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The Last Summer (of You and Me)

June 11th, 2008 (01:19 pm)

current mood: thoughtful

Last night my book club discussed The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares.  Or, I guess I should that the two of us who actually showed up discussed it. I wish I knew how to get better attendance at book club meetings. People say they're interested in the books we choose. I publicize the meeting for a month beforehand. And then few people actually attend it. Often, even the person who suggested the book in the first place doesn't come. We've tried different nights of the week and different locations. I know people are busy, but geez.... 

Enough whining. As for the book, it's by Ann Brashares, who is better known for her young-adult book, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and its sequels. I liked the new book, her first one written for an adult audience. It's set on Fire Island, and the island setting is wonderfully evoked. The characters are two sisters, Riley and Alice, and their childhood friend Paul, who is Riley's age. As children, Riley and Paul ruled the roost when the families spent their summers on Fire Island. Riley and Paul were good at everything and lived a charmed existence -- or so it seemed to awkward little sister Alice, who was happy just to tag along and bask in their glow. Now the three are in their twenties and return to Fire Island for what will be their last summer together. Things have changed. Riley, who was always the most popular and accomplished child on the island, used to be the youngest lifeguard on the beach. Now she is the oldest one. The skills and personality traits that served her so well in childhood have become obsolete in the adult world, where she just can't seem to find her place. Meanwhile, her sister Alice, who never fit in as a child because she was more serious, more bookish, more self-conscious, and less athletic, is ready to start law school and seems to have a brilliant future ahead of her. When romance blossoms between Alice and Paul, the familiar dynamics among the three friends become confusing. And when Riley faces a life-threatening illness, their lives are forever changed.

I admit that I didn't love this book the way I love The Traveling Pants books. The four main characters in those books are so endearing and so thoroughly drawn through the course of the series that they feel like old friends. But The Last Summer gives Brashares another opportunity to explore friendship, growth, and change, this time with characters who are past adolescence but aren't sure what comes next. The relationship between sisters Riley and Alice is especially interesting, loving but complex. The sisters are close, but they are two very different people. Their interactions and mixed emotions toward each other feel realistic and intense. The book kept me reading, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes character-driven stories about friendship and family relationships. And to anyone who's ever dreamed of living at the beach.

I should mention that I know Ann Brashares personally. She was one of my editors when I was writing Sweet Valley High books. I'm excited for her, for the success she's earned with her writing since then. And she's a writer I'd really like to emulate. I'm going to get back to fiction writing myself this summer. I have a book I started years ago and put aside when my son was born. I'm not writing a nonfiction book right now, and don't plan to accept a contract for one for at least a few months, so I'm hoping to go back to that novel, part of which was my Master's thesis.



Posted by: Allison Stein (astein142)
Posted at: June 11th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)

Consistency may be key. My SF bookclub has met on the 4th monday of the month, 11 months a year, for about 20 years. We always meet in the same place, and when we were forced to move, we stayed on the same side of town. Members join and others drift away, and some come back after years away.

Posted by: petrini1 (petrini1)
Posted at: June 11th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)

We tried it. For years we met on the first Tuesday of the month at 8 p.m. Attendance used to be good, but it gradually dropped. Some people said a little later in the month would be better, so we switched to the second Tuesday. It's made a slight difference, but not enough. I don't know what's up. Sigh....

So, are you in Oklahoma?

Posted by: Allison Stein (astein142)
Posted at: June 11th, 2008 10:37 pm (UTC)

Nope. Back home in KC. Mike's travelling, and I'm keeping the cats company.... which reminds me... I need to buy Greenies on the way home or I'll be persona non grata...

Posted by: petrini1 (petrini1)
Posted at: June 11th, 2008 10:39 pm (UTC)

Yes, I just read your post about the con. But what are Greenies?

Posted by: Allison Stein (astein142)
Posted at: June 12th, 2008 12:40 am (UTC)

Greenies = Crack for Cats.

Kitty Treats. When the Trouble Twins joined the family a couple of years ago, we started giving them 3 treats each when we got home in the evening. Now, they demand treats everytime someone -- anyone -- walks in the front door.

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