Judy Blume is a name that recalls nostalgia for me: I read her Fudge series in my own elementary school days, and her works were tucked in beside the greats like Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series and Ann M. Martin’s Babysitter Club books on my humble book shelf.
In an effort to forestall the end of summer (my university classes resume next week) I picked up her adult novel Summer Sisters. Published in 1999 the book has been on my TBR list for ages, so I was more than happy to finally have a chance to get to it. Spanning 1970-1990s Summer Sisters is the coming of age tale of Vix and Caitlyn, two unlikely friends from New Mexico who spend every summer together at Martha’s Vineyard. The two are about as polar opposite as one would expect to get: Vix is the responsible oldest child of a family that is scraping by, and Caitlyn is the the eccentric offspring of wealthy divorced parents, always clawing for attention, the more extreme the better. It is on the island that the girls become fast friends, and the course of lives are changed.
Summer Sisters takes a close look at lifelong friendships, those teenage relationships that bloom fragile, sinking their roots deep into the fabric of our individuality with time. The book winds its way through the complexities of a teenage girl’s hidden life, and is a homage to the friends who know you like no other person possibly can. Told mainly from Vix’s point of view, Blume also inserts third person insights of different people: giving a glimpse into the wide cast of characters’ minds.
While the writing was charming and whimsy, I found the plot line surreal. The actions of the characters seemed far fetched, like I was leafing through the pages of a soap opera or tabloid. The events were blown out of proportion, and the character’s reactions unrealistic, there was some eye rolling. A majority of the book is devoted to the theme of sexuality: from adolescents on up. While I realize that this is a common obsession for the mind of a hormonal teenager, Blume overdid the sex scenes to the point that it cheapens the rest of the plot. It was inauthentic and like the rest of the book implausible.
Overall I gave the book 2/5 stars for solid writing, but failure on the delivery. Note: it has nothing to do with the fact that Summer Sisters is nothing like Blume’s children’s books. I think some people go into the novel expecting the same writing they grew up with. Blume wrote a novel for adults and appropriately the themes and scenes are that: for adults. But I also feel that she overcompensated for that reason and took it to an extreme. This book will appeal to those who love Lifetime movies, or a juicy bit of scandal. Otherwise the paperback makes a pretty handy doorstop.