For fifteen-year-old Haven, life is changing too quickly. She’s nearly six feet tall, her father is getting remarried, and her sister, the always perfect Ashley, is planning a wedding of her own. Haven wishes things could just go back to the way they were. Then an old boyfriend of Ashley’s reenters the picture, and through him, Haven sees the past for what it really was, and comes to grips with the future. – Goodreads
That Summer is the story of Haven, a girl who is working on feeling comfortable in her own skin. Literally feeling comfortable, she feels like it stretches overnight and she tries to constantly get comfortable in her own skin. What I’ve grown to love quickly about Dessen books are the fact that they are very every day “normal” girl contemporary novels. I put quotes around normal, because every person has their own extraordinary circumstances that they are forces to deal with even if they are boring and mundane to the person at the time and that is what Dessen focuses on.
For example, in That Summer, Haven is forces to deal with her perfect sister planning on getting married and the fact that her father is getting remarried. These are two things that most people in the world have been forced to deal with, but Dessen’s focus on it makes one feel less alone. I love books that make the reader feel less alone, even if it is uncomfortable to face, it is often comforting, at least to me when I read.
While Haven’s life has not been constant, parents divorce, her sister’s boyfriends, the wedding coming up, her mother wanting to leave a big house what has been constant is her memories of this particular summer. Ashley was with her old boyfriend, Sumner, her parents were still married, and everything was perfect. When Haven runs into that old boyfriend, her memories of that summer come back to her at full steam. While Haven wants everything to go back to how it was, Haven is quickly learning that nothing can stay the same. That isn’t how life works, no matter how hard she tries.
Finally Haven’s life falls apart. She throws a shoe at a customer, her sister continues to be overly self-centered, her father doesn’t really see her. She’s had enough and the way that Dessen built this up was completely believable. Not once did I believe that Haven was blowing anything out of proportion. Of course she’s a teenager and it could be said she went nuts. But That Summer is timeless in the fact that this could happen even though this book is almost 20 years old. You understand why she had enough and why she yelled at her family and why she wants a breather and why she just wanted to be seen. Her mother worried about her and tried to understand, There was also a side story featured with a former model from Haven’s town that never clicked or worked for me. It seemed that Dessen was trying to put as much as she could into That Summer and because it’s a short novel, some should have been left out.
Although this is my second Sarah Dessen book, it is very clear to me that this was her first. The writing seemed stronger in Lock and Key than it did in That Summer and that isn’t a bad thing. I expect author’s writing to get stronger and even change as their career continues on and I am actually glad to know that this is true of Dessen. I cannot wait to finish this readathon. Even if it means I have to tell my BookBFF that she’s right. (UGH. THE WORST! I kid!)