Thursday, June 29, 2023

When We Had Summer, by Jennifer Castle

Daniella, Carly, Penny, and Lainie have spent their summer every year on the Jersey shore.  And each summer, the self-proclaimed "summer sisters" pass their time completing a bucket list that Carly has assembled for them.  While there are a few items (like seeing a breaching whale) that they never seem to be able to achieve, the annual rite defines their friendship.

This summer, things are changing.  Lainie's family is moving away in August, Daniella has gotten a music scholarship in New York for most of the summer and will be away, and Penny is dealing with the disintegration of her parents' marriage.  But most traumatically, Carly isn't with them at all -- she died over the winter -- leaving a huge gap in their circle.

While going through some of Carly's things, Daniella discovers that before she passed away Carly had created a bucket list for the upcoming summer.  So, with the heavy realization that this will be their last summer together, the remaining three summer sisters pledge to honor Carly by completing this last list.  What starts with good intentions and passion ends up testing the girls' bond as they discover that the forces of change are powerful.

It's everything you would wish from a summer beach read.  But in spite of containing just about every trope in the genre (and yes, there's a boy in there too!), I found Castle's book surprisingly fresh and enjoyable.  It delivers the expected bittersweet conclusion that the story demands, but along the way there are some nice lessons about growing up, making new friends while cherishing the old, and accepting that one can move on.  It's not weighty stuff, but you finish it feeling like there was some nutritional value in it.

No comments: