i was provided with an arc of small town hearts as part of the blog tour, in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions, and a huge thank you to mana for designing this gorgeous banner! you can find her portfolio here.


small town hearts is the debut novel of author lillie vale. it’s set in the fictional beach town oar’s rest, maine, during the first summer after babe vogel’s high school graduation. babe works as a barista at the independent cafe busy bean, and has planned to have one last perfect summer with her two best friends before they start college in the fall. enter levi keller, a cute artist from the big city who comes to stay in oar’s rest over the summer. also re-enter elodie hawkins, babe’s ex-girlfriend who broke up with her to leave for college a year earlier. this, combined with a huge falling out with her two best friends, throws babe’s entire summer upside down.

i fell absolutely head over heels for this book, and there are so many things i loved about it. how babe is bisexual, which is actually stated on page, and that no one in her life questions that about her. the complicated relationship she has with her two best friends, penny and chad – especially with penny – and how that’s explored. the fact that there easily could have been an elodie/babe/levi love triangle, a trope i’m okay with but often find tiring, but there wasn’t one. that levi is an artist and how big of a part that is of his life. all the delicious food and baked goods that babe makes. i could honestly go on and on.

what i want to talk about today, tho, is the thing that made me feel so seen in a certain aspect of my life that i haven’t really had in american media before. it’s something that was brought up on twitter by my friend laura not too long ago (but with no relation to small town hearts), and until now i hadn’t really realised how much i needed it. the thing, is the setting.

now, of course there are things about oar’s rest that don’t align perfectly with the city i grew up in. for starters, it’s a fictional beach town in the us. i live in, and grew up in, a smaller city by the water, more of a harbour city, in eastern sweden, and while it’s small enough to have a bit of a community, we’re not at all as tight knit as the inhabitants of oar’s rest.

despite this, there were so many small things that i recognised from my life growing up, or things similar enough, that i felt such a strong connection to oar’s rest, babe, and everyone else who lives there. it was a strange feeling, getting so emotional about the setting of a book, while i was reading it. i’ve never had that happen before. it’s not just a general small town life, but living in a small place that’s beautiful in the summer, by the water, it has this special quality to it that i didn’t even realise was there until i saw it in the pages of a book like this.

i want to put a disclaimer in this post tho. in the grand scheme of things, i think that this kind of rep is not at all as pressing or as vital as a lot of other kinds, like having proper representation for people of colour, people with disabilities, or queer rep, to just name a few. at least not for me, a white cis girl in sweden. so while this book and this, idk what to call it, location rep (?), made me feel incredibly seen, please don’t think i’m under the impression that this is the next big thing to focus all our energy on.

so, what are some of the things that had me feeling invincible while reading small town hearts? the biggest thing is very general and difficult to capture in words, but just the feeling of oar’s rest felt so familiar to me, way more than any other american books i’ve ever read. a huge part of babe’s life, as part of oar’s rest, is the tourist summers. every year the town fills to the brim with visiting people who are there for the pretty scenery and grilled fish. the town holds yearly events to entertain and mingle with the tourists, but at the same time there’s a clear difference between local and visitor.

being a small city on the main land, but right by the archipelago, with a decently sized and pretty harbour as well as some beaches, tourism is a huge part of my city. we get people from different countries who want an authentic swedish experience, as well as lots of big city swedes who want to party by the sea. people come in with their own boats, bigger cruises, cars, and the train from all over. there are a lot of little shops that sell food and all kinds of other things, and of course, our biggest attraction, is the smoke house. you see, we’re big on seafood too, but ours isn’t grilled, it’s smoked. just as everyone in oar’s rest visits lorcan’s crab shack, and babe teases levi about him not wanting to eat “something with legs”, you cannot visit my city and not eat smoked shrimp. every year there is also a two day festival in our biggest park, where both local bands and more known swedish musicians play. just like in oar’s rest, a lot of people come together to make things happen.

there are so many things about the experiences babe has had growing up, what people in oar’s rest do and what the town looks like, that i relate to. to just quickly name a few more, there’s the light house, teenagers partying on the beach, pieces of glass bottles worn down by sand, and spending entire summers down by the harbour, working during the day (i had a summer job in the smoke house for three years!), and eating ice cream in the afternoons.

as i said previously, there are of course many things that aren’t like where i grew up. oar’s rest felt kind of like a romanticised, american version of it. it’s the closest i’ve ever had, tho, and it made me so happy to read. i’ve never been very big on consuming media that’s actually from my country, but small town hearts somehow managed to give me a taste for it, without even trying, and now i can’t wait to find books, music, and movies from here.

small town hearts comes out march 19th. you can add it on goodreads here, and i’d highly recommend you pre-order it. it made my heart feel full while reading, and i want this book in the hands of as many people as possible! i got so inspired by it and had a lot of fun writing this post. all the photos are my own.


lillie vale, upon discovering she could not be one of santa’s elves or attend hogwarts, decided to become a writer to create a little magic of her own. enjoying the romantic and eerie in equal measure, she’s probably always writing a book where the main characters kiss or kill. born in mumbai, she has lived in many u.s. states, and now resides in an indiana college town where the corn whispers and no one has a clue that she is actually the long-lost caps lock queen. she is the author of small town hearts. you can find lillie on twitter here.

thank you to lili for arranging this tour and giving me the opportunity to participate! make sure to also check out the posts from all the other participants as the week goes on.

march 11
lily (sprinkles of dreams) – guest post
marie (drizzle & hurricane books) – interview
eloise (eloise writes) – review + aesthetic

march 12
nandini (unputdownable books) – creative
carolina (santana reads) – review + character aesthetics
danielle (bookish in texas) – interview
laura (green tea & paperbacks) – creative

march 13
sofia (bookish wandress) – review + a playlist
ashley (bubbly booknerd) – creative
lauren (bookmark lit) – review + creative
victoria (the contented reader) – interview + review
camillea (camillea reads) – review

march 14
morgan (the bookish beagle) – review + creative
fanna (fannatality) review + creative
syndney (sydneys.books) – creative bookstagram
fadwa (word wonders) – review
mishma (chasing faerytales) – review + creative
lili (utopia state of mind) – guest post

march 15
tiffany (read by tiffany) – creative
haley (fangirl fury) – review + creative
romie (romie we deserve love) – creative
simant (flipping through the pages) – review + creative

until next time!

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6 reaktioner till “blog tour: small town hearts by lillie vale

  1. Elin! I love your review so so much 🙂 I think it’s amazing that you were able to relate to the small town feel of the book, and I loved the pictures you included. I grew up in the suburbs which is pretty different from Oar’s Rest, but I loved how the setting and close-knit community was described. I can understand why it’s so special to you ❤ I also loved this book with all my heart. Everything about it was amazing–the food, the representation, the character development(!!) Your review just made me nostalgic all over again. Lovely job!!

    Gilla

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