Happy Saturday, guys!
Today, I'm reviewing Two Summers by Aimee Friedman. I've fallen out of the habit of reviewing really in advance, but I just couldn't resist with this one.
Aimee Friedman has written an enjoyable, thoughtful look at self-determination, and I'm looking forward to sharing it w/ all of you!
Expected publication: April 26th 2016 by Point
Format read: ARC via publisher
In this absorbing new novel, Summer makes a choice that changes the whole course of the season ahead of her.
When her story divides, Summer finds herself alternately face-to-face with a longtime crush and worlds away. She is both living amid secrets and kept from them. But what matters more -- the choices she makes or the experiences that shape her?
Set in both the south of France and stateside, the twisting, atmospheric Two Summers explores questions of fate, self-determination, and whether or not the journey matters more than the destination.
There are many things to like about Two Summers - Cute boys! Quirky aunts! Overseas travel! - but what I loved first and foremost, is that this isn't a novel with a foundation in magical realism. This isn't a book where a magical spell or incantation sends Summer living out two lives at once, or into an alternate reality where she's living out unexplored possibilities - all of which I've seen before.
Instead, Friedman's pursuit of the what-ifs? of Summer's life is actually fairly straightforward. There's a specific pivot point at the start of Summer's vacation plans, and Friedman matter-of-factly explores just what would happen if Summer decides to pursue either path.
Without getting too much into the actual details of Summer's time in France or her time in the States, Friedman skillfully shows both the advantages of each scenario - freshly baked pan au chocolate for the win! - but also makes the interesting choice of showing how many of the details in Summer's life manage to cross-over in either scenario.
There are relationship challenges and personal interests that appear in each version, albeit sometimes developing at a different rate. It's an intriguing reminder that just because one path may seem better than the other - a common belief when one considers the what-if scenarios of the world - there are challenges and issues regardless of whichever path one may take. It's actually a surprisingly grounded counterpoint to the wish fulfillment that I've frequently seen in other novels with similar scenarios, and I loved Friedman for making that point
It's also the tacit recognition that life isn't perfect despite whichever path you may choose, which ultimately helps Summer navigate some of the trickier relationship waters of her summer as well. Summer faces up to friendship and relationship challenges and recognizes that some things will likely have turned out and been revealed to her in the same way, even if she had made the choice to pursue a different path. It's actually a nice nod toward accepting the realities of burgeoning adulthood, and Summer handles it admirably.
The book ends on a high note, because even though the summer isn't perfect, Summer has come out of it wiser, more informed, and an immensely relatable character. Readers will enjoy this one immensely.
Summer's journeys are as diverse as they are interesting, as she explores the alternate possibilities of a summer in Provence and at home. Friedman charts Summer's growth as a character with surprising challenges involving family, relationship and friendships, but does so within grounded realities that readers will definitely appreciate. There are no magical answers to any of Summer's challenges, and both her outbursts and even adaptability make her relatable and likable.
I highly recommend this book for fans of contemporary fiction, but also for fans of coming-of-age novels. Summer is a beautiful example of a heroine that faces life realistically, and helps readers see that even the what-ifs of life may not be perfect after all.
Also recommend for fans of Miranda Kenneally, Kasie West and Huntley Fitzpatrick.