The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland
Published: May 10th, 2012
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
250 pages (ebook)
Genre: Contemporary young adult
Acquired this book: From NetGalley
Elizabeth Margaret—better known as Em—has always known what life would contain: an internship at her father’s firm, a degree from Harvard and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is that it’s not what she wants. When she gets the opportunity to get away from it all and spend a month with the aunt she never knew, she jumps at the chance. While there, Em pursues her secret dream of being a chef, and she also learns that her family has kept some significant secrets from her, too. And then there’s Cade, the laid-back local surfer boy who seems to be everything Em isn't. Naturally, she can’t resist him, and as their romance blossoms, Em feels she is living on her own terms for the first time.
I really wanted to like this book. The majority of the ARC reviews I read were quite negative, so I was hoping to be one of those people who saw it as a hidden gem. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen.
The story launches right in and you’re introduced to Em and her sister, but given very little else. I guess my main issue with the book was Em herself. I don’t know what it was about her - it’s not that I disliked her, I just couldn’t connect with her, and she wasn’t one of those characters that leapt off the page for me.
I felt like we only really got to see the surface of her - feeling trapped, hating that her life is all planned out for her, wishing her parents and grandmother weren’t so strict and stuffy, having this secret dream of being a chef. Those are just facts - I didn’t feel like we got any real depth of character.
I didn’t think there was much opportunity for Em’s character to grow, and I don’t think she really developed or changed that much from the beginning. Other than the ‘big secret’ - which I saw coming from the beginning - she didn’t really discover anything about herself. She already had the passion for cooking, she just had more of an opportunity to pursue it away from her parents.
Something else that bothered me about Em was that she accepted things way too easily. Huge, life-altering secrets were revealed to her and she upset for about two minutes and then everything was all tralala happy and perfect again.
And speaking of ‘saw it coming from the beginning’, the entire thing was predictable. I don’t mind a bit of predictability in books, but after reading for a few minutes, I mapped out the entire thing in my mind and was right on every point.
I didn’t get excited about the romance between Em and Cade, and I’m a romance junkie, so that was another disappointment for me. Em constantly thinks about Cade and talks about thinking of Cade, and it got a bit tedious. She was also frequently distracted because she was thinking of Cade. I realize that’s how it often is with teenagers - I know I was in my own little world a lot of the time dreaming of whatever boy I had a crush on at the time - but it got tiresome, and I just wanted more from Em than an obsession with a boy.
I felt that scenes moved from one to the next too quickly. It was like bam bam bam, she was here, then she was there, doing this, then doing that. Everything was ‘after awhile’ or ‘twenty minutes later’ or ‘awhile later’ and nothing really seemed to happen, but we kept moving through scenes anyway.
If you know me at all, you’ll know I feel terrible saying so many negative things about a book and giving it such a low star rating. It’s not that I hated this book, I just feel really indifferent toward it. I was hoping for light, fun, and cute, but what I got was light, boring, and predictable. Whenever I don’t like a book, I try to always say at least a few good things about it, but I’m really wracking my brain here, and that makes me feel bad. I did enjoy the setting - it’s definitely somewhere I’d love to vacation or live. Em’s aunt and cousin were likeable, although they didn’t have any more depth than Em did. I liked Cade well enough - he probably had the most depth of any of the characters.
Overall, this book just wasn’t for me. I was disappointed, but since it’s been published, I’ve seen a few more positive reviews, so maybe it’s just me and my inability to connect to any of the characters. It’s a short read, so if it sounds like something that would interest you, it can’t hurt to give it a shot, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it more than I did.
In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No money or compensation of any sort exchanged hands. I review books to share my love of reading, and I'm always completely honest in my reviews, good or bad.
*Thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for sending me an ARC of this book for review.*