That Summer by Sarah Dessen

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So, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit, but, this is my first Sarah Dessen experience.  I know, it’s quite shocking.  I don’t know where I’ve been.  Well, that’s not true.  I abandoned YA novels right around the time that Sarah Dessen’s first book, this one, came out.  You see, I was on to “bigger and better” things.  I was reading ADULT books, and completely neglected the entire YA genre.  I feel like that’s what everyone was doing at that time.  A whole generation of readers who went from reading all about The Baby-Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley, and then skipped right ahead to Jackie Collins, Danielle Steel, and, shockingly of all, Judy Blume’s adult books.

So, now I’m making up for lost time, and reading all of those books that I wish I had discovered when I actually was a young adult, when they would have had the most impact on me.  But I’m settling for the nostalgia I feel as I’m reading them now.

What I liked

The writing.  This is one of those books that sweeps you away and makes you forget about reality for awhile.

I’m going to try to not give too much away, but if you’re really interested in reading this book, maybe skip this part:

I really liked the idea of how we remember things a certain way, but then sometimes the reality of the memory is a bit different from how we remembered it.  I feel like the more scientific way of describing this would be an “unreliable memory.”  I could really relate to Haven’s nostalgia for a certain time in her life, but then realizing later that things weren’t as idyllic as she had romanticized them to be.

What I didn’t like

This book has a TON of character development, but it’s a bit short on plot.  Which is certainly okay, but I was hoping for a bit more to the storyline.  There seemed to be both SO MUCH and NOTHING going on at the same time, if that’s even possible.  Haven’s father has just had an affair and is marrying the woman he cheated with.  Haven’s sister Ashley is getting married and moving out.  Her mother is going through a mid-life crisis of sorts.  And yet, not much happens.  I feel like there could have been much more of a plot than there actually was, which was a tad disappointing.

This book definitely reads as a “debut” novel.  At times it feels as if Dessen is trying to be “writerly,” or “literary.”  Perhaps it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but I don’t like it so much when I can feel the author trying to impress me as a reader, if that makes any sense.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, but perhaps not for a first-time reader of Dessen.  (I feel like I have the authority to say this because I’m almost finished with her second book, Someone Like You, and I think that would have been a much better introduction to her as an author).

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