Published by Penguin on October 1996
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.
So, Penguin Teen is doing this super awesome summer of Sarah Dessen! I re-read all her books prior to reading Saint Anything (and then I re-read that one within a month of reading it for the first time!) I won’t be reading along this summer but I think it’s an excellent idea! I’ll be posting reviews of the books I haven’t reviewed during their designated week this summer. I may even post something for each week. I have a couple ideas for the books I’ve already read… we’ll see! Here’s the calendar if you want to read along:
And now onto That Summer!
This is Sarah’s debut novel so it was where I started with my re-read (I re-read them all in the order they were published.) I honestly don’t think I had ever re-read this one, which is just crazy talk. I mean, this is the book that introduces us to Sarah’s writing and her excellent characters. Haven, Sumner, Ashley… heck, even Lorna and Lewis! Every character is distinctive and has a story. I think Sumner may be one of the most interesting Dessen characters overall (and I don’t say that lightly!)
The thing that really sticks out to me with That Summer is a feeling of nostalgia. Before the story starts there’s a little intro that really sets the tone. The whole book is Haven looking back on a the summer that really changed her world and the way she saw the world at large. So many of the memories I like to think back on happened in summer. There’s something about the sights and sounds and smells of summer that make it so memorable. I could really relate to the way Haven, during a difficult time, looked back and remembered a summer when she was happy.
I also really loved the way that Sarah Dessen shows what it’s like to finally begin to see your family members as people, not just your dad or mom or sister. This was particularly true with Haven and Ashley in That Summer. Ashley is Haven’s older sister and Haven has this idea of who she is based on their shared childhood. Now that Haven is getting older she finally starts to be able to relate to her sister more as an individual and get to know her for who she is… not just her older sister. As a younger sister myself I could really relate to this!
That Summer is one of Sarah Dessen’s “quieter” books but so very worth the read! I love the portrayal of family and growing up. Toss this one in your beach bag and read it under the sun!