Age Level: 12+
Reader’s Annotation/Teaser: Haven’s summer is one full of change and it seems that she is being forced to change with everything else. She just wants something to ground her, something allow her to make good memories again.
Plot Summary: Haven has grown to be just shy of six feet tall in the last six months and she doesn’t feel like she can fit into the way things are now. Her father is getting remarried, and she is constantly taking care of her mother’s feelings. Her sister is getting married at the end of the summer, and thus everything is revolving around the wedding plans. Haven’s best friend comes back from 4H camp madly in love, with habits and an attitude that neither Haven nor her parents like. Haven feels alone in the world this summer until she comes across Sumner, one of her sister, Ashley’s old boyfriends. Sumner reminds her of that summer where everything was good; when her parents were still together, when Ashley laughed and was nice to Haven, and when they went away as a family on vacation to the beach. Haven spends this summer selling shoes at the mall and trying to cope with and digest all the changes that are happening and have happened around her. It is a summer of growing up and changing roles, as well as connecting with her family in a way she hasn’t ever before.
Critical Evaluation: I listened to the audio book version of this book and would like to initially evaluate the reader of the novel. I have read many Dessen books, which are all mostly set in the same area and have never been so aware of the fact that they were set in the south as in this reading of the book. Although it was nice to have slightly different voices for the different characters, the readers drawl was slow and made all the characters seem unlikable because of they way she portrayed them talking. As Sarah Dessen’s first novel, this book is mostly about the characters around the protagonist, rather than Haven herself. Towards the end, she does a lot of Coming of Age in a quick burst of teenage angst and then familial love. Unlike most Dessen’s novel, Haven’s character seems unrealistically calm with the events that are surrounding her. Dessen cleverly uses a vent in Haven’s floor to allow her to hear the conversations that are happening in the kitchen. In this way, we get Haven’s point of view, but also a third person point of view as well. Overall, the characters grow and the plot moves at a good rate, but the depth of Haven’s character, and her lack of romance makes this novel very different than most her other novels.
About the Author: Sarah Dessen grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and attended UNC-Chapel Hill, graduating with highest honors in Creative Writing. She is the author of several novels, including The Truth about Forever, Just Listen and Along for the Ride. A motion picture based on her first two books That Summer and Someone Like You, entitled How to Deal, was released in 2003. Her eleventh novel, The Moon and More, was published in June 2013. She lives in North Carolina. (Dessen 2013)
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Coming of Age
Curriculum Ties: None
Book talking Ideas: Read Haven’s description of Ashley’s boyfriends and how they dictate times in their lives.
Ask readers if they have ever had a friend who has marked periods of their life.
Ask readers to describe their perfect summer.
Challenging Issues: None
Why I chose it: I have loved every Sarah Dessen book I have read and I had a long drive to go on, so I jumped at the chance to listen to one of her books on the road. While this is not my favorite book of hers, I do like the movie adaptation, and think that Dessen is vital to a collection.
Dessen, S. (2013). Bio/Press kit. Sarah Dessen. Retrieved from http://sarahdessen.com/press-kit/.