Friday, November 30, 2012

Book review: Loving Summer by Kailin Gow

Loving Summer (Loving Summer #1) by Kailin Gow
YA contemporary romance*Paperback, 250 pages 
Published May 28th 2012 by

Summer has always looked forward to spending her summers at her Aunt's beach house with the Donovans. To her, summers at Aunt Sookie's beach house was magical, especially getting to spend time with the Donovans - her best friend Rachel and Rachel's brothers Nathaniel, and Drew. Here at Aunt Sookie's beach house, they can be anyone and anything they dreamed. For Summer, she had always wished to become as pretty as Rachel and for her brothers to think of her as more than Rachel's friend. For Nat and Drew, summers at Aunt Sookie's beach house meant fun and escape, a place where they go to with their mom and sister for the summer, away from city life. They never thought this summer would be different. They never thought things would change as much as they did...and it all began with them falling for and loving Summer.

My thoughts: As I began reading Loving Summer I couldn't help thinking of another contemporary YA series, Jenny Han's Summer series. The premise of a teen loving two brothers sounded familiar and as I read Kailin Gow's first book in her series, the similarities did disappear. Summer, 16, hasn't seen the Donovans in three years. The oldest, Nat, 17, is leaving his girlfriend, Chrissy, back home, and fraternal twins Rachel and Drew, are 16. They all grew up together until the Donovans moved to San Francisco three years earlier.  This summer is full of change, indecision, illness, and the roller coaster emotional ride of new romances and old crushes. When Summer's Aunt Sookie becomes sick, the friends band together despite the other problems they are dealing with, to show this important woman how much she is treasured. 

Loving Summer could definitely be a CW nighttime drama. Two hot brothers, one Goth girl, one beautiful girl who doesn't know how attractive she really is, adults who come and go as they please and a Malibu home with oceanfront property. Did I mention the kissing? The romances? The almost hook-ups? The close-to-this fights? There's plenty of likable characters, another hot actor who falls for Summer, an acting school, and many scenes of running on the beach. 

Told from the first person perspectives of Summer and Drew, Loving Summer focuses on feelings, unrequited love, attractions and simmering crushes. Summer has had a thing for Nat but he is either clueless or doesn't feel the same. Drew has always pined for Summer but figured she only had eyes for his brother. And Summer finds herself this summer involved with three different guys: Nat, Drew and popular movie actor Astor. I think this was my first time reading about a foursome in YA. All profess feelings for her, they each have their scenes of passionately kissing Summer, but nothing really gets resolved. Why did they all fall for Summer? I liked the characters but wished they were more developed and multi-dimensional. Summer is flighty--one moment she's drawn to Drew, the next she wants to hug Nat, then she forgets the brothers and goes on a date with Astor. Where's my scorecard?And as for the guys, I never knew male teens at 16 and 17 could express their feelings and emotions so freely. 

The adults weren't around much and when they were (or were mentioned), it seemed the serious issues of depression, divorce, infidelity and diabetes came along with them. The times Aunt Sookie made an appearance, she grounded the scene. Summer's mother was MIA most of the time. I was shocked to see the freedom Summer had at sixteen to fly off by herself to visit Astor on his movie set.

This contemporary YA is fast paced and can be read in a couple of hours. I understand this is a series but some of the storyline felt dragged out and too dramatic at times. I did not connect with any of the characters and was surprised Summer didn't give herself a headache with her boyfriend dilemma. Some scenes felt like the narrator was telling us too much instead of showing us. Rachel and Ryan seemed like a cute couple and I would have liked to see more of a progression of their relationship (instead of sleeping together so quickly).

The author has an easy going style of writing which flows from scene to scene. In the epilogue--did we need an epilogue when so much was left unresolved?--I was surprised to read Summer's mom had mailed her a letter from Sookie. Why did she mail such an important letter instead of just waiting to see her daughter in person? What would have happened if the letter was lost?

One aspect of YA I'm growing tired of reading about is the beautiful girl falling for/having another beautiful guy fall for her. It seems the majority of these relationships are based on physical attraction since readers aren't really given any other reason for the insta-love (or do they fall so easily for someone who does something 'nice' like give flowers or takes the other on a 'nice' date). Can't characters be a bit more grounded/realistic/have sustenance and still be lovable?

Loving Summer is a fast-paced contemporary with likable characters, a lovely setting, and I hope to see more character development as the series progresses.

Rating: 3

Book source: I received an e-book copy from the author in return for my honest review during a book tour (but I was not able to run my review during said book tour since my rating did not fall into the requested rating range).

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