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 Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja MillayThe Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay ( twitter )
Publication Date: June 4, 2013 (in paperback)
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 448
Target audience: Mature young adult/adult
Keywords: recovery, trauma, high school seniors
Format read: ARC from NetGalley! (Thanks!)

Summary: The Sea of Tranquility connects two people who are living in their own voids of loneliness: Nastya, a girl who escapes to her aunt’s house and a new high school just to blend it and get through the day without being asked about her past and Josh, an emancipated high school senior who, by terrible twists of fate, has been left to fend for himself. When Nastya and Josh form an unexpected and unconventional friendship, the two are forced to remember and deal in ways they have avoided for a long time.

Katja Millay is a very talented, thorough writer. You can tell she has taken great lengths to fully understand the depths of her two characters, and even does this without jipping the secondary characters either (Drew and his mom are awesome).

We begin with two broken people, and piece by piece, come to discover why they are the way they are. Why does Nastya run all hours of the night? Why is she okay with dressing like an emo whore? Why does Josh find such solace in woodworking? And why does everyone at school treat him so differently? It’s rather unlikely that these two characters would find much in common but somehow they do, even if it takes a little work to get there. And then a little more work after that.

Nothing comes easy in The Sea of Tranquility. For me, it took three false starts before I could get into the flow, and even then, I found myself working through the book very slowly. Until there was this beautiful, delicious bubble of Josh and Nastya forming this languid bond of domesticity that I could not get enough of. A certain aspect of Nastya’s character really helped create this intimate chemistry between the two, and I so loved what they did for one another.

Unfortunately, the story veered off track into more of a dramatic realm when more and more tragedy piled up on the character’s plates, as well as a happenstance moment that occurs all too perfectly later in the book. Even Nastya’s voice didn’t always fit her dark thoughts or her actions, and felt a bit romanticized. Don’t get me wrong — Millay created an intriguing story with interesting characters but there was just so much jammed on the page that it had me questioning its believability instead of feeling more for the characters.

Still there is something about this title that is so addicting. Whether it’s how kind of great Josh is or Nastya’s playful but steady friendship with their shared best friend, Drew. Then there’s the mystery (what event led to Nastya’s current behavior), which leads to the ultimate question: can two people who have faced such hardships overcome and begin again?

It’s a rocky road from start to finish, but I’m ultimately glad The Sea of Tranquility put Millay on my radar.

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Sidenote: I believe this book is being marketed as “new adult” for more mature themes (drugs, sexuality, violence) but I am more confused by this designation than I was before. All the main characters in this novel are seniors in high school, and I’ve read various books where there has been equal amount of drugs, sexuality, and violence. (Daisy Whitney’s The Mockingbirds for example.) So what makes this story in particular NA exactly?

Estelle: Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky

Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria SnadowskyAnatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky ( website | tweet )
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 240
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: summer break from college, med school, sex, relationships
Format read: ARC from NetGalley (Thanks!)

Summary: Dom, a pre-med major, is home for summer break and hoping to spend some time with her best friend, Amy, and her supportive parents. She’s also still trying to get over high school boyfriend, and survive the longest period of time she’s been home since they broke up. Will she spend the summer wallowing or will she find someone or something to distract her?

I was not expecting Anatomy of a Single Girl, the first book I’ve started and finished this year, to be more than a fluffy, fun read. Nothing wrong with that. But lemme tell you, it shocked me. Shocked me because it was so much smarter than that, shocked me so much because I was blushing like a maniac because it was overflowing with sex. And not only the kind you have with a hot guy, trying to get your first O (oh that’s in there too) but um, the self-pleasing kind as well.

See? I’m all nervous just typing that!

I am all for girl power: ladies like Carrie Bradshaw and Jessica Darling, who know how they feel and what they want. Not only in their personal lives but for their professional ones too. Main character Dom is a science geek, friends! A science geek who is also still cool, pretty, likes her parents, and has a great relationship with her best friend, Amy. Dom wants to be a doctor, and has been memorizing Gray’s Anatomy since she was in high school.

Now she’s on break from college, after working her ass off, and she needs some relief from those finals. RELIEF. If you remember or if you are experiencing it now, summers home are tough. Friends can change, your parents might seem a little boring, and, man oh man, that freedom you so loved at school may not come as easily. Snadowsky has this down including the super supportive parents who are always begging for more time with their kid.

And where’s Dom? Volunteering at the hospital, and hanging out with Guy, who loves science as much as she does. I love this girl so much because she is SO herself, whether it’s geeking out or thinking so black and white about relationships. Most of us has been there: what’s the point of dating for fun or having a fling if there’s no future? (Okay, so I used to have this mindset so I get it.) Like me, Dom has a problem just LETTING GO + it seems the mission of the summer is all wrapped in that.

In the meantime, her bestie, Amy, is in a committed relationship but dares to flirt and be forward with the boys anyway. I liked this parallel a lot. Amy and Dom have this cool friendship you could only hope for. College can change the dynamics between friends so much, and they manage to fall back into old times as soon as they see each other — even when there are some growing pains to deal with. You can tell they also keep great touch despite going to different colleges, miles and miles away from each other.

You know, I had absolutely no idea that Snadowsky had written a previous book about Dom. But the snappy, honest writing (even with Dom’s long-winded and technical thought process) never made me feel like I was missing anything or getting an intense recap from book 1. I love when authors write a series but each book can also be seen as a standalone. In fact, since finishing Single Girl, I’ve read Anatomy of a Boyfriend and I felt majorly grateful to read another book that was so open about sexuality, virginity, and the dreaded leaving high school for college process.

Snadowsky knows how to write women — strong, flawed women who are open to discovering their bodies and what makes them feel good. (Whether it’s science or sex.)

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