Title: That Summer
Author: Sarah Dessen
Summary: For fifteen-year-old Haven, there’s just too much going on. First, there’s her father’s wedding to Lorna Queen, the local television “Weather Pet.” Then her sister Ashley’s wedding to boring Lewis Warsher, who doesn’t seem to suit Ashley at all. And Haven can’t ignore the fact that she’s nearly six feet tall and still growing. Haven can barely figure out who she is anymore or where she fits in. Then Ashley’s old boyfriend, Sumner Lee, shows up and sparks Haven’s memories of the summer when her parents were happy, her sister was plucky and carefree, and everything was perfect…or so it seemed.
Review: I have never not adored a Sarah Dessen book before. You think Dessen and you think cheesy, romantic, chick-lit to make you squeal and blush and giggle and wish you were in the book. That has been my previous experience with every Dessen book I have ever read. But this? This was something entirely different. I don’t even know what it is. I got to the end, and I was just kind of confused and everything felt jumbled and nothing connected. Maybe it makes sense, as this is her first book and will probably be a little different from the others–but I wasn’t expecting it to be this far out of the box. I never would have thought something like This Lullaby and That Summer were written by the same person. I was thoroughly disappointed, but I’m not feeling too down, since I know Dessen is a great writer and I won’t let this outlier of a novel reflect my feelings of her work as a whole!
What I Liked: Spoilers!
- I was really intrigued by the possibility of a relationship with such an age difference to it. Ever since I sat down and watched all four seasons of Instant Star, I haven’t had much of a problem with age differences, so hearing about Sumner and Haven being five years apart was a little exciting, since it was the same sort of situation in Instant Star (which I loved). I was excited for it to blossom and things to start happening and whatnot, and I really wish that it had actually happened.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Nothing connected at all. Haven was tall, and her sister was getting married, and her father got remarried, and someone cheated on someone else, and she’s too tall (did I already mention that?) and her sister was being a jerk and her mother had a crazy best friend and Haven had a crazy best friend and I’m sorry could we slow down? None of it fit together and made sense with each other, and it seemed like one thing happened and then we’d move on to something else. The book felt less like a story and more like a retelling of something that had already happened, without any fun dialogue. Just someone restating facts and explaining what happened. I didn’t really enjoy it at all, and pretty soon, I was fifty pages in, wondering if anything had really happened at all. I didn’t know enough or care enough about Haven to feel bad for her, or really any of the other characters. The end of the book eventually came, and I just closed it, wondering what in the world was happening.
- Sumner himself wasn’t that great. (And also, That Summer with a main character named Sumner? Really?) He was also disconnected from everything else, and just kind of showed up, and Haven made a big deal about how cool he was, and then it turns out he cheated on Ashley and he suddenly became the first boy to break Haven’s heart? Haven never showed any romantic interest in him (which greatly surprised me), and she never dated him–how could he have been the first boy to break her heart? It just didn’t make sense to me. He seemed separate from everything else and I didn’t like it.
- I hated Ashley. Maybe I was supposed to, but I really disliked her. Especially when she goes to see strippers with her faithful fiancée doing nothing, and she had the audacity to get mad at him for being upset with her? She basically cheated on him, and she expects him not to care at all? That really rubs me the wrong way. Because of Lewis had gone to see strippers and come home with their underwear around his neck, Ashley would have wrung his neck and called off the whole wedding. I’m sorry, but that is not how a happy marriage begins.
Overall: I wouldn’t recommend this book. Maybe only for hardcore Sarah Dessen fans, but by no means as a place to start. If this was my first experience with Dessen, I probably wouldn’t want to read anymore of her stuff. It wasn’t interesting, or captivating, and didn’t make any sense. It had a good basic premise, but was executed rather poorly. But never fear! Just pick up another Dessen book and you’ll just be blown away, I promise! I’d recommend this to probably ages twelve and older. Maybe a little younger, depending on the reader.