That Summer
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2001
In Sarah Dessen's first novel, Haven, a tall, 15 year old girl tries to deal with her life changing summer, while reminiscing about a special one that stood out in her memory. The summer where everything was right and perfect and happy. The summer that her older sister Ashley was dating Sumner, and her parents were happy and together. Back in reality though, this summer was crazy and strange- nothing was the same anymore. Her dad runs off with "The Weather Pet" and her sister is getting married to a boring guy named Lewis. Her best friend returns from camp a totally different girl, who smokes and has a long-distance boyfriend. Even Haven herself has changed. She is almost six feet tall, uncomfortable with herself and her looks. The boy who made everything right, Sumner Lee, makes a re-appearance after all those year during this summer, and Haven thinks he is the key to making everything go away and be normal again. By the end of this crazy summer, Haven finds herself and understands so many more things than she did before. Sarah Dessen is an outstanding author, who writes with a laid-back, detailed style that anyone can somehow relate to. her characters are well developed, and unforgetable. This is a book that you don't want to put down, but after you've finished it, you wish you had savored every page, not wanting it to end. It is sweet, truthful, sad, and funny all at the same time.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2006
I am usually a big fan of Sarah Dessen's books, such as This Lullaby and Someone Like You. I recently finished reading Dessen's latest book, Just Listen, and enjoyed it thoroughly as well. However, That Summer is little more than a look at a girl's day to day life, which is frankly not that interesting. Nothing happens; there is no climax, no rising action, no falling action. I have a mission for those of you reading this and interested in reading That Summer: I will write, on this review, what That Summer is about. DON'T read it before reading That Summer, but after you've read the book, come back and read what I wrote and see if I did not sum up the ENTIRE book in a few sentences. Here goes:

Haven (the main character) looks back on a summer from a few years ago when everything was perfect: her parents were married and her sister Ashley, who is usually mean, is nice now because she's dating a boy named Sumner. After Sumner and Ashley broke up, however, Haven's life starts to suck. She finds out Sumner cheated on Ashley, and that's why they broke up. THE END.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
What teenager hasn't felt ill-at-ease in his or her own skin? Haven is one of many, but in addition to a spurt of growth that brings her to almost 6 feet at the age of 15, she's facing her father's wedding to a mini celebrity from the local TV station and her sister's upcoming nuptials to a really dull fellow.
Mia Barron's reading of this story of teenage angst and recovery is pitch perfect from the family arguments to the mayhem at a mall where Haven works to shared confidences with her sister, Ashley.
When Haven's life is turned upside down by all the changes to her physical appearance and within her family she remembers what she believes to have been a perfect summer - the vacation when her parents were together and Ashley dated Sumner Lee, a really likeable, charismatic boy.
Memories aren't all Haven has because Sumner turns up once more. Listeners will find out what this means, and may very well be surprised.
- Gail Cooke
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 2, 2007
Haven feels a little bit like her life is escaping from her grasp. She remembers being small and safe, having her parents together and loving each other, having her sister sometimes be nice to her. Now, though, Haven is quickly approaching six feet tall and she feels gigantic. Her parents are divorced and her father, a television sportscaster, has just remarried, to his television station's weather forecaster. Haven's mother has become the type of woman who goes out to a bar once a week with a new female friend. And the worst thing of all is that Haven's sister is getting married and is unbearably obnoxious and selfish.

When Haven thinks back to when things felt better, her mind gets stuck on one summer, when her sister was in high school and dating a boy named Sumner. Sumner was the type of guy who could bring people together and make everything seem fun. He was nice to Haven and made her sister be nice to her, too. When Sumner came into their house, everyone gathered to greet him. They were all happy.

So when Haven meets up with Sumner again, back in town to work odd jobs before going back to college, all of her memories are stirred up. Could he be the key to her life getting back to normal again? If she tells her sister he is back in town, will she get back in touch with him?

I liked the character of Sumner and the way he always seemed to pop up when Haven needed him. I also liked seeing the dynamics of Haven's family. It was interesting to see the ways she viewed her mother and her father now that they weren't together anymore, and the way she viewed her sister and her wedding plans.

The ending of this book was sort of a letdown, though. Sumner ended up being just a bit boring at the end. Also, Haven's sister was simply over the top. I don't think anyone would have allowed her to behave like she did for so long.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2006
Haven is a 15 year old girl who basically sums herself up in one sentence: "I had dreams of not being ables to fit through doors, of becoming gigantic, towering over people and buildings like a monster." Physically awkward and tripping, inside Haven is fumbling to catch the last remnants of a summer a few years before, when her sister, Ashley, was dating a boy called Sumner Lee and Haven went with them and her parents to the beach. Haven finds that summer perfect, the last before her entire life was shattered. Ashley is now in her twenties and getting married to Lewis Warsher, a rather tame boy who seems to have no interesting qualities and is too bland a person to deserve Haven's sister; Haven's parents were divorced when her father came and told Haven's mother that he was having an affair with Lorna Queen, his co-worker who Haven vindictively calls the "Weather Pet", whom he is marrying at the beginning of the book; and Haven's mother is a fragmented figure of fragility, a wisp, not wholely there even as she pushes herself forward. In her 15th summer between her distancing father's wedding and her sister's, Haven feels alone and lost, watching her old best friend tear become a stranger, "letting boys go up her shirt" and "what my mother would politely call fast", as well as seeing her pine over a boy she met at camp, and Haven seeing the ghost rumors of Gwendolyn Rogers, a model haunted by the infidelity of her photographer fiancee. Then Haven meets Sumner Lee, once again, and the Haven's entire world alternately begins spinning very fast, very slow, and nearly stopping throughout the end of her summer.

In lyrical and unforgettably graceful prose, Sarah Dessen's first novel is at first glance a dull and unsatisfying story, but the closer you peer at it, you begin to see the connections and truths and metaphors hidden within every sentence. The characters are deep and dimensional, and though the plot is rather cliche at first, Sarah Dessen takes us to new heights. A story built solidly, spectacularly, and beautifully.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2002
Essentially this book is focused on two weddings: the remarriage of Haven's father to a woman young enough to be Haven's sister, and Ashley's, Haven's older sister, marriage to a boy Haven doesn't like all that much. Haven instead keeps remembering Sumner, a boy Ashley had gone out with a few years ago before she broke up with him. For Haven, Sumner represented a time when her family was still happy and together and when Ashley treated Haven like a sister, rather than a stranger. When Sumner shows up again the summer of the two weddings, Haven hopes he can make it like it was the other summer. By the end of the book, however, she realizes that not everything is exactly how you remember it.
I did like this book. While not as good as Dreamland, it's still an excellent story. However, there do seem to be too many things it is trying to focus on. The weddings and the summer at Virginia Beach with Sumner are the main plot points, but there's also the best friend who's changed over the summer, the job Haven has that she hates, and Gwendolyn Rogers, the model who has a breakdown. Really, the job doesn't do anything for the story and I still haven't totally figured out why they spent quite a lot of pages on the Lakeview models and Gwendolyn. Haven and Gwendolyn both share being tall and having men betray them, but there's no other reason for her to be in the book as much as she is.
One thing I have discovered about Sarah Dessen as a writer, is her tendency to put men in unfavorable light. In this book alone, five women are betrayed by men they loved or thought they had loved. She does that in her other books too, though not to the extent she does in this one. I do find that odd because, at first glance, you might think that has nothing to do with the story.
Still, despite the flaws, this is a fabulously written novel with an unusual concept and storyline. Not her best, but also not one to be forgotten.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2000
That Summer is a witty and heartwarming view of the turning point in the life of a young girl. Dessens characters are colorful and believable, and her main character shows an amazingly down-to-earth and realistic personality. A book that makes you feel good about yourself when you're reading it, and leaves you with pleasant memories afterwards.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2003
though i am a fan of dessen, this book really disappointed me. i read this right after 'someone like you' and it doesn't even compare. in this book, haven's character is poorly developed. you never really get to know anything about her besides that she gets angry at the world. dessen's usual strong maincharacters did not appear in this book as we learn that haven acts as a doormat for most of her life, going along with things she doesn't believe in without a peep. when i read other people's 5 star reviews of the book i am definetly surprised and wonder whether they were fully conscience while reading.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2001
Have you ever been at the age of about 15 and just felt happy, sad, scared, nervous, and excited all at the same time? This is how Haven, a 6 foot tall 15 year old girl feels in the book, That Summer, by Sarah Dessen.
Her father just got remarried to the wheather girl he had an affair with, her "perfect" sister is getting married to this dull and boring guy, and her mother is thinking of selling their house. Her house is crazy and Haven cannot comprehend why all these things are going the way they're going: all wrong. She can't help but wonder why her sister isn't marrying Sumner, the perky, always fun to be with guy that she dated 2 summers ago.
Then one night, she's at dinner with her dad when she sees Sumner. Thery talk for about a 1/2 hour and over the course of the summer run into each other more and more. Now that they're so close, she can't help but think, does she love him? Can she replace her sister's fiance with him? Is her stepmom really
pregnant now? And why is no one paying any attention to her?
In this book, you really relate to what she's going through and feel like you're going along for the ride with her. There's so much going on, you can never get bored. It's a good easy read for all ages, but is best for teenagers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2005
This book was most definately her worst. It's boring and I'm not really sure what the point was besides that being tall sucks. I was bored at many times and was disapointed by the lack of a love story that Dessen is known so well for. The character Sumner reminded me of Dexter from another Dessen book This Lullaby. He was the only good thing about this book, but he was too old to become a love intrest of Haven the main character. All of Dessen's other books however are excellent so don't judge her work on this specific book, because it was the black sheep.
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