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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Magan: Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

book cover for Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill  (website | twitter)
Other Books Written by This Author: Meant to Be
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte
Pages: 352
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: swapping lives, figure skating, hockey, Canada, summer camp
Format Read: ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley. (Thank you!)

Summary: Two Sloane Jacobs’ coincidentally meet in a hotel lobby where they’re each about to attend four week summer camps. After realizing they’d both like to temporarily forget about their own troubles, they decide to swap lives and attend the other girls’ summer camp.

Well, hello 2014! I’m so excited to be kicking off this new year with a new release that I thoroughly enjoyed, Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill. Here’s a little backstory:

Sloane Emily is a senator’s daughter. She’s got family issues that she wants to run away from and insane amounts of pressure she’d love to escape. She’s being sent to figure skating camp, against her will, for four weeks where she’s expected to perform well and make a splash back into the competitive figure skating community.

Contradictory to Sloane Emily’s seemingly “perfect” life (from an outsider’s perspective) is Sloane Devon’s. Her family is barely making ends meet, she’s losing her edge in hockey — along with all of her confidence — and the only chance she has to be a starter her senior year is to redeem herself at hockey camp.

These two girls couldn’t live more opposing lives, but a chance encounter at a hotel leads them to swap places and spend four weeks pretending to be the other Sloane Jacobs. I’m sure you’ve all seen movies like The Parent Trap or 17 Again in which two people swap lives and learn Really Important Things about themselves. Being Sloane Jacobs has that same feel-good aspect, but with great doses of humor that made me laugh out loud as the girls struggled to embrace the other’s sport. I’m not a reader that loves all loose ends tied up perfectly either if things don’t feel realistic and Morrill did a lovely job incorporating strengths and weaknesses into the story that made everything feel a bit more believable.

While the story takes place at the beginning of summer, the ice rink setting made me feel like winter was the absolute appropriate time for me to be meeting these girls. Their stories are told from alternating points of view, giving a clear picture of what each girl’s struggles are and how she’s managing to keep up the facade of being someone else. Perhaps the only time I wasn’t entirely comfortable reading from both POVs was during the epilogue when the girls were face-to-face having a conversation. (I also didn’t fully see the need for the epilogue as I would have felt pretty satisfied without it.)

I texted Estelle when I finished reading and mentioned Being Sloane Jacobs gave me the same kind of happy feel as Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler. There’s tons of self-discovery, a sweet love story (or could there be two?), depth, and a generous dose of laughter. If you’re itching to use a gift card you were given for Christmas, definitely consider using it toward the purchase of Lauren Morrill’s newest release, expected in bookstores on January 7th.

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Estelle: Five Summers by Una LaMarche

Five Summers by Una LaMarche ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 16, 2013
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 384
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: summer camp, friend reunion, old crushes, secrets
Format read: ARC paperback lent to me by Lena from Addicted 2 Novels. (Thanks!)

Summary: It’s been three years since four best friends have been together at the place where it all started: summer camp. Will secrets (old and new) affect their bond?

In Estelle world, comparing a book to Summer Sisters by Judy Blume and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares is like hitting the jackpot. Those titles have been some of my favorites for years and years now. It’s also kind of scary to see two of your favorite books written on the back of a brand new one because your expectations might skyrocket and the possibility of getting disappointed is so much greater.

Well.

While Five Summers didn’t exactly reach the Summer Sisters/Traveling Pants level for me, it did have the same essence of those two classics: the joys and the difficulties of friendships, the years that bring people together and pull them apart, secrets kept that once seemed necessary but risk ruining everything.

I think most of us know that friendships can be rough. Especially when you don’t see each other every single day. (Which is most cases, actually.) So for Emma, Skylar, Maddie, and Jo to create such a bond at 9 years old, spend 5 summers enjoying every moment of summer camp, and then reuniting after not seeing each other for 3 years (and not keeping the best touch)? That’s a lot of time to miss each other, and a lot of time to grow apart.

Through flashbacks and alternating POVs from each of the girls, we get to find how the girls became friends in the first place and where they are now. LaMarche gives each of the them relatable challenges and problems, and I liked that. Anyone could understand feelings of embarrassment, fear of moving forward, working way too hard, and pressure from parents. I did favor Emma and Skylar’s stories best, though. I felt like I was always waiting for their turn to come around again. Their locked in a love triangle (though Emma doesn’t know it) and it’s created some distance between them. I really enjoyed their closeness though and I was really rooting for them to cut the crap, tell the truth, and regain their best friendship again.

The object of this love triangle is Emma’s long-time crush, Adam. I’ll admit. I would have fallen for him too. Utterly charming but so real when he is talking to you one-on-one. What is it about guys like these? After failing to share her true feelings with him on their last day of camp, seeing him 3 years later hits Emma like a ton of bricks. One last chance to make something happen and all those romantic notions, right? Sigh. This portion of the story had me feeling a mix of things: regret, excitement, and anger.

Five Summers was really an enjoyable read for me. I really felt for these friendships, and hoped these girls would make it out of their 3-day reunion to the other side with something stronger. While I didn’t always agree with the structuring of the book (the placement of the flashbacks made it jarring at times and while I understand the sentiment of the last chapter, I didn’t think it was necessary there) and the characters could have used more sculpting to make them feel a bit more different from each other (not just in circumstance but in tone), it still felt fast-paced and kept me interested.

I’m kind of a sucker for a summer camp story, too. So that was just icing on the cake. rather be reading borrow from the library icon

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