For the month of May our Book Club selection was “Five Summers” by Una LaMarche. This was the perfect book to get our summer started. LaMarche’s book chronicles the friendship of four girls, Emma, Maddie, Johanna and Skylar as they spent their summers from age nine to thirteen together at camp. Then, three years later they have a reunion. For so many of us camps, in some form or another, are part of our summer memories. Some only went to camp for one week during the summer, while others spent their entire summer going to camp. Whatever the case may be, there is something for everyone in this story. LaMarche weaves the tales of the four friends by telling us the story from their different points of view. Overall, the book was well liked by the readers at Teen Lit Rocks and we think you’ll enjoy it as well. So, pick up a copy and start your summer reading now, and don’t forget to enter our giveaway below! Thanks to Penguin Teen for providing us each with a copy of the book to review.
Five Summers by Una LaMarche
Publisher: Razorbill | 384 pages | May 16, 2013 | Buy it
Four best friends, five summers of camp memories.
The summer we were nine: Emma was branded “Skylar’s friend Emma” by the infamous Adam Loring…
The summer we were ten: Maddie realized she was too far into her lies to think about telling the truth…
The summer we were eleven: Johanna totally freaked out during her first game of Spin the Bottle…
The summer we were twelve: Skylar’s love letters from her boyfriend back home were exciting to all of us—except Skylar…
Our last summer together: Emma and Adam almost kissed. Jo found out Maddie’s secret. Skylar did something unthinkable… and whether we knew it then or not, five summers of friendship began to fall apart.
Three years after the fateful last night of camp, the four of us are coming back to camp for reunion weekend—and for a second chance.
Reader Average: B+
Amanda graded the book an A
“Five Summers” was a great story that brought back many wonderful memories of adolescence and all of the drama and intricacies entailed in female relationships. This story begins at the meeting point between four girls at a summer camp and evolves over five summers – four years of actual summer camp, and one reunion summer where 17 year olds renew old friendships and further explore those relationships that were left unfinished. I was reminded of what it felt like to have a first kiss; the guessing games boys and girls play because they don’t know if the other person likes them, the fun paper games like “MASH” that I used to play that “foresaw” what house I would live in, with what boy, and with how many children; and the frustrations of growing up and finding a place for myself in the world.
Una Lamarche does an excellent job of showing the evolution of the relationships between these four girls through each girl’s point of view, while weaving in past events to help us understand their present state of mind.
I truly loved this book and would recommend it to 16/17 and up. I have a hard time knowing when to recommend a book that explores alcohol and talks about a promiscuous girl (while not in detail) to those younger. I will leave that up to you.
Cassie graded the book an A-
Summer camp novels always fill me with a strange sense of nostalgia. Reading about summer friends and canoe trips across the lake and bonfires and camp songs always makes me wistful for summer camp days of my own past, which is impressive because I never actually went to summer camp. I think it speaks a lot to how ubiquitous an experience it is in our culture that even someone like me who has no first hand experience to draw from can still relate to the setting.
Which was the thing for me with “Five Summers” in particular — I related to this story and its characters very easily. This book was fully engaging — I read the whole thing in one sitting, and I cared about these four girls so much by the end of it. Because while on the surface, this might seem to be a book about middle school drama and boys and love triangles, what was really at the heart of this novel was the difficulty of holding onto a friendship when it becomes long-distance, and that is something I relate to all too well. Moreover, it is something that LaMarche has captured brilliantly in her novel — the way the lines get drawn, the way communication lapses, the way you try to hold so hard onto what the friendship once was instead of figuring out what the friendship has to grow into. I appreciated that while the drama of the story might have been about boys, the story itself, in the end, was not.
I loved how this story was told, slowly unfolding the origins of these four girls through the flashback chapters mixed in with the reunion weekend. It all fit together seamlessly, and the four voices meshed very well and were distinct enough that I never lost track of whose head we were in. My only complaints are that the girls seemed at times too old for 17, and that the end was just a shade too neatly wrapped up, but those complaints are minor. Overall, this was a wonderful and very real look at how a close-knit friendship changes over time. A great summer read.
Sandie graded the book a B+
Summer sleepaway camp is a foreign concept to me, since the only sleepaway camps I attended as a teen were church camps, and they were only ever for one week at a time: one for choir and one for youth group. But being away for 6-8 weeks every summer for five years straight, it’s just not something I can relate to personally, even though I know a ton of people who deeply cherish their summer camp memories and friends. “Five Summers” made me think of those friends who speak in reverent tones about their summers learning to canoe and boulder and knit while also navigating the sometimes choppy waters of romance and the intensity of living with other tweens and teens.
The way LaMarche interspersed the details of the alumni reunion with flashbacks to the four girls’ various years at camp was necessary to understand the backstory to their friendships and the dynamics and stereotypes associated with each one of the girls. Although a couple of the characters and story lines were harder to invest in than others (not to mention downright frightening as the mother of tweens), I thought there was a lot of depth and cringe-inducing, brutal honesty about how flawed and clueless and hopeful and confused adolescents are, especially when living with other adolescents summer after summer.
By the end of the reunion, friendships are restored, one romance ends before it even starts, and another love story has just begun. For a summer read, it’s light but surprisingly reflective, and a great discussion launcher for mothers and daughters who want to read the book together.
Disclosure: After I read the book, I looked at the author’s photo and thought it looked familiar. I re-read the acknowledgements and realized Una LaMarche is the daughter of Ellen Chuse, a renowned Brooklyn-based childbirth educator who taught the birth class my husband and I took in 2002 in preparation for the birth of our eldest child. I was also lucky enough to take classes for new mothers she led at a local Y. However, I have never met Una, and my thoughts on her book were not influenced by my random connection to her mother.
Jenn graded the book a C
When I was growing up, my sister, cousins, and I called ourselves the JEBS (Jennifer, Erica, Bianca, and Stefanie). Every summer we eagerly anticipated Erica coming to visit for the entire summer. So, when I started reading Five Summers, I hoped that it would spark nostalgic feelings. I was really excited to read, what I thought would be, a book about strong friendships between a group of girls. Unfortunately it wasn’t what I hoped it would be.
I felt like this book had a lot of potential to be great. I would have enjoyed this book far more had it dealt more with the girls helping each other through their problems, such as Jo’s struggle to face the future, Maddie’s issues with her family, and Skylar’s complicated relationship with her father. These are all issues I felt didn’t get the depth they deserved. Instead, I spent most of the novel wondering what Emma and Skyler saw in Adam Loring and why so much of the story had to revolve around this despicable, manipulative boy.
The characterizations of the girls were stereotypical: the sporty one, the type-A one, the free-spirited one, the dramatic one. They weren’t very memorable or original characters. The switch between the past and present made the book seem a little disjointed. Half the time it felt like YA for older teens and the rest of the time it had a middle grade feel to it. Overall, I thought Five Summers was pretty disappointing.
Melanie graded the book a B+
Of course there was no way to tell when you would become a woman from a piece of paper. Growing up in that way seemed a lot more complicated than having a birthday, or a period, or a certain cup size, or even having s-e-x; not just one thing, but a series like dominos that kept falling down no matter how much you wanted them to stay standing… or, maybe, like a big round of mash with the universe doing the counting for you (LaMarche, 196).
In the book “Five Summers,” four girls who have spent five summers together at summer camp come together for a reunion event three years later, wondering if they can restore the friendships that have faded over time. Unfortunately, they all need to take steps to be honest with each other and themselves as they navigate the difficult waters of friendship, love and growing up.
Keely graded the book a B-
Emma, Skylar, Maddie and Jo had 4 summers together at Camp Nedoba. Now it’s time for their reunion 3 years later. They swore to stay best friends, but as it typically does when the end of high school is on the horizon they’ve been busy trying to figure out what path their lives will take. Five Summers is the story of their reunion framed by their four summers together at camp.
A Judy Blume-esque read, “Five Summers” was a quick light read well suited to a vacation reading list. I really wanted to like this book more – I enjoy coming of age stories a lot, but it just didn’t grab me.
You have all the right characters present: the brainiac, the one the boys adore, the one with a secret, and the tomboy. Their stories were believable enough, but I never felt like I really got to know them. The point-of-view flips between characters and from summer to summer. This definitely contributed to a disjointed feeling to the book and I found myself having to re-check chapter titles to remember who and where I was. It felt sort of disjointed and I never really got the grasp on each of the four girls that I would have liked.
That said, the story is enjoyable and would be a great read on the beach or airplane during vacation. It satisfied that itch to experience summer camp and see the strength of friendships built over the course of a few months each summer as well as having several love interests swoop in and out of the storylines. I like Una LaMarche’s writing style and will certainly watch for other books by her and hopefully they’ll resonate with me more.
Cara graded the book an A-
Three years after they “graduated” out of their New England summer camp, four friends return for the annual camp reunion weekend to relive past glories and renew friendships, but the weekend takes an unexpected turn when secrets come out.
The book navigates between the reunion weekend and experiences from each of the five summers the girls spent at camp together, deftly showing how the present is so often defined by the past. And while there is a romantic element, this isn’t a love story. It is about friendships and the tests that time and distance place on them.
As a pre-teen, I spent a week each summer at a sleep-away camp and I vividly recall the microcosm of life that took place during that short span of time. Friendships raced from introduction to BFF at the speed of light. Boys and girls met, “went out” and broke up in 24 hour periods. The isolation and time constraints lent an air of immediacy and import to every minute interaction. So perhaps it is partially because of my own experience that I was so effectively transported back to that time of my life while reading this book, but each of the four main characters was so real and identifiable that it was definitely more than just nostalgia that made me enjoy this book so much.
The first half of the book was a little slow as we learned about each of the characters, but the second half more than made up for it as we raced towards the emotional end of the weekend and the big “capture the flag” showdown between the boys and the girls. All in all, a fun read.
To win a copy, enter our giveaway below!