and Shelby was so deeply fleshed out, as were they as characters, that despite it starting as a steady beat, the middle of the book slowed considerably losing its momentum, before hitting a fast-paced crescendo of dramatic revelations and heart-breaking twists. We almost wished the latter part had come sooner as the rollercoaster went too quickly at the end. And that’s the best bit when you’re hooked on a ride! Despite this, we fell in book love and once again Brooklyn James proved that when she has a story to tell, she tells it from the heart.

“Connected to each other, you breathed and Shelby’s heart beat…”


A secret note square found in a handmade guitar proves that small town gossip is not only ubiquitous but occasionally true. This gossip comes with strings rivaling those on Ace Cooper’s guitar, the safest strings he will ever have around his heart.

Ace’s father warns him to stay away from the Lynn girl. Daughter of a deceased bootlegger and a barely living addict, Shelby Lynn is no stranger to small town contempt. She keeps her nose in the books and feet to the ground, a college scholarship the only escape from her tumultuous life.

As Ace’s heartstrings unravel, so does his family’s role in Shelby’s broken past. Thrust into a precarious journey of their roots brimming with music and betrayal, the two have never been closer…to the truth of how Shelby’s father died. One truth transforms every facet of their lives forever.

A dual POV friends-to-first-love story, Just Shelby is an unsuspecting mystery that depicts how growing together can sometimes hurt worse than growing apart.

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Other Books By This Author

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COLLEEN HOOVER captured our hearts back in 2011 with her unique, warm, funny, sweet, and utterly captivating stories. Our love affair with this incredibly talented author has never waned. Colleen is one in a million!

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