Months ago, I put Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand on my reading list for this summer, knowing it would be released on June 26. Something about the description just caught my eye. When the day rolled around, I eagerly purchased it and patiently finished up another book before starting it. Once I began reading, I found myself stealing moments to take in a few pages.
But let’s back up for a second. Purchasing this book right after it came out is significant for two reasons: First, it’s a brand new book and I rarely jump for hot-off-the-presses books unless I am a huge fan of the author. Typically, I hold off until I have heard and read a lot about a new book and the author’s storytelling ability. This author I am not particularly familiar with. Second, the ebook was $12.99, which is more than I typically spend on ebooks. With the speed that I read and the number of books that I go through in a year, I try to keep costs down more. There are so many books available for free or under $5 for the Kindle, that there’s always something less expensive to choose from. But this new book called to me, and I am glad I listened.
Set in Nantucket, an island off the coast of Massachusetts, Summerland is a novel about love, friendship and the secrets that can tear at these things. It opens on graduation day at Nantucket High, where Penelope Alastair, a junior, sings the National Anthem and the valedictorian gives a rousing speech. But hours later, after the teens of Nantucket descend on the beach for a bonfire, a car crash leaves Penny dead and her twin brother clinging to life. Two other passengers in the car — her boyfriend Jake and friend Demeter — are unscathed. Well, physically, at least.
Over the course of the next three months, the teens and their parents struggle to come to terms with the accident, the loss of Penny and so much more. There are secrets and hurts and truths that tear at seemingly everyone. It’s gut-wrenching.
There’s so much to this book. There are interwoven love stories, the politics of high school, depression, alcoholism … I don’t want to spoil anything (and am not) but this is definitely not a light, airy read. But it’s not incredibly heavy either. The robust story might not be candy sweet, but it’s still a good one. The well-written prose carry the reader through the emotions and realities of the situations in this book. You can’t help but like Zoe and feel for Hobby and Jake too. You pull for Jordan and aren’t quite sure how to sympathize with Demeter.
It definitely has its merits.
Still, there was something about the book that bugged me. Written in the third person, the narrator jumps from person to person to person, often going back to repeat situations from another perspective. As a result, it felt a little choppy. Also, every time the story jumped back in time a little, I found that it took me a few lines before I placed where in the story it was. This created a lack of flow for me that was distracting.
Nonetheless, I was sucked in and read every last word — wanting a little more when it was all over. Is it worth reading? Definitely. Is it beach-worthy? Probably.
Beach Reading Reviews look at both a book’s overall merit and it’s suitability for enjoying on the beach.
Category: Love to Read (Books)