Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review of That Summer

For fifteen-year-old Haven, life is changing too quickly. She's nearly six feet tall, her father is getting remarried, and her sister,the always perfect Ashley,is planning a wedding of her own. Haven wishes things could just go back to the way they were. Then an old boyfriend of Ashley's reenters the picture, and through him, Haven sees the past for what it really was, and comes to grips with the future.
[from Goodreads]

Rating:  2.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Teens...especially girls
High point:  The promise of the writing to come
Low point:  The angst, the current writing...
Reader maturity: 13+

I fell in love with The Truth About Forever and I enjoyed Lock and Key. That Summer failed to impress me in the way that either of the other two did; however, while it's probably not going to gain a permanent place on my shelf, it's still worth a read.

I read That Summer thinking that it felt younger and less polished than Sarah Dessen's other novels and lo! and behold, it's from the mid-90s. Ms. Dessen has come a long way since then, although she wasn't off to a bad start. It's hard for me to put a finger on what I didn't like, but I think it's this.
  1. The main character is a little younger than the other two. 
  2. She's less mature. 
  3. She spends a lot of time moaning about what she doesn't like about herself. (I don't know any 15-year-olds who haven't done this, but I'm not yet in that place in my life where I don't mind revisiting that awkward period.)
  4. She spends a lot of time complaining about her family. 
Regarding #4, messed up families seem to be a writing specialty of Sarah Dessen and I'm cool with that, but the approach was missing the gut-wrenching-dismay-followed-by-hopefulness that the other novels possess. And the ending left me feeling deflated, which is my own fault because I had expectations based on her other novels. It's not fair of me to keep comparing it to later works, but I can't help it. Really, if I hadn't read the others, I probably would've left my thoughts of the book on "meh" and not been so critical.

That Summer feels like a good start to some greater works. If you're itching to try a Sarah Dessen novel, this probably isn't a good one to begin with, but if you're a fan, it's worth a read.

Title:  That Summer
Author:  Sarah Dessen
Genre:  Teen Fiction - Romance & Friendship
Year:   2004
Book Source:  Purchased


  1. Sarah Dessen is brilliant. I may read this, but I'll push it to the bottom of the pile :) Great review!

  2. Awesome review! I still haven't read anything by Sarah Dessen. What a disgrace! I probably won't start with this one, but I'm sure I'll read it eventually.

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  4. I'm interested in reading this just because I want to see where Dessen was then... You know that my favorite Dessen book is TTAF as well (we're reading it for book club this coming month!), but the runner-up in my book is ALONG FOR THE RIDE. I recommend you read it next!