When I was invited to be part of the North of the Border YA Summer Reads Blog Tour, I was asked to think about some questions that I might ask these authors relating to summer. Since some of my favourite memories are tied to reading at cottage, at the beach and even in the grass of my own back yard, I decided to talk to these three amazing authors about what makes a great summer read. Thanks to Raincoast Books for the chance to chat with Janet Gurtler, Juliana Stone and Jennifer Salvato Doktorski!
What makes a book your perfect summer read? Can you give an example of what is/was the best summer book that you’ve ever read?”
The romance in The Truth About Us makes it a great summer read. This is the most romantic YA I’ve written. I hope there’s a little of everything for a beach read. Laughter, tears and sighs. The best summer book I ever read….probably out at our cabin in BC was The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Powell.
To me a perfect book (no matter the season) is one that makes me laugh, cry, and stays with me for days after I’ve read it. There are so many books that meet this criteria, but a young adult novel that I loved, that had all of this was Simone Elkeles’ Leaving Paradise. Lovely, emotional read told from duo perspectives.
Jennifer Salvato Doktorski:
I love to read—and write—books set in the summertime. My favorite summer reads change throughout the years, but mostly, when the weather turns warmer, I want something that’s light, fun, and romantic, with a setting that transports me to a place I’d like to visit. It’s hard to pick the best summer book I’ve ever read. It changes. When I was a kid, I remember sitting by the pool reading The Long Secret (Harriet the Spy) by Louise Fitzhugh. I loved that is was set in a beach town and Harriet had to solve a mystery. I’m also a big fan of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, and more recently I’m all about The Summer I Became a Nerd, by Leah Rae Miller, and Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy. I relate to Han’s main character, Belly, a girl who lives for summer, just like me.
The truth is that Jess knows she screwed up.
She’s made mistakes, betrayed her best friend, and now she’s paying for it. Her dad is making her spend the whole summer volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
The truth is she wishes she was the care-free party-girl everyone thinks she is.
She pretends it’s all fine. That her “perfect” family is fine. But it’s not. And no one notices the lie…until she meets Flynn. He’s the only one who really sees her. The only one who listens.
The truth is that Jess is falling apart – and no one seems to care.
But Flynn is the definition of “the wrong side of the tracks.” When Jess’s parents look at him they only see the differences-not how much they need each other. They don’t get that the person who shouldn’t fit in your world… might just be the one to make you feel like you belong.
Janet Gurtler has a talent for writing characters that you feel like you know, and her latest book is no exception. Jess is a great character – she intelligent, she’s hurting and she’s trying to find her place again in a world. When she’s brought to work at a local community food centre, she begins to figure out who she wants to be – and who she wants in her life. You may want to grab her by the ear to talk some sense into her at the beginning, but you soon realize that her wild-child actions are just a facade, and that the real Jess is extremely hurt. Working with people in need at the community centre begins to give her a neutral space where she is able to relax and come into her own. I loved that she found her space in the greenhouse – such a different kind of connection – and that it mirrored the care that she needed to give to herself before she could grow.
Flynn was also well-developed, and I really liked that he was flawed as much as Jess. No spoilers here, but I can understand his behaviour, especially when faced with some of the socio-economic disparities between his life and Jess’ background. His relationship with his little brother was adorable, and I enjoyed learning more about him through his interactions with his mother and with the people at the centre. I also liked that Gurtler gave Flynn some great role models in his mom and Wilf, and that he wasn’t left to be the “angry young man” character that he might otherwise have been.
Together, Flynn and Jess give each other what they are both lacking. For Jess, it’s an honest look at her life, and the good that remains. Flynn helps her to reconnect with her family, and to help her to realize who she really wants in her life. For Flynn, Jess gives him a different perspective on his situation, and something to look forward to each day to keep him motivated. It felt real to me that they had the power to support each other – and hurt each other – as much as they did. An intensely real main couple, mixed in with some authentic supporting characters and a few hidden secrets, delivers a fantastic contemporary read for your next trip to the cottage.
A copy was provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review. Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books, The Truth About Us is available as of April 7th. ISBN: 9781402278006, 304 pages.
Sunbathing, surfing, eating funnel cake on the boardwalk—Lucy loves living on the Jersey Shore. For her, it’s not just the perfect summer escape, it is home. And as a local girl, she knows not to get attached to the tourists. They breeze in over Memorial Day weekend, crowding the shore and stealing moonlit kisses, only to pack up their beach umbrellas and empty promises on Labor Day. Lucy wants more from love than a fleeting romance, even if that means keeping her distance from her summertime neighbor and crush, Connor.
Then Superstorm Sandy tears apart her barrier island, briefly bringing together a local girl like herself and a vacationer like Connor. Except nothing is the same in the wake of the storm. And day after day, week after week, Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and broken home. Now with Memorial Day approaching and Connor returning, will it be a summer of fresh starts or second chances?
First of all, I have to say that I loved the setting of this story. To me, the Jersey Shore came alive as another character in this book, and I was motivated enough after I finished it to go online to read more about the cleanup efforts after Superstorm Sandy.
That’s not to say that the characters are not intriguing – I really enjoyed reading about Lucy, Connor, Andrew, Liam and the rest. Lucy was so interesting – smart, involved, caring and connected. I really felt for her at times, because I felt that her friends gave her a hard time for her decisions. I also loved how Lucy was so connected to her community, and I think that this particular characteristic made her extremely relatable.
It was also great to see an honest sibling relationship, especially in one between twins. People grow at different rates, and want different things, and it was so interesting to see how Lucy and Liam struggled with their relationship. The other guys were authentic in their actions as well – so much so that I pretty much wanted to smack Andrew across the back of the head at one point. (Sorry, Andrew, but you would have deserved it).
One point I have to mention is how much I enjoyed reading about Lucy and Liam’s relationship with their parents. This is another book that portrays the adults in an honest and realistic fashion – as individuals who love their families but who also have concerns of their own. I thought it was brilliant that Lucy’s parents demonstrated the frustration and difficulties faced by real-life Shore inhabitants as they struggle to rebuild their life after the storm.
Overall, this book may be set on the boardwalks and beaches and bring to mind ice cream comes and stormy memories, but it’s also a great read about growing up and coming back from disappointment.
A copy of this book was provided by Sourcebooks, distributed by Raincoast Books in Canada, in exchange for an honest review. Available May 1st – ISBN: 9781492619031, 320 pages.
What is Normal?
For Trevor normal was fast guitar licks, catching game-winning passes and partying all night. Until a car accident leaves Trevor with no band, no teammates and no chance of graduating. It’s kinda hard to ace your finals when you’ve been in a coma. The last thing he needs is stuck-up Everly Jenkins as his new tutor—those beautiful blue eyes catching every last flaw.
For Everly normal was a perfect family around the dinner table, playing piano at Sunday service and sunning by the pool. Until she discovers her whole life is a lie. Now the perfect pastor’s daughter is hiding a life-changing secret, one that is slowly tearing her family apart. And spending the summer with notorious flirt Trevor Lewis means her darkest secret could be exposed.
I’ll confess to a soft spot for dual person narrative; I love being able to read both sides of the story, and this book gave such amazing insight into Trevor and Everly by allowing us to see their POV. All is definitely not all as it seems with either of them; Trevor may look fine, but struggles to adapt to life with a brain injury, while Everly’s perfect family is far from being so. Together, they find a safe place and an honest sounding board, and they slowly begin to open up to each other. They recognize what is broken within, and they fight to be the person to help them to begin to heal.
Once again, we have two families that appear to be very different, but underneath they are not what they appear. Trevor’s family is dealing with the aftermath of his accident, trying to be supportive of his recovery while not really understanding how much he’s been affected by his injury. These are parents who are genuine and realistic in that they were terrified at the possibility of losing their son, and just want to give him every chance for a better life now that he’s out of hospital. Everly’s family appears to be picture-perfect, but there are hidden secrets and unspoken truths that prevent them from moving forward. Everly’s anger at her dad’s deception was raw and real, and you could visualize their conversations as she tried to get him to be honest and to open up.
I loved that this book didn’t have an instant happy ending. I loved that there were long-term consequences for each action – that Trevor wouldn’t be magically better, that Everly’s family was affected by her dad’s secret. I loved that my heart ached for Everly and Trevor as they struggled to find a way to be together, even as they were growing up and away from their former lives. While each of these three books kind of broke my heart, I think that this one hurt the most, but in the best possible way. This is one of those books that you read with a box of tissues nearby, because you’re probably going to need them.
A copy of this book was provided by Sourcebooks Fire, distributed by Raincoast Books in Canada, in exchange for an honest review. This book will be published on May 5th. ISBN: 9781402291500, 320 pages.