Book Review: The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls

The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls
Published By: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Young Adult - Contemporary

I would have picked this novel up regardless because I adore Jessica Spotswood's work, but when I read that it was a modern day spin on Little Women combined with a bit of Gilmore Girls-esque flair, I was hooked. Since I have loved Little Women since I was a child and Gilmore Girls will always have a special place in my heart, I couldn't wait to see how Spotswood would put her on spin on these beloved stories. While the Garrett Girls certainly stand on their own and only nod in the direction of their predecessors, I could see where the other works influenced the plot and characters.

The Garrett Girls are four sisters who live in the small, quirky Maryland town of Remington Hollow. The town is reminiscent of the famed Gilmore locale, Star's Hollow, as its full of local businesses and a host of intriguing (and occasionally eccentric) townsfolk. Everyone knows everyone and secrets never stay secret for long. Each of the four sisters, named for Shakespearian heroines, has lived in Remington Hollow for their entire life. It's hard to think of any of them leaving or striking out on their own. They have been a foursome who sticks together after the tragic death of their parents. Their grandmother took them in and has raised them while working to keep their mother's bookstore alive and well. 

Des, the oldest, has always been the solid one. She's more interested in books than romance and she tends to be the mother hen. She decided college wasn't in the cards for her, so she stayed at home and runs the bookstore with her grandmother. As much as Des loves being a bookseller, she resents that everything seems to be on her shoulders after her grandmother's recent surgery. Her sisters all get to have lives outside of the home and business, but Des isn't sure that she would exist without those buildings dominating her life. To make matters worse, her best friend, Em, is home from college for the summer which just shows that nothing every lasts forever. It's not long before Des and Em have a falling out which leads Des to befriend a new girl in town with a bad reputation. Des will spend her summer trying to balance her desire to spread her wings while still keeping strong roots. For me, Des is a combination of Meg and Beth from Little Women.

Next in birth order is Bea, who like Jo March, is a gifted writer. She also feels the pressures of what she is supposed to do with her life. Bea has always been the ambitious one with the big dreams far beyond the town boundary, but as the summer begins she starts to question everything. Does she truly want to leave home for Georgetown in the fall? Does she want to continue dating Erik, the guy she has been with since she was thirteen? Bea's predicament is common for teens as the begin to transition from one phase of life to another. Bea's life is further complicated by a handsome college guy, a conniving co-worker, and her own perfectionism. For me, Bea is the modern reincarnation of Jo from Little Women.

Kat is the third born and by far the most dramatic. She is spending her summer performing with the local theater as they put on Little Women and working on improving a cat cafe in town. Kat is one of those girls that steals the spotlight when she steps into a room. She loves having all eyes on her which  can lead her down some shady avenues. For starters, she hatches a plan with a co-worker to fake a relationship to make her ex jealous enough to crawl back and beg her to give him another chance. Kat only wants this chance, so she can be the one to dump him this time around. As Kat spends more time at work and gets to know Mase more and more, she has to decide if revenge is truly worth the price. For me, Kat brought Amy from Little Women to mind, even though she is not the youngest.

Lastly, Vi is the baby of the family, surrounded by strong role models in her sisters and grandmother. Vi has a confidence and poise that isn't common among fifteen year olds, but she doesn't see her own strength. She hides behind books and pines for the pretty girl down the road, but Vi isn't experienced when it comes to dating and she's not sure her crush would ever return her feelings. For me, Vi resembles Beth in some ways, but she also has a fierceness about her that reminds me of Amy.

Each of the sisters has her turn driving the narrative as the chapters rotate between the four of them. I found that originally I expected to like Des the best, but some of her choices made me see her as more immature than I originally pictured. Each of the girls makes some poor choices from time to time, but in the end, they learn from their mistakes and it makes them stronger individuals. I also loved the sense of loyalty between this family. Even when one of the girls made a bad choice or hurt someone else, the other rallied around her. They loved each other fiercely even when they disagreed.

One Last Gripe: While I appreciated the diversity of the characters and relationships, there were moments when it felt like every situation a teen could face in their dating life or friendships was thrown into this novel.

Favorite Thing About This Book: The focus on family

First Sentence: Des has a morning routine.

Favorite Character: She made me angry at times, but Bea

Least Favorite Character: Kat's ex 

One summer will challenge everything the Garrett sisters thought they knew about themselves—and each other. 

 Kat lands the lead in the community theater’s summer play, but the drama spills offstage when her ex and his new girlfriend are cast too. Can she get revenge by staging a new romance of her own? 

 Bea and her boyfriend are heading off to college together in the fall, just like they planned when they started dating. But Bea isn’t sure she wants the same things as when she was thirteen… 

 Vi has a crush on the girl next door. It makes her happy and nervous, but Cece has a boyfriend…so it’s not like her feelings could ever be reciprocated, right? 

 As the oldest, Des shoulders a lot of responsibility for her family and their independent bookstore. Except it’s hard to dream big when she’s so busy taking care of everyone else.