Keep My Heart In San Francisco by Amelia Diane Coombs
Publisher: Simon Teen (Simon & Schuster)
Release Date: July 14, 2020
Available through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Cover Illustrator: Tiana Iandiorio
Summary: Sparks fly when two ex-best-friends team up to save a family business in this swoon-worthy and witty debut perfect for fans of Jenn Bennett and Sarah Dessen. Caroline “Chuck” Wilson has big plans for spring break—hit up estate sales to score vintage fashion finds and tour the fashion school she dreams of attending. But her dad wrecks those plans when he asks her to spend vacation working the counter at Bigmouth’s Bowl, her family’s failing bowling alley. Making things astronomically worse, Chuck finds out her dad is way behind on back rent—meaning they might be losing Bigmouth’s, the only thing keeping Chuck’s family in San Francisco. And the one person other than Chuck who wants to do anything about it? Beckett Porter, her annoyingly attractive ex-best friend. So when Beckett propositions Chuck with a plan to make serious cash infiltrating the Bay Area action bowling scene, she accepts. But she can’t shake the nagging feeling that she’s acting irrational—too much like her mother for comfort. Plus, despite her best efforts to keep things strictly business, Beckett’s charm is winning her back over…in ways that go beyond friendship. If Chuck fails, Bigmouth’s Bowl and their San Francisco legacy are gone forever. But if she succeeds, she might just get everything she ever wanted.
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: Keep My Heart In San Francisco is the kind of YA romcom that is both thoughtful and charming as it puts mental health at the story’s center, wrapped up in a fun grumpy x sunshine dynamic, and bowling alley shenanigans! Readers follow Chuck on her spring break as she teams up with her ex-best friend Beckett to save her family’s alley before it gets closed for good and forces her to leave the city she loves. Character-driven, open about mental health conversations and with page-turning banter, this YA contemporary will surprise you in unexpected ways!
Back with another review on the blog and let me just say I have so many thoughts about this 2020 YA romcom having read it from early February to finally completing it a couple weeks into March! Its been so important for me to take time for my mental health these last few years and as I was reading KMHISF now 3 years later after its initial release, its moments like this where I think about the phrase “the right book at the right time” or something to that effect. If there was one word to describe this book and how its deeper messages profoundly stayed with me, I’d sum up Chuck & Beckett’s journeys (as well as mine) with: Growth.
I’ve been basically *shouting about these books with Marie because she’s also read Amelia’s backlist and reading her blog posts gushing about titles like Between You Me & The Honeybees + Exactly Where You Need To Be had me smiling so much because ― the way Amelia makes mental health such an intrinsic part of her characters & story + served with a cute romance ― how could i not read these??
Caroline “Chuck” Wilson loves fashion, restoring vintage clothes, and with her upcoming spring break she plans to prepare for a future at FIDM, but when she learns her family’s bowling alley “Bigmouth’s” is struggling financially to stay open, she realizes it may be the reason that her family will be forced to leave San Francisco, the city that’s enchanted her with its foggy skies, bustling streets, artsy allure and perhaps even more…so when her ex-best friend Beckett Porter just so happens to overhear this situation…he comes up with a plan to help her. Though she’s unsure as to why since they really haven’t spoken in over a year, she has no choice but to join him because of his knowledge of the underground bowling scene! and their plan?? Its to compete in bowling tournaments, city-wide, to make enough winnings to save the alley that’s been in Chuck’s family for generations!
Despite being a YA mostly about bowling (a sport which I’ve played and am familiar with but too much), it was truly a major vehicle for the story to explore Chuck’s mental health as she navigates depression and being bipolar and a space for her to reconnect with her childhood bff Beckett. What I loved about Amelia’s storytelling was how the friendship breakup between the pair isn’t easily spelled out for the reader or entirely something you know right away, it takes about halfway into the book as you become more connected to Chuck & Beckett as characters before Chuck herself reveals what exactly happened. Their backstory slowly builds and as the former friends-to-lovers plot develops, you see how it becomes more integral to their mending relationship!
Coombs made the character arcs between Chuck & Beckett so brilliantly fleshed out not only through a first-person perspective where your left understanding who they are emotionally, but also the self-conscious, awkward parts of being a teenager where you keep your feelings bottled up and because of that, struggle to know where you fit in the world. I loved that Chuck was written to be “unlikeable” in a way, because I’ve felt like that during high school especially in my teens where being in my own little corner had me stuck in my head unsure where my place was also was “safe” for me…I think that’s why I felt more sympathetic for Chuck as she didn’t always respond to her father or Beckett in ways where she was amiable or “likeable” because I can relate to being that way in the past for sure! Now for Beckett…this is where I’m going to be honest Coombs completely won me over with a grumpy x sunshine pairing OKAY?! I ADMIT IT! ❤ Chuck was more of the realistic one & working through her past with Beckett and Beckett Porter was delivering nothing but charming banter, smiles and wittiness that perfectly bounced of Chuck as she found her new dynamic with him slowly growing into something else! THEY WERE SO CUTE, I can’t even describe it you just have to read it for yourself–look I’m not a big lover of banter, when its written it can often come across as cringey but because they have that history where they really understand each other (even if they don’t admit it), the jokes, charm & banter were the absolute highlight of this book! They even had cute meet-up “dates” over coffee to discuss the tournaments and their journey in working together at the bowling games showed that growth little by little.
I never really thought about this much until finally reading this book (and working on my writing during the time also), but making an aesthetic of KMHISF, Chuck, Beckett and their San Francisco adventures not only helped me to picture the locales even more but made me think more about how we as readers bring our own visualization into a story in how we imagine characters, story, etc. and that’s what makes it fun! I also annotated during my reading too and omg I need to do this for all my YA romances now!! 🥰
We love soft, supportive love interests and Beckett Porter was truly that! In everything Chuck wanted to do to save her family’s alley (even if at times she knew it wasn’t what it used to be), her dreams in fashion and genuinely being a realistic support system for her when it came to hashing out their pasts + sharing deeply about her mental health he was always there when she needed to talk! Though, as someone whose working on my own mental health journey, I appreciated those beats in Beckett’s character where he couldn’t always fix Chuck’s problems, give her the answers she wanted or be there during complicated moments, even respectfully putting his own boundaries too ― I loved that about his character! however even when he had those moments in saying stuff like not left fear stop her its such a simple quote but really got me!
While Beckett and Chuck’s romance was cute, I appreciated how strong they were as individual characters, yet being written from Chuck’s POV an issue I had is that the other background characters at times felt one-dimensional or weren’t given too much concrete development that made them stick out too much on the page. Chuck’s father, her aunt and her father’s new girlfriend felt more one-note as the story reached the end but I did enjoy reading about them. However by comparison Chuck + Beckett’s history, depth and charm by comparison was more of the stronger pieces of the novel even when the ending wraps up rather quickly & drags into the “predictable” territory. I also would have enjoyed more concrete plot threads because the bowling competitions can make the story feel rather stagnant but when the pockets of the story matter, Chuck’s voice really came through.
This was another YA romcom where I actually found myself laughing while reading and I don’t do that often (others include Salt & Sugar, Fat Chance Charlie Vega and Perfectly Parvin), so very glad to be adding Keep My Heart to my list of favorites! Was not expecting to connect with this book as much as I did, but no matter when I picked up this novel Chuck & Beckett’s story had me smiling so much with all the cuteness + the open, honest conversations about mental health and I’m even more excited to pick up Amelia’s 2023 novel All Alone With You!!
Keep My Heart In San Francisco can be described as an underrated, thoughtful romcom that puts mental health at its center while also being a story about second chances, embracing growth with all its obstacles and with my new favorite pairing grumpy girl x sunshine boy! From secret bowling competitions & betting to fun banter, spring break adventures and confronting emotional struggles, this is a charming coming-of-age YA contemporary about bowling, love and embracing that steady journey to mental well-being!
4 thoughts on “Keep My Heart In San Francisco by Amelia Diane Coombs Review”
This sounds like a lot of fun! It sorta reminds me of Tweet Cute, but this time they’re friends. A good YA romance is needed sometimes.
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It was so unexpectedly fun, cute but also emotional at the same time! I haven’t read Tweet Cute but I’m in such a romcom mood, I might have to now & if its similar to KMHISF, I’ll need to read it! Thank you so much for reading & commenting Bianca! 🥰
thank you for shouting out my review & yes I love Amelia’s books now! ❤