Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review: THAT ONE SUMMER by C.J. Duggan

Title: THAT ONE SUMMER by C.J. Duggan
Pub Date:  12/17/13 (out now!)
ARC received via YA Bounds Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
Dannie says: Not for me, though Goodreads indicates I'm the exception not the rule

Loving Chris Henderson would be wrong. Diabolically disastrous. I mean, what is there about him to love? He’s moody, bossy, brooding, a control freak, and that’s on a good day … but there was one achingly obvious fact that haunted my every thought, every minute of every day … 

He sure could kiss.

As the countdown to the new millennium begins, there is one thing everyone agrees on: no one wants to be in Onslow for New Year’s Eve.

So that can only mean one thing: road trip!

No longer the mousey, invisible, shy girl from years ago, Tammy Maskala is finally making up for all those lost summers. A new year with new friends, which astoundingly includes the bossy boy behind the bar, Chris Henderson.

She likes her new friends (at least most of them), so why does she secretly feel so out of place?

After chickening out on the trip, a last-minute change of heart sees Tammy racing to the Onslow Hotel, fearing she’s missed her chance for a ride. The last thing she expected to meet was a less-than-happy Onslow Boy leaning against his black panel van.

Now the countdown begins to reach the others at Point Shank before the party is over and the new year has begun. Alone in a car with only the infuriating Chris Henderson, Tammy can’t help but feel this is a disastrous start to what could have been a great adventure. But when the awkward road trip takes an unexpected turn, Tammy soon discovers that the way her traitorous heart feels about Chris is the biggest disaster of all.

Fogged up windows, moonlight swimming, bad karaoke and unearthed secrets; after this one summer nothing will ever be the same again.

To be fair I want to start by saying I didn't read the previous books in this series. I received the ARC with the understanding that this was a companion novel more than a sequel and I wouldn't need to have read the other books first to get into this one. I'd intended to read the prior two anyway but ran out of time. I'm not sure whether reading the others might have impacted my investment in the story. 

Chris. Characterization is one area where I think I might have gotten more out of this had I read the series, but I really enjoyed the L.I. in this book. He was intriguing and not typical of a lot of YA/NA leading males I've read recently. I found him refreshing. 

The setting. I haven't read a ton of books set in Australia and I don't think I've ever read one that wasn't set in a city, so I was intrigued by the rural aspects of this story and the camping element. I think the author did a good job of making the setting a character and keeping the outdoorsy-ness part of the conflict. 

Conflict--It's probably fair to say this isn't the sort of book I'd pick up at Barnes & Noble. It's a little pink and fluffy for me. But I really felt that, even when compared to Dessen and the other authors in this corner of the genre, that this book lacked any tangible conflict or "so-what" factor. For me, the conflict that does exist felt contrived and superficial. 

Sensible plot elements--For me the closest thing to actual conflict was the idea where Chris and Tammy are going to "trick" the rest of their friends into believing they're having a summer fling. This plot element comes into play about half way through the book and by three quarters of the way through the book, it's dropped completely. I think the author could have done more with this if she wanted to, but as is it felt sort of forced and contrived to me, like someone had suggested it as an idea to give the book more conflict, rather than something the author devised organically for these characters. 

Interesting FMC--I really found Tammy to be an unengaging MC. For the majority of the read I didn't really feel invested in her having a positive outcome with Chris. She wasn't unlikable, just boring. Lack of self confidence and "woe-is-me" mentality does not a flawed, multifaceted MC make, and this was how I perceived Tammy. For some readers I think this works really well--it's the reasons why Bella Swan was such a popular FMC in Twilight. The reader can picture herself in Tammy's place and imagine that the story isn't happening to her. I like my MCs to be tragically flawed and very tangible, so this is really a matter of personal preference. 

Chemistry--this, too, might be a point where a little history was in order, but really I didn't sense any sort of tingle-inducing sparks between Chris and Tammy. I spent most of the romance elements saying to myself  "am I missing something here?" because I really didn't feel much in the way of tension between them. There were a couple scenes that might be exceptions to this rule (no spoilers, promise), but on the whole I really didn't feel like I was desperate to turn the page to see what happened next. And in terms of the story arc, this element felt very flat to me. 

Short story long, I'm filing this one under "maybe it's just me." There certainly seem to be gobs of positive reviews (including many, many 5* reviews on GoodReads.) But I definitely didn't feel it. 

Pick it up and let me know why I'm wrong!

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