…a wistful narrative of a young woman's last summer before heading off to college…the satisfying ending will give many readers a lump in their throat.
The New York Times
Want a change from fictional neckbiters and backbiters? Welcome Auden West, a studious good girl about to be sun-kissed…Confiding and dry-witted, Auden's voice is like listening to your best bud while splitting a carton of Haagen-Dazs. Author Sarah Dessen beautifully captures that sense of summer as a golden threshold between past regrets and future unknowns, a time that shimmers with the sweet promise of now.
The Washington Post
Studious good girl Auden, named for the poet, makes a snap decision to spend her summer before college at her father's beach house rather than with her mother, a professor whose bad habits include male grad students. Auden's parents divorced three years earlier, a split she's not yet over. Her remarried father has already produced another heir, a colicky baby named Thisbe (after a tragic figure from Shakespeare), with his young wife, Heidi, who owns a boutique. Feeling sympathy for stressed-out Heidi, Auden agrees to do the shop's bookkeeping, providing her with an instant social circle-the teenage clerks plus the boys from the neighboring bike rental, including hunky, wounded Eli. Both night owls, Auden and Eli bond when he coaxes her to experience childhood activities-bowling, food fights, learning to ride a bike-that her insufferable parents never bothered to provide. Auden's thoughtful observations make for enjoyable reading-this is solid if not "top shelf" Dessen: another summer of transformation in which the heroine learns that growing up means "propelling yourself forward, into whatever lies ahead, one turn of the wheel at a time." Ages 12-up. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Dessen has built a well-deserved reputation...[her] many fans...expect nuanced, subtle writing, and they won't be disappointed.
VOYA - Ed Goldberg
Two years after her parents' divorce, Auden still feels that she could have prevented the break up. While Auden summers with her father and his new wife and baby, the hurt becomes more apparentas do her parents' flaws. A year after local teen Eli's best friend, Abe, was killed in an auto accident in which Eli was driving, Eli still feels responsible even though it was not his fault. He has stopped doing things he loves, like championship biking. Auden and Eli literally bump into each other at the beach. Loners and insomniacs both, they begin spending their nights on a quest to salvage Auden's deprived teenage years, time spent studying rather than socializing. Working at her stepmother's store, Auden is drawn into the drama/life of co-workers Maggie, Esther, and Leah, and their friends. But as Auden and Eli become closer, Auden discovers herself emulating her father by distancing herself from Eli and her new friends. Dessen, queen of the intelligently written, thoroughly enjoyable novel about loners coming together, populates this novel with parents into whom one longs to knock some sense, teens who are smarter than their parents, and friends who are fun, loveable, and loyal. The subtheme of bike riding is a perfect ployespecially because she never learned as a childfor Auden to grow. The juxtaposition of Auden's carefree older brother falling in love and settling down while Auden spreads her wings shows how people can change given the right circumstances. The dialogue is true to both adult and teenage language. The summer resort town setting is perfect. As with all Dessen's books, her latest is a must-have. Reviewer: Ed Goldberg
Children's Literature - Melissa Joy Adams
Growing up in a divorced family, Auden never learned how to ride a bike. She became super focused on academics in order to appease her parents and was never really allowed to have a childhood. Because she studies all the time, she has no social life and even plans to spend her summer in-between high school and college reading ahead for her fall classes. But after getting a present from her highly social and carefree brother, Auden makes a sudden change of plans. Instead of spending her summer on academics, she decides to spend it at the beach with her dad, his new wife, and their new baby. Despite intending to spend the summer entirely free of work, Auden ends up helping her stepmother out by working in her kitschy, boardwalk boutique. There she begins to get a glimpse of the world of a normal teenfriendships, fashion, and even boys. Auden's chronic insomnia results in her befriending one boy in particular, Eli, a local bike celebrity. Eli's tragic past has turned him into a recluse and has kept him from bike riding for almost a year. Late at night, the two go on mini-quests to recapture Auden's childhood and in the process they gain much more. Dessen's complex characters and rich plot make this both an engaging and realistic novel. Not only will this novel appeal to readers looking for a quick and easy read, but also to those who insist on quality writing. Reviewer: Melissa Joy Adams
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up
It's the summer before college and Auden goes to her father's house in the small coastal town of Colby for some well-earned R&R. Having no plans other than to preread textbooks for her first-semester classes at Defriese University, the would-be bookworm's solitude is quickly disrupted by Thisbe, her colicky new half sister. Strolling the boardwalk with a fussy baby and late night coffee runs at the Gas/Gro lead to chance encounters with the locals, whose main pastime revolves around Colby's bike park. Auden's curiosity is piqued by Eli, a bike-shop worker whose reserved, solitary nature seems to match her own. Her social sphere widens when Heidi, her sleep-deprived stepmom, asks for some bookkeeping help in her fashion boutique, and Auden is drawn into the circle of girls who work and hang out there, including Maggie, the clerk also bound for Defriese in September, and sidekicks Leah and Esther. Auden joins in on evening rituals of "store-going," eating junk food, and house parties while keeping her budding relationship with Eli to herself. Even Dessen's minor characters are multifaceted and interesting. Readers will be most absorbed by Auden and Eli's romantic friendship, the type soul mates are born of, played out in the bike shop, Colby's all-night Laundromat, and coffee shops. This summer vacation-themed story will be savored.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
Auden missed childhood thanks to her parents' divorce, which she navigated with the gravitas of a 30-year-old. No bike-riding, no giggly sleepovers. Just schoolwork, college ambitions and relentless insomnia. In the summer before college, she spontaneously joins her dad, his 20-something wife and new baby at their oceanfront house, hoping to transform into someone who enjoys normal teenage fun: beach, boardwalk, bonfires and beers. Dessen reworks well-traveled terrain and creates a remarkably original story with realistic teen dialogue, authentic girl friendships and a complex underlying question: Can people really change? Taut, witty first-person narration allows readers to both identify with Auden's insecurities and recognize her unfair, acerbic criticisms of people. It's Eli, a fellow insomniac, with whom she connects, and together they tick off items on her kid to-do list (food fights, bowling, paper-delivery route) while the rest of the town sleeps. The spark between these two sad teens and the joyful examples of girl connectivity deepen this ostensibly lighthearted, summer-fun story, which offers up complex issues-the residual effects of divorce, acceptance of imperfect parents and lip-gloss feminism. (Fiction. 14 & up)
From the Publisher
"Beautifully captures that sense of summer as a golden threshold between past regrets and future unknowns." -The Washington Post