Clark, Catherine. Eleven Things I Promised
April 5th 2016 by HarperTeen
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Also reviewed at Young Adult Books Central
Frances and her best friend Stella have planned to complete a 300+ mile bike ride for charity. Stella is the biker-- Frances is the half-hearted companion who would rather be doing something else. When Stella is hit by a car during a training ride and is unable to make the trip, Frances has to join the group alone. She also has a list of eleven things that Stella has on her "bucket list" that she feels she must do. The biking is hard enough, although Frances is able to keep up, but putting herself out there to ask a boy to dance, get her navel pierced, and drink alcohol are definitely outside her comfort zone. She also makes a few mistakes that threaten to get her kicked off the team, including spending the night with Stella's brother, Mason, even though the two are only talking. The only thing that keeps her on the team is her confession to the leader that Stella's injuries are graver than she has lead everyone to believe, and this is upsetting in the extreme.
While Frances' wants to complete the ride so that she can donate money to childhood cancer research, her journey is equally about self-discovery. Stella has been the one of the pair to take all of the chances, and now Frances finds that she has to be the one who is daring, and without Stella's support.
There is a little bit of underage drinking in this, but it doesn't end well for Frances (she call's Mason and is a teary-eyed drunk, and also loses her phone). The romance is clean, so this could be read by younger readers as well. Frances' attempt to connect with several different boys, and her feelings of awkwardness while doing so, will resonate with teen readers.
Readers who liked the bicycle adventure in Jennifer Bradbury's Shift or Diana Renn's Latitude Zero will love the description of cross country biking. Downsides, like spandex shorts, protein cubes and road rash all make a prominent appearance, but the camaraderie of the road is evident as well. Because of the extent of Stella's injuries, and their impact not only on Stella but on Frances as well, this is also a good choice for readers who like problem novels by authors such as Lurlene McDaniel, Sarah Dessen, and Susane Colasanti.
It's unfortunate that this is only available in paperback-- I'm a big fan of biking myself, and the scene where Frances and her date go to prom on their bikes makes this a title that I can't wait to hand to readers!