Sunday, August 19, 2007

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

I was tickled when I saw that Ann Brashares had a new book coming out, and it was of special interest as her first adult novel. I love her Sisterhood series for teens. (The first book of which was given to me by our school librarian as a summer reading "assignment," and I was to come back and report to her at the end of the summer before the students came back.) But I was concerned that what I loved about her writing would disappear in an attempt to write for a grown-up audience.

I am delighted to say, therefore, that in The Last Summer (of You & Me), Brashares has not changed her style. It seems a tip of the hat to the sophistication of her teen readers with the Sisterhood books and an acknowledgment for this audience that even when we are grown up, we still have a lot in common with our seventeen-year-old selves. She holds onto her omniscient writing style and wields it well through the lives of childhood trio Alice, Riley and Paul. The story is surprisingly simple on the surface, and only when you've finished it (or are close to finishing it) will you notice just how complex it really is. And I find this book to be as highly-quotable as her other books, which I read with Post-It tabs to mark favorite sentences or paragraphs.

For all my excitement about this book release, though, I waited till it had been on the shelves for a few weeks to buy it, and then I waited another month and a half to read it. The first couple of chapters feel strange because the insightful, observant protagonist Alice seems so much older than the 22-year-old she is. And I wasn't in a place to feel sad. You know from the title that this book cannot end with a typical happy ending for all characters involved, and you'll know from the first few chapters where the sadness will come, if not how.

So I allowed myself two weeks to get through the first few chapters. Then last night and this afternoon, I read the last half of the book. I knew from previous experience that Brashares writes grief well, and you have to trust her to get through this book. She does not make readers cry just because she can (something that really can't be said for a lot of writers).

And I love this book. I am putting it in my mom's stack to TBR books, but I will want it back soon (within the year).

If you--and/or your daughter(s)--love Brashares's Sisterhood books, you have to read this one.

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