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That Summer, Sarah Dessen

2010/04/12

“I woke up the next morning to a wedding crisis… I could sense one from miles off, but I didn’t have to go that far thanks to the vent in my bathroom and the fact that all major family confrontations seem to take place in our kitchen below.”

Haven is fifteen years old, and her summer is bookended with her father’s second marriage at the beginning, and her older sister’s wedding at the end. Participating in these weddings is slightly complicated by the fact that Haven is going through a growth spurt, and is nearly six feet tall, making her feel extremely self-conscious even when not dressed in bright pink bridesmaid dresses. Between weddings, Haven works at a children’s shoe store in the mall, and reminisces about a summer spent at Virginia Beach not long ago when her family was happy and still all together. Then Haven runs into an old friend, Sumner Lee, who was her sister’s boyfriend during that happy summer.

A couple of intriguing characters are introduced but never really developed — Gwendolyn, the town’s celebrity, who became a model, and turns up back in town one day looking washed up; and Casey, Haven’s rebellious best friend who experiments with smoking and dreams of running off with a boy she met at 4-H camp. A twist near the end provides an unexpected revelation, but everything ties together neatly — too neatly — in the last few pages. Sarah Dessen’s works are extremely popular and usually well-written, but this first novel is one of her weaker novels.

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