The summer before their freshman year of college, five friends journey from London on a ten-day cross-continent trip. In The Summer of Us, Europe is mostly a backdrop as these friends discover that growing up sometimes means growing apart.
The Summer of Us is a bit of a misnomer, but I suppose it’s more of a catchy title than The Ten Days of Us. Cecilia Vinesse has penned a charming, cute story about a group of five friends who are on the European trip of their dreams… that keeps getting derailed by all of their personal drama. Aubrey has been dating Jonah for years, but three weeks ago she kissed his best friend Gabe. Rae is harboring a secret, monster crush on their presumably-straight friend Clara. All of these issues come to a head once these friends are confined in the close quarters of train compartments and shared hostel rooms.
All of the characters are kind of dramatic, but I do remember what it was like to be that age, standing on the precipice of an uncertain future. The whole situation is kind of dramatic. And yes, it’s frustrating that they just won’t freaking talk to each other, but some things are difficult to say. While The Summer of Us is a light, fun read that I zipped through in about two days, at its heart it poses questions about what happens when high school ends and you’re off on your own adventures. Each character worries about their future – second-guessing their college choices, fearing that the people they love will move on without them – in a way that is completely believable. It explores the co-dependence that can exist between friends – particularly high school friends – who have known each other for a long time. Are you only friends out of convenience? Once you go off on your own, will you realize you have nothing in common?
And yes, the romance subplots are kind of predictable, but that doesn’t make them any less adorable – particularly the relationship between Rae and Clara. It’s refreshing to read an LGBTQ+ romance where no one is unsure about what they’re doing or questioning their sexuality. Both girls are worried about the other reciprocating their feelings, but no one is freaking out about liking girls all of a sudden. You can giggle at their hands inching closer together and get frustrated each time they’re interrupted just before something happens without worrying about any crisis of sexuality or one of them running off to kiss the nearest boy just to prove that they’re straight.
I would have loved to have seen more of Europe in their European trip, but much of the story takes place in a hostel or on a train, with famous landmarks mentioned as kind of an afterthought to remind the reader that they’re in a different country.
The Summer of Us is fluffy and fun. Some of the conflicts are resolved much more quickly than they would be in reality, and the ending happens a bit too fast, but the characters are flawed and relatable. They start out as stereotypes, but by the end of the story you can see how much they’ve changed. There could have stood to be more racial diversity, but a sweet, happy wlw romance subplot is a good step in the right direction.
The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse is published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and is currently available wherever books are sold.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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