Title: The Summer My Life Began
Author: Shannon Greenland
Release date: May 10th 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley - thank you to NetGalley and Penguin for providing a free eGalley of this book in exchange for a review.
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads
Elizabeth Margaret—better known as Em—has always known what life would contain: an internship at her father’s firm, a degree from Harvard and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is that it’s not what she wants. When she gets the opportunity to get away from it all and spend a month with the aunt she never knew, she jumps at the chance. While there, Em pursues her secret dream of being a chef, and she also learns that her family has kept some significant secrets from her, too. And then there’s Cade, the laid-back local surfer boy who seems to be everything Em isn't. Naturally, she can’t resist him, and as their romance blossoms, Em feels she is living on her own terms for the first time.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
These kinds of reviews are the hardest to write. You know those books you don't really have any feelings about, neither positive nor negative? That's this book for me. There's nothing I loved, nothing I hated, everything is just okay. I can't recommend The Summer My Life Began, but I can't not recommend it either.
When I first started reading The Summer My Life Began, I did not like it at all. The book starts out describing Em's life at home with her super-strict parents. And honestly, I just thought the whole thing was overdone - I get that the parents have to be strict and controlling in order for the story to work, but... their ideals are, like, from medieval times! How extremely strict the parents are didn't make me feel for Em, it just made me roll my eyes because the whole thing is so melodramatic.
When Em arrives at her aunt's place, the book gets a little better, but I still didn't love it. My main problem is that each storyline is cliched, overused and predictable. Each storyline seperately, I probably could have liked, if it had been a part of a more unique set-up, but since every storyline is overused, the book was just kind of boring, for me. There's Em's relationship with her aunt - Aunt Tilly is the crazy, free spirit you'd expect her to be. The storyline is sweet but nothing special. Aunt Tilly's son, Frederick, is very, very bland - I don't really know anything about him. Then there's the romance. I actually liked the romance and thought Em and Cade were pretty cute together. But again, it's nothing special - it's just the girl-falls-for-the-mysterious-guy-who-somehow-always-happens-to-be-there storyline. One aspect I really liked is Em's relationship with her little sister - their phone calls and texts always brought a smile to my face.
Em's character, like the plot, is... okay. I feel like I'm totally overusing that word, but honestly, that's just how I feel about this book. She's nice enough, but there's no quirk or spark to her character that would make me remember her after finishing the book. I liked the idea of Em being into cooking, not being able to do so with her parents and now cooking all the time, but I thought there was just a little too much about the cooking. The descriptions of the food and the way she makes it are looong, and after a while it got annoying. I'm not sure why, since I often like when there's food in books - you know, the kind that makes you need to eat whatever the MC is eating right now - but it didn't work that way in The Summer My Life Began. The paragraphs of descriptions of food bored and annoyed me, and at times even made me dislike Em because she's kind of snobby about it.
Towards the end, the book really picked up and got a lot better. There's a family secret they're always talking about and that Em wants to figure out, and at first I didn't really care, thought it would be no big deal, so Em's obsession with finding out kind of annoyed me. But when we discover the family secret, I was actually surprised, and I ended up liking it! I liked that last part a lot better than the rest, since the pacing is faster and the whole story is a lot more interesting.
So... yeah. I feel like my review is not helpful at all - sorry about that. I just didn't have strong feelings about The Summer My Life Began one way or the other. It's just one of those "meh..." books that are alright but don't do much for you, and that I'm not going to be thinking about anymore as soon as I finish this review. Each storyline is pretty cute but predictable, and altogether, this book is okay but nothing special.
If you've read this book, what did you think?