Tuesday, March 13, 2007

That Summer by Sarah Dessen

This has been an emotional day, so I'm going to keep the book review as short and sweet as possible (bearing in mind that brevity is not my strong suit). In fact, I made the mistake of returning this book to the library before writing the review, which effectively prevents me from looking up some pertinent info. Oopsy. I guess that's one of the pitfalls of borrowing rather than owning.

Actually, I don't have much to say about That Summer. I read the book mainly because I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Someone Like You, also by Sarah Dessen (see my review here). I followed up the reading with a viewing of the movie How to Deal, which was based on a combination of characters and plotlines from That Summer and Someone Like You. The movie was surprisingly enjoyable, particularly considering the fact that it lumped two stories together. Halley of Someone Like You takes on the divorced mother and soon-to-be-wed sister of That Summer, as well as a different last name in How to Deal. I had to wonder why on earth anyone would choose to combine two novels in such a way.

Having read That Summer, I understand. That Summer is, in a word, weak. As I read the book, I repeatedly found myself wondering, "What's the point? Where on earth is she headed?" Because, frankly, nothing seemed to be happening. And, in the end, there was a bit of cliched (if there's a way to add an accent to this word, someone inform me) revelation about life but still . . . nothing really happened. The most interesting character was peripheral (Haven's sister's former boyfriend) and the summer referred to in the title was a memory that Haven had to learn to let go of. That's about it. It took me a full hundred pages to figure out that, yes, the author really was referring to a summer of several years past.

As a kindness to the author, I should mention that I seldom enjoy reading a second book by the same author within a short time-span of reading a first. I routinely latch onto similarities and become annoyed by them. For example, Sarah Dessen's male characters have a tendency to drive cars that make distinctive noises and hesitate as they pass the houses of their girlfriends. Had I spaced out the reading of the two books by a few months, I might not have noticed minor quirks that the author regurgitated in two separate novels. But, I desired to puzzle out the how and why of the decision to combine the two books into a movie and there you have it. Some of us are simply plagued with the distressing habit of zooming in on detail.

What I enjoyed about the book was the fact that the author has, in my humble opinion, the ability to crawl into the head of a teenager and treat the issues that are major and life-altering, at that particular time of life, with honesty. My experience was completely different from that of Halley or Haven, but I remember the feelings of confusion and angst, how even minor things seemed magnified, those distressing emotional swings that accompany the strange half-life between childhood and adulthood. I think that's Sarah Dessen's greatest strength.

Unfortunately, the book just didn't work for me and I wouldn't feel right recommending it because it was simply too flat and lifeless.


Many thanks to both Andi and Les for nominating this blog for a Thinking Blogger Award. I'll have to do some pondering (and blog-hopping - oh, torture me) in order to come up with five blogs that haven't already been tagged. Post forthcoming, but please be patient with me.

We're all stressed because Sunshine, our 12-year-old orange tabby furbaby is not well. She's at the pet hospital for tests and hopefully we'll know more about what's going on and whether her current condition is treatable by morning. Sunshine (aka "Miss Shiny") is our puppy cat - extraordinarily companionable and smart. Till recently, she followed me from room to room and settled nearby, took nightly drinks from the bathtub and informed me if the water was too hot or too cold for her liking. She was an imp as a kitten but has mellowed to perfection with age. This past week, Sunshine's minor limp became more pronounced and she has been sluggish to the point of not bothering to eat. I feel much like I felt when I had a sick human baby . . . so helpless. I just love that cat.

Also thinking about . . . snow. It's hard to grasp the fact that elsewhere in the United States a blizzard was occurring while I was in the process of catching and releasing the first wayward red wasp of the season. Incidentally, my catch-and-release method has a two-fold origin:
1. I figure they really just want out or the wasps wouldn't gravitate toward windows and then buzz around the glass in frustration;
2. Wasps don't become quite as angry when you're not trying to bash them to death.

Off to indulge in my favorite healing remedy: a nice soak in a tub full of great-smelling stuff.


  1. I'm sending oodles of good thoughts for Sunshine. Fur-babies have a special place in my heart, and I know how hard it is when one isn't up to par. *hugs for the whole family*

  2. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Shiny. I know how an animal can become such a joy in life. I'm thinking about getting a cat soon myself.

    Hope you enjoyed your bath.

  3. Oh dear! I hope it's nothing serious and that Sunshine is feeling better very soon.

  4. I am so sorry to hear about your cat! I hope it is something that they can fix!

  5. Still thinking of you and keeping Sunshine in my thoughts. Hope all goes well for the kitty!

    To get the accent for cliche, you need to switch over to the html mode of your post. Where you would type the letter e you need to type an ampersand followed by a pound sign followed by the number 233 (no spaces in between). I can't type it out or it winds up looking like this: &#233. It's a small e, accute accent. There's a huge list of these special symbols in my HTML for Dummies book. It's been quite helpful!

  6. I'm so sorry.. I hope your kitty gets to feeling better.
    I still miss my old one sometimes.. but she was old too, and I was able to grow up with her. My parents had it the worst since they had to take the cats (mine and my sister's) to the place to get put down.

  7. Sorry about the disappointing That Summer.

    Hope Sunshine makes a full and rapid recovery!

  8. Anonymous9:35 AM

    Sorry to hear your kitty is sick! Hope she's better soon.

  9. Being an animal lover myself (and the owner of two cats and two dogs), I know how you feel when one of your pets is sick. My thoughts and prayers for Sunshine's quick recovery. *hugs*

  10. Andi,

    Thanks so much for the good thoughts and hugs. We're still waiting for news. Bugger. I was hoping to find something out bright and early. I'm missing my little fur friend like crazy!!


    Thanks, the prayers are especially appreciated. Our pets definitely give us tons of joy. If you get a kitty, take lots of pictures, please!!!

    The bath was terrific, thank you. :)


    Thanks. No word, yet. We're waiting for her to piddle enough to do urine tests. Since she didn't really eat or drink, yesterday, I guess there wasn't much in her. The waiting sucks, but I just want her better!!


    Thanks. I hope she has something treatable, too, of course. Boy, time goes slowly when you're waiting to find out results!


    Thank you for the kitty thoughts and the HTML lesson. I need to get a copy of that book. I might have to send David on a mission, this afternoon - not sure I can go off to Jackson till I've heard news about the cat. :)


    Sounds like you had a childhood kitty that lasted after you left home, like I did. We got our Queenie when I was 6 and she lived just under 19 years, so I'd been married for nearly 5 years and had a toddler by the time she had to be put to sleep due to failing kidneys. It's really strange going home when a pet you grew up with is no longer around, isn't it?


    At least That Summer was a pretty quick read. :) Also, it was the author's first book so I'm not giving up on Sarah Dessen - Someone Like You was a dramatic improvement (I just read them in the wrong order).

    Thanks for the good wishes for Sunshine!


    Thank you! I'm hoping we'll know something soon. The guys are going to a movie, this afternoon, but I might have to stick close to home so I don't miss any important phone calls.

  11. Wendy,

    Thank you! Still waiting, here. Tap, tap, tap. I needed the hugs. :)

  12. Anonymous12:24 PM

    I'm sorry to hear your cat is unwell! I hope the tests don't show anything too serious and she is back to herself in no time. *hugs*

    Oh, and I saw my first red wasp today.

  13. i cant believe it! i have only read the first chunkster of 3... am trying to go through my second.

    No problem about being 'sick of challenges'. M & I actually made this one over the christmas holidays before signing up for all these other crazy ones. but i am loving it. my tbr is decreasing and i love the books i read. and if i can get a book mark on top of all that ! Hell Im in heaven!

  14. Lesley,

    Thanks for the wishes and hugs. Still waiting, here. I hate waiting.

    Oh, those crazy red wasps! The moment the thermometer hits 65 they're out in droves! Would you believe that I'm the only person in the family who isn't terrified of them? The guys all run to get me if they see one (or just run, period). LOL


    There's plenty of time left, but I feel like I'm kind of falling on my face on the Chunkster Challenge. I need a week in a cabin. Yeah. That would do nicely.

    Your challenge sounds terrific, really, but I'd end up buying books instead of hitting the stacks and that's counterproductive if you're a chick who lives in fear of being killed and eaten by the thousands of books in your home. Plus, I'm more scattered than I realized. I set aside some books for the classics challenge and haven't seen them since. What the heck did I do with my classics? I knew exactly where they were till I set them aside! I probably shouldn't admit that. ;)

  15. I'm SO sorry to hear about your kitty! I don't have any cats, but I do have 2 dogs. They are so much a part of our family, I don't know what I will do without them. Ninja is 13. He's older than my kids!

    I hope everything with Sunshine turns out ok! Sending happy and healing thoughts your way!

  16. Anonymous5:59 PM

    I hope your kittie is better soon. s a mommy to two dogs with major health problems, I know just how you feel.

  17. I'm sorry to hear about Sunshine and hope and pray everything is ok. As a mommy to three little kitties, I know how hard it is when they don't feel good.

  18. Hope Miss Shiny feels better tommorrow. :(

  19. Stephanie,

    My kitties are 12 and 13. It gets to the point that you can hardly remember life without them, just like the kids, doesn't it? Love the name Ninja! Thanks for the healing thoughts. :)


    It's really frustrating, isn't it? Our other kitty was on antibiotics for 4 or 5 months, last year, and it was a nerve-wracking time but she's quite perky, now, and has regained some weight - still thin, but no longer so bony as she was when she was fighting a terrible infection. I'm hoping Sunshine's illness will turn out as well. Thanks and hugs to you and your fur kids. :)


    Thanks so much for the prayers. Three is a nice number of kitties. Our two don't actually like each other, so we've vowed to get two or three at once, next time around (and I hope that will be quite a while from now).


    Thanks!! I've got to call first thing in the morning to find out the latest. No news, so far. Urgh.

  20. Please update us when you have news on the cat front. Poor thing.

  21. Kookiejar,

    Sunshine's just made it home. She had a urinary tract infection, so very treatable. I'll post about her, in a little bit. :) Thanks!!!

  22. I just popped over here to see if you'd updated on the comments. So relieved to hear Sunshine is ok!!

  23. Thanks, Les!!

    We're thrilled to have our little Sunshine back in the house. :) Hopefully, the husband's mood will mellow enough to allow me time to post, tonight. He's being a bear.

  24. Husbands being a bear, sixteen year old sons being a bear, emotional days, hey, are you living at my house? A soak in a tub with lots of bubbles sounds great! I join you in spirit.

  25. Bellezza,

    LOL!! Yeah, we're together in spirit, all right! Although, I admit the husband has significantly mellowed since I agreed to watch a movie with him. I'm not good at sitting still so I kept jumping up to tidy and he repeatedly said, "This is a good part! You should sit down for this part." It was kind of fun, a little role-reversal. I'm the one who usually tries to get him to sit still to watch my movies. :)

  26. First off, I'm glad I saw the post that the kitty is okay before I saw the post that the kitty was sick! Congrats on a good vet visit.

    Second, I know what you mean about being plagued by similarities in books. Every author has their own favorite descriptions or plot elements that seem to pop up in several of their books. Sometimes it's amusing and sometimes it's just . . . not. Still working on overcoming all of mine :)

  27. Tristi,

    Thanks. We're just so darn thrilled to have Sunshine back in the house that the poor cat probably wants us to go away. She's getting a lot of lovin'. :)

    As to the similarities in books . . . me, too. I notice some strong similarities, particularly in mode of speech, when I set my writing aside for a while. It's a difficult problem to overcome because we write from our own experience, even when the characters and situations are completely fictional. As a reader, I find it annoying. As a writer, it's a frustration because I don't want to do something that I know is annoying for me to read. I'm glad you can relate. :)


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