Two Summers: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Two Summers by Aimee FriedmanAn unexpected phone call at the airport forces Summer Everett to make a split second decision. Should she answer the phone? Should she get on the plane?

One decision will lead to two very different outcomes as Summer’s choices play out in parallel worlds.

In one world Summer ignores the phone call and heads to France as planned for what should be a perfect trip. Summer is thrilled with the chance to catch up with her dad and get to see his portrait of her hanging in a fancy gallery–all while enjoying the beautiful French countryside.

In the other world Summer answers the phone and her plans are ruined. No trip to France. No time with Dad. Just three boring months off from school in her same old small town. She has the chance to take a photography class for the first time, but it’s hard to think of that as anything but a consolation prize.

Neither outcome is quite what Summer expects.

In France or her home town Summer will find unexpected surprises and growing pains, along with the promise of first love and self-discovery. Each vacation will also bring Summer closer to a shocking secret whose revelation will have lasting repercussions regardless of Summer’s initial choice. Some decisions might lead Summer to the same outcomes in both worlds, but it’s up to her to decide what shape her life will take from here in Two Summers (2016) by Aimee Friedman.

Two Summers gives readers the best of both worlds in this two-for-one story of one (or perhaps two) pivotal summers. 

Summer is a smart, authentic narrator who learns a lot in each plot whether its how to stand up for herself in France or how to appreciate her own artistic abilities in a photography class at home. Throughout the novel Summer also learns how to be alone and how to step out of her comfort zone. Sweet romances and well-developed characters round out this charming novel that brings the lazy heat and possibility of a long summer vacation to life.

Careful plotting allows readers to watch both timelines play out in “real” time with little nods to the dual narrative which help to bring a cohesive quality to the overall story. The idea of causality and that some outcomes are inevitable is another interesting thread throughout as Two Summers builds toward a satisfying conclusion for both plots. A great summery story and a delightful introduction to time travel and parallel worlds. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings:  In Some Other Life by Jessica Brody, Parallel by Lauren Miller, Now That You’re Here by Amy K. Nichols, Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young, The Square Root of Summer by Harrier Reuter Hapgood, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, All Summer Long by Hope Larson, The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski, Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, Pivot Point by Kasie West, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

Be sure to enter my Two Summers giveaway too!

You can also check out my exclusive interview with Aimee!

*An advance copy of this title was acquired from the publisher for review consideration*

Author Interview: Aimee Friedman on Two Summers

Aimee Friedman author photoI first saw Aimee at one of the first Teen Author Reading Nights held at Jefferson Market in 2008. She was reading from and discussing her then-newest title The Year My Sister Got Lucky. I read the book soon after and started following Aimee on Twitter soon after. Her follow-up book, Sea Change, is still the only mermaid book I unequivocally love. Needless to say I’ve been waiting eagerly for a new novel from Aimee. I’m happy to report that Two Summers far exceeded my expectations and even more excited to have Aimee answering some questions about it today on the blog.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell me a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Aimee Friedman (AF): I wrote my first story at age five and right away knew that this was what I wanted to do. Reading and writing were the lifeblood of my childhood and adolescence. When I graduated from college, I began working as an editorial assistant and always wrote on the side. And in 2005, my lifelong dream came true–my first YA novel, SOUTH BEACH, was published! The moment I saw it in a bookstore, I almost fainted. Then I made my parents take like twenty pictures. Since then, it’s been eleven years (eep!) of stops and starts, a few more books, some bumps in the road, adventures…and I wouldn’t trade the writing life for anything. 

MP: What was the inspiration for Two Summers?

AF: I spent a magical summer living in the South of France when I was 19, and I always wanted to write about it in some way.  But I also wanted to write a book about choices, and “what-if”s. And I love summer, the season, so much that I knew I wanted to explore more than one. So I started tinkering with those ideas…and the rest is (Two Summers) history.

MP: This book is has a prologue and epilogue framing the parts of the story which alternate between Summer’s two lives–one in France and one in her hometown. Despite the obvious differences, some key details and moments turn up in both narratives. How did you go about plotting this story and keeping track of everything?

AF: There’s a reason this book took me about three years to write! It was essentially like writing two novels at the same time, and it involved a lot of outlining and head-scratching and long talks with my editor when it came to figuring out the logistics. I ended up creating a fictional calendar for the story, and basically filled it out with what happened on each day, both in France and in America (also keeping note of time zone difference!). Once I had that in place, it was easier to go forth and write out all the beats.

MP: In Two Summers Summer faces a pivotal decision that can lead to two very different summer vacations for her. Did you always know this story would explore dual lives?

AF: Yes! I have long been obsessed with the idea of parallel lives–the notion that one tiny choice can split off into infinite possibilities. (I love the movie Sliding Doors, though I haven’t seen it in years and very deliberately did not watch it while writing Two Summers, so as not to be overtly influenced or thrown off track). I love the work of Brian Greene, a physicist who wrote The Elegant Universe and The Hidden Reality, among other books, that explore in really accessible ways the idea that there are endless universes out there. So cool.

I also really believe that all of us have “two sides”–or more. Different versions of ourselves that we share with different people; ways we are when we are alone, ways we are when we travel versus stay at home. I wanted the book to touch on that as well.

MP: It seems like everyone has pivotal moments like Summer’s all the time. (“What if I didn’t have that internship in high school?” “What if I had sent that email?” And so on.) Do you have your own pivotal moment you’d want to share? Do you think your life now would be different if you had taken the opposite path?

AF: Well, any moment can be a pivotal moment–that’s the thing; we never really know! Sometimes those moments are obvious–if, for instance, I went to law school after college, something one of my professors strongly recommended I do, my life probably would have taken a very different path. Or would it have?  And then there are those funny, tiny moments of choice; the other day, I decided to walk somewhere instead of taking the subway and I ended up running into a dear old friend whom I’d been hoping to reconnect with on the street. Fate, or randomness? 

MP: Two Summers features two (possibly of many more!) distinct paths Summer could have taken. Do you seen one as more “real” by the end of the story? Was one more fun (or more challenging) to write?

AF: I don’t want to say, for fear of spoilers! This one is up to the readers to decide. In terms of writing the dual narratives, they both presented their own rewards and challenges; both settings were fun to “live in” but I also wanted to make sure they both felt authentic and true. 

MP: If you were in Summer’s shoes, would you have answered your phone?

AF: No! I never answer my phone when it’s an unknown number. I usually just stare down at the screen like “Who ARE you?” and let it go to voicemail. 

MP: Did you have a favorite scene to write in Two Summers or a scene you are excited for readers to discover?

AF: I loved writing the moment when Summer first gets to France. It took me back to when I lived in France, those  feelings of discovery and excitement and disorientation. 

MP: Can you share anything about your next project?

AF: It’s in the very early stages right now–sketching down ideas, talking it over with some trusted readers, etc. I’m superstitious and don’t want to jinx it by saying more!

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

AF: Read! Read what you love, read across genres, read to feel inspired and overwhelmed and inspired again. Wander around bookstores. Read Bird by Bird by Anne Lammot and On Writing by Stephen King. Those are lifesavers! Write down scraps of ideas. Then seize on the scrap that most captures your imagination and expand it. And try to turn off that internal editor whispering in your ear that “it’s not good enough.” It’s hard, but if you can turn off that voice and just get the words down, it will feel awesome. Have a trusted beta reader or two, someone there to push you along and give you criticism and praise as needed. Go, go, go!

Thanks again to Aimee for this awesome interview.

Be sure to enter my Two Summers giveaway too!

You can see more about Aimee and her books on her website.

You can also check out my review of Two Summers.

Summertime and the Reading is Easy: A Book List

School might be starting and summer might be fading but with these books you can hold out to that summery feeling any time of year.

  • Clarity by Kim Harrington: Everyone in town knows Clarity Fern’s family is uniquely “gifted” and that Clare is a psychic. But when a tourist turns up murdered, no one expects Clare to be key to the investigation anymore than they expect her older brother to be a suspect.
  • Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson: Clio has the perfect summer planned. Too bad no one told her father. Instead of a perfect summer romance Clio ends up with . . . well she isn’t sure yet except that it involves her being on a boat with her father, an incredibly annoying assistant and her father’s new flame. Oh and maybe treasure.
  • A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley: Charlie Duskin lives and breathes music. Rose Butler is mad about science and she wants out of her nowhere town so much that it hurts. Charlie and Rose have nothing in common but by the end of the summer they might help each other get everything they’ve been longing for.
  • Sea Change by Aimee Friedman: Many are drawn to Selkie Island. Few know why. All Miranda Merchant knows is that the island, and the boy she meets there, are different. Miranda will have to sort through the facts, and the myths, to find the truth and maybe even her own happy ending.
  • The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti: Quinn has grown up in the shadow of bad relationships. Quinn already knew that her father wasn’t perfect. Charming, witty, fun Barry can also be selfish, irresponsible and vindictive. When she realizes that Barry has amassed trophies from every one of his ex-girlfriends, Quinn knows she has to take action.

This is only half of the list. For the other half, head over to The Book Bandit’s Blog.

Sea Change: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Sea Change by Aimee FriedmanMany are drawn to Selkie Island. Few know why.

The whirlwind of events that brought sixteen-year-old Miranda Merchant to the island, away from her sensible summer plans in New York City, are unlikely but they make enough sense. Her mother has inherited a house that needs to be gone through and emptied. Logical enough. And so much more realistic than any fairytale happy ending.

But Selkie Island is a messy place that quickly blurs the lines between past and present and, more startling for Miranda, between reality and legend. Lore about mythical creatures and her own family’s past pervade the island filling the dense air with mystery and a charge Miranda’s logical mind can’t grasp. Soon enough everything Miranda thought she knew about her own family, her basic reality, and love is turned upside down when she meets Leo, a local boy with his own breezy, otherworldly charm.

Miranda will have to sort through the facts, and the myths, to find the truth and maybe even her own happy ending in Sea Change (2009) by Aimee Friedman.

Sea Change is subtle and exquisite. Thoroughly grounded in Miranda’s scientific, logical head the story practically vibrates with tension as she works to reconcile what her mind knows to be impossible with what her heart might already know to be true. Friedman has already written a lot of great books, some of them bestsellers, but this one might be her best to date.

Friedman seamlessly integrates scientific references, seaside lore, and family to create a clever, romantic book with delightful characters and a setting evocative enough that some readers might finish this book only to find sand between their toes.

On top of all that, Miranda is a smart, grounded heroine who has a strong sense of self even at her lowest. No vampire’s here, but anyone looking for a thinking girl’s answer to Twilight need look no further.

Possible Pairings: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson, Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, Swoon at Your Own Risk by Sydney Salter, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

Exclusive Bonus Content (where I actually have content): If, like me, you love the cover of this book be sure to stop by the readergirlz blog to hear the awesome story behind the cover from the author herself.

Finding the “good” parents: My list

Read about the original challenge here

View the Master List

My list:

  1. Suite Scarlett (and its sequel Scarlett Fever) by Maureen Johnson: Scarlett Martin and her family have nothing but affection for each other aside from the occasional bout of sibling disagreement. They might not know much about running a hotel, but the Martins know lots about good parenting.
  2. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt: Turner Buckminster’s mother is a regular moral compass, she always knows the right path and tries to show her husband where it is while encouraging young Turner to follow his own path which, eventually, might set his own father back on the straight and narrow.
  3. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher: No one is going to agree with me on this. The Warden might be ruthless and cold and scary, but by the end of the story I defy you to tell me he did not have his child’s best interests at heart in a weird, ruthless, cold and scary kind of way.
  4. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta: Trevanion went to prison for his son! And rescued him! And lots of other awesome things!
  5. Holes by Louis Sachar: Cursed, probably. Bad parents, no way. The Yelnatses are nothing but loving and supportive–even if they couldn’t stop Stanley’s dirty-rotten-no-good-pig-stealing ancestor from causing trouble.
  6. Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli: Stargirl is a free spirit and her parents are cool enough to let her. This book is filled with delightfully odd yet authentic adult characters besides parents.
  7. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare: Nothing speaks more to parental involvement and engagement like not telling your daughter she has the Sight. Lies aside, Jocelyn has Clary’s best interests at heart. And as a father figure it doesn’t get much more realistic than Luke–even when he’s swinging a knife fighting monsters.
  8. The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman: Sometimes being a responsible parent is just standing back while your daughters decide to pursue their own dreams instead of yours.
  9. The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander: Austin knows exactly what she wants. And her mom knows it might not end exactly as Austin plans. But she also knows that Austin needs to learn that lesson on her own. A realistic and often amusing depiction of a single mother at her best.
  10. The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga: I include this one to point out that sometimes the best parental characters are the ones that teens think they hate. The Step-Fascist is one of my favorite parents in YA because Fanboy hates him (thus the nickname) but the Step-Fascist still steps up repeatedly as a parent with no expectations of gratitude–totally real and totally awesome–because it takes a man to be a dad.

The Year My Sister Got Lucky: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Year My Siser Got Lucky by Aimee FriedmanFourteen-year-old Katie Wilder has her whole world figured out. She and her older sister Michaela are best friends and ballerinas at a prestigious dance school in New York City. Their futures are mapped out as minutely as the New York City Subway system. They are City Girls, born and bred, and neither Wilder sister would have it any other way in The Year My Sister Got Lucky (2008) by Aimee Friedman.

That was August.

September finds the Wilder family moving upstate to the rural Adirondack town of Fir Lake.

Nothing is the way it was in the City. Everyone knows Katie’s name (even if they can’t actually pronounce “Katya”) and her background. Neighbors say hello and the entire town is excited about a mysterious event referred to only as “Homecoming.” In a town where everyone knows everyone, Katie feels like a stranger.

To make matters worse, Michaela has no such problems. Overnight it seems like Michaela has made a place for herself in Fir Lake finding popular friends, joining Yearbook, and even dating the gorgeous quarterback.

The harder Katie clings to her memories of City life, the more Michaela adapts to life in Fir Lake, leaving Katie to wonder what happens when your home doesn’t feel like a home and your best friend starts to look like someone you don’t know.

As a City Girl myself, it was great to read Friedman’s evocative scenes early in The Year My Sister Got Lucky that so wonderfully capture the city I (gratefully) call home. While Friedman’s descriptions of New York City are pitch perfect, right down to the ballerinas the flock there for summer dance programs, she also captures what I imagine is an authentic picture of rural life. Even as Katie aches to be back in New York, Friedman shows the unique beauty that can be found in a dark sky lit by stars instead of skyscrapers.

More than that, this story is about growing up. While her sister blossoms in their bucolic town, Katie struggles to understand what being a teenaged girl really means.

The Year My Sister Got Lucky is also a fully developed look at a year in the life of the Wilder family. Friedman brings together a lot of different elements to create a story that is funny and insightful and strikingly genuine from every angle.

Possible Pairings: Tumbling by Caela Carter, Bunheads by Sophie Flack, King of the Screwups by K. L. Going, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, Boy Toy by Barry Lyga, We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne