That Summer by Sarah Dessen

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That Summer by Sarah Dessen

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Sarah Dessen excels at capturing the intensity of teen emotions and this, her first book, is a great example. Haven grows up as she struggles through a summer of family break-up.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Puffin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0141325828

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Haven's just fifteen and already she is six feet tall. You might think Wow! Supermodel material! but Haven hates her coltish, angular body. Her bones stick out and there's just no way she can fold herself away and out of sight. Her parents have split up - her sports reporter father has left her mother for the weather girl, and his remarriage is imminent. Sister Ashley is also getting married this summer, to the most boring man on Earth. The whole house is full of the preparations - and the tantrums.

Haven just wishes life could go back to the way it was a few summers back, when her parents were still happy and when Ashley's boyfriend was the charming Sumner Lee, who seemed to pull the whole thing together. So when Sumner suddenly arrives back in town, Haven can't help but hope he will be the catalyst for an altogether happier change in the way things are panning out.

I really do like the books Sarah Dessen writes. Her particular skill is in capturing the intensity and introspection of the adolescent experience. What she writes is all about the internal. It seems so private and this lends it an intimacy that has huge appeal for its audience. That Summer is her first book, happily given a new lease of life by Puffin. You can see it's an early effort - the characterisation, Haven aside, lacks a little subtlety and the ending is perhaps slightly unsatisfactory. But all the other ingredients are there. The prose is beautiful and absorbing, and Haven's inner turmoil is engaging, touching and utterly sympathetic.

It's about letting go of childhood so that you can begin to grow up. It's about understanding that love takes many forms. It's about understanding that you can't always get exactly what you want, but you can always be happy if you'll only let yourself. There's nothing saccharine about it, but it's very sweet and it makes you feel good to read it.

Highly recommended for all adolescent girls wherever they are.

My thanks to the nice people at Puffin for sending the book. We also have a review of The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen.

If they enjoy the emotional intensity in Sarah Dessen's books, they might also enjoy the magical realism in Meg Rosoff's stupendous What I Was. They'll also identify with Cait in Lucas by Kevin Brooks. Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine features a girl trying to keep her family together, and is heartstoppingly good.

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Buy That Summer by Sarah Dessen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy That Summer by Sarah Dessen at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy That Summer by Sarah Dessen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy That Summer by Sarah Dessen at


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