Magan: This Summer by Katlyn Duncan

book cover for this summer by katlyn duncan

This Summer by Katlyn Duncan [twitter | website]
Publication Date: July 9, 2014
Publisher: Carina UK
Pages: 240 Target Audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: boy/girl next door neighbors, camp counselors, summer camp
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Two years ago, Hadley’s next door neighbor, Will, fled town on the very same night he and Hadley became “more than friends.” After her high school graduation, Hadley breaks up with her boyfriend, Carter, to have one last free summer with her BFF, Lily. Unexpectedly, Will returns to town and is assigned to be her co-counselor for the summer camp her father is in charge of. So much for an easy-going summer.

♥

Have you ever read a book that made you flashback to a specific moment in your life and felt so authentic it seemed like the author had written about your particular experience? I can’t explain This Summer by Katlyn Duncan in any other way except for HOW DID SHE STEAL MY MEMORIES?

Growing up, I attended a weeklong summer camp where we rode horses, spent countless hours swimming, and did super cheesy arts and crafts projects. I idolized my camp counselors. (And this one time, the lifeguard was Australian and I 100% had the hots for him. I was convinced we’d get married. True story.) When I was old enough to attend an additional leadership camp to become a counselor at my yearly camp, there was no question. Sign me up! Compile all of those memories with the questionable relationship Hadley is experiencing with her former neighbor who returns to town and becomes her co-counselor for the summer, there’s no doubt this all felt almost like an out-of-body experience for me.

Hadley’s last summer as a camp counselor is one she and her BFF, Lily, deem worthy of being wild and single for. No strings attached. Hadley breaks up with her boyfriend, Carter, because she’d rather not delay the inevitable for the end of summer when they head across the country for different colleges. She’s satisfied with her decision until Will returns to town. Will: the boy Hadley was deeply in love with, the one who broke her heart by quickly disappearing from town and never contacting her.

The physical attraction is still there for Will and Hadley, but she doesn’t want him to know how painful his abandonment was, and he’s unable to explain all the reasons why he left so quickly. Every time these two take one step forward to rebuild their relationship, something causes them to take two (giant) steps back. I definitely rooted for their reunification and hoped they’d get past their inability to communicate. My personal summer romances never worked out, but the hopeless romantic in me desperately wanted theirs to. Even though Will is only in town to fix up and sell his father’s home and will be leaving at the end of the summer, maybe, just maybe, they can bypass all the hurt to start something new.

The camp aspects — loving the kids, understanding their quirks, being responsible for tiny humans, and spending time at an overnight camp — were all on point. I loved how Will and Hadley interacted with them. I bear-hug embraced Hadley and Will trying to figure out their feelings, but realistically felt like too much time was spent on the tension and buildup before the climax of the story came. There’s a lot of back and forth, which didn’t annoy me because their story IS complex, but when things finally got to a point I was satisfied with, the timing seemed to have lost its flow.

A few details felt like they could have been finessed; the story is dual-perspective so we know where both main characters stand. Sometimes this was beneficial so I could see how both were feeling, but a few times the details were confusing. One area Duncan certainly didn’t fail to explore was the, um, very mature nature of Will and Hadley’s relationship. Ahem. I’ll just leave it at that. Be prepared.

All-in-all I was taken back to another part of my life that seemed so come alive again as I read This Summer. Despite the few hiccups I experienced in the story, I felt very connected and this felt like the epitome of a summertime read.

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Estelle: The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy

The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 423
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.

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