Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Review: THE SUMMER I FOUND YOU by Jolene Perry

Title: THE SUMMER I FOUND YOU by Jolene Perry
Pub Date: March 1, 2014
ARC received via NetGalley from Albert Whitman Teen in exchange for an honest review.
Dannie says: Good but not as great as I'd hoped.

All they have in common is that they're less than perfect. And all they're looking for is the perfect distraction.
Kate's dream boyfriend has just broken up with her and she's still reeling from her diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Aidan planned on being a lifer in the army and went to Afghanistan straight out of high school. Now he's a disabled young veteran struggling to embrace his new life. When Kate and Aidan find each other neither one wants to get attached. But could they be right for each other after all?


Aiden--I think he could have been more realistic of a young soldier. The elements are there, but they all sort of came through in superficial ways for me. Of the two MCs, he's definitely the more three-dimensional. For me what it felt like was that the author researched online what it's like to be a combat veteran, what it's like to be an amputee, and included those details without taking her research any further. For me, having worked with people with disabilities for a long time, and knowing a lot of combat veterans both personally and professionally, a lot of small details went overlooked. His characterization didn't feel as organic as I'd hoped, making Aiden a like rather than a love for me.

The interplay between the two MCs individual journeys. I think there was great potential for the conflict between the amputation Aiden can't hide and the diabetes Kate is desperate to deny. But for me, I didn't feel this theme was explored thoroughly enough. The resolution of this issue came too late structurally and felt sort of glossed over as a consequence. I felt like the author missed a huge opportunity to enhance their emotional chemistry by having them struggle to face their disabilities as a couple. But I really, really liked where she was headed with this. It's an awesome theme I'd love to see more of in YA/NA. 


The concept--love, love, love this idea. First and foremost, hurray for main characters with disabilities in stories that aren't just about having a disability. Juvenile diabetes is a seriously under-explored issue for young people in YA lit and I loved that Jolene explored the denial aspect of late diagnosis so thoroughly. 


A stronger, more engaging FMC. I didn't feel grabbed by Kate as much as I'd hoped, and I really really hoped! I think she's got the makings of a really interesting character arc, but it fell sort of flat for me. She felt underdeveloped, both in terms of her progression of coming to grips with her disability and her personality in general. She didn't really pop off the page for me and I found myself genuinely disliking her toward the end of the book rather than empathizing with her. She felt very superficial and shallow and consequently, I didn't buy her taking interest in a guy with one arm. I'm not sold on being squeamish with needles but okay with a huge scar-filled gape where an arm should be--and I don't say this to be insensitive. Amputation is painful, life-altering, and can create a lot of day to day difficulties beyond not being able to drive a car with a stick shift. I didn't believe a girl with Kate's characterization would love someone like him so easily. 

A  better title and cover. I was really, really confused by the presentation of this book. For one, the story doesn't even take place during the summer. It takes place in the spring, in the months leading up to Kate's prom and graduation. If the implication is that they're going to get together during the summer after the book is over, then maybe it's a good title for a sequel, but it doesn't fit this plot at all. The cover, too, doesn't really fit the content, and beyond that it looks too similar to Sarah Ocklar's TWENTY BOY SUMMER, which is actually about a summer vacation. So writer-to-writer, I wanted more for the author here. 

More thorough explanation of the themes and conflict. Like I said, there is so much potential running around in this manuscript. Really and truly. But I felt like it started in the wrong place and ended too quickly. I wanted to fall in love with this book because the concept totally grabbed me. When I saw it on NetGalley I said "I MUST READ THIS BOOK NOW!" I was quite grabby-hands about the whole thing. But I left the last page feeling disappointed and a little confused. 

But don't take my word for it. Read and let me know what you think!

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