That Summer begins with a poem by Dannye Romine Powell, “At Every Wedding Someone Stays Home”, that made me gasp and say “Oh my God”. It is one of the few times that I have instantly connected with a poem and needed to copy it down for the future.
I’ve been working my way backwards through Sarah Dessen’s oeuvre and have arrived at her first book. That Summer is a coming-of-age story about Haven, whose parents are divorced and restarting their lives while her older sister gets married. Haven longs for the past when her sister had a charming boyfriend (Sumner, one of the most crushworthy YA characters I have come across) and her life was simple.
While I enjoyed it, I can say that Dessen’s writing has come a long way (of course). At times, That Summer is repetitious in its references to Haven’s bony physique and descriptions of her dad’s new wife, TV’s Weather Pet. I found myself wanting more interactions with Sumner and less of bridezilla Ashley’s selfish screeching.
Still, I think all YA lovers should have shelves lined with all of SD’s novels, because they are full of gems like “You can’t love anyone that way more than once in a lifetime. It’s too hard and it hurts too much when it ends. The first boy is always the hardest to get over, Haven. It’s just the way the world works.” Sing it, sister.