Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton

Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton

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Reviewed by: Honorary Sis Sarah P.

The Sisters Say: Sweet lakeside romantic tale of first love

Chelsea isn’t looking forward to her summer at the lake. It’s the first time her family has been there since her grandmother died, and she can’t break out of her funk. But her summer takes a turn for the better when she meets a boy who works in the bookstore. Josh is cute, sweet, funny…and best of all, seems to like her as much as she likes him. As the days pass by in a blur of boat rides, picnics, and stolen kisses, she can’t believe how lucky she is. No one has ever made her feel so special, or so beautiful.

But Chelsea knows her days with Josh are numbered. She’ll be heading home at the end of the summer—and he’ll be staying behind. Will this be Chelsea’s summer of love? Or will it be the summer of her broken heart?

At fifteen, Chelsea does not have any experience with boys. And that’s putting it mildly. So the first bit of Fifteenth Summer is essentially a sweet and tender comedy of errors. There are more than a few laugh out loud moments as Chelsea tries to negotiate her feelings, and her inability to spend more than sixty seconds near Josh without either putting her foot in her mouth or running away. Or both.

While first love stories have been done before, the writing here is excellent. There are many carefully observed moments of first love which even the most jaded among us can appreciate. “When you see the boy you love through a crowd, he can look completely familiar and be a complete surprise, all at once,” Chelsea learns.

I’m a sucker for well drawn secondary characters, and the cast of Fifteenth Summer is charming as all get out. There’s a wise cracking father and two bossy older sisters. The bookstore dog, the owners of the coffee shop (who accidentally ordered ten times the useful amount of mayo and are determined to use it up by summer’s end) and the food snob popsicle guy make the town into a credibly quirky place.

Readers may be reminded of Sarah Dessen’s beach town settings. Yet this author has taken things in a more romantic direction than Dessen, and not just with the love story. We are treated to a romantic rendering of the small town bookstore, the blueberry festival and a marvelous invention called a lantern party.

Have you ever noticed how loooong the summers are in summer love books? The heroine can spend three weeks avoiding the hero, and yet somehow there are still days and lazy days left for staring dreamily into each others’ eyes? And then there’s still time for a big misunderstanding, for squandered August days of misery before the resolution? Yet in real life, summer ends the moment it begins. (Which is probably why I’m reviewing a summer read in October.)

But all is forgiven, because real life summers don’t deliver the sweet denouement that summer reads provide. Slipping into a slightly idealized world is the whole point of cracking open a book whose cover is dappled with light reflecting off the idyllic lake. So sit back with an icy lemonade and enjoy all that Fifteenth Summer has waiting for you.