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The Last Summer (of You and Me)

August 19, 2008

The ferry put an extra emphasis on coming and going. Adults went back and forth all the time, but there had been many summers when Alice and Riley had come and gone only once. They came with their pale skin, haircuts meant to last the summer, their tender feet, and their shyness. They left with brown, freckled, bitten skin; tangly hair; foot bottoms think like tires; and familiarity verging on rudeness.

I have never tried to hide my enthusiasm for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a series of young adult books written by Ann Brashares. I’ve read three of the four books, saw the first movie and plan to see the next one this summer. I just love the characters of this fun series, so when I heard that the author was coming out with her first book for adults, I was pretty excited. And yet, when I browsed through the stacks at the bookstore, I hesitated in buying it. What was my issue? Most likely the book cover, which to me screams chick lit. To be honest, I didn’t really feel that going from the Traveling Pants series to classic chick lit was such a stretch. What I didn’t realize is that in fact the book cover is deceiving. When I got The Last Summer (of You and Me) from the publisher and cracked the spine, I was pleasantly surprised to find a novel with much depth, character development and complex human emotion as any great piece of fiction available today. This is Ann Brashares, all grown up.

The Last Summer (of You and Me)The Last Summer (of You and Me) revolves around three key characters. Riley, her younger sister Alice and her best friend Paul, who have all grown up together, spending summer vacation days as neighbors on Fire Island. The novel begins during the summer when the three of them have now grown up into young adults. Paul, who is now twenty four just like Riley, returns to the island after staying away for three years. Even though the island has stayed the same, in matters of the heart things are much more complicated.

Paul has secretly loved Alice for many years, but has a difficult time reconciling his feelings for his best friend’s sister. He has had a complicated childhood, with a father who died of a drug overdose and a mother who is more interested in herself than mothering her only son. He wants to love Alice, but is fearful of loving someone and asking for that love in return. Alice has always idolized Paul, being a few years younger, and also begins to have more complex feelings for him.

Riley, who is unaware of the budding relationship between her sister and best friend, is a unique character. Even though she is officially an adult, she has still retained many childlike qualities. While Alice and Paul begin to explore their feelings, Riley is more than happy to stay in the past. The below passage described Riley perfectly:

Riley led them to the creation of worlds – ancient burial grounds, unseen reefs, valleys, mountains, treasures under the sea, and the things that lurked under the boardwalks too vicious to discuss, except when they occasionally turned nice. Riley made it seem like they were all gods of their world, but Alice knew that Riley was really the god. She just gave them turns sometimes. So great was Riley’s imagination that she did not bother with the distiction between what was real and what wasn’t. The older the other kids got, the more they wanted to keep track of than, but Riley never cared.

As they all grew up, the qualities that defined success changed. Girly-girls had been customarily shunned by the central group, but the summer after eigth grade they got their moment. The boys turned their attention to the girls who grew breasts and wore lip gloss. And as they all got older still, academic prowess started to matter – who was applying to what college, and then who got in. And after that, their old friends started to think and talk most urgently about prestigious jobs and money. It seemed wrong to Alice that the child-gifts became trivial – hobbies at the most. It seemed wrong that what made Riley a superstar among them had so little currency anymore and that she was so distant from the things that did matter.

When one of characters finds themselves in the middle of a medical crisis, the novel really becomes intriguing. This book ends up being a page turner, a tear jerker and a really great read. Don’t pass up The Last Summer (of You and Me) based on looks alone. I’m sure glad I didn’t.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 19, 2008 1:04 pm

    Oh I liked this book as well! I won it and probably wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise. I too thought the cover didn’t do the book justice. A great story with a chick-lit cover. Great review!

  2. August 19, 2008 1:24 pm

    I went out and bought it right away when it was released. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a grown-up book by one of my favorite teen book authors. I wasn’t disappointed, either. 🙂

  3. August 19, 2008 2:27 pm

    Great review; I’ll have to read this sometime!

  4. August 19, 2008 6:30 pm

    Nice review, I’ve heard great things about this one. I have it in the TBR, maybe one day I’ll even read it!

  5. August 19, 2008 8:23 pm

    I really enjoyed this book too Stephanie. I had given it a 4 out of 5 on my review.

    I’ve never read the Traveling Pants books but did enjoy the first film and look forward to seeing the second one.

  6. trish permalink
    August 20, 2008 6:23 pm

    I didn’t realize this is the same author who wrote Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I’m really excited to read this book…I hope it shows up on bookmooch soon!

  7. August 22, 2008 1:15 pm

    I loved this book! I expected it to be chick lit, which put me off, and I was pleasantly surprised when I found out it wasn’t. I also didn’t expect that it would make me cry. I love when a book makes me emotional. I hope to review this one soon. (Let’s not discuss how many books I have sitting around waiting to be reviewed!!)

  8. August 24, 2008 5:00 pm

    I listened to this as an audio book – it was great!

  9. August 24, 2008 11:24 pm

    Gotta add this one to my list!

  10. August 29, 2008 12:17 pm

    I read this a few months ago and enjoyed it, too. I think the 20-something reader would really love it!

  11. June 19, 2009 4:51 am

    I think that this novel was pretty amazing: the characters were very difficult; the plot was unexpected; the twists were unbareable. It made you feel as if you were right there with Alice, Paul, and Riley as they wandered Fire Island and NYC. Even though the end was disappointing and sad, I loved this book more than any other book I’ve ever read.

  12. Olga permalink
    July 30, 2009 1:02 am

    Oh i really loved this book, i actually got done reading it this morning on the recommendation from a coworker who had loved it. I am so glad i read it. You also give a great description and an all over great review to it also. I loved this book and i woud recommend it to anyone!

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