Published by Harper Collins, William Morrow on May 21st 2013
"Beach Book Extraordinaire! Donohue's three protagonists are irresistibly sympathetic as they try to unbury their true selves from the ruinous secrets of their shared past." Elin Hilderbrand bestselling author of Beautiful Day
In Philadelphia, good girl Kate is dumped by her fiance the day she learns she is pregnant with his child. In New York City, beautiful stay-at-home mom Vanessa is obsessively searching the Internet for news of an old flame. And in San Francisco, Dani, the aspiring writer who can't seem to put down a book - or a cocktail - long enough to open her laptop, has just been fired...again.
In an effort to regroup, Kate, Vanessa, and Dani retreat to the New Jersey beach town where they once spent their summers. Emboldened by the seductive cadences of the shore, the women being to realize how much their lives, and friendships, have been shaped by the choices they made one fateful night on the beach eight years earlier--and the secrets that only now threaten to surface.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a contemporary adult novel particularly one with characters my own age. It was interesting because one of the reasons I love YA so much is because the characters are constantly in a state of flux and transition, dealing with heightened emotions and change and I identify with that but ironically the reason I do is because the age I’m at – late twenties is exactly the same so denying myself the pleasure of reading about characters who I can truly identify with seems a bit ridiculous and something I’m anxious to rectify – starting with All the Summer Girls.
The novel is told from 3 points of view. Kate, Vanessa and Dani are childhood friends who were close until a fateful night when at 21 they were confronted with a tragedy that rocked them to their cores. Still friends, the secrets they hold deep from that night keep them at a distance and the friendship they crave always slightly out of reach.
At 29, all three girls are in very different places. Kate, still living in Philadelphia where the three grew up, is a successful lawyer, capable, smart with a tenuous grip on her life’s plans and future, she loathes the element of surprise. When her fiancé Peter dumps her three months before their wedding on the day she finds herself pregnant Kate is forced to confront her issues and fears of the uncertain and learn to let go.
Vanessa, the career girl turned stay at home mom, is dealing with her own trust issues. Her picture perfect marriage and family is beginning to crumble after her husband reveals he was unfaithful. Determined to brush the indiscretion under the carpet, Drew wants to move on and try for another baby while Vanessa, unable to reconcile both her husband’s infidelity and her own fading identity finds herself stepping away as she struggles to trust again. Reconnecting with an old flame she brushed aside on that fateful night eight years ago makes her wonder can she also reconnect with her past self too?
Dani, the writer, perpetually unemployed, sinking deeper into recreational drug use wonders where it all went wrong. Haunted by the demons in her past and missing the connection she had with her two closest friends, suggests the three spend the weekend in their childhood haunt, Avalon Beach for 4th July in a effort for all three to rediscover their bond, confront the past and finally share the secrets that have haunted them for so long.
This book was a joy to read from start to finish. I instantly connected with all three characters and was involved and rooting for each of them from the word go. The book screams summer, friendship, love and reminded me of an Emily Giffen/Judy Blume mash up that worked!
The secret tragedy is (not a spoiler) the death of Colin, Kate’s beloved twin brother who could never seem to get his act together. On the night of his passing each of the three girls interacted with him in ways they believe contributed to his death and as the book goes on we see how the secrets are uncovered and the effect on the girls and their friendships.
What I loved most about this book was the portrayal of the girls’ relationships with each other. Friends that close inevitably have a sisterly bond and they snipe, and snark and bite and five mins later are laughing until soda comes out their noses and it was a joy to see that portrayed in this book. It reminded me of my own female friendships. As we get older and life changes occur there is that inevitable panic that things will never be the same but all it takes is those little moments, that sidelong glance, that shoulder nudge and elbow squeeze for the love and trust to come rushing back.
The main crux of the story is the friendships and the pain bubbling under the surface but it wouldn’t be a summer story without a little romance. It doesn’t choke the story thankfully and is merely hinted at as each girl struggles with their personal relationships or lack thereof and I enjoyed how each character is painted with realistic flaws which made them all the more genuine and authentic.
My favourite storyline was Dani’s. We are scarily alike, not just in name but in our position in life, standing on the precipice of change, wondering if the life that was so readily accepted as a given will ever come to fruition. Needless to say this book came along at the right moment and acted as a comforting hug at times.
My only frustrations with the book was the subplot concerning Colin. At times it seemed that their involvement was blown out of proportion but given the nature of the tragedy and circumstances surrounding it I know that their reactions are realistic despite my wanting to shake them and remind them that adults are responsible for themselves.
It’s been a long time since I have so thoroughly enjoyed a contemporary novel. The one thing sorely absent from most of the YA books I read is the presence of mature, real and supportive female friendships so All the Summer Girls was a breath of fresh air.
If you’re looking for a beautifully written, touching, compelling and poignant novel then All the Summer Girls is one to look out for.