Sweet Summertime Reads: The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland

Welcome back for another Sweet Summertime Reads review! Today we’re featuring The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland. It’s a great book with secrecy, cute boys, and awesome beaches in a quaint town I wish I could escape to for days. Don’t forget to check out Tara and Ginger’s blogs for more great summer reads!

(Also – don’t forget to enter our summertime giveaway!)

book cover for the summer my life began by shannon greenland, book with girl in swimsuit riding bikeThe Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland [website | twitter]
UPCOMING Publication Date: May 10, 2012
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 256
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format read: eBook received via NetGalley

Summary: Elizabeth Margaret, or Em as only her sister calls her, heads to the Outer Banks to spend the summer with an aunt she never knew she had until a congratulatory graduation note appeared in the mail. Her strict, proper parents permit her to go. While she’s away, she discovers a lot about herself, falls in love for the first time, and unravels deep family secrets.

A perfect (goody-two-shoes) girl embarks on a summer of freedom.
She meets a boy. Or two.
She embraces a passion of hers that may not lead her down the path her parents want for her.
There are enough family secrets to account for my entire extended family.

Upon first meeting Em, my very first written note was how rigid her life was. So much is expected of her by her parents and grandmother, and she has no wiggle room to question what they think is best for her future. The only person who has a glimpse of who she really is, or wants to be, is her younger sister, Gwenny. When an unexpected letter arrives in the mail for Em inviting her to spend a summer with an aunt she didn’t even know she had, she can think of nothing else she’d rather do. (Especially when the alternative is prepping for Harvard and working as an intern at her father’s law firm.) I admit I was a bit taken aback by how easily the decision was made for Em to change her summer plans. For as intense as her parents were, their permission was not as difficult to obtain as I’d have assumed.

While I mostly anticipated a summer romance read, I didn’t expect there to be so many secrets surrounding Em’s Aunt Tilly.

Why did Em not know about Tilly?
Why doesn’t Tilly speak to her grandmother?
Why didn’t she know she had a cousin?

All these questions were nagging at Em, but her aunt was reluctant to give answers. Instead of dwelling on what she couldn’t find out, she immersed herself in getting to know her cousin, touring the Outer Banks, and helping out however she could around the bed and breakfast Tilly owned.

During those activities, she meets Jeremy and Cade – two very different (but great!) boys. Jeremy is everything her parents would expect in a boy; he’s proper, determined, has a life plan. Cade is sexy, but mysterious, a little stand-offish, and comes with baggage. Em’s never had time for boys before, so of course, this was my favorite part of the book because watching her fall in love was so sweet. I had hopes for who she would fall for, but also never really felt like there was a strong love triangle. (That’s kind of a pet peeve of mine in books. I wish these YA book girls would get their acts together. Or there should stop being so many smouldering, hot YA boys. Okay, rant over.)

Overall, The Summer My Life Began was about discovery. Em has to decide who she wants to be – who everyone expects her to be or who she feels she’s called to be. The facade of her perfect family comes crumbling around her when she finally starts piecing together the truth. She had a lot of tough decisions to make; finding out what she would do and choose kept me engaged as a reader. This was definitely a book that called to me while I was sitting at work anxiously looking forward to the next time I could begin reading again.

I feel like I’m hiding a lot from you guys. (Guess I’d fit right in with Em’s family.) BUT, I can’t ruin the thrill of The Summer My Life Began and all the surprises. Definitely pick this book up for your next beach trip… or sooner if, like me, just reading about beaches makes you want to reach for a fruity drink with an umbrella.

*I’m giving this a BORROW recommendation because I would probably pass this along to a friend to read for her beach trip to spread the love.

Goodreads | Amazon

(For your viewing pleasure … I’m including pictures of my personal happy place. Greece. The husband and I went there in September 2011. Anytime I read books about beaches, I picture myself being here again.)

on the beach of greece, blue and white umbrella and chair

It was in one of these very blue and white chairs that I devoured all five of the Jessica Darling books last year. Who wouldn't have blissful dreams of Marcus Flutie after being here?

sunset in greece, orange sunset with mountains in the background

Taken from almost the same spot as the above picture. The fog hides these mountains (islands?) during the day, so the most beautiful time to see them is at sunset. One of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen. The black dot on the right is a boat floating into the sunset.

view of santorini, greece

We spent the last half of our trip in Santorini. This place is like heaven. The most amazing beaches I've ever seen. I want to go back.