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Monday, 23 August 2010

Review: The Summer That Changed Everything [Summer Love Mondays]

Yesterday I had a mini-readathon because I had not even started The Summer That Changed Everything and I knew that I had to post the review today. One of the tricky things about setting aside a day of the week for a certain thing is that you have to be so organised.

Anyway, three hours of solid reading and I have finished the book in time!

Author: Ann Brashares
Genre: Summer Love, Realism, Contemporary YA Fiction
Release date: 4th March 2010
Target audience: 11+

The Summer That Changed Everything is a story about friendship, about self-discovery and about love lost and found. It is the story of three girls who are all very different but that had a deep childhood bond. Ama, Jo and Polly have drifted apart and the story begins as they graduate from the eighth grade and begin a summer that will change who they are forever. Ama is originally from Ghana. Her family moved to America when her sister Esi got into a prestigious college there. Jo is a popular girl who is spending the summer at her family's beach house. Jo's parents are well off as her dad is a surgeon. Polly is perhaps the most original member of the trio. She is very kooky and her mother isn't around very much. Polly is pretty lonely.

In the third grade, the three girls are each given tiny willow plants to nurture through the year for an assignment. Throughout the book, there are little snippets about willow trees -- sometimes facts, sometimes myths but the journey of the tree is just as fascinating as the journey of the girls.

The first few pages of this book completely confused me. I couldn't work out who was telling which bit of the story. The main narrative is in the third person. Then there are small pieces of each girl reflecting on their friendship. I just couldn't get my head around who was who and I was so close to giving up. I don't think it helped that I didn't enjoy another book written by the same author. Anyway, I read the beginning about three times and I'm really glad that I did because once I got the hang of it, I was captivated by the unfolding story of the three girls' summer.

I could see a little of myself in each of the girls. I always wanted to do well at school like Ama. I would have thought an F was the end of the world too. I wanted to have fun and be popular like Jo. I definitely have Polly's obsessive side and get totally caught up in whatever project I'm working on. Reading about how they all journeyed through the summer and confronted who they were was quite an emotional experience. I found this book to be a real tearjerker.

The place that each girl experiences summer is different for each girl. We read about the beach, the city and the outback. But essentially the journey is all about change and self-realisation. The complexity of the plot comes from weaving the three stories together yet it still stays true to the summer journey coming of age story.

The Summer That Changed Everything is a story of friendship more than summer love. Yet love is a theme, love of your parents, love of your friends, your family, but above all love of yourself. There is a little romance but only that which is important to the characters' discovery of who they are.

Overall, I feel like I went on a journey with this book. I went from thinking "how am I ever going to read this?" to "wow, what a story! I am so glad I read this." Brashares conveyed the message inside this story with subtlety and emotion and completely won me over.

Thanks to Random House Children's Books for sending me the book to review.

Next week...
... is the last Summer Love Monday. There won't be a review. There will be a discussion post which reflects on the covers, themes and questions that have been running through the novels reviewed in this feature.


Caroline said...

I'm definitely interested in this one. I didn't particularly like My Name Is Memory but I loved the style, and I like the three girls with different personalities' journey during the summer, it sounds great!!
Lovely review Becky :)

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I really enjoyed this, too. Great review, Becky!

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Great review! I like it how you described the book as a journey for you. You struggled with it at first, and then managed to read it with gusto. Very cool! I already have a Brashares novel on my wishlist, and if I like it, I'll definitely read this one too. Thanks for sharing!

cj'alhafiz said...

Fantastic review! Sometimes book with a confusing start really makes me sick. But, u r great! U manage to read it 3 times which I am impressed!

This is my latest review:

Christina/Book Addict said...

I usually love Brashares' novels- how have I not read this one? It sounds like something I'd love. I need to get my hands on a copy. Great review, Becky! I am sad next week is the last Summer Love Monday post. I've really enjoyed them!

Becky said...

Caroline, yes I think you'll like this one! :-D

Sophie, it is lovely, isn't it?!

Irena, I like that. I read it with gusto! You say the loveliest things.

CJ, LOL I wouldn't have persisted if it wasn't for my feature. So I think there is probably a lesson in that!

Christina, Awww... you are sweet. It has been a fun feature but I am pretty much ready to move back into my comfort zone now.

Lauren said...

I loved this book, and definitely could relate to each of the three girls in different ways. I absolutely agree about the beginning of the book though - it took me a while to get used to each girl's voice.

Fab review, and I've really liked this feature as a whole. Can we expect a scary books feature in the run up to Halloween? ;)

Shy said...

I like the way you say the way you relate from these three girls. I believe that if I'm the one reading the book, I would be feeling the same way too. This book seriously sounds like something I would love. Thanks for this review, Becky and also the fantastic feature!

The Book Bug said...

Fab review! If I ever decided to write areview of this, then yours would atomatically top it. I did have this out of the library once, but I had to give it back so that I could get out ... varoius nerdy material.

Great feature - sounds fun!

I Want To Read That said...

uh-oh ANOTHER book I'll be buying this week! Stop making all the books sound so good - please!

brizmus said...

This sounds adorable (and it reminds me that I haven't watered my plant in over two week - oops!), and I love Anne Brashares, so I think I must read it!

I'm really impressed with how organized you've been at keeping up with this meme!