Book Title/Author: Five Summers by Una LaMarche
Publisher/Year: Razorbill May 16th 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA
Other Books From Author: None — debut novel!
I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!
This book inspired this Beyond The Pages post about friendship!
Jo, Maddie, Skylar and Emma have been best friends since they met at summer camp when they were 10. They are now 17 and it’s been 3 years since they’ve all spent the summer together after their last summer as campers and they are reuniting for the weekend at their first camp reunion. They still call each other best friends but with their diminishing communication and the feel of growing apart they are all a little nervous about the weekend — especially when there are underlying secrets and unresolved things from that last summer.
I thought this one was an okay to good read — I was so excited for it which makes it all the more sad that I didn’t LOVE it like I thought I would. There were some really great things about it and it did those things well but, overall, I just didn’t get that WOW I LOVE THIS BOOK feeling and I think most of it was a lack of connection to the characters which I’ll explain further later on. However, I really feel like younger teenage girls are going to LOVE this one and rightly so. I know I would have at that age but at 27 I was looking for a deeper connection with the characters because I could RELATE but I couldn’t CONNECT.
Five Summers by Una LaMarche is undeniably one of those reads that exudes that summertime feel and makes for a really excellent beach read. I had been complaining about the lack of camp settings in my post about 10 settings I’d like to see more of and Una LaMarche really made me feel the summer camp vibe and I loved it. I think it really portrayed the fun of summer camp (though I never went to one that long) well.
The premise itself was great and what made this on my most anticipated reads list. Four girls meet at summer camp and became best friends from the start are now back at their camp reunion three years later. They have grown and changed and there are secrets bubbling under the surface that threaten to change things even more for them. The story was interesting enough and had quite some realistic drama, albeit a bit predictable, and handled really well the way that friendships struggle with change and growing up. I thought that portrayal was so well done and hit very close to home when you feel like your friendship just doesn’t “fit” the right way anymore — like a shirt that shrunk just a wee bit from the dryer but you love it so much that you keep trying to wear it.
As much as I enjoyed the general story and there were moments when I was really into the girls’ story, I also found myself really bored and skimming through some parts as well as feeling like it was a little clunky in ways. Five Summers is the story of their reunion but it is also interspersed with many chapters that are memories from the various years of each summer that they were at camp from age 10-14. It really gave a lot of insight into why some of the things are the way they are now and I did enjoy seeing their friendship at its best. The story is also told in alternating perspectives, which I thought WAS essential to understand all the girls, but with that and the memories and the present day it was sometimes clunky and confusing going from present day Emma to 12 year old Jo to present day Maddie to present day Skylar to 13 year old Emma.
I think part of my problem with all of the alternating perspectives was that I never felt a distinct voice for any of them and they all just kind of blended in as one. I think this caused me to not really connect with the girls individually — they felt very much like surfacey characters to me and kind of cliche — the tomboy, the flirt, the bookish overachiever and then one who tried so hard to hide who she really was because she didn’t feel like she could fit in — and I wanted to think of them as more than that but it never really happened. As much as I didn’t feel like I connected with them individually I felt as though collectively as a group I connected because of the author’s great portrayal of the ups and downs of friendships and I was totally rooting for them to sort things out.
A minor thing that really could have just been ME is that when the chapters switch from present day selves at 17 to their youngers selves it was clearly indicated which summer it was and whose perspective but I found myself having a hard time remembering and I think it was because the voice didn’t really ever felt like it changed from their 17 year old self to their pre-teen selves (I though the 10 year old chapter was fine). I kept thinking, “Would a 12 year old talk like this?” “Am I really just so far removed from being that age that I can’t remember what I talked about and how I talked?” Regardless of that, I just felt like the voice just really stayed the same throughout and just seemed off to me personally.
Definitely got a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants feel from this book! Five Summers was an enjoyable read about friendship and growing up and I was smitten with the summer camp setting but unfortunately this just lacked something for me to be super excited about it. It was only an okay read for me because I never really connected with the girls individually as they sort of all blended into one voice-wise. I just never felt much on a deeper level like I should have though I related a lot to the ups and downs of figuring out where you fit when friendships evolve and change. Not really the MUST READ I thought it was going to be but I know it’s the breezy, cute read dealing with normal teenage things that a lot of people will enjoy if they find themselves connecting to the girls. I plan to recommend it to my 16 year old niece.
Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you’ve read it, did you enjoy it? What are some other books you’ve read that are about friendship?