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REVIEW: The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry

summer-jolene-perry

Dear Ms. Perry,

While I’m past the point of “issue novels” in YA, I do like seeing some of those topics tackled within the context of other conflicts. In The Summer I Found You, we have a girl freshly diagnosed with diabetes and a young disabled veteran who meet and fall in love. I feel like this type of love story shouldn’t be fresh in YA and yet it is.

Kate would rather ignore her recent diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. She hates that everyone at school knows she has it. (An ambulance coming for you and taking you away would do that.) She hates that she has to watch every single thing she eats. Tracking carbs and timing her insulin shots with food intake is hard. Even though it’s ridiculous, a part of her believes that if she pretends it never happened, the disease will go away.

Then her longtime boyfriend dumps her. His explanation of them going to different colleges and being young would be more believable if he weren’t eying other girls while he was doing it. Seriously, lie better.

This sends Kate into a tailspin but then she meets her best friend’s cousin, Aidan. Aidan is a young soldier who lost his arm in Afghanistan. His plan had been to become a life soldier but that’s obviously gone awry. Now he has to figure out what he wants to do with his life while coping with residual PTSD and relearning how to do things with one arm, and his non-dominant one at that.

I see Kate and Aidan as kindred spirits. Both had their lives changed and have to learn to readjust. While I personally think Aidan’s readjustment is a bigger deal than diabetes, I can understand how learning to manage a disease can be hard for a teenager. Especially when it’s a disease that requires managing shots and food. So even though there were points where I wanted to shake Kate and tell her it wasn’t a big deal, I also know that sometimes things grow to these giant proportions in your head and it’s hard to break free of that.

As for Aidan, I really sympathized with him. His life has to go through a major readjustment. He has to sell his beloved car because he can no longer drive stick. He hates the therapist he’s supposed to see about his PTSD. He doesn’t like talking to the guys from his former unit. And he’s scared of seeing his friend’s widow. (Aidan lost his arm in an explosion when his friend stepped on a mine while they were on patrol. The friend did not survive.) This is all major stuff and I think that’s partially why Kate’s problems, which are not actually small problems all things considered, seem blown out of proportion.

This is a classic story of two people who began by using each other as a distraction from their respective life problems but end of becoming more. I found the conflicts that popped up over the course of their relationship to be very believable. While there is only a two year age difference between Kate and Aidan, it’s like a lifetime. Aidan served as a soldier in Afghanistan. Kate is in high school. Aidan doesn’t like high school drama. But Kate is the only person who doesn’t treat him with pity because he has one arm.

The ultimate conflict comes to a head in a way that is organic and natural to their relationship. It’s not a surprise but I won’t say it was disappointing. Of course Kate’s inability to manage her diabetes would going to blow up in her face. You could see that coming from page 1.

While this book is categorized as YA, it actually has a lot of traits that would appeal to NA readers. Kate is on the edge of adulthood, preparing for college. Aidan has a brand new life to plan. I enjoyed the portrayal of their relationship and the way in which a distraction became exactly what they need. B-

My regards,
Jia

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Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

10 Comments

  1. Alison
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 09:46:07

    With reference to your comment

    “I can understand how learning to manage a disease can be hard for a teenager. Especially when it’s a disease that requires managing shots and food. So even though there were points where I wanted to shake Kate and tell her it wasn’t a big deal, I also know that sometimes things grow to these giant proportions in your head and it’s hard to break free of that”

    A family friend is over 60 and he has diabetes. He still tries to act as though it doesn’t exist and refuses to moderate his diet. It is very frustrating to watch a grown man potentially harm himself through refusing to face facts

  2. RLJ
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 10:07:19

    I’m going to climb up on my soapbox about diabetes here.

    Diabetes is a life-threatening disease. People can and do die from it. Surviving with it means that it is part of your life every single day and every moment of your day. There is no cure, just treatments and monitoring.

    I’m not sure I would want to evaluate which is worse – diabetes or losing a limb. Both have an impact on every single day for the rest of your life. And in diabetes case can shorten your life dramatically (one of my friends died in his mid-twenties from the disease).

  3. Jamie Beck
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 10:58:57

    First of all, I think the cover of this book is gorgeous. I don’t read much YA, but this cover would make me take a peek. Next, your review makes the book sound so good, I’m surprised by the B- rating. Not that B- isn’t a good grade, but aside from your not feeling the heroine’s diabetes problem was as big of a deal as she made it out to be, you seemed to thoroughly enjoy the other elements of the story. Third, I love the fact that this story sounds so “real”…real life, real problems, real issues. Thanks for sharing it with us. I might have to read this YA, and if it isn’t too racy, may pass it over to my young teenaged daughter.

  4. Stephanie Scott
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 11:43:53

    Well, clearly I have to read this. I’ve heard wonderful things about this author so I’m not surprised it takes a fresh take on some standard issue type storytelling. The best YA authors know how to do this (and make the rest of us envious). Beautiful cover.

  5. Meoskop
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 12:46:55

    A subtweet led me to break my self imposed ban. I am in a hulk smash rage at the handwaving of a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Type 1 diabetes is a death sentence. There is no if there is only when. Will you just not wake up? Will you wake up on a street corner with a banana and no idea how you got there but the knowledge that you are in a life threatening situation with no idea how lucid you are? Will you need an amputation? Will you bleed into your eyes or your brain one day, without warning? Will you lose your teeth to a stubborn infection?

    Do you have good health insurance? Will you, like Shepard Fairey, be arrested on a minor charge and come close to death when they tag you as an addict and you can not speak to correct them? Can you afford to take that job? It costs hundred of dollars a month to stay alive. You lost your insurance. how can you pay $700 a month to live and float COBRA? Will this pharmacist sell you insulin? Will that one? How many times today will you explain, excuse, justify your medical needs to a population that treats this deadly auto immune disease as a joke?

    I have watched people die young from Type 1 diabetes. I have watched people I love struggle with reduced choices due to the financial burden, continually accept new limitations. I lost the best friend I will ever have.

    Give me the amuptated arm and the PTSD any day of the week. ANY SINGLE DAY.

  6. Phyl
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 13:07:25

    @Meoskop: Thank you for this. My son has T1 and I am scared for him every single day for all of the reasons you mentioned. There is never a moment in the day that you cannot think about it.

  7. Carolyn Jewel
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 14:07:34

    Without commenting on the merits of the book I want to say that diabetes really is a big , deadly, deal. My best friend is a diabetes specialist. Her teenage patients have the worst compliance and the most dire outcomes. That poor compliance with their care not only impacts their current health but compromises their future health in ways that cannot be fixed.

    For some reason the public has this really wrong impression that this isn’t a big deal. But it is. Perhaps for teenagers most of all. They think they’re immortal at that age and this disease can silently kill them or shorten their lives.

    I urge all of us to be aware and to consider contributing to Brenda Novak’s diabetes auction or other charity or awareness campaign.

  8. Jia
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 16:34:20

    I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to trivialize the diagnosis and management of the disease.

    In my opinion, the book does present diabetes as the condition that requires “less” adjustment. Now that may actually be a function of the POV since these sections are told through Kate’s first-person perspective and she is in denial. (Aidan doesn’t know that she has diabetes for the majority of the novel.)

    Given the target age audience, I would actually say the gravity of the diagnosis needs to be emphasized more within the context of the novel because as Carolyn points out, teenagers do think they’re immortal. Now I’m not sure if this was the best way to present a teenager with the diagnosis in a YA novel. As the novel presents the disease, I don’t think the severity comes across. Because she was in denial and she treated her parents’ concern as nagging (which I would assume many young teenage readers empathize with and thereby dismiss) and even the best friend would say things like, “Oh, Kate’s just bad at timing her shots.” and “Oh, she just needs to eat something.” Maybe the balance between Kate’s disease management and Aidan’s readjustment was skewed towards Aidan. I don’t know. I’d have to reread to see.

  9. Carolyn Jewel
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 19:19:15

    @Jia:

    I’ve always wondered about the portrayal of diabetes in the media. They’d have us believe that it’s something you can live with without much concern or consequence, and it’s just not true. So I hope everyone reading this thread comes away aware of that.

    I’ve not read the book, so I can’t say anything about how the author handled the heroine’s condition. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on that if you do reread it.

  10. Susan
    Mar 24, 2014 @ 22:43:42

    There have been many medical advances since then, but when my brother was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 4 his doctor told my mother he’d be dead by age 10. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it was a primary daily focus of our entire family to keep my brother healthy and alive. My mother spent hours on his meals, weighing everything on scales, calculating his insulin dosages, etc, and there were still days when he’d have multiple seizures. The fact that he survived to adulthood–and prospered–was a testament to my mother’s devotion and his rigid self-discipline.

    I’m very curious about this book, but I think it would push a lot of buttons if the author was cavalier in her portrayal of the condition. And I’m not sure how sympathetic I’d be to Kate’s refusal to own her disease. I’ll put this on my wishlist, but I’ll have to think hard about it.

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