Book Review: Summer Days and Summer Nights
Edited by: Stephanie Perkins
Published By: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Page Count: 400
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Anthology
I loved the winter anthology that Stephanie Perkins edited, My True Love Gave To Me, so I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for Summer Days and Summer Nights. Perkins has brought together another stellar group of YA authors to put their own spin on the summer romance. There is truly something for every reader in this mix: paranormal, contemporary, serious, and light hearted. I did find some of the stories more appealing than others, but overall this is a solid anthology that will go perfectly with a tall glass of lemonade and a porch swing.
As with all anthologies I review, I find it easiest to discuss each individual story briefly.
Story #1: "Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" by Leigh Bardugo (Rating: 5)
The town of Little Spindle lies on the banks of a lake that draws summer tourists. Little Spindle isn't a grand town, but it's home to Gracie, a curious and outspoken teen. She is convinced that she has seen the lake monster and plans to find it again. A local woman, Anna, who is believed to have magical abilities points Gracie in the direction of Eli, an awkward and shy summer boy, who may hold the key to finding and documenting the monster. Eli is a huge fan of cryptozoology; he is thrilled to be able to do field research with Gracie. Over the course of several summers, Eli and Gracie form a friendship. I loved that this pair had such a strong bond even though they were an unlikely pair of friends.
This was a great opening story that stuck in my mind throughout the entire anthology. I loved the magical realism feel of this one. This one will appeal to fans of YA fantasy.
Favorite Quotation: From the first, her hours with Eli had been warm sand islands, the refuge that had made the murky swim through the rest of the year bearable. (Kindle Location 424)
Story #2: "The End of Love" by Nina LaCour (Rating: 4)
Flora is not handling her parents' divorce well. She is doing everything to keep herself out of the house and occupied. In fact, she is so desperate to escape her situation that she signs up to take geometry in summer school. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than math, but taking math in the summer would have been absolutely miserable. To make matters worse, Flora's crush, Mimi, is in the class. The two haven't seen one another in awhile, but Mimi's group of friends brings Flora into their circle. Flora finds that dealing with everything on her own may not be the best way to cope. She finds hope, friendship, and support. This one was more serious than the summer romances I tend to favor.
Favorite Quotation: "Best and math, used in the same sentence... You've lost me." (Kindle Location 1073)
Story #3: "Last Stand at the Cinegore" by Libba Bray (Rating: 4)
Libba Bray is one of my all time favorite authors, so I had high expectations for this short story. The story opens as Kevin, the main character, is working his last shift at the Cinegore, a Texas theater specializing in horror films. Kevin wants to be a filmmaker and his inner monologue is always done as if he is in a horror movie. Not only is the theater about to be torn down, but Kevin also feels like this is his last chance to let his co-worker, Dani, know how he feels about her. For their grand finale, the staff at the Cinegore is showing a film that is rumored to be cursed. (I had a few flashbacks to watching The Ring for the first time.)
If you like your romance with a side of demons and gore, this is the summer romance for you. It also comes complete with Bray's signature wit, but you're on your own when it comes to acquiring popcorn.
Favorite Quotation: On the last night of the Cinegore, the sky looked like it needed to call in sick, all yellow-green going dark around the edges like an infected cut, a summer storm heading in hard. (Kindle Location 1123)
Story #4: "Sick Pleasure" by Francesca Lia Block (Rating: 3)
The main character is reflecting back on a summer romance from her youth. None of the characters in this one have names; they are all referred to by letters. I found this made it difficult for me to connect to the characters and keep them straight in my mind. I found this one difficult to review without spoiling, but I did appreciate the rawness of the emotions that flood this narrative. I like to think the author is speaking from personal experience. Sadly, I just couldn't get into this story as much as the others.
Favorite Quotation: Music is so powerful and mysterious because it can bring up emotions you've buried inside you. Dancing is a way to experience those emotions and release them so they don't get stuck in your throat or stomach or chest. (Kindle Location 1904)
Story #5: "In Ninety Minutes, Turn North" by Stephanie Perkins (Rating: 5)
I must start with the advice to avoid this story if you haven't read the story from the winter anthology. This story revisits Marigold and North, but I feel it won't be as powerful without the background from the previous story. I also won't speak on the plot of this one because it's feels impossible to do so without spoilers. I will say I loved the setting of Mount Mitchell, North Carolina. That area of western North Carolina is near and dear to my heart. I also love Marigold and North. These characters are some of my favorites created by Perkins. I can only hope she will one day craft spring and autumn anthologies so I can get more of these two. I'd also be down with them getting novels, of course. North will always be on my book boyfriend list.
Favorite Quotation: The air swelled thick with humidity. Sweat trickled down the hollows of her body. And the rain showers, so frequent in the afternoons, caused more inconveniences than relief. Dark clouds became a weary sight. (Kindle Location 2150)
Story #6: "Souvenirs" by Tim Federle (Rating: 4)
Tim Federle is a new author for me. I had no prior knowledge of his writing style, but found that he delivered a thought provoking and humorous tale about Matthew, who works at a subpar theme park in Pennsylvania. Matthew has been dating his co-worker, Kieth (no, it's not me misspelling Keith, that's seriously how his name is spelled) for the summer, but the story begins on break up day. Since Kieth is heading to college and doesn't do commitments, he determined an arbitrary break up date at the beginning of the summer. It's supposed to be a clean break with no emotion, but Matthew is having trouble seeing things that way. It's odd to read a break up story in a summer romance anthology, but I left this one feeling hopeful that Matthew was going to be just fine. One of my favorite aspects of this story was the relationship Matthew had with his parents.
Favorite Quotation: But the thing about scars is that, as much as they knot you up, they can make you stronger, too. Collect enough scars and you get a whole extra layer of skin, for free. (Kindle Location 3303)
Story #7: "Inertia" by Veronica Roth (Rating: 4)
Veronica Roth brings an element of science fiction to the anthology. I have to admit I'm not a huge scifi fan, but I am not opposed to reading the genre if its intriguing and well executed. I'm one of those rare readers who hasn't read the Divergent series, so I wasn't sure what to expect from Roth's writing. I initially found this story to be depressing and a bit heavy for a summer story, but I am glad I stuck with it. I found that the emphasis on friendship in this one was well worth my time. The setting is futuristic, but still has some elements of familiarity. One striking difference is that when someone is about to die, they are kept alive for their final visitations. People make a list of the loved ones they want to see one final time before they pass away. In this visitation, you are able to relive memories. It takes the notion of your life flashing before your eyes before death to a whole new level. I found it to be poignant and creative.
Favorite Quotation: What I did know was that love was a tiny firefly in the distance, blinking on right when I needed it to. (Kindle Location 3830)
Story #8: "Love is the Last Resort" by Jon Skovron (Rating: 5)
This was another personal favorite. As you might expect, the setting is at a summer resort. There are some elements of Pride and Prejudice as well as A Midsummer Night's Dream at work in this one. I am anxious to see if other readers feel those allusions shine through the plot. Suffice it to say, this one has a lot of misunderstandings and matchmaking at work. I felt it was a fun read with just the right balance between serious and humor.
Favorite Quotation: "Fortunately, I have been vaccinated against love by a mixture of intelligence and good common sense," said Arlo. (Kindle Location 4568)
Story #9: "Good Luck & Farewell" by Brandy Colbert (Rating: 4)
Rashida is a teen living in Chicago who is getting ready to start her senior year of high school. Most teens would be spending time with their friends, making college plans, or looking for summer jobs, but Rashida has more on her mind than most teens. For starters, she still hasn't fully recovered from her mother's death. It's not something one just moves on from easily. It haunts her daily. To make matters worse, her favorite cousin who became like a surrogate mother, is moving to San Francisco. Rashida isn't sure how she is supposed to handle the change, so when the going away party arrives, she feels less than festive. She finds her hostility rising throughout the gathering until she is forced into an awkward situation that allows her to learn that while grief never truly goes away, it can be lessened by the power of connections and strong relationships. This was another one that had some serious and depressing moments. It's a personal preference of mine that summery romances be more like cotton candy (light and fluffy) than a banana split (complicated and too detailed).
Favorite Quotation: I think maybe good-bye isn't all bad. Maybe it means I'm making room for someone new. (Kindle Location 5325)
Story #10: "Brand New Attraction" by Cassandra Clare (Rating: 4)
Full disclosure time - I am not a fan of Clare's Mortal Instruments series. I read the first three and really tried to love them, but it just didn't happen for me. I was slightly worried heading into this one that it would be a story set in that universe, but I promised myself I would keep an open mind. I was pleasantly surprised to see this was set at a dark carnival. Clare explains that a dark carnival is powered by demon magic and is provides some chills with your funnel cake. The main character, Lulu Drake, is still reeling from her recent abandonment. Her father took off without a forwarding address and has made no contact. Lulu is worried about the state of her beloved carnival until her uncle and his stepson show up to save the day. Lulu soon learns that family bonds aren't always the strongest.
Favorite Quotation: Summer was in the air. Summer, my favorite time of year. I loved the hot nights, the smell of popcorn and bug spray, the occasional breeze that would lift my hair and cool my neck. (Kindle Location 5368)
Story #11: "A Thousand Ways This Could Go Wrong" by Jennifer E. Smith (Rating: 5)
This was my final favorite in the anthology. Annie works at a summer camp as a counselor with the early elementary age kids. She loves what she does, but she finds that she is having trouble interacting with Noah, a young camper with autism. She wants to be sure Noah is having fun, but she doesn't know how to reach him. Outside of work, Annie is pining for Griffin, the cute guy from her Spanish class. Annie is thrilled when Griffin agrees to hang out at the arcade together one afternoon after Annie is done with work, but their date is cancelled when Noah's mom doesn't show up for pickup. As Annie frantically tries to contact Noah's mom, Griffin and Noah form a friendship over basketball that awes Annie and teaches her there is often more than meets the eye. I loved the friendship between Griffin and Annie; Jennifer E. Smith always knows how to create characters that suck me in.
Favorite Quotation: ... smiles were something you could hide behind, and words could be used as shields. (Kindle Location 6279)
Story #12: "The Map of Tiny Perfect Things" by Lev Grossman (Rating: 3.5)
Mark wakes up on August 4 to realize that he has already lived through August 4. Nobody else seems to realize that the day is on repeat, but Mark realizes he is having an experience like the one in the movie, Groundhog Day. Everyone around him does the exact same thing every single day until one day at the pool he notices a new face. Margaret is beautiful, but she also draws Mark's attention because she realizes what is happening. She also understands that August 4 is on a constant loop. The pair form a friendship that is necessitated by the fact that they are the only two people with any sort of memory of all the August 4ths. They struggle to figure out the cause for the repetition and begin searching for beauty in everyday occurrences. My biggest complaint was I didn't like the explanation at the end for why things were happening. It didn't truly satisfy my need to understand how the day was repeating.
Favorite Quotation: Only now, when I killed time, it didn't stay dead. It rose from the grave and lived again. I was on zombie time. (Kindle Location 6541)
Overall, I enjoyed this anthology. It has a diverse cast of characters with a variety of romances. There is sure to be at least one or two stories that will appeal to every sort of reader.
One Last Gripe: I wish there has been a few more paranormal tales.
Favorite Thing About This Book: The diverse characters and settings
First Sentence: There were a lot of stories about Annalee Saperstein and why she came to Little Spindle, but Gracie's favorite was the heat wave.
Favorite Character: North
Least Favorite Character: Kieth
Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.
Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.