Aubrey and Rae have been planning their trip around Europe practically from the moment they became BFFs in primary school. And, now, it ought to be the perfect way to spend their last summer together before university.
But things are more complicated at eighteen than they were at ten. There’s Jonah, Aubrey’s seemingly perfect boyfriend, and his best friend Gabe, the boy Aubrey may have accidentally kissed. And there’s Clara, the friend Rae is crushing on, hard, even though there’s no hope because Clara is definitely into guys, not girls.
Five friends. Ten days. Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Florence, Barcelona. And a messy, complicated, can-this-really-be happening love story, or two … because how could there not be?
When this came in the post, I felt a little giddy. Wrapped in a crisp world map with some string, and a fake boarding pass to Prague, was The Summer of Us, a serious yet exciting debut about the changing of friendships as you get older, told during one last summer trip through Europe.
I went into this feeling excited about a contemporary on travel, not that they’re hard to come by, but after just coming back from Prague and desperate to go back out there again, I really felt like this book had come to my doorstep at the right time.
Changing friendships is not often talked about in YA. The strengthening of friendships, yes, the blossoming of new ones, of course. But the weakening and the ultimate separation of friendships isn’t – but it’s something we all experience, especially changing from one school to the next. I moved primary schools so often that I have no long lasting friendships from when I was a kid, and once I’d left for university, I found that I only stayed in contact with one person from high school. Even now, I can feel the threads breaking between university friends since graduating and coming back home.
Aubrey and Rae’s friendship may have worked during high school, but the change in personality, wants and needs, is evident during their trip through Europe, and it’s the real crux of the story rather than getting excited over seeing a small part of the world. Yeah, we love a travel story, I love a travel story, but I’m liking this refreshing take on the subtleties of friendships, and even the downside to some.
If this were a travel story, I would hope it would have focused on it more. The characters barely leave their hotels and Air BnBs when staying in the cities and only two of them explore Rome. When they visit Paris, Amsterdam and Prague, I found that either the author didn’t do too much research on the places or just didn’t want the reader to be too interested in the places when we should be focusing on the characters. We were given cobbled streets and narrow alleys and ‘churches’ rather than names and specific places. Not really a nostalgia or even an inspirational trip for me. It could have been set anywhere.
But like I said, it’s still a nice backdrop for what the characters were going through, and I especially loved Aubrey’s growth into independence and realising what she wants may not be exactly what she wants, but the influence of others. And of course, an F/F pairing thrown into the mix is everything you could want in YA story.
The Summer of Us comes out in June, perfect for summer reading, but maybe not so much if you want ideas for where to travel.
PUBLICATION DATE: 14TH JUNE 2018
RATING: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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