Today, I’m going to review the novel That Summer by Sarah Dessen. This is a big shift from Jeannette Walls, but like I said in my first post, there will be some variety.

That Summer, published in 1996, was Sarah DImageessen’s first novel. It follows 15-year-old Haven McPhail’s tumultuous summer (hence the title) as she copes with changes in her life. With both her sister, Ashley, and divorced father getting married, she feels as if there is not place for her in anybody’s life. However, she finds some relief when one of Ashley’s old boyfriends, Sumner Lee, reappears. I won’t give away he rest of the story, but it’s not that exciting.

The flaw in this story deals with the climax. Normally, in a story, a climactic moment drives the rest of plot to the conclusion. There was no climax to pivot the story. The closest to a climax came when Haven runs through the forest and bumps into somebody near the conclusion. Despite being a slight peak in the story, it falls short of what a climax should be.

It’s easy to tell this is a Sarah Dessen novel because of her signature characters and plot. In each of her novels, there is always a young girl dealing with some sort of problem in her family and a guy who is there to save the day. Although she uses this cliché in each novel, Dessen does explore important issues in each one, such as divorce, drugs, pregnancy, alcoholism and more.

Another consistency in Dessen’s novels is her apparent fascination with unique names. Each one of her characters in her novels has a different sort of name. Haven and Sumner are the two examples in this book.

Overall, I’m glad this was Dessen’s first novel, because it illustrates how she improved her plot development when compared to her later books. It’s a solid effort to create a story but lacks some ingredients to make it complete. I wouldn’t recommend reading this Dessen novel, but instead reading another one of hers, such as Lock and Key or Someone Like You.