The Last Summer (of You and Me)

04Dec08

A little personal disclosure for you:  I really really loved The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. Because I had such great faith in Ann Brashares ability,

Stick to the Pants, sister!

Stick to the Pants, sister!

I decided to read The Last Summer (of You and Me) as my “fun book”, for around the holidays and as a break between some heavy book club selections.

Unfortunately, I was not pleased with my choice.

Here’s the quick and dirty….

Two sisters (Riley and Alice) spend their summers in a summer house on Fire Island.  Next door, there is a wealthy kid in an even bigger house.  They are BFFs all the way through life, though Riley is legitimately JUST friends with Paul (the guy) and Alice and Paul have a little spark.  The spark turns into a summer flame, but they don’t want to tell Riley, so she won’t feel left out.  Then, Riley gets rheumatic heart disease, and Alice and Paul fight and stop speaking to each other.  Riley dies and they’re back together.  I mean, there’s a little more to this book but that’s about it, folks.

The Last Summer (of You and Me) is Ann Brashares’ first “adult” novel, and honestly, I really don’t think there was anything adult about it, except for the fact that the characters were in their 20s and that two of them had sex. Nothing else stood out to me as adult themed, and I don’t think that the characters themselves were well-developed enough to even create a widely-enjoyable adult novel.

The majority of the book takes place inside the characters’ heads, and there’s a LOT of rumination, meditation, thinking, and lots-and-lots of angsty dwelling–all of which would probably be perfect in a teenage book. We don’t know much about the characters except for explicit narrative description (Alice is a good student, Riley’s not, Paul’s dreamy), so their motivation for doing or not doing things is severely cut short. None of their daydreams and ruminations ever really manifested in real, believeable characters. (i.e., why would Alice, who went to school at Dartmouth, accept and enjoy a job working maintenance for NYC parks? She’s supposed to be the less physical of the two sisters, and could probably have found a perfectly decent temp job. Why

Ann Brashares first adult novel

Ann Brashares' first "adult" novel

would Paul date Monique…she’s so vapid? Why didn’t Riley’s parents encourage college for her? Why did she have to do it in secret? These are all questions that could have been answered by better characterization, but weren’t).

I totally understand and agree with the person who expressed frustration that Riley had to die so Alice and Paul could have a relationship. It seemed simplistic and frustrating, not to mention a little bit hollow. Again, it is a reaction that might feel more authentic in YA fiction, but I don’t think that it is/was meant for adults to buy into.

I don’t hate on Ann Brashares, because I really do love the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, but I would have to shelve this book with them in the YA section.  If you want a sappy, weeper, this is probably the book for you.  If not, skip it.

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