Synopsis: Maybe it’s the long, lazy days, or maybe it’s the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.
Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.
Review: 2.86/5 (overall rating from average of each story)
Prepare for a long one, folks. Each story (there are 12) will get its own one sentence synopsis (written, hopefully acceptably, by me) and then a review (which will be as short as I can make it–some longer than others). If you’re not interested in that, a very brief overall review can be found directly below. Otherwise, strap in!
Overall: I expected twelve short contemporary love stories that made me feel summery. This was important to me, because summer is my favorite season. And I read it as summer is slipping away. So I needed it especially badly! Instead, I got a ton of meh magical realism (my least favorite genre), and none of it felt summery. Upsides: lots of LGBT action (5 out of 12 stories featured LGBT characters and/or relationships), adorable story art, a couple of standout stories I really enjoyed.
Story One: “Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail” by Leigh Bardugo
Synopsis: When small-town resident Gracie thinks she sees a sea monster in the local lake, she turns to summer kid Eli for help–and gets a lot more than she bargained for.
Review: 4/5. Now this is magical realism done right. Like Bardugo’s Six of Crows, this is a well-written, polished story that often feels filled with magic. The somewhat rushed ending didn’t hold up to the standard set by the rest of the story, but for me to give magical realism a 4/5 is pretty unexpected.
Story Two: “The End of Love” by Nina Lacour
Synopsis: Faced with an empty summer, Flora signs up to (voluntarily) retake geometry, and unexpectedly re-encounters a group of three friends (one of whom she hasn’t stopped thinking about).
Review: 2/5. I could not think of a character trait for this group of four if I tried. Flora likes decorating, I think? And three of them like to camp, so maybe they like nature too? I just don’t know. And since I didn’t know any of the trio’s traits, neither did Flora, really, and you know what that means: insta-love. This was also just really boring. And Flora knew the trio because they were the best friends of her ex-boyfriend–who was mysteriously absent as she hung out with them outside of summer school. Seriously. They didn’t even mention him after recognizing her as his ex. Ugh.
Story Three: “Last Stand at the Cinegore” by Libba Bray
Synopsis: On closing night at an old-horror-movie theater, employees Kevin, Dave and Dani attempt to tie up loose ends and survive their final showing: a cursed 1960s demon flick.
Review: 2.5/5. Did I mention I hate magical realism? Especially demons. I think they’re dumb. Sorry, The Mortal Instruments fans. This one especially felt unrealistic from the get-go, and the characters were inconsistent. I’m always hesitant when a protagonist is written by an author of the opposite gender, and this protagonist warranted that. The story was poorly explained and a bit rushed–but at least it was fun once in awhile. Not at all summery, though.
Story Four: “Sick Pleasure” by Francesca Lia Block
Synopsis: I, along with friends M, L, and J, spend their last pre-college summer vacation at a dance club, eyeing up and being eyed up by a group of punk boys–until one of them finally asks I to dance.
Review: 2/5. Okay. I know that synopsis was bad. But in fairness, nothing at all happened in the whole story. Nothing. This story was so, so pointless and boring. And why are all the characters referred to as letters?! It was within this story that I had a moment where I just thought, “I can’t believe how much I’m not enjoying this book.”
And then, like the light at the end of the tunnel….
Story Five: “In Ninety Minutes, Turn North” by Stephanie Perkins
Synopsis: Marigold’s boyfriend, North, dumped her when she moved away. Now, she’s coming home to rescue him.
Review: 4/5. I love Stephanie Perkins. Her writing is just so flippin’ cute, I want to live in one of her books. (Anna and the French Kiss, specifically. Duh.) This one is especially cute, because it’s a continuation of the adorable and too-short tale she began in My True Love Gave to Me (this book’s way better and Christmasy sister). I loved North and this story–though not really summery–was adorable. (Have I said “cute” and “adorable” enough yet?)
Story Six: “Souvenirs” by Tim Federle
Synopsis: Amusement park co-workers and boyfriends Matt and Kieth have reached their decided-upon breakup day, and neither know quite how to handle it.
Review: 2.5/5. I. Hated. Kieth. He was so so inconsiderate of poor Matt’s feelings, and as Matt continued to recite his reasons to not be sad about the breakup, I found it hard to see why he had enjoyed the relationship in the first place. So because of all that, I was not rooting for their relationship at all–and that was kind of what I was supposed to be doing/the whole point of the story. On the bright side, this was one of the few stories without flat characters, even if one of them was, you know, undeniably awful.
Story Seven: “Inertia” by Veronica Roth
Synopsis: Claire is woken up in the middle of the night: her ex-best friend, Matt, has been in a car accident, and he’s requested her to attend his Last Visitation, a new form of technology in which the dying can revisit favorite memories with their loved ones.
Review: 3/5. This was very Divergent-esque, which, as I get older, becomes less and less of a good thing. The technology was pretty dumb, and this had absolutely nothing to do with summer. It didn’t even try. But against everything in me, I found myself rooting for Matt and Claire. Which is more than I can say for the majority of these stories.
Story Eight: “Love is the Last Resort” by Jon Skovron
Synopsis: Wealthy resort employee Lena is beautiful, smart, and uninterested in love. Fortunately–or perhaps unfortunately–neither is the new pool boy, Arlo.
Review: 1/5. For context, I took my notes for my review of this book on two-and-a-half-ish pages of my notebook. One half of one of those pages was dedicated to my angry scrawlings about this review. I don’t think I’ve ever read something more pretentious in my life. I could not believe how unrealistic the characters, the writing style, the setting–everything was. This made John Green’s dialogue look like an excerpt from Bring It On (a great and un-pretentious film, by the way). Lena is a teenage girl character only a man could write. She read like Manic Pixie Dream Girl’s equally unrealistic and perfect sister. Everything about this story was dumb and frustrating to me, from the names to the staff manager of a large resort being twenty. Everyone was a stereotype. The concept of this story was that it was ~not your average love story~ because Arlo and Lena are against love–but they were making out in, like, twenty-four hours. UGH. It’s still got me fired up. (Note: as with all things that I hate, I understand how some people could love it. I get that John Green appeal, it’s just not for me. We’ve all got different opinions.)
Story Nine: “Good Luck and Farewell” by Brandy Colbert
Synopsis: When Rashida’s cousin-slash-surrogate mother announces she’s moving away with her girlfriend, Rashida places all her negative feelings on the girlfriend–and her cute brother, Pierre.
Review: 3.5/5. Finally, some diversity! Up to this point the closest thing we’d gotten to non-white was half-Asian. So in that realm, this was so refreshing. (In general, contemporaries are all, like, white teens falling in love.) This one could’ve been longer, and the characters could have had a few more traits, but all in all I don’t have too much negativity to say about this one.
Story Ten: “Brand New Attraction” by Cassandra Clare
Synopsis: Lulu is perfectly happy with her life living on the “dark carnival” her father owns until he disappears, citing debts across the country. Her uncle reappears to help, bringing along a hot step-cousin, but Lulu is wary of her uncle’s plans.
Review: 1.5/5. I’m a sucker for circuses. I know, I know, I know that they mistreat their elephants (and I’m glad Ringling Brothers is now elephant-free) and I’m sure there are myriad other reasons I shouldn’t like them, but I still do. They remind me of spending time with my cousins and siblings as a child, begging for pointless light-up doohickeys and snow cones in animal-shaped souvenir cups. I adored The Night Circus and appreciated Water for Elephants. I was so hype when I saw this story took place in a carnival (which is pretty much a circus). But did I mention that I hate magical realism? I honestly feel like if you can’t do it like The Night Circus, you shouldn’t do it at all. Magical realism, to me–and this is almost certainly unfair–feels like an author wasn’t creative enough to come up with a fantasy world so they just dropped one idea in a pre-existing world (i.e.: ours). It’s never explained well enough for me; as a genre it just drives me crazy. This story felt rushed and its setting wasn’t real enough for me. And I guess if I’d spent as many books building a world as Cassandra Clare had, I wouldn’t want to waste it either, but I really think demons are dumb. I’m tired of reading about them. Sorry, I know this is an unfairly mean review. But I was at an emotional low point at this portion of the book. The characters were flat and pretty and that’s about it. Pretty standard fare for Summer Days and Summer Nights.
Story Eleven: “A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong” by Jennifer E. Smith
Synopsis: Camp counselor Annie is good at her job, but there’s one camper she just can’t seem to crack. She also can’t figure out Griffin, the cute kid in her Spanish class who’s a total mystery. But she won’t soon be defeated.
Review: 4.8/5. YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAHHH!!!! Finally!! A story I didn’t hate/get bored of/feel like I was reading the same story for the bajillionth time. This story is exactly what I wanted to read when I picked up this book. It felt summery (I related especially since I work at a day camp, so this is exactly what summer is to me). The characters felt real-ish (okay, maybe a little flat, but I’m giving it some leeway because…). This is the first YA story I think I’ve ever read in which the love interest is on the autism spectrum. I was so happy reading this. Eeeee. I never wanted it to end. You may not be super-eager to read this book after this review, but honestly–pick it up in your local bookstore just to sneak-read this little number in the aisle. (Pages 313-346, if you’re interested.)
Story Twelve: “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” by Lev Grossman
Synopsis: It takes Mark a month of August 4ths to meet Margaret, and realize he’s not the only one who realizes he’s living the same day over and over. To occupy themselves, they spend their free days cataloguing the tiny, perfect moments they may never have seen.
Review: 3.8/5. Okay, so yeah, the concept is a bit unoriginal. But the story admits that to itself, referencing Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow. More importantly, this was fun and summery. I love the idea of the map of tiny miracles. There were a ton of cool concepts introduced in this, too, like the fourth dimension and Littlewood’s law (that one is super cool–I recommend looking it up). The narrative voice is great (Mark is great). Margaret leaves a little something to be desired, in my opinion, but I liked most parts of this. A good way to end the book.
In conclusion: I really wanted to like this book more. I recommend a couple of the stories, but I can’t in good faith recommend the whole experience.