the boy is back follows the tradition of her other boy books, where the story is told via emails, text message chains, newspaper articles, and diary entries. cabot is good at navigating the constraints of the semi-epistolary format, and is great at giving each of her characters a unique voice, so it's easy to follow who is narrating at any given moment.
as far as the romance goes, this is a second-chance at love story. years ago, reed stewart left town after his father threatened to cut him off if he didn't toe the family line. at the time he'd been seeing becky flowers, and in fact, the event that caused his being cut off was golf cart crash into the pool at the country club.
reed left that night and never came back. never wrote or called or texted or emailed to even say "hey becky, let's break up." it was ghosting before ghosting was a thing. and reed really did disappear out of becky's life. and it's fine, because she's over it. she's over him. she has a new boyfriend who is perfectly nice. she's got a great job. she owns her own home. she's got everything nice and organized.
so when reed's parents begin behaving erratically, becky thinks there's no way reed would come back. he has siblings who live locally after all. it won't make a difference because anything that happened with reed is ancient history. and as mad and as hurt and as upset as she was with him leaving, she also can't forget the fact that he got in trouble protecting her and she feels guilty about it. and the other thing is, when reed left without saying goodbye, it left a giant hole in her heart and it's never quite closed up. becky and reed never had closure.
and when they see each other again, closure isn't really what either of them is feeling. becky's horribly confused and reed just wants to win her back. this time things can be different. or at least, things can end differently. instead of reed running off and leaving everything in his life behind, he can build something worthwhile with becky, and do something more with his career. figuring this all out takes him a while, but one of the great things about the format this story is told in, is that it allows you to hear the character's innermost thoughts, but also you get to see all the characters through other people's eyes. so in a sense you have a more complete sense of who they are as a person. reed and becky figure their relationship out, and it's nothing too hard or complicated. at the end of the day, these were two people who fell in love when they were really young and spent some time apart. coming together only helps prove that what they had, what they felt back then was real. and that's pretty amazing.