Title: That Summer
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young Adult
Pub Date: October 1996 (this ed. May 2004), Penguin Group
Trade paperback, 198 pages
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.
While I very much enjoyed Just Listen, my first Sarah Dessen book, That Summer did not really impress me as much. However, I do realize that this is Dessen's first book, so it is to be expected that her work would improve over time.
Thankfully, Dessen's writing has improved vastly since That Summer. With this book, I found myself not really drawn into the story as much--it was written in first person from Haven's point of view, and much of it was reading Haven's rambling thoughts, while dialogues were a bit neglected, in my opinion. I can see how this story would appeal to the young adult set, however. It just happens to be a young adult novel that doesn't really translate well into adult reading in this case. Honestly, the book is a lot of fluff with a little bit of substance sprinkled throughout. Dessen does a good job portraying most of the characters, though most of them do not have any real depth. Frankly, I am surprised Haven didn't have her little outburst earlier on in the story, but I was glad to see her finally show some emotion. For the story to have been more effective, I also wish that Sumner played a larger role.
I realize that it sounds like I didn't like this book, but I promise that's not the case. It was a light, easy read and perfect for me this week, as I have not had much time to devote to reading. And it was certainly an easy book for the Sarah Dessen Challenge hosted at Em's Bookshelf. I would definitely recommend it to the teen and pre-teen girls out there, as I think perhaps it is a story they can more easily relate to.
Other reviews of That Summer: