Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy

Title: The Summer of Firsts and Lasts
Author: Terra Elan McVoy
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release date: May 3rd 2011
Pages: 423
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
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Three sisters. One life-changing summer.
Calla loves summer because summer means Duncan. They’ve been best friends for years, but Calla has never worked up the nerve to tell him how she really feels. This summer, the summer before college, is Calla’s last chance.
 Violet isn’t much of a rule breaker in real life. But this isn’t real life, this is summer, and Violet is determined to make the most of it. Besides, a little sneaking out never hurt anyone. And sneaking out with James is 100% worth the risk...even though James is completely off-limits. Daisy has never been the sister that boys notice, but when sparks fly with Joel at the first bonfire of summer, it seems so easy and right. So why is being his girlfriend so complicated?
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Summer of Firsts and Lasts was kind of hard to get into, for me. There are three different POVs, and with each narrator comes a set of friends and love interests, which was a little hard to keep track of at times. In the beginning, I kept checking back to see whose POV I was reading from because I couldn't keep the sisters' personalities straight. The way all three of the girls see themselves is very different from how they're seen by their sisters. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since that's how it is in real life (in my excperience), but it made it even harder to keep the sisters straight. To add to that, the girls have these nicknames that are kind of weird, and it was difficult to remember which nickname belonged to which of the sisters.

Once I'd spent some time inside all of their heads, though, I did like the characters; I conneced with each of them in a different way. Calla is the one I'm probably most similar to - because we're the same age, but also just because of our personalities. I know some people will be annoyed by how Calla keeps hoping beyond hope that Duncan likes her as more than a friend, but I personally could easily relate to that. I got her perfectionist ways and how she feels like she always needs to be nice to everyone - again, some people will be frustrated by that, but it worked for me, because I'm kind of like that too. Daisy, the youngest sister, is like the little girl inside of me I don't like to let people see. I got her insecurities because, well, I used to be her, when I was her age. Her character growth is probably the biggest, out of the three, and I loved reading about how she found her strength. Violet is the one I'm least like - she's the kind of confident I wish I was but know I never will be. But still, I enjoyed reading from her POV, because every once in a while I need to read about someone who is completely different from me.

I have to admit, the plot is very, very slow. It's less like fast-moving world of fiction and more like real life, in that way. I personally didn't really mind, but I know this will alienate a lot of readers. If you can't take a slow-moving plot and need action all the time, I'm pretty sure The Summer of Firsts and Lasts will make you go crazy. Terra Elan McVoy's style is very understated - there are few ornate descriptions that'll make you marvel at their beauty, but that's okay. The author let her characters do most of the talking, let the reader get to know the characters' voices instead of her own style, and I personally really liked that.

I loved the whole camp atmosphere! I've never been to camp, but The Summer of Firsts and Lasts makes me think I missed out on something important. I loved the together-ness and the spirit of it all - it doesn't feel exaggerated or forced, but it's always there.

The romance is okay. I liked the non-romance between Calla and Duncan because like I said, I get it. Daisy and Joey are interesting to read about, too, because their awkwardness is so real, and again reminded me so much of myself at that age. Violet and James, though, didn't really work for me. I don't want to spoil anything, but their attraction to one another felt forced and I didn't feel any real chemistry. Their relationship moved much too fast for me to really enjoy these two as a couple.

But, in a way, I don't even care about whether the romance worked, or whether I liked the characters as individuals, or about the writing or the plot. For me, The Summer of Firsts and Lasts isn't about any of that - it's really about the relationship between Calla, Violet, and Daisy. And the sister dynamics are really well-done. These three make me wish I had a sister. I love how they fight but are always there for each other when it counts. The more I think about it, the more I appreciate this unique setting to showcase this sister relationship, since there are already so many sister stories out there that take place at home or whatever - the camp aspect gave the sisters' relationship a unique twist.

This book is not for everyone - I can definitely the slow-moving plot and some of Calla's and Daisy's character traits frustrating some readers. But for me, this book was just what I needed. I didn't love it as much as Being Friends with Boys - the first Terra Elan McVoy book I read - but I really did like it. The Summer of Firsts and Lasts is a cute summer read and a unique sister story.


  1. I LOVE Terra Elan McVoy! I think she's an awesome writer, perfect for contemporary which doesn't always need non-stop action (which, I know sounds weird to some, I find a bit tiring when it's just non-stop and has no character-centered scenes).

    What's cool is what you said, the setting. I LOVE unique settings, outside of school or home. Have you read Leila Sales' Past Perfect? That's a completely unique setting, it's a reenactment village from the Pilgrim-era I think. and it's awesome:)

    1. Yes! I love how character-driven her writing is :)

      Past Perfect has been on my wishlist FOREVER. I really need to get around to buying a copy! I love unique settings like that :)

    2. have you tried Susane Colasanti's contemporaries? They're so good!

      Deb Caletti's books are all amazing as well:)

    3. I've read Susane Colasanti's debut, When It Happens, and thought it was okay. I liked it, but it didn't totally wow me. I'm gonna have to read one of her newer releases soon, to see if she's gotten better :)

      My relationship with Deb Caletti's books is kind of complicated. I read her debut, The Queen of Everything, like two years ago, and I didn't like it at all. That made me not want to give any of her other books a chance, even though everyone else seemed to love. The, like a month ago, I read Stay, and I loved it! So I think I'll be reading her newer books soon :)

    4. Deb Caletti has some amazing books out now, really unique and complicated:) And the characters are so real - give them a chance!

      Colasanti's books are contemps I really like - maybe you should try another one:)

    5. You have to try Melissa Walker's Unbreak My Heart as well:) It's also good as a setting book:)

    6. Yes, I'm trying to get myself to read some more of her books... but I tend to hold a grudge against an author if I didn't like one of their books, and I'm kind of wary I won't like her other ones... But still, I AM going to read mre Deb Caletti :D And Susane Colasanti, too.

      I've already read Unbreak My Heart, actually :) I loved it - the sailing setting is awesome!

  2. It doesn't seem like something I'd like. I like 2 different POVS usually but three sounds like... Too much.

    1. The 3 POVs are confusing at first, but it totally works later on!

  3. Thank you so, so much for this honest, geniune, heartfelt review. Readers like you are what make writing so much fun! Glad you ultimately liked the Winthrop sisters, and thanks!


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