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REVIEW:  Five Summers by Una LaMarche

REVIEW: Five Summers by Una LaMarche

Dear Ms. LaMarche,

After going on a bit of an older YA/NA reading spree while on vacation, I found myself in the mood for more contemporary fare over my usual SF&F preferences. Your novel, Five Summers, fell right into that category. Add in evolving friendships between girls as they grow up and I was sold.

lamarche-five-summersFrom ages 10 until 14, Emma, Skylar, Maddie, and Johanna attended a month-long summer camp. They met at camp and forged their friendships at camp. But all things come to an end and after their last summer camp at age 14, despite their efforts, those strong friendships faltered, communication lapsed, and they drifted apart.

Three years later, the four girls come together for a weekend reunion at the summer camp. It’s a chance for them to catch up and reconnect. At least that was the idea. But things start going wrong when secrets from their previous summers at camp rise to the surface and begin to destroy what weak bonds they have left.

What I liked best about Five Summers was that each of the girls, while fitting a recognizable archetype, never fell into complete and utter cliche. Emma is the brilliant girl on the Ivy League track. Skylar is the hippie artist. Maddie is the poor girl lying about her background. Jo is the tomboy daughter of the camp’s owner. I thought this was partly because their relationships with each other were fleshed out and complicated. Friendships, especially among teenaged girls, can have their ups and downs and the novel did a great job portraying that.

I wasn’t quite as thrilled about Emma and Skylar fighting over the same guy. It’s a predictable plotline, yes, but I’ve never been a fan of the “best friends going after the same boy” storyline. Mostly because it tends to devolve into an ugly fight between the girls while the boy is often portrayed as an innocent bystander who got caught up in the crossfire. Despite my initial lukewarm reaction, however, I thought this subplot redeemed itself at the end when the boy in question, Adam, is called out on his B.S. That’s really all I want: for the narrative to acknowledge when something or someone is in the wrong. And believe me, Adam is a jackass.

That said, I wish something more had been done with Emma and Skylar’s sexualities. The two are meant to contrast: Emma who wasn’t ready when she was 14 but is now and Skylar who started having sex early but is realizing that maybe mindless hookups aren’t what she’s really looking for. I think Emma got the better end of the deal in terms of exploration but Skylar’s epiphany was somewhat shortchanged.

Unfortunately, the Emma and Skylar drama overshadowed the stories revolving around Maddie’s coming clean about her background and Jo finding her own identity outside of the camp owner’s daughter. I never really got a handle on Maddie’s character and at times I thought Jo served as the afterschool special moment. Did you know that athletic girls who don’t like “girly” things might not be lesbians? Yeah. I appreciated what the narrative was trying to do with Jo’s character. That it was all right for girls not to like wearing dresses, that there is no wrong way to be a girl. But I’m not entirely convinced this effort succeeded since the narrative then goes on to call Jo “weird” and “abnormal.”

I’ll admit Five Summers is a predictable read. It does some things I wish more stories would do (call the boy out on his bullshit, show that there are many right ways to be a girl) but it isn’t what I’d call subversive or challenging. There’s nothing wrong with that but this is what I’d call more of a relaxing comfort read than anything else. B-

My regards,
Jia

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Thursday News: Penguin to contribute $75 million to restitution fund; Beware of blurbs; Amazon to sell licensed fan fiction

Thursday News: Penguin to contribute $75 million to restitution fund; Beware...

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Important! My family and I are doing *things* this next week so I’m taking a mini vacation from Dear Author News. We’ll still have our daily reviews and daily deals (of course) but unless I’m feeling really energetic, there won’t be any news again until Wednesday, May 29. That’s when BEA starts and I suspect there will be important news then.

On June 3 the price fixing case with Apple starts. I will be glued to PACER and will bring you what daily reports I can from the filings. Don’t break Dear Author while I’m gone, you guys!

Also, don’t forget we have the Nalini Singh / Ghost chat on Twitter tonight.

Twitter chat with Nalini Singh

I’m hosting a twitter chat with “The Ghost” on Thursday, May 23rd, from 9:00 to 10:00 pm EDT. Even if you are not on twitter, you can follow along at this link. You may not want to come if you don’t want to know any spoilers about Heart of Obsidian.

Nonetheless, Amazon is launching “Kindle Worlds” a “commercial publishing platform that will enable any writer to create fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters and earn royalties for doing so.

Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. Television Group’s Alloy Entertainment division for its New York Times best-selling book series Gossip Girl, by Cecily von Ziegesar; Pretty Little Liars, by Sara Shepard; and Vampire Diaries, by L.J. Smith; and plans to announce more licenses soon.

Through these licenses, Kindle Worlds will allow any writer to publish authorized stories inspired by these popular Worlds and make them available for readers to purchase in the Kindle Store.” Amazon Publishing will pay royalties to both the rights holders of the Worlds and the author. The standard author’s royalty rate (for works of at least 10,000 words) will be 35% of net revenue. As with all titles from Amazon Publishing, Kindle Worlds will base net revenue off of sales price—rather than the lower, industry standard of wholesale price—and royalties will be paid monthly.

It is instructive to look at the licenses that Amazon has secured.  Alloy Entertainment is a book packager and all those series are packages to which Alloy (and not the writer who is really just a work for hire) owns. But it’s a movement toward selling actual fan fiction instead of repackaged fan fiction like EL James’ Fifty Shades series.

Authors Guild should set up a licensing agency ala Henry Fox’s music licensing agency but it won’t.