The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares

It disappoints me to have to say that I didn’t care for this book. I know! I’m sorry! I wanted to like it!

The Last Summer (of You and Me) is the story of sisters Alice and Riley and their friend Paul who has a house next to theirs on Fire Island. Riley is a tomboy who embraces life, preferring the outdoors to “girly” things like dresses and lip gloss. Alice, on the other hand, is quiet, a reader. Paul has adopted their family somewhat – his father passed away when he was young, and his mother is busy spending all his father’s money. The three of them are inseparable, best friends. And yet, they are summer friends, the kind who know each other on vacations, year after year, and though Riley and Paul write, they don’t know each other’s lives outside of “summer time” all that well. Now, in their 20s, they have returned to Fire Island for the summer, which finally gives Paul and Alice’s growing attraction some space to grow. Just as you would expect, though, secrets become uncovered (and new ones develop) that threaten to pull Paul and Alice apart.

The problem for me with this book is that we’re told things like: Alice is a reader. But Alice, in the book, doesn’t read all that much that I remember. We are told by Paul and Alice: Riley is so great. But . . . the thing that keeps Alice and Paul apart is of Riley’s doing, deliberately. The book does a lot of telling the reader what the characters are like, but I didn’t always see the actions to back it up.

Additionally, as I consider myself a girly girl, I had a hard time connecting with Riley as a character. She didn’t seem critical, exactly, when Alice wanted to put on her good jeans and her lip gloss and go to the dance at the yacht club, but she certainly felt as if Alice was making the best choice. Dismissive is probably the best word to describe her. I felt defensive for Alice (and defensive of myself) when I was reading about Riley. To be honest, I felt like Riley was pretty selfish and inconsiderate the whole way through. As her story unfolds, it’s remarkable how inconsiderate she is of the feelings of the people around her. And I didn’t find that admirable. She’s one of those people who can’t accept opinions beyond her (narrow) scope, I think, and . . . I felt more sorry for Alice than sympathetic for Riley throughout the whole book.

Alice and Paul’s story was sweet and believable, the guilt they face at leaving Riley behind, the idea that two people who are starting to know each other as adults would have trouble telling each other about the things that matter. If you are a big Brashares fan, you could try this as a beach read. Otherwise, I’d pass.

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