Saturday, June 22, 2013

All The Summer Girls by Meg Donohue

3.5 Star

In Philadelphia, good girl Kate is dumped by her fiance the day she learns she is pregnant with his child. In New York City, beautiful stay-at-home mom Vanessa is obsessively searching the Internet for news of an old flame. And in San Francisco, Dani, the aspiring writer who can't seem to put down a book--or a cocktail--long enough to open her laptop, has just been fired...again.

In an effort to regroup, Kate, Vanessa, and Dani retreat to the New Jersey beach town where they once spent their summers. Emboldened by the seductive cadences of the shore, the women being to realize how much their lives, and friendships, have been shaped by the choices they made one fateful night on the beach eight years earlier--and the secrets that only now threaten to surface.

Lydia - 3.5 Star

I enjoyed All the Summer Girls and think it would make a nice summer beach read, particularly as much of it takes place on well, at the beach. All is not so light and fluffy in this novel, though, and it tackles grief, substance abuse, secrets, and torn friendships as three friends navigate the world nearly a decade after the death of their friend and brother.

The secrets each woman held onto intrigued me. I couldn’t wait to see what they were hiding from each other – and from themselves. I wondered whether they could forgive each other, and themselves, for whatever it was that was tormenting them. Would they place blame? Forgive? It was obvious they all had secrets and struggled with guilt and had issues holding them back.

The characters are well developed and I found them easy to relate to with their motivations and angst so clearly portrayed, even I did find them a bit irritating and unlikeable at times. The fact that they didn’t confide in each other after that fateful evening so long ago drove me a little crazy as well as why they couldn’t find any happiness in their lives and why they were all still so stuck. Although it was the point of the novel, I did find it a bit taxing at times to have them all so woe-is-me. But maybe that was because it was such a short snapshot in time (other than all the flashbacks). If more time had passed, maybe different sides of their characters would have shown up and they would have had more growth.

The format of this novel struck me as odd, and then brilliant, and back to odd again. There were so many flashbacks that I occasionally became confused. But then it would meld with the present, and I would understand, or it picked up seamlessly where the flashback occurred to present day thoughts. Sometimes I didn’t think the memories were necessary and craved the real-time story to continue, and then after going to the present day, I realized they mandatory to understand the story. It was an interesting layout and I could never really decide if I loved it, or hated it.

As a personal preference, I wasn’t much of a fan of the present tense used for the third person. It’s fine when we’re hanging out with one person and their perspective, but I found it unusual to read from the three women’s perspective in the present tense. I had difficulty figuring out who was ‘speaking’ with several chapter changes and found myself rereading sentences at times.

In the end, I feel like All the Summer Girls would make a good fluffy beach even with the heavier subject. It’s one that will keep you turning the pages, but won’t tax your brain too much.

Thank you to HarperCollins for our review copy. All opinions are our own. 

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