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REVIEW:  The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry

REVIEW: The Summer I Found You by 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,

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REVIEW: The Marquess of Cake by Heather Hiestand

REVIEW: The Marquess of Cake by Heather Hiestand

Dear Ms. Hiestand,

I was having a rocking good time with this book until exactly the 58% mark, at which point it seemed to jump some sort of storyline river, where extra development should have been or was and then got massively cut. It annoyed me so much I noticed the rest of the inconsistencies in characterization throughout the latter half of the book more than I would have otherwise.

Note: I first read this book some months ago and wrote most of this review then (and forgot I had), but I couldn’t help feeling like I had exaggerated the annoyance I felt. So I decided to read it again (I never re-read) to see if I had been unfair. I hadn’t. I feel exactly the same way on re-read as I did then. But I didn’t know how to grade this then and I’m still not sure.

Coffee . . . tea . . . or a pastry chef sweeter than any confection . . .

Scotch trifle fit for Queen Victoria, scones with clotted cream . . . Alys Redcake knows the way to a man’s heart. Yet she is unaware that with each morsel—and flash of ankle—she is seducing the handsome marquess frequenting her father’s tea shop. Unmarried at twenty-six, Alys’s first love is the family business. But thoughts of the gentleman’s touch are driving her to distraction . . .

With his weakness for sugar, the Marquess of Hatbrook can imagine no more desirable woman than one scented with cake and spice. Mistaking Alys for a mere waitress, he has no doubt she would make a most delicious mistress. And when he finds himself in need of an heir, he plans to make her his convenient bride. Yet as they satisfy their craving for one another, business and pleasure suddenly collide. Will Hatbrook’s passion for sweets—and for Alys—be his heart’s undoing?

Alys’s father has climbed his way to wealth from the pits of poverty via pastry, to the point he has been granted knighthood by Queen Victoria. Part of his method was to work his oldest three children in his fledgling factory beginning at the age of 8. As a result, they are not given an education. The oldest child was physically weak and perished, leaving Alys and her twin, Gawain, behind. Once the family achieves some wealth, their father sends Gawain to India and along come two more girls to the family, both of whom, because of the family’s newfound wealth, get educations and finishing school so that they might attract the attention of a noble in need of funds and not particular that it comes from the merchant class. Because Alys has always worked in her father’s factory and then in the storefront bakery he later opens, and is uneducated and unrefined, she is seen as an object of derision by her younger sisters.

All that aside, Alys loves her occupation as a cake decorator and her gift for charming nobles into spending money on her confections. Because of an event that happened years before, she does not want to marry, but at twenty-six, she really has no reason to think she is in danger of such a state. Until her father decrees that, as the eldest daughter of a newly minted knight, she is unfit to work at her chosen occupation and fires her, breaking her heart and putting her future in a flux not of her choosing.

In the meantime, she has met Michael Shield, Marquess Hatbrook, who is a sugar addict with a bad case of either hypoglycemia or early-onset diabetes type 2. I don’t know where I read this tidbit, but it’s the reason I picked up this book because not all disabilities revolve around ones people can see. He is unreasonably aware of and craving different pastries almost nonstop, it seems. In fact, he is initially attracted to Alys because she smells like cake.

Her body pressed against him. He scented that delectable perfume of hers. Eau de Redcake’s.

The writing is lovely. There are many little sections that I found clever, particularly when it comes to Michael’s attention to pastry:

Michael [toyed] with Theo’s plate. It was covered with crumbs and he wondered what Theo had been eating. It looked like a red, seedless jam had been involved.

Michael’s illness is handled very well, especially for the time period, as Alys is observant and insightful, and, with good ol’ common sense, can put two and two together to come up with a decent meal plan to help him (and his mother, who has the same problem). I would not be surprised if the author has some close experience with hypoglycemia and diabetes and its progression.

The characterization is consistent and I really feel for the position her newly knighted craptastic father puts her in. Alys is no-nonsense and Michael is a sweetheart. The sex scenes were lovingly drawn.

But then we hit the part where Alys has a personality and/or motivation transplant, and a previously smart and pragmatic woman does something out of character, and then compounds that by turning stupid.

She has sex with Michael, which would be fine and all, but it was at an odd place in the story, as if someone had said, “We need a sex scene at 58%. Put it in.” And to do that, Alys’s previously bad experience and subsequent inexperience, and all her previous ruminations about what she wants out of life, has to get tossed by the wayside on a moment’s notice.

Then, when circumstances change so that Michael feels he should offer her marriage, this previously smart and pragmatic woman says no, for no good reason. She has a reason, but it’s flimsy at best. It was as if someone said, “Now that they’ve had sex, make her refuse his offer of marriage because reasons.”

Michael is a good communicator. He tells her exactly what he wants from her and why (because he’s very attracted to her and she’s smart and he likes that), but she refuses to believe it. Instead, she decides he must want A, but then she thinks he must want B, but then she thinks he must want C, and none of them are what he flat-out told her he wanted at the 58% mark. And she’s doing this for no reason I can tell. It’s as if someone said, “And I want a Big Misunderstanding here.”

After the 58% mark, the rest of the book was an exercise in frustration and I may have acquired whiplash from all of Alys’s back-and-forthing. Because up to that point, everything was progressing logically and I was seriously invested in the story (as in A-grade invested), I was that much more frustrated with the rest of the book.

I’ve read the book twice now, months apart, and my opinion didn’t change. A for the first 58% and a D for the rest of it for needless trope mongering. C+