That Summer by Sarah Dessen Review! // ft. a long rant so grab a snack

Hi friends! This is my third or fourth contemporary read of the year. That’s like saying the moon has temporarily turned into a cake pop. Although, I think I’ve fallen out of the contemporary mood and am now back into fantasy so this maaaaay be the last contemporary review for a while. Anyways, let’s just get to my thoughts!

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.

I just want to add a quick disclaimer that, despite whatever rant and rating may come after this paragraph, I didn’t hate this book. It’s the author’s debut, it was published in 1996, and I’m not the biggest contemporary reader. So please keep that in mind while reading the rest of the review!

I liked some of the ideas Dessen was going for in this book. I mean, I love wedding planning, wedding food, wedding cakes, Say Yes To The Dress, and yeah weddings themselves. So I was excited to see some wedding planning! And there was a slight bit of intrigue as to some secrets some of the characters were keeping, it kept me reading*. And that’s all the good stuff I have to say, so prepare for a bit of a rant below!

*probably the only reason i kept reading tbh

*insert heavy sigh.


Let us talk about each of our beloved characters.

Haven: She’s tall, whiny, and oddly childish for fifteen. Don’t get me wrong, I’m childish too but not in the same way. I kid you not, she spent half of the book pining over the “best week of her life” where her sister wasn’t a brat, her parents were together, and her sister’s boyfriend was beyond angelic. I get it: her dad had just remarried, her sister was marrying someone, she would be left alone. But Haven whined constantly. When she wasn’t complaining about being tall* she was upset at her sister for marrying someone whom she claimed “made her less wild”. WHO THE MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP CARES?! If the girl’s in love, let her be in love!

*by the way, are there no other young, tall girls in this town? zero? zip? zilch? i find that hard to believe

And of course, when Sumner (aka Ashley’s ex-boyfriend that magically makes everything and everyone better) Haven totally attaches herself to him. She’s constantly reliving memories with him and I swear to every cotton candy cloud out there, if I had to hear one more time how perfect Sumner was, I was going to lose it. Haven had this need to bring her family together but she never really tried. Often, she acted like a child just for the heck of it. Everything had to be explained point by point for her, like girl, grow up.

Ashley: Also a huge brat? Maybe it runs in the family? She only thinks of herself, her wedding, herself, her wants, herself. Sometimes, I couldn’t entirely blame Haven for wanting Sumner to come back because Ashley was a witch. Not even a Hermione Granger but a straight Baba Yaga witch. She treated people with disrespect constantly. Her poor fiancé (who had no personality whatsoever but really who else in this dang book did) was never really shown any thought or true affection by her.

Sumner: One sentence: Too good to be true. I don’t mean that in a bad way, exactly, just that he felt like the conveniently perfect plot device. The boy who makes everything better just by smiling, the boy who can convince anyone to do anything. He was, again, a plot device. Whom Haven was kinda highkey obsessed with, to a weird level.

Gwen: No point to her being in this story. You thought her character arc would go somewhere but it never did.

Speaking of things you thought would go somewhere, this book would be one of those. There was drama! And then an interaction, a reveal, you’d think would be important but no. It went nowhere. Just endless circles of Haven feeling sorry for herself, Ashley being bratty, Sumner doing something remotely angelic, and the occasional reference to a former model. I was beyond annoyed, also, at how Haven always assumed how everything was Ashley’s fault. She never saw beyond the simple, obvious, shallow answer.

also, there was NO diversity.

Which frustrated me to no end. Sumner was vaguely described as having some sort of caramel skin but I honestly couldn’t tell if it was describing a tan or not. So serious negative brownie points there! It felt like I was trudging through mud the entire time, not hating the plot but also not really seeing a plot. Actually, now that I think about it, there was no point to 99% of the events in this story except for one “twist” at the end that I honestly expected to be more dramatic, and one that Haven could easily have found/figured out if she’d ever bothered to stick her nose out from the past.

And I’m trying so hard not to spoil but the entire last five chapters made zero sense. Relationships were never clarified, Haven was literally too busy crying over herself to pay attention to anything else, which means that we as readers were doomed to NO CLOSURE AND LOOSE ENDS. Two of my least favorite things. So basically, this whole book was a sloppy mess.

So I guess I’ll wrap this up here! This was literally 200 pages of nothingness, but it’s definitely not the worst book I’ve ever read. Tell me: have you read this???

24 thoughts on “That Summer by Sarah Dessen Review! // ft. a long rant so grab a snack

  1. I read this a few years ago and I was so annoyed with the characters by the time it was done. I’m glad it was a shorter read, because I really struggled. To be fair, I also considered how it was her first novel, the timeframe, and my overall lack of reading contemporaries at that time. But still. It was a tough one for me, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your GIFS are SO GOOD! The Office is amazing!
    Unfortunately, I did read this book, and I wish I hadn’t because even when I read you rant I am reminded of bad thing that happened in the book, and I get angry again!
    -Emma 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am a pretty ardent Dessen fan, but I have to admit, this novel always left me feeling a bit wanting. As you pointed out a few times, I think I always expect the story to go somewhere, and then it just… doesn’t. Although my experience is slightly different from yours in that I generally enjoy the novel until the end, when I find it underwhelming. So I’m not sure if your rant is a sign that you wouldn’t like Dessen books in general, or just didn’t like this one.

    Having said that, when you’re in the mood for contemporary again, given that you liked the wedding planning aspect, you could give Dessen’s This Lullaby a try, or Morgan Matson’s Save the Date.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree with you, the story was a bit…lacking. That’s interesting, so the endings usually disappoint you the most?

      I actually really liked Dreamland, and didn’t mind Keeping the Moon, so I’ll definitely give This Lullaby a try! And I’ve heard such amazing things about Matson, and Save The Date looks incredible. Thank you for the recs!💜


      1. The ending of This Summer is always disappointing (I’m a re-reader); most of her novels I thoroughly enjoy. Dessen is actually generally one of my comfort reads, so yes, definitely give This Lullaby a try! Let me know how you like it and Save the Date!

        Liked by 1 person

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