Synopsis: Summer. A break from the burdens of school. Deep tans, deeper thoughts. Far away from the everyday. Closer to making dreams come true… What does summer mean to you? For the two teenage girls in these two unforgettable novels, summer means being torn away from the familiar and finding new friends. A new place in the world. A new sense of self. And maybe even new love along the way… When you’re having the time of your life, you never want it to end.
Review: This book includes two novels that are completely distinct the one for the other, so two completely different stories as well but both have one thing in common: the action takes place during the summer, near the sea (on a small Greek island for the first one and on the Californian Coast to the other) making it an excellent read during this summer. The reason that gave me the desire to read this book isn’t the fact that it’s like a holiday reading but it’s mostly because I only know Alyson Noël through The Immortals series. I wanted to discover the other books written by this author and how she was doing in the field of contemporary romance/Young Adult books without the paranormal elements. And finally, I must say that I was disappointed, I expected better.
Cruel Summer: In this novel, the first thing that surprised me was the form. I didn’t expect it at all! Indeed the novel isn’t divided into chapters. Instead, there are letters, confessions and thoughts written in a diary, emails, blog posts, there’s even a SMS (which took me a little time of concentration to make sure I understood what it was said)! Anyway, once the surprise passed, we quickly plunge in the story.
Who hasn’t dreamed of going on holiday on a heavenly island one day? And yet this is an idea that doesn’t appeal at all to our heroine! Colby is a seventeen years old teenager who must face the divorce of her parents. Her house is the scene of many domestic disputes. So in order to move her away from all these troubles, her parents decided to send her to spend all the summer with her aunt who lives on a small Greek island.
The story is told from the Colby’s perspective and she uses all means of communication she has at her disposal. I confess that I had some difficulties to like this character. The fact that she makes a big deal only because she spends her summer away from her « friends » seemed a bit far-fetched. It’s not as if she left forever! Many young people spend their holidays abroad. I found this fear of being forgotten by her friends really insane and it shows her lack of self-confidence. And even if they forget her where’s the problem? It’s just the proof that they weren’t real friends. From there I found that the story wasn’t very interesting. That being said, it was entertaining though.
Colby is a very superficial girl, who chooses to hide her own personality in order to get closer to Amanda and Levi, the stars of High school. All of this doesn’t make her very nice. She had finally achieved her goal until that trip turns everything upside down. But the distance allowed her to question herself and to understand how her attitude was appalling. In this small Greek island, she gradually rediscovers the simple pleasures of life, and then she meets Yannis. I was a little disappointed by the fact that the romance doesn’t occupy a more prominent place in the story. The feelings aren’t sufficiently developed so I wasn’t able to connect to the characters. Moreover, we must be very careful to the dates as most of the time they follow but sometimes several days pass between an event to another, which is unfortunate because some elements would have merited further developments. The end, however, is quite satisfying: neither good nor bad, it’s rather realistic.
Laguna Cove: I found this novel worse than the previous one. Once again it’s about a teenage girl who faces with her parents’ divorce except that this time, we stay in the United States. Anne, 17 years old, is forced to leave the Connecticut to live with her father on the West Coast, California. He lives in Laguna Beach, in a beautiful villa with a private beach.
Here, no letters, no diary, much less blog, we return to a classical scheme: a novel divided into chapters. The story is told in the third person. What is quite interesting is that the author doesn’t only focus on one character but several. On one side we have Anne who arrives in a new city, a new school in Laguna Beach. Then on the other hand, there are Ellie, Lola and Jade, three girls who always have lived in Laguna Beach. Each of them has their own problems and tries to live the best during this delicate period of adolescence, with its ups and downs.
Anne must adapt to her new life that is completely different from that the one she had in Connecticut. She had to abandon her friends, her boyfriend, and even her passion for diving. She must start all over again, and her father is constantly absent. Ellie, the competitor, is undoubtedly the one who needs to be pitied. She decided to overcome her grief associated with the loss of a loved one by giving back in everything she does. Whether at school or at a surfing competition, the smallest failure is unbearable. Over her father, a bitter man, doesn’t stop to put pressure on her so she’s always stressed, limit to the explosion. And as if all that wasn’t enough, we learn that she’s secretly in love with Chris but he’s attracted by Anne. Lola, the fashionista must face a mother who wants to control everything in her life. And Jade, the tolerant tries to help a friend but he takes advantage of her kindness to the point of training her with him in trouble.
I would have liked to connect with these four teenagers, to their history but unfortunately it wasn’t the case. By choosing to focus on four characters instead of one, the author has neglected a lot of details. Indeed, overall it lacks of development. I wanted to know a little more about these girls and their feelings but Alyson Noël does’t dwell on it which is a pity. The boys, again, aren’t very present, there is not much romance. More developments on the romantic relationships of each of these girls would surely have made the story more interesting. I didn’t like the end, unlike the previous novel, because I found it sloppy. The author leaves us with unresolved issues, and it’s with great frustration that I had to close this book.
In conclusion, this big book turned out to be a disappointing reading. Nevertheless, it’s a book that is highly readable and can be devoured quickly. It’s composed of two stories that are far from being exceptional, but are still nice, ideal for the summer.