Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton ( twitter )
Also known as Elizabeth Lenhard.
Publication date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: death in the family, first love, close family relationships
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thank you!)
Summary: Chelsea’s fifteenth summer is going to be one full of adventures and growth — she’s learning how to move on after the passing of her grandmother, but she’s also becoming a responsible young adult by holding her first real job. Oh, and she’s also falling in love for the very first time.
Allow me to set the stage: Fifteen-year-old Chelsea’s grandmother has just passed away. Her family is road-tripping from California to Michigan to spend the summer in her grandmother’s house, as they normally do each year. Except this year, everything’s different. Chelsea can’t look around without being overwhelmed by memories; it doesn’t seem right to be at the lake when her grandmother isn’t around to enjoy it with them. How will Chelsea make it through the summer and what will they decide to do with her grandmother’s house?
To pass the time and allow themselves to put their grieving on pause, Chelsea’s family does a ton of family activities together when they first arrive at the lake. That’s all well and good, but when you have three boy crazy teenage girls, they’re going to want to explore on their own so they can find their summer flings. (Am I right?) As Chelsea’s two older sisters are chasing down the boys they’ve got their eyes on, she meanders into a new bookstore that’s opened since she was at the lake last year. (It’s called Dog Ear. How cute is that?!) Her e-reader very inconveniently broke so she’s in need of a few physical books. As she rounds the corner of the YA section, she sees a young (cute) boy ripping the covers off of books. Chelsea’s first interaction with Josh, the owner’s son, is awkward to say the least.
Much of Chelsea’s coming weeks are spent trying to figure out Josh. Does he like her? He seems to be interested, but after he does something somewhat forward, he backs away almost entirely. This being her first foray into a relationship, Chelsea is completely boggled. My gosh, how this brought me back to those days when I read too much into every interaction, when I replayed a kiss over and over and over again in my head, or when I would forget what I was doing because I was simply too wrapped up in being in love. This, friends, is where Dalton really shined; she captured the essence of first love so perfectly. It’s not easy to navigate the choppy waters of falling in love. Who knows what to do instinctually? (I certainly didn’t.)
Fifteenth Summer is such a lovely portrayal of what it’s like to grow up and lose someone important to you. It’s about the whirlwind of falling in love for the first time and all the sweet firsts that accompany it. There’s a great depiction of what it is to have strong family ties, but to learn to bend the rules a little bit as you become independent of your family and pave your own road.
In case you need further prodding, be sure to check out the excerpt from Fifteenth Summer that I shared for the Fourth of July.