Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt made my dreary winter day a hundred times better!

Title: The Last Summer of Us 
Series: N/A
Author: Maggie Harcourt
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publication: May 1st 2015, Usborne Publishing
Pages: 294 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Usborne Publishing for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my overall opinion of said novel.
Limpet, Steffan and Jared. Three best friends crammed into a clapped-out rust bucket of a car on a whirlwind road trip to forget their troubles and see out the end of the summer. But no matter how far they drive, they can’t escape the hidden secrets and slow-burning romance that could upset the balance of their friendship – perhaps forever.

Going into this book, I had no expectations, all I knew was that it sounded like the perfect read. It contained summer, friendship, secrets and road trips. Things that I am all very fond of (minus the secrets because that generally makes things go slightly pear-shaped, doesn't? Pesky things, secrets are) and although it had all the things I love I wasn't sure how I would feel - would I love it or have more than less affectionate feelings for it? I can honestly say, I didn't expect myself to laugh so much, to think so much and fall in love with this story like I did. For most part, I couldn't put this book down and several times when other people demanded socialization I may have growled in their direction. Just maybe. The Last Summer of Us swept me off my feet and enshrouded me in the wonderful embrace of road trips, friendship and the last summer of three friends all sufficiently flawed, but all extraordinarily saved, by those at their side.

The Last Summer of Us is told from the perspective of Limpet, who has just loss her mother. She is anchored by grief and guilt and feels herself sinking further into it as the hours pass by. By her side are her two best friends, Steffan and Jared. Dependable Steffan who too is recovering from the loss of his mother, Steffan, who is always there and who she believes always will be. Then there is Jared, the Quiet one, the one who is tainted by the unforgiving crimes that his father has committed, The one who watches. Who remembers. Who listens. Who observes yet doesn't judge.These three are all so unique, so different, yet all connected by a confining string of past experiences involving parents that have betrayed them, disappointed or left them, willingly or not, but gone all the same. After Steffan notices Limpet sinking deeper into the depression caused by her mother's death, he realises that they need to get away, even if it's just for a couple of days. So that's what they do. The pack their bags and pile into Steffan's rusted, crumbling old car driving across the Welsh countryside as they drink up the last days of summer, the last days of them, in order to encapsulate them - Limpet, Steffan and Jared - for eternity, in a glass jar, stored in their memory to submerge themselves in when the tides of life threaten to consume them. So that when they look back, they will always have that last summer of them. The summer their world shifted, endings burned and beginnings rose. A summer they will never forget.
"Time ticks past and the stars look down on us and the waves move in and out, and what is it all for? Moments, suspended in snow globes. That's what it's for."
I loved this plot. I loved the road trip, the self-discovery and the action of forming memories and wanting to bottle them in order to remember that rare, magical feeling of complete happiness and complete contentment. I loved the spontaneity that set them off on this whimsical road trip. I loved how this was set in Wales (I went there a few months ago for the first time and I adored it!) and I loved how it was set in the summer. This was a summery book, I could feel the heat and the sun and the beaches oozing from the book and it made my 4 degree Celsius day much more brighter! I fell in love with the friendship, the banter and the insightful, sensitive observations on the human process of grieving, forgiving and understanding. I found the elephant and ostrich scene enchanting as it was so unexpected and I liked how significant those moments were for Jared.

The one complaint I have about this book, however, is sometimes I felt like there were too many reflections and too many philosophical discussions that Limpet has with herself that it drags the pacing slightly. Instead of enjoying the moment and showing us what exactly her, Steffan and Jared are doing she's reminiscing on the past or on deep thoughts. I appreciate that she is grieving and she's coming to terms with this startling new reality without her mother, but I do think that there could have been less thoughts and more focus on the action, on the road trip itself.

I really liked the writing and the characters. I loved Limpet's and her voice shone through the pages very clearly. She was honest, she was insightful, she was flawed and she was aware of that and she was funny as well. I absolutely loved her character! The only thing that felt inauthentic to me was that she never really showed us her grief, but more told us, but perhaps that's more her character? I'm not sure. It felt like she wasn't close to her mom at all which, I can understand why given the circumstances, but I would've liked just a bit of something extra during those scenes, perhaps crying or missing something about her mom. There was a lot of guilt she felt which was expressed honestly and in a raw, gritty manner and something I think most people feel when they lose somebody which was written exceptionally well. But overall, I really liked Limpet. She was down to earth, she listened, she cared and I really enjoyed the voice in which her character was written with.

I really liked Steffan as well. He was always there for Limpet, ready to offer her support, a kind word, or to insult her so that she can emerge from the cloud above her head and insult him right back. I liked how he joked around and how he seemed to have a devil may care attitude, but then when he revealed his more sensitive side it made my heart swell. The scene where he's at his mom's graveyard may have made my throat constrict slightly. I loved his and Limpet's relationship and how they were like brother and sister, they drove each other insane but by the end of the day, they were always there for each other.

Jared was an indiscernible character. I think the author wrote his character very well in the sense that I felt his quiet, watching presence. I think because of this I couldn't connect to him as much as I'd like to. I felt like I understood him and I understood the grief and shame that engulfed him, but I would've liked more of an insight into who he is. Like Limpet said, everybody is a different person around different people and perhaps it's why we have such a hard time finding who we are, because we're representing a different person with each person we encounter. Her mom only knew her as her daughter, family friends who've only met her now know her as a girl grieving for her mother, her teacher only knew her as a student and we only got to see Jared from Limpet's perspective and I didn't feel like we saw enough of who he was at times. I think that it would've been wonderful if we got Jared's POV because he's such a quiet character that it would've been helpful for us as I don't feel like he revealed enough of his personality to Limpet and Steffan and because of that I didn't feel as connected to him as the other two.
"Because now I don't believe we ever truly know anyone. We only get to see what they show us, what they are on the outside. We get to see their masks; if we're very lucky, we get to see the scars underneath them. We see flashes, glimpses; always moving and changing like a kaleidoscope. We give different pieces of ourselves to different people - friend, parent, child, teacher - and we trust that no one ever tries to join them all up. We split ourselves apart in an attempt to belong wherever we can, and then we wonder why we don't know who we are."
I ADORED the friendship, I wasn't expecting to love it so much but I really did and it often had me squealing like a hysterical seal.I loved the banter, the jokes but also the serious moments that proved that there friendship was so incredibly strong in its foundations. I also liked that there wasn't a love triangle in this book and that it dispelled the common belief that a guy and a girl can't be just friends. But seriously, I loved the friendship. They teased Limpet constantly and she was mostly always the butt of the joke but she took it in her stride and they always showed their affection for her later on. They could make fun of each other but then speak about their turmoils five seconds later. The friendship in this book, from protecting each other, to helping each other get back on their feet and to allow the other to grieve and to be comforted and then allow each other to tease in order to remind that person who they are so that the grief doesn't consume them was perfect. I seriously loved their friendship. SO MUCH LAUGHTER WAS HAD.
"'Not having ostrich steak?' It's still funny. It is.
'I'm not sure Jared should - you know, not now he's bonded with them and everything. It'd be like eating one of his own.'"
"'The last survivor,' he says, holding out his hand. It's a sausage roll. The last sausage roll. I look at it. Then at him.
'You think I can't fend for myself, is that it? Pity food. You're offering me pity food.'
'Pity food's still food. You should take me up on it.'
'Pity. Food.'
'Do you know what I had to risk to get this before he did? Do you know the deep personal sacrifices I'm making here?"
"It's a sausage roll, Jared." 
Also, can I just say, I totally ship Limpet and Jared? It's gradual build up of quickened heart beats and breathless moments and I loved that. Really. I love how they're best friends first and then they slowly fall in love with subtle hints and subtle glances. I also like how the romance isn't the whole book, it's a loosening thread of lace, interweaving throughout the book and I appreciate that The Last Summer of Us was more focused on recovery of grief, friendship and learning to forgive than romance.

clapping snape snape approves

Overall, I really enjoyed The Last Summer of Us. It was honest, it was heart-breaking, but it simultaneously managed to be uplifting and laced with nostalgia, hope and the bittersweet sensation of magical endings and new beginnings. The Last Summer of Us was filled with breath-taking quotes that echoed and underlined sentiments that I, myself, had dwelt upon in the past. In fact, I feel like reading this book again, in order for me to fully breathe in the words and devour them like oxygen, to think about the words over a longer period of time, more than just a wandering eye over a page. To once again have my breath snatched away by the honesty in the book and the freedom it expresses in the act of forgiving oneself, moving forward, needing to let go, knowing it's a necessity but not wanting to.
"Some goodbyes are harder than others, and the hardest are never quite the ones you expect."
"...like they'll find their hopes and dreams at the bottom of a plastic pint glass...Or maybe they just want to drown their fears, But the thing about fear is that not many people seem to realize is that it can swim."
I also appreciated that this book showed that although goodbyes are so bitter, so awful, there's always a wonderful, enchanting new beginning waiting just around the bend. This came at precisely the right time. I've been missing home, I've been missing my friends and I've been wanting so badly to go back to South Africa and be surrounded by my friends and family. But this book showed me that goodbyes happen, that they're essential and a part of life and just because it's goodbye, doesn't mean it's the end and it doesn't mean it's a bad thing and I want to thank the author for helping me realise that.

The Last Summer of Us was a poignant, moving story that will have you laughing, crying and thinking. It will make you feel understood and it will make you understand, and isn't that what you've always wanted?

I give it: 4/5 CUPCAKES!




1 comment:

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