Release: 2004 (originally 1999)
Pages: 228 (paperback)
Fifteen-year-old Colie has never fit in. First, it was because she was fat. Then, after she lost the weight, it was because of a reputation that she didn't deserve. So when she's sent to stay with her eccentric aunt Mira for the summer, Colie doesn't expect too much. After all, why would anyone in Colby, North Carolina want to bother with her when no one at home does?But Colby turns out to be a nice surprise for Colie. Almost without trying, she lands herself a job at the Last Chance Bar and Grill. There she meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel - two best friends who teach her what friendship is all about and help her to appreciate who she really is.
"Believe in yourself up here and it will make you stronger
than you could ever imagine" (Dessen 88).
Dessen is truly a master at young adult realistic fiction - from endearing and quirky characters to the depth of the themes and messages, she rarely fails to write stories teens (and older) can relate with and grow from reading. Colie Sparks is young, moody, and has a lip ring her mother hates. She was once overweight, but lost it all when her mother became a fitness instructor. Even with the lost weight, she still isn't confident in herself - in fact, she's anything but confident. She overreacts, she hides and slinks away when she should stand up for herself, and she's insecure...in other words, she's a teenage girl coming into her own self. Reading this novel now, it's easy to see how young she is, and while she may be mature in some aspects, her youth shows.
Colby in the summertime jumps off the pages. And the characters are wonderful: Norman and his artistic, laid-back approach to life is endearing; Mira's almost child-like joy in the small things and her ability to see past what's "broken" is wonderfully inspiring; and let's not forget the dynamic duo - Morgan and Isabel - both with their own quirks (I'm particularly fond of the scene we first read about Morgan - it gets me laughing every time) and plenty of memorable and touching moments. It's easy to get drawn into Colie's new life, the subplots of the other characters lives, and I couldn't ask for better characters to read about (except, of course, for the Wish Catering crew in The Truth About Forever - I could read about them all day, everyday).
A coming-of-age story set in a summer town with interesting characters (not to mention an artsy guy, sunglasses, and plenty of time spent in a cool roadside cafe)? Sign me up for a summer like that.
Highlights: I always get something out of Dessen's novels - always. Dessen's words are true to the heart, and there's always something to learn or take away with you. I love novels like that - the ones that are both enjoyable and meaningful to me. Dessen truly speaks "teen" and her characters always seem like real people I could meet somewhere.
Lowlights: It seems like it jumps around a bit, this might have been a novel that could have done better with more pages. The writing didn't feel as cohesive as Dessen's other novels. This isn't by far Dessen's best novel, but it is highly enjoyable. Colie's youth was frustrating at times, but she's young, so I get it.
Rating: 4 out of 5
My Reviews of Other Works by Sarah Dessen: