Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book Review: That Summer by Sarah Dessen

That Summer by Sarah Dessen
Series: Stand-alone
Published: October 1st, 1996
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
198 pages (paperback)
Genre: Contemporary young adult
Acquired this book: Bought
Warning: May contain spoilers
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For fifteen-year-old Haven, life is changing too quickly. She's nearly six feet tall, her father is getting remarried, and her sister—the always perfect Ashley—is planning a wedding of her own. Haven wishes things could just go back to the way they were. Then an old boyfriend of Ashley's reenters the picture, and through him, Haven sees the past for what it really was, and comes to grips with the future.


I’ve been a fan of Sarah Dessen’s books since I was in my mid-teens. I first read That Summer when I was about fifteen, but when I picked it up recently I honestly didn’t remember a single thing about it. Upon rereading it all these years later, I think I realize why. This was Dessen’s first novel and it shows; she’s certainly come a long way in the last decade and a half.

That Summer is kind of a strange book. The entire story was told - and I emphasize ‘told’ - in a very passive voice from Haven’s perspective. It felt almost like an older woman telling a story about her youth rather than a fifteen-year-old girl telling her story. It was a lot of inner dialogue, thoughts, and observations.

While there wasn’t much actual plot and the way the story was told was kind of odd, I appreciated Haven’s growth and self-discovery. She was a bit overlooked in her family, and all these things kept happening to her that were beyond her control. She had to deal with a lot of disappointments in her life, and I really felt for her. She learned that things change, people change, and growing up is difficult and often painful, but you learn so much along the way, and there’s a lot of good mixed in with the bad if you’re open to it.

That Summer is definitely not my favourite Sarah Dessen book, but I’m glad I reread it. If you haven’t read any of her other books, I wouldn’t recommend starting with this one,
but I think any true fan of Dessen’s work should give it a shot.
“Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want them to, Haven. Sometimes the people you choose to believe are wrong.” ~ Ashley, That Summer, page 192

Have you read That Summer? What did you think? What's your favourite Sarah Dessen book?

This post is part of The Spring of Sarah Dessen Reading Challenge. To learn more and/or to sign up, visit this page


  1. Felt the same way about this one. It's definitely not the Dessen novel to start with, and I think I read it after already being a fan! Really thoughtful review :)

  2. Yes! I totally agree with this -- especially how the whole story was told. I felt that we were in Haven's head a LOT and I kind of wanted the dialogue I love so much in Sarah's other books.

    Glad to see I'm not the only one who was disappointed! Thanks for being honest. :)

  3. Too bad you weren't a huge fan of this one, but it's interesting, experiences with an author's first book. Sometimes even though it's GOOD, you read later ones of theirs and can see how much they've grown! I'm glad you were still able to enjoy this one, and that you recommended that Sarah fans give it a try!

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue


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