Book Review ~ The Last Summer (of You & Me) by Ann Brashares

Summary taken from AnnBrashares.net ~ “In the town of Waterby on Fire Island, the rhythms and rituals of summer are sacrosanct: the ceremonial arrivals and departures by ferry; yacht club dinners with terrible food and breathtaking views; the virtual decree against shoes; and the generational parade of sandy, suntanned kids, running, swimming, squealing, and coming of age on the beach.
Seat against this vivid backdrop, The Last Summer (of You and Me) is the enchanting, heartrending story of a beach-community friendship triangle among three young adults for whom summer and this place have meant everything. Sister Riley and Alice, now in their twenties, have been returning to their parents’ modest beach house every summer for their entire lives. Petite, tenacious Riley is a tomboy and a lifeguard, always ready for a midnight swim, a gale-force sail, or a barefoot sprint down the beach. Beautiful Alice is lithe, gentle, a reader and a thinker, and worshipful of her older sister. And every summer growing up, in the big house that overshadowed their humble one, there was Paul, a friend as important to both girls as the place itself, who has now finally returned to the island after three years away. But his return marks a season of tremendous change, and when a simmering attraction, a serious illness, and a deep secret collide, the three friends are launched into an unfamiliar adult world, a world from which their summer haven can no longer protect them.”

                                              

“The Last Summer (of You & Me)” took me to Fire Island and Manhattan, NY while introducing me to three characters whose lives overlapped each others like that of an intricately tied knot on a docked boat.  A knot that keeps the boat tied to the shore though the current works to free it.  Riley and Alice are sisters who have a close relationship with each other and with Paul, the boy who grew up in the neighboring beach house on Fire Island.  To Riley, Paul is a kindred spirit who understands her and looks at the world in a similar way.  They spent their summers growing up challenging each other in many ways.  Both being fans of the great outdoors, they trained to be life guards together but only one ended up taking the test and living their dream.  They shared Riley’s little sister, Alice, and both took great care to watch out for her and include her as best they could in their tight knit friendship.  To Alice, Paul is the boy she always tried to impress but never felt she could.  She thought about him all year round and would day dream about what he was doing in his life.  Paul always had a special place in his heart for Alice over the years but as girls learn, had a funny way of showing his affection.  He would torture her with relentless teasing and badgering for every little thing she tried to do.  But through the apparent strain between them, a love had blossomed into something that neither was very prepared for. 

After three years of being away from Fire Island, Paul returns for a summer he’ll never forget.  Waiting in anticipation for his ferry to arrive Alice thinks of the Paul she has been caring around in her mind for those three years. 

“How often she did attempt to process his thoughts in her mind.  She took his opinions too seriously, remembered them long after she suspected he’d forgotten them.
It was one thing, trying to think his thoughts when hes close by, his words offering clues, corrections, and confirmations by the hour.  But three years of silence made for complex interpolations.  It made it harder, and in another way it made it easier.  She was freer with his thoughts.  She made them her own, thought them to her liking.”

As the summer creeps along, the excitement of newly discovered love between life long friends is special and arouses memories in my own mind.  Memories of a love lost in my mid-twenties with a guy who had been one of my best-est of best friends for six years.  The temptation of creating something greater out of a stable and strong friendship is risky.  It didn’t work for me but it just might work for the characters in this book. 

“He was.  He was finally here.  He was taken back by his own certainty, but he was certain now.  Enough for the two of them and for anyone else who might come along.  This was what he wanted.  Now that he’d decided it, the future could not come fast enough.  Beware the power of the converted, he thought. 
At the same time, he knew he was at the edge of a great and rare pleasure.  A pleasure you got only once in your life, and if you didn’t make the most of it, you were stupid.  He was weary of being stupid.”
 
“Here she was, here they were, after all this time.  It was the joy of joys.”  

There were moments I absolutely loved in “The Last Summer (of You & Me)”and there were times when I felt I had lost my attachment to the story but for the most part I enjoyed this “summer read”.  The summer of 2000 found me visiting friends in Queens, NY and going along with them for a night on Fire Island.  I don’t really remember much of it because we arrived at night on the ferry and hit the bars almost immediately.  I do remember the morning after and waiting at the dock for the ferry to take us back to Long Island though.  I hadn’t thought about that trip in years until reading this book.  It was a fun and magical feeling to be on an island with a ferry ride separating us from the shores of New York’s Long Island.  To know that the only ways of getting around was walking (for us at least) and the only way on or off this long, narrow stretch of sandy land was a chugging ferry or heaven forbid a helicopter was such a foreign concept to me being from the suburban Washington D.C. area.  I enjoyed revisiting Fire Island as well as Manhattan and seeing it from a new perspective while reading “The Last Summer (of You & Me)”. 

The characters are rich and alive in “The Last Summer (of You & Me)”.  The events, lovely and tragic, effect their lives in a real and life changing way.  It was easy for me to imagine that this summer, (heaven forbid the tragic side of the story from happening), some magic is happening to young hearts on Fire Island.  That the tragedies of the world aren’t stretching across the Great South Bay and affecting them in the ways that affect us who live in it everyday. 

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

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4 thoughts on “Book Review ~ The Last Summer (of You & Me) by Ann Brashares

  1. A very personal review – I love it. I especially liked these sentences:

    >> whose lives overlapped each others like that of an intricately tied knot on a docked boat. A knot that keeps the boat tied to the shore though the current works to free it. <<

    wow!

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