Summer Lovin’, It Was Filled With Anxiety (That Summer – A Book Review)

That Summer

Author: Sarah Dessen

Published: 1996

On Goodreads

My Rating:

Rated B for that casual boring summer bummer that was nothing like the summer you thought you’d have.

The more things change…

For Haven, there’s just too much going on. So much is changing. Her dad is getting married. Her sister is moving out. Her mother is contemplating a European vacation. Her best friend has changed into some boy-crazed person she doesn’t recognize. All of this has Haven feeling alone until an old acquaintance returns to town. Sumner, her sister’s old boyfriend, held a special place in Haven’s heart. She always thought he had the ideals she wanted for when she was ready to date, but as secrets come pouring out of the woodwork and old memories of happier summers, summers not like this, come flooding back.

This was not for me. I’ve heard wonderful things about Sarah Dessen’s work, so I wanted to give it a try. Sadly, I couldn’t get into this. It wasn’t attention-grabbing and the plot felt tame. It was as if I was reading a diary of an everyday typical teen with a typical life. There was nothing note-worthy or inspiring. Haven was going through things that were relatable but not out of this world. Quaint and young, definitely, but otherwise I feel lost in how Dessen becomes so capturing. But, I will allow that to be a mystery and settle for Dessen not being my jam.  


What seemed like an overwhelming summer felt rather blasé honestly. Haven worked a job, got hopped up on family drama that was ridiculous and then that same family jumped her case when she finally hit her breaking with them, which I thought was crazy. They pushed all of her buttons, pushed her around, bullied her, and then suddenly she steps it up and gets crapped on some more. Yeah, I’m not feeling that.

One bit that got to and made an angry fire spark inside of me was Haven’s mother deciding she wanted to go on a European vacation. Spoiler-worthy but rant-worthy as well. Haven is barely fifteen and school is coming up during the point when her mother decided a wellness retreat was in order. Like, WHAT!? You’re going to dip out on your child for the better part of what, two months? That blew my mind and not in some fantastic way. I’d understand if Haven was going into her senior year of high school. Hell, it’d be even better if mom took her along with her as a fresh start for the two of them. Mom wasn’t the only one going through a hard time here. But leaving your child alone and assuming they’ll be alright? Even when it’s obvious they need you the most in this moment? I was horrified. I wanted to cry for Haven. Literally everyone in her family wanted to leave her behind. What a crappy family.


Speaking of expectations, Dessen did nail that area very smoothly. Sometimes, we think we know. As in, just general, know. But, in many cases, we know nothing. Have no clue and that can be crushing. She approached this coming-of age lesson with a lot of heart. I can appreciate that.

There was a very strong classic feel. I got thrown back to a time before cell phones were normal and malls were still bustling with life. It was…normal. A normal that was lackluster. And that works for people, just not me.


Not a keeper for me. What many have found to be resilient and beautiful and calm. Nothing tremendously stressful, but relatable and understandable. I, however, enjoy a full-throttle from one angle or another. Too much of a calm and I get restless. Off to the donation pile it goes, but I’m glad I gave Dessen a try.


“It is disconcerting to look down at your father, the one person you can always remember being bigger than the rest of the world.” (p. 29)

“Beautiful and nuts. What a combination.” (Casey, p. 138)

“Some things you don’t have to tell. Some things, between sisters, are understood.” (p. 193)

More to come soon…                                                                                               


Song Today? Ordinary Day by Vanessa Carlton

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