HAPPY SATURDAY, GUYS!
We have a couple of reviews on deck today, starting with The Summer After You and Me.
I loved Jenn's dual debuts in 2013, and I've been waiting for summer to read this book. It's a gorgeous tale about a girl who finds herself and figures out what she wants in terms of life and relationships after Superstorm Sandy, and it should absolutely make it on your summer reading list ASAP.
Published May 1st 2015 by Sourcebooks Fire
Format read: ARC via Author - Thank you, Jenn! :)
Set against the backdrop of a New Jersey beach town that has been struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy, Lucy’s summer of turbulent sibling relationships, romantic struggles and trying to figure out her own life, is smart, intensely relatable, and perfect for any contemporary fan.
Then Superstorm Sandy tears apart her barrier island, briefly bringing together a local girl like herself and a vacationer like Connor. Except nothing is the same in the wake of the storm. And day after day, week after week, Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and broken home. Now with Memorial Day approaching and Connor returning, will it be a summer of fresh starts or second chances?
So to say I was excited to read The Summer After You And Me was a bit of an understatement. However, I decided to wait until summer rolled around to do so, so I could truly enjoy the book!
Things that worked:
One of my favorite parts about a Doktorski book, is the fact that her young female protagonists are always smart, intelligent women, and Lucy is no different.
From the second we meet her, we quickly learn that she’s passionate about all things science, and sees the world through a scientific lense. But rather than go the stereotypical teenaged-movie route of being a science geek with no social skills, Lucy is also a well-balanced young woman, with a boyfriend, friends, a part-time job and an occasionally dysfunctional family.
There’s so much to like about Lucy, but what I appreciated the most is that this is a young woman who both knows and speaks her mind, with the occasional sheepish nod to the fact that she can occasionally go on random tangents. The fact that she is so passionate about science, and finds people who not only accept that, but encourage that, is such a great reminder to all young female readers who might struggle with being different or not being a “cool” kid.
With that being said…
The relationship angle
Part of Lucy and the book’s loveability - yes, I know that’s not actually a word, but it works for this! *g* - is based on the fact that Lucy is surrounded by a group that accepts her for who she is.
Doktorski does an amazing job of showing the importance of surrounding yourself with people who get you, but also how important it is to work things out with people who don't. Lucy starts the book at odds with her twin brother Liam. Despite being only born minutes apart, they're constantly fighting and competiting.
But Doktorski beautifully illustrates just why both siblings feel the way they do, and how important it is to find common ground - especially for those who truly, genuinely love you deep down - even after bickering and disputes. It's a beautiful way of handling sibling rivalry, and I'll be honest: I wish I had Lucy and Liam's wisdom, when I was dealing with my brother at their age.
The romantic angle
Doktorski gives Lucy two very different boys to choose from during the summer, and does a fantastic, thoughtful job of showing all the reasons why these relationships may or may not work out for Lucy.
While Doktorski makes it clear early on that one relationship is more suited to her romantically than the other, she doesn’t hesitate to show how the other relationship might still fit into Lucy’s life. There’s a significant amount of raw honesty and internal questioning as the trio struggle to work out their feelings for each other, and I was mentally cheering all of them on as they asked these questions of themselves and each other.
They’re just the type of questions that I should have known to ask myself when I was Lucy’s age - had I only been as half as smart or self astute - and I hope that these questions help younger readers reflect when they encounter similar situations in their own lives.
Also, even while Lucy works things out with her love interest, Doktorski nicely acknowledges that they have obstacles, but it never devolves into high drama. Both parties are smart in how they handle their adversity - often making the point of doing the hard thing, including apologizing and confronting problems head on - and I suspect both younger and older readers will appreciate the implicit maturity that Doktorski is showing in these characters who are learning to grow up.
The science angle
Science plays a huuuuuge part in The Summer After You and Me - each chapter opens with snippets from Lucy’s dissertation on relationships/partnerships in science - and I love how it ultimately had a two-fold purpose throughout the book.
First, the fact that Lucy is so unabashedly a scientist = awesome. Science still isn’t always perceived as a girl’s field, so this will inspire each and every young female reader that reads this book, and finds science awesome as well.
Second, throughout the book, Lucy struggles with the idea that things like relationships aren’t necessarily as clear-cut as what she sees in science. Doktorski does a nice job of showing how she can utilize her science in her daily life, but how sometimes, it’s also good to go with the flow. It’s all about balance, which is also an important lesson at this age.
The real world events
It’s always hard writing about real-world events, especially when it comes to something that wielded as much destruction and personal pain as Sandy.
While Doktorski doesn’t hesitate to show the sheer destruction that Sandy wielded in her unrelenting path, she also balances that fine line between tragedy and optimism. We see how families have struggled to recover in the face of the storm, but we also see the generosity of spirit and teamwork that have brought people together in the aftermath.
At the risk of sounding extremely corny, it’s really touching seeing how the community continues to thrive and be reborn, and also realizing that this is exactly what’s happening in real-life.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
However, I do suspect that some younger readers may have some questions about Superstorm Sandy, and the effect of the devastation in the region. Doktorski smartly makes it a point to include an author’s note, and also provides further resources for readers to learn more.
Bottom line though, this book is gorgeous. Doktorski has again written a compelling female protagonist who fearlessly goes after what she wants academically, but also doesn’t hesitate to pick herself up after she falls in the romance department. Lucy and her friends are intelligent, likable and wholly real.
More importantly though, by choosing The Summer After You and Me against the backdrop of a town struggling to recover from Sandy, Doktorski does what every contemporary story strives to do: she puts Lucy’s story in a real-world context, helping us to better understand both a teenager’s struggles, but greater obstacles at large.
I can’t recommend this book enough. This book needs to go on some more must-read summer reading lists, and I’m going to do my part to get it there.