The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse
Five friends. Five European cities. Ten days. And a messy, complicated, can-this-really-be-happening love story or two…
Since the moment they met, best friends Aubrey and Rae have been planning their inter-railing trip around Europe. With graduation just behind them, it ought to be the perfect summer to go on a last adventure together before university. But things are more complicated at eighteen than they were at ten. Accompanying Aubrey and Rae are other friends, each one carrying baggage they can’t put in a suitcase. First there’s Jonah, Aubrey’s popular and dashing boyfriend, and his best friend Gabe, who Audrey may have accidentally kissed. And then there’s Clara, an eccentric and bubbly girl Rae has been crushing on hard, despite there being no hope because Clara is straight and to come clean about her feelings would jeopardise their friendship and make things super-awkward.
Thank you to Hachette books for sending me a copy of The Summer of Us in exchange for an honest review. It came with a really cute notepad to outline my summer plans, as well as a travel-style ticket for the book which actually had my name written on it. These were lovely little touches and I really appreciated them.
My mum makes really bad cups of coffee. Like, really bad. Most of the time, my dad can’t actually tell the difference when she makes him a cup of tea. I’m in the same boat as him. There’s something just really weird and disorientating about taking a sip of something and expecting it to taste like something, only to find it is something else. Like a chocolate-coloured cake tasting of pineapple, or a chicken nugget that is actually fish. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it kinda throws you off a bit, if you see what I mean.
The Summer of Us made me think about those cups of coffee/tea. I requested the book because I thought it would be an amazing story filled to the brim with adventures in foreign cities. Having spent six months in Amsterdam a few years back, and making frequent trips to Paris while I was there, I was excited to see these cities again through the book and relive my adventures through Rae and Aubrey’s discovery of places I already knew and loved. And with the thought of some fluffy romances to top that all off, it’s no surprise that I did a bit of a happy dance around my flat when the book arrived.
Except, when I was reading it, I didn’t really get much of the wanderlust I’d been anticipating. There are flashes of each city throughout the book. There were mentions of houseboats and Vondelpark in Amsterdam, but the book didn’t really do much in the way of exploring the areas beyond a very brief tourist-type overview of the places. For example, the only reason I really knew they were in Amsterdam were the mentions of Vondelpark, coffee shops and the Red Light District, which left me feeling a bit disappointed. Instead of getting to revisit the museums and the streets again, I only really got to recall the really touristy and not very authentic parts of the city, all the parts you’d visit on a stag or hen do, but without the genuine warmth of Amsterdam. There was so much potential here to describe things exclusive to the country and city; the food, the bikes and trams everywhere, the clock chimes, the palace in Dam Square, the Van Gogh and Rembrant paintings, and it just felt a little like a brief glimpse rather than a satisfactory insight into the city. The same went for other places that they visited. Paris could have been explored more fully. In fact, except for a quick mention of the Champs-Elysses, Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, it was pretty difficult to remember they were even in Paris. They could have been almost anywhere, because the bulk of the description was spent on the restaurant they visited and the hotel they stayed at.
Complaints about the actual adventure of the novel aside, I did really enjoy the book. The plot has very fluffy romance and a nice dose of drama in there, which kept me intrigued throughout. I loved the characters, and felt as though each one of them was brought to life in rich detail. Aubrey was so easy to sympathise with, as I can imagine me being just as anxious about missing trains and organizing time if I went on a trip like that. Her interactions with Jonah and Gabe were delightful, and they definitely kept me turning the page, eager to find out where the plot would take me next. The same with Rae and Clara’s scenes. I found each moment gloriously, dizzyingly cute, and couldn’t keep from smiling all the way through the book. The friendships were just as sweet, and I thought there were some very poignant moments in there with some important messages to take away: the importance of friendship, learning how to grow up, being able to understand other people and not grow apart from them. The only issue I had with that is that some of it didn’t seem entirely realistic. There was no mention of the characters’ class or money status, but each of them seemed to be going to international universities [some in America, one in Australia]. As someone who has gone to university, I can maybe name a single person who has gone to an international uni, rather than stayed in the UK. It’s not a very common thing, and it doesn’t seem realistic to have five friends all go away somewhere, even if they did originally come from America. Furthermore, there’s mentions of plans to travel to visit each other peppered throughout the book, despite the huge geographical differences between each of their new homes. I’m not sure if these kids are really rich or not, but I can’t imagine being able to firmly promise even my best friend that I would come visit her if she moved to the other side of the world. Again, it seems a bit unrealistic and kind of took away from the bittersweet realization that these characters I’d fallen in love with were destined to go and live in different cities away from each other, and very possibly [as happens with lots of school friendships] grow apart.
But honestly, the fluffiness of this book and the glorious friendships are what I will be taking away from this book. I loved every moment spent with the characters, and the drama is delicious. The pacing was pretty consistent and I was able to get through the book quickly because it held my interest all the way through. As I said, I’m a little disappointed that the travel aspect of the book took such a backseat, especially as this was my whole reason for being interested in the story, but even so I stuck around for the friendships and romances. It might not be the cup of coffee I was expecting to take a sip of, but tea will do me just fine too.
I’m giving The Summer of Us a 6.5/10 stars. The book won’t be out until 14th June in the UK, but you can preorder it at Waterstones, Amazon and Book Depository now. It’s a great book for fans of Jennifer E. Smith’s Windfall and Jen Wilde’s Queens of Geek. And for those attending YALC in London in July this year, Cecilia Vinesse will be signing copies of The Summer of Us, so it’s definitely worth picking up a copy!
Is anyone really looking forward to this book coming out next month? Or maybe you’ve already read it and want to talk about it some more? Feel free to leave a [spoiler-free] comment on this page and let me know your thoughts.