The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: summer camp, sisters, first love, independence
Format read: Hardcover borrowed from the libary.
How I found out about it: Featured at my B&N this summer.
Summary: Sisters Calla, Violet, and Daisy (yes, all named after flowers) attend the same summer camp but all have very different experiences.
This book is the ultimate as far as light, summery YAs are concerned.
First: the setting. Three glorious weeks at a summer camp where you pick a concentration: writing, running, nature. When I was young I only attended day camps that ran for a few weeks, and McVoy had me secretly hating my parents for never sending me away to an overnight place like this one. (If there are any camps like this for 27-year olds, let me know because I am game!)
Second: the boys. Now, my husband’s name is James so I always feel secretly proud when there is a love interest in a book that shares his name (see: Unbreak My Heart). Middle sister Violet reunites with James after he skips a year of camp… although now he’s a counselor — a big no-no. Campers and counselors can’t date. Or make out. Or stare at each other from across the room and feel all tingley inside? Yum, their story was delicious. Each sister has some kind of boy in their life in some capacity and I really liked seeing the different stages the three were in.
Third: the drama. Now it wouldn’t be summer camp without some bitchy girls, unavailable guys, and a rebellious girl who loves to be the center of attention. Instead of being a counselor, Calla has a paying job in the camp’s office and is thoroughly worried about being perfect, making a good impression, and making the best out of camp even though her job duties take her away from the camp activities she has grown to look forward to year after year. Violet buddies up with a new girl who keeps getting into trouble, and Daisy is dealing with girls who are so jealous of her they will stop at nothing to humilate her. While each sister goes through their own thing, they do overlap with one another and provide support and friction at the same time.
At the core, this book is about the bonds of sisters. And it really made me miss mine. (We’re five years apart and don’t see each other that much because she’s in school and I’m a “grown up”.) I missed the days when I used to come home after school and see my sister or even the days during the summer when we hung out at the beach. It kind of just made me miss home. At the back of the book, McVoy shares that she indeed is part of a trio of sisters and I could tell. They were some very tender, sweet moments as well as those inevitable ragey ones. (By alternating chapters between the three, we were able to find out the inside thoughts each had about the other and I loved being privy to this insight.)
Best of all, McVoy shocked me completely with her ending. Reading it was just as disruptive as what happens to the girls (ohh the suspense) and it fit the situation perfectly. All I could think was “bravo” for taking the road less traveled.
I could see you reading this book on the beach (like I did), in the fall, or even with some hot chocolate in the winter. It doesn’t need to be summer to feel the excitement and freedom that the season and this book radiates.