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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:  When Summer Comes by Brenda Novak

REVIEW: When Summer Comes by Brenda Novak

Dear Ms. Novak:

I read the first in the Whiskey Creek series. It introduced us to a small town in California and a group of friends who have been connected since high school. They are close friends, up in your business, friends. They have conference calls and phone trees and none of your personal stuff ever stays private with these folks. It’s amazing and intrusive but actually comes off caring and welcoming in a strange way.

When Summer Comes (Whiskey Creek #3) by Brenda NovakIn “When Summer Comes”, Callie Vanetta has withdrawn from the group of friends, taken a sabbatical of sorts from her wedding and family photography business, and moved onto her grandparent’s farm. She’s done all these things because Callie has a form of non alcohol related liver disease and without a liver transplant, this summer will be her last. Caliie puts off telling her family and her friends because she does not want to feel their sorrow or their pity. She wanted to enjoy the last days of her life without the burdens of trying to be brave or assuring others that she will fight for her survival.

One night Levi McCloud appears on her doorstep, bloodied after an attack with a couple of pit bulls and in need of place to stay. Since Levi returned from Afghanistan, he’s been roaming from town to town on his motorcycle picking up odd jobs in exchange for housing and then moving on. When Callie sees him she thinks that she can’t save herself but maybe she can save him. She opens her home to Levi and eventually her heart.

The writing is overly simplisitic at times and there were too many medical terms explained to us in an inelegant fashion, much like an info dump in a fantasy book:

A week! Maybe she’d be gone before Levi…

She swallowed. “How bad is it?”

“It’s affected your MELD score by a fairly signifi­cant margin.”

The Model for End­stage Liver Disease or MELD score was how the United Network for Organ Sharing determined where she belonged on the national donor list. A computer­generated number between six and forty, based on blood tests, indicated how likely she was to die in the next ninety days without a transplant. The higher the number, the more serious her condition.

And really, because this was a romance Callie’s cure is a foregone conclusion. But Callie and Levi’s romance is rather sweet. Levi fell in love with a woman in Afghanistan but their love was forbidden and his mere attention to the woman placed her in danger. He still has strong feelings toward her years after he left her behind and he struggles with his attraction toward Callie. Levi doesn’t have a secret stash of wealth and he’s not going to sweep Callie off her feet but he’s strong and capable and decent.

Callie’s actions toward Levi are completely understandable in her circumstances and how she is depicted in the story. She wants to reach out to Levi and she lives, in some sense, without the barriers that may be in place in a normal situation. She’s honest about her attraction to Levi. She delights in buying him a few things like jeans or a shirt. Making someone else happy makes her happy.

Her close friends and their relationship troubles are a bit intrusive and I found them mostly irritating because they felt like they were they to set up future books than to provide insight into the burgeoning relationship between Levi and Callie.

Callie’s profession as a photographer is given almost no attention other than to make references to a few pictures in her house. Her point of view doesn’t reflect how she views things differently than someone else who doesn’t make a living capturing images. Levi’s past as a vet and a former MMA fighter are a little more integral to the storyline.

This is a slow moving romance and focuses almost more on Callie’s fight with her disease but the sweetness of the story drew me in. These Whiskey Creek novels are pleasant diversions. They aren’t breaking down barriers, but an escape from the non billionaire alpha hero was a relief. C+

Best regards,


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