Book Review: That Summer

Title_ Author_ Page Count_ Publish Date_ Publisher_ (12).pngSynopsis 

For fifteen-year-old Haven, life is changing too quickly. She’s nearly six feet tall, her father is getting remarried, and her sister—the always perfect Ashley—is planning a wedding of her own. Haven wishes things could just go back to the way they were. Then an old boyfriend of Ashley’s reenters the picture, and through him, Haven sees the past for what it really was, and comes to grips with the future.


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Rating: 1 star

Remember yesterday when I made a fool of myself by saying that I’d always enjoy Sarah Dessen books no matter how awful the plots were? Yeah, me too.

This was, without a single doubt, the worst time I’ve ever had with one of Sarah Dessen’s books. I find a bit of comfort knowing that this appears to be her first published book and I know from experience that she’s produced far better work, but it was still a doozy. I think that this is supposed to be a story about coming to terms with growing up; a story about family and friendships and the changes that happen with them as you mature. But… it just wasn’t done right. It’s like nothing really happens, and it’s over before it ever really started.

The plot was a mess. I’m honestly still very confused by the entire book because there didn’t seem to be much direction. I don’t even know how to address the plot on its own because there really wasn’t much of one. Basically, Haven (the MC) is a 15 year old with divorced parents, an engaged sister, and more inches towards her height than she’s comfortable with. Things happen that I guess feel like a pretty big deal to a 15 year old but nothing ever felt connected, if that makes sense. The story just kind of went off on random tangents that caused my eyes to glaze over and my brain to opt out. The pacing was too quick and stories come and go like little tidbits. It’s hard to find a point in them because everything is so spread out.

And a lot of the book was about Haven’s sister, in an almost obsessive way. I’ve never been a little sister (eldest sibling speaking, hi) so I can’t say I know what it’s like to grow up with an older sister with a semi-fascinating life but geez, Haven is kind of weird about it. The story would be in the middle of something completely different and then suddenly we’re on a trip down memory lane about Ashley and her boyfriends that leads to absolutely no where.

Speaking of her sister’s boyfriends… the thing with Sumner is seriously so weird? At first I was terrified that there was going to be a romantic connection between the two and I was not OK with that. I actually made a note saying, “IF THIS GOD FORSAKEN STORY TURNS OUT THE BE A ROMANCE BETWEEN A 21 YEAR OLD AND 15 YEAR OLD YOU BETTER BELIEVE I AM BOYCOTTING IT”. So yeah, imagine my relief when no romance comes out of the connection between Haven and Sumner. But also… literally nothing comes out of their connection? Once again Haven has a weird almost-obsession with this person her sister dated years ago and who she sometimes bumps into at the mall for a total of 5 minutes but then convinces herself that he rejuvenates her entirely. She keeps saying that he’s the only one who listens to her and takes nothing from her but he’s literally just … a passing acquaintance? She’s seem him 3 times for a total of 5-10 minutes each? I didn’t get it. I still don’t get it. I’ll probably never get it.

At this point, I think you can guess that I didn’t care for Haven much at all. I know adolescence is a hard time to deal with big changes but Haven takes dramatic to a new level at times. The other characters were all very so-so. I didn’t hate them but they weren’t developed enough for me to like them much either. Also, the thing with the model losing her mind was…. weird. I never really understood why so much of the book focuses on this girl, other than that she’s tall and feeling out of control so Haven feels some kind of connection to her. I think Haven here has a good job at finding connections that don’t actually exist.

So, yeah, I hated this. The only plus was that it was a super fast read, but I kept getting distracted by other things because the book couldn’t keep my attention. Dessen kept up with her usual serial dating character (though this time it was the sister instead of the main character) and there were weddings galore, per usual. The family dynamic was incredibly strained and there was a lot of teenage angst. I mean, when you look at it that way, it’s just like any other Sarah Dessen book, but much worse.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: That Summer

  1. I’m not used to seeing you score so low. That was a surprise! I get it though. I have pushed through many a Novel by an author I previously enjoyed. I like her as well, but I haven’t read this particular one. I think I’ll sit it out. 🤔 Thanks again for another great review!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s even more rare for me to give out 1 star reviews than it is for me to give out 5 star ones! But this was just not good. I still love her as an author though and the last two books I’ve read by her (not yet reviewed), I’ve really loved! I guess she’s just a hit or miss for me now that I’m not a teenager anymore. I’d definitely opt out on this one!!


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