Becoming Mila by Estelle Maskame

Published by Black and White Publishing

WHEN Young Adult fiction delves into romance, there’s an element of risk because it often talks about one’s early, if not first, romantic relationship. Despite the excitement and intensity that comes with this, YA romance is also often accompanied by a lack of understanding of the communication skills necessary to sustain it.

Estelle Maskame manages to portray both a gripping type of tension and connection while still keeping the relationships and friendships realistically flawed.

The backdrop of small town Nashville allows room to revitalise a classic and often tired trope of returning to a home town from a bustling city and learning a lesson about what it is to be humble and the value of a hard day’s work.

Everest Harding is an internationally famous actor whose latest movie is coming out in the next month and who can’t afford a word of bad press. So when the paparazzi catch his 16-year-old daughter Mila in a drunken state something must be done. She is endlessly apologetic and simultaneously bitter at the fact that she’s unable to slip up in the way a normal teenager can without the constant watching eye of her father’s intense and dedicated publicist Ruben. Unfortunately no matter how much Mila begs the decision is made, she is to be sent to the old family ranch in Fairview, Nashville to stay with her aunt and grandfather and stay far out of trouble.

For this reason strict rules are provided for her time there. Access to her social media accounts is blocked to avoid the public finding out where she is, and most disappointingly she’s forbidden from leaving the ranch.

Luckily upon her arrival at the Harding ranch Mila’s bright and beloved Aunt Sheri strikes a deal with her that some freedom, kept secret from Ruben of course, will be allowed so long as Sheri’s kept in the loop as to where and who Mila’s with.

The idea of making friends somewhere so unfamiliar aside from vague childhood memories and visits seems impossible until she goes to the next ranch over. Mila begins to reconnect with the friends she left behind for LA at just six years old.

Fortunately, or seemingly not at first, one of these people is Blake Avery, who from their very first meeting, Mila comes to dislike. He’s standoffish and seems completely committed to drawing the attention of oblivious local teenagers to the identity of her father, something she’s wanted to keep a secret.

As they get to know each other however it’s revealed that Blake’s mother is the mayor of Nashville and he simply saw having Mila there as a distraction for the people bothering him about that. As the two develop a connection they bond over living in the shadow of their parents, what it is to be young and constantly afraid to make a single mistake.

This being the first in a series is some of the greatest news I have received this year and I’ll be eagerly looking forward to the next.