by Aimee Friedman Published by Point
on April 26th 2016 Pages:
ONE SUMMER in the French countryside, among sun-kissed fields of lavender . . .
ANOTHER SUMMER in upstate New York, along familiar roads that lead to surprises . . .
When Summer Everett makes a split-second decision, her summer divides into two parallel worlds. In one, she travels to France, where she’s dreamed of going: a land of chocolate croissants, handsome boys, and art museums. In the other, she remains home, in her ordinary suburb, where she expects her ordinary life to continue — but nothing is as it seems.
In both summers, she will fall in love and discover new sides of herself. What may break her, though, is a terrible family secret, one she can't hide from anywhere. In the end, it may just be the truth she needs the most.
From New York Times bestselling author Aimee Friedman comes an irresistible, inventive novel that takes readers around the world and back again, and asks us what matters more: the journey or the destination.
I’ve never read a parallel-universe theme booked, and I never thought when I did first read one that it would come in the form of a summer contemporary novel. However, when I was lucky enough to find an ARC of Two Summers in my hands, I found myself confronting the new-to-me sub-genre of parallel universes with equal parts skepticism and excitement. I’m extremely glad to say that Two Summers was a wonderful, compelling contemporary novel in its own right, with gorgeous settings, juicy secrets, and fascinating family dynamics. The fact that it utilized a parallel universe structure extremely cohesively and creatively was an added bonus, and one that has me craving more parallel universe reads.
Two Summers finds out protagonist, Summer, about to embark on a trip to France to visit her usually MIA father. Once the scene is set, she comes across the proverbial fork in the road when she receives a phone call right as she is supposed to board her flight. As you can imagine, this phone call is the catalyst for the novel diverging into its two universes: one in which Summer continues on with her plan to travel to France, and one in which she does not and stays in her hometown all summer.
In both universes Summer encounters incredible personal challenges, particularly with regards to her relationships with others. While it’s difficult to speak about specifics without spoilers, it’s clear that Friedman carefully thought out both of her universe story lines to reflect that certain relationships Summer had would inevitably change despite her location. There’s one major plot point in particular that’s pretty explosive, and it was thrilling to see how the devastating reveal and consequences played out across both universes, reading one experience layered over another for an incredible depth of perspective. Though I figured out this mysterious reveal very early on in the book, it did nothing to diminish the powerful emotional impact it had and the empathy I felt for the characters. I think it’s a testament to how compelling the writing was that I was able to feel moved by the reveal twice, just as invested reading about it in one universe as I was in the other.
The focus on relationships in Two Summers is what really elevated this YA contemporary novel for me (aside from the parallel universe structure). Though Summer turns sixteen in the book she feels much more mature, and deals with a lot of social and family changes and secrets that believably change her as a person. I felt that I witnessed a lot of personal growth of the protagonist throughout this standalone in a way that I usually don’t unless I’m reading across the span of a series. Though there were a few shallow plot elements that kept me from fully embracing this novel with 5 stars (the romances seemed unnecessary to be honest, and Ruby’s behavior and general character ARC really irritated me) I feel comfortable recommending this book to a wide age range of readers due to it’s emotional family themes and character growth.
This is the first YA book I’ve read (that I can remember, at least) with a parallel universe structure, and I was really pleasantly surprised about how much I enjoyed it (I was initially worried that it would be gimmicky). There were constant subtle references to time, such as Summer living on “Rip Van Winkle Road.” The alternating parts of the novel that jumped back and forth between the two timelines felt generally well paced and switched over at points that made sense. Friedman did a clever job of weaving in elements from both universes into the story that tie neatly together in the epilogue, which can apply to either timeline (which was sort of crazy how well it could go with both universes…I found myself initially craving a concrete answer as to which was the “real” timeline, but I ultimately felt satisfied by the ending!)
Overall: I tend to be a bit wary of summer based YA contemporaries because there are so many clichés that they can fall into. The idea of a parallel universe structure drew me into this novel, and though it was very well done it was the family dynamics and depth of relationships, secrets, and emotions that kept me compelled. If you’re looking for a contemporary novel that’s fun enough to keep in your beach bag and give you wanderlust but also serious enough to keep your attention once you’re home from vacation, Two Summers by Aimee Friedman is a great choice!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: