Five Summers by Una LaMarche.
To Be Published: May 16, 2013 (USA). May 21, 2013 (Canada).
Published by: Razorbill.
Source: Received ARC from Cuddlebuggery's Little Blogger, Big Ambitions program. Thanks, Steph!
Four best friends, five summers of camp memories.
The summer we were nine: Emma was branded “Skylar’s friend Emma” by the infamous Adam Loring...
The summer we were ten: Maddie realized she was too far into her lies to think about telling the truth...
The summer we were eleven: Johanna totally freaked out during her first game of Spin the Bottle...
The summer we were twelve: Skylar’s love letters from her boyfriend back home were exciting to all of us—except Skylar...
Our last summer together: Emma and Adam almost kissed. Jo found out Maddie’s secret. Skylar did something unthinkable... and whether we knew it then or not, five summers of friendship began to fall apart.
Three years after the fateful last night of camp, the four of us are coming back to camp for reunion weekend—and for a second chance. Bittersweet, funny, and achingly honest, Five Summers is a story of friendship, love, and growing up that is perfect for fans of Anne Brashares and Judy Blume's Summer Sisters.
I'm going to be honest here. It has been a little while now since I've read an honest-to-goodness contemporary novel that I've truly enjoyed. The last one that comes to mind is PUSHING THE LIMITS by Katie McGarry. That was forever ago! I really hoped that this would be the one that broke that long dry spell for me because this one is different. This is not a "girl-meets-boy and they fall in love, awwww" kind of book. While those can absolutely be fantastic, they seem to be what have pushed me away from contemporary recently. But FIVE SUMMERS has brought me back. This is the contemporary novel that, while not perfect, has me interested in reading true contemporary again, which I think is a fantastic accomplishment.
This is primarily a story about friendship and how much it can change over the years, made clear by the reunion that brings four camp friends back together after years of not seeing each other. It rotated in point of view between the four girls as well as switching between "present day" (the reunion) and each of their previous summers together at camp while also incorporating the friendship "rules" they developed over these past summers. I think getting all these different perspectives really helped to not only develop each of the girls into someone I really understood, but also truly showed how their bond developed and why it was so important for them to try to find that again. I'll admit that it threw me off a bit at first but in the long run was completely worth it because I connected with the story so much more.
I found that for most of the novel I was really invested in three of the four girls. I connected most with Emma because I felt like I really knew what she was going through. It's possible that she is just most like me, or maybe I saw something in her that I latched onto, but she really became my favourite character, despite her occasional faults (which they all have because they are REAL girls. Loved that). I also found that I really felt for Jo and for Maddie, for their individual struggles and for their troubled connection to one another. The tension that came up between them was almost frustrating for me because I felt like I knew them both so well that I could have easily stepped in and fixed things between them. That's the kind of frustration that I don't mind in a book, though, because I really felt like I understood them both.
The only one of the girls I felt I didn't really like until the end was Skylar. For a large part of the book she drove me nuts, and the issue that arises between her and Emma over a boy at the camp named Adam did not help her case at all, in my eyes. (Note: Please do not write this book off because that sentence screams "love triangle". It is so much more than what that stereotype suggests). I didn't like the way Skylar handled it and it made me very frustrated (the not-good kind) with her. However, and I think this is one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much, Skylar and her chapters really helped me to see another side of Adam and helped me realize that yes, Skylar has done things wrong, but maybe I was in fact wrong about her. For a while Adam is romanticized because he is only seen through Emma's eyes, so I attached to her view of him. Skylar showed me that there truly are two sides, even three sides, to every story and my discounting her from the start actually helped me grow, which I thought was pretty amazing. While Emma remains my favourite after finishing the book, I can't discount the way that Skylar changed my perspective and showed me a whole other side to the story being told. I loved that there were so many layers to the girls and to the story; everything felt very genuine. And the ending in the ARC, without giving anything away, was perfect to me. I truly hope that it's not changed in the final copy because I think it was the best conclusion possible for that story.
My only issues with the book were fairly minor ones. Some of the sentences used seemed overly long, a little rambling, and hard to follow, but it's possible they were adjusted for the final copy since I am reviewing an ARC. I also found that while I did learn a lot about the four girls, it came with a fair amount of "telling" rather than "showing." However, I noticed this less and less as the story went on so that by the end it wasn't something that had me concerned any more. Just something I picked up on in around the first third of the book, for the most part. These didn't really seem to detract from my enjoyment of the book once I got into it, so I'd say don't let these things stop you from giving this one a shot. In my opinion, it's definitely worth it.
For a story about friendships made and broken, having to recognize and own up to mistakes, and a true "I wish it were summer" read, absolutely pick up FIVE SUMMERS. It surprised me how much I truly enjoyed it and how much it impacted me, and I will now stop shying away from contemporary thanks to this one. It reminded me that I don't always have to escape to a fairy tale world or to the past for an honest story that I can love; there is opportunity for depth and true enjoyment in everyday life.