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Perennials: A Novel Hardcover – June 6, 2017
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“Berman is at her most insightful when exploring the awkward unfurling of female adolescence. . . . Perennials is a sharp meditation on the changing female body, and the ways in which such changes are often involuntary and unwanted. . . . [She] skillfully captures the details and rituals of camp. It’s a place where freedom from the roles young people play at home lets them become who they are. And where, for those who return year after year, a girl can retrace her steps, see all the parts of herself past and present, with the occasional glimpse into the future.”—J. Courtney Sullivan, The New York Times Book Review
“This highly anticipated coming-of-age novel from Mandy Berman delivers the perfect sunny trifecta: summer camp drama, growing pains, and the enduring power of female friendships.”—Redbook
“[Mandy] Berman entices readers with this coming-of-age-tale of two girls. . . . This story of facing life’s difficulties is most memorable because of Berman’s excellently crafted, multifaceted characters.”—Publishers Weekly
“Stormy emotional weather and unforeseen events rock a summer camp in the Berkshires. . . . Berman’s debut recalls the beloved teen and adult novels of Judy Blume, both in topic and prose style: simple, powerful, unafraid to confront serious issues.”—Kirkus Reviews
“[Mandy] Berman’s command of prose is astounding. The more you read, the more difficult it is to believe that this is a debut novel. . . . Clearly borne of real-world camp experience . . . Charged with hope, longing, an unexpected sensuality, and a bruised tenderness, Perennials is a book you should most definitely put near the top of your reading list.”—Pop Dust
“Perennials centers on two girls who met as campers but are reunited as camp counselors once they’re in college. As the summer progresses, they begin to grow apart—keeping secrets from one another, avoiding conversations about things they need to talk about—all culminating in one fateful event that makes them put everything on the table.”—PopSugar
“If coming-of-age tales always get you, you won’t be able to put this one down—it involves a female friendship between two campers who become counselors at Camp Marigold who must confront their past to move forward as adults.”—The Knot
“Mandy Berman has remade the American summer camp narrative, ditching the usual clichés and getting in close with her characters and their various states of emotional and economic precariousness. Perennials is a sharp, crushingly observant, and empathetic debut, full of wit and tragedy, and good for all seasons.”—Sam Lipsyte, author of The Fun Parts and The Ask
“Mandy Berman explores an old trope: the magic of summer camp, a place separate from the rest of your life where you can become a slightly different version of yourself, a place where friendships run impossibly deep and romance and sex are innocent. But what happens when that divide begins to crumble, and real life, in all its moral ambiguity, finds its way to the heart of a halcyon summer? Lucid, psychologically nuanced, and great fun to read, Perennials has taken an old subject and made it new.”—Rufi Thorpe, author of Dear Fang, With Love and The Girls from Corona del Mar
“Snappy and irresistible, Mandy Berman’s debut novel, Perennials, takes readers back to summer camp, where her characters’ first friendships and treasons play out in sharp dialogue and playful, generous prose. Berman fearlessly renders youth and adulthood alike, in sentences you’ll want to savor.”—Kristopher Jansma, author of Why We Came to the City
“Do you remember that youthful summer when ‘everything changed’? Mandy Berman sure does and her wonderful novel is a snapshot of that time and the group of young women who are irrevocably changed by it. Perennials manages to be warm and loving and still wallop you with moments of shock and pain. At the right time she can also be funny as hell. What an exciting debut.”—Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine and The Changeling
“Berman is a daring and fearless explorer of the complicated lives of young women. Her debut, a winning, keenly observed, and clear-eyed novel set in a summer camp, captures the age when fierce attachments forged over years begin to unravel, passionate female friendships give way to sex, and identity seems to shift with the tides. Most poignantly, Berman reminds us of the excitement, trepidation, and grief that comes with the growing awareness that we are starting to become who we will be for the rest of our lives.”—Elissa Schappell, author of Blueprints for Building Better Girls
“In Perennials, Mandy Berman explores the inner worlds of girls attending a summer camp together—a place where the rules don’t always apply. Weathering love affairs, escaping crumbling friendships, and even surviving the loss of one of their own, this cohort of girls grows into women in the span of one short summer—and you’ll be glad for the chance to eavesdrop every step of the way.”—Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, New York Times bestselling author of June and Bittersweet
About the Author
Mandy Berman is a writer from Nyack, New York. Perennials is her debut novel. She holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University. She lives and writes in Brooklyn.
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The story and the characterizations are beautifully drawn, without being overdone. Although until the dramatic and painful conclusion, the vignettes seem quite ordinary, there is an undercurrent of distress that pulls at the heartstrings. I don’t want to go too far in this discussion, because it would be easy to fall into a spoiler role. Let me just say that this novel really spoke to me, and I can enthusiastically recommend it.
Because of the constantly changing narrators, "Perennials" reminded me a bit of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, as the character I found myself reading about in the morning was only loosely related to the one I'd read about the night before. But I enjoyed it, even if at times I felt frustrated by the lack of cohesion. Some of the characters were more developed and appealing than others, but that's a given in a book that relies on so many multiple narrators. Overall, the portrayals of various young women coming of age rang true, however.
Inside this novel, we follow Rachel and Fiona, these two girls fill out each other’s voids. Rachel was the risk taker, the outgoing one, the one who seemed to be out there. Fiona, she’s the one who lies in the shadows, she is the girl who individuals can count on for she seemed to have what others want. Meeting at Camp Marigold, we read about how their relationship grows and changes as each year passes. When they first arrived many years ago, they were campers and now many years later, they have assumed the roles as counselors and are now guiding and instructing other female campers. On the outside, Rachel and Fiona looked responsible to the young campers but I had to wonder myself, if Rachel and Fiona were mature enough for these young campers and could handle this responsibility? It was the freedom of the camp and the individualism of each of these young women that had me questioning their role. Their actions and behaviors were questionable at times. Only time would tell, if this role fit them.
I loved the carefree atmosphere of the camp, the friendships of the individuals attending and the friendships that were promised next year. It brought back memories of my own experiences of summer camp. The anticipation of tomorrow’s activities, the promises of next year, the bond of being with your friends for a whole week without your parents and the stories. I enjoyed being away at Camp Marigold, the time walking through the woods, swimming, the late talks, the relationships that were formed and built upon and all the drama. It was good to be away, to experience camp again and to be reminded again of what camp was all about. There was a frustrating part about halfway through this novel, when I found myself whisked off into other individual’s stories, stories of secondary characters who suddenly got center stage. I didn’t really understand the need for these stories but nevertheless, the novel finally got back on track. I can’t say I was pleased with the ending but thinking about the novel, I can see why it ended that way, but it was not what I expected.
Thank you NetGalley and Random House for providing me a copy of the novel. This is my own opinion of this novel.