2015 TBR Challenge – THAT SUMMER Review

2015tbrbuttonMy tenth review for the Official 2015 TBR Pile Challenge is THAT SUMMER by Sarah Dessen.

The goal of this challenge is “to finally read 12 books from your ‘to be read’ pile within twelve months”. To qualify for the challenge, books must be read and reviewed before the year is over, and all selections must have publishing dates from the year 2013 or older. (Here are the books I’ll be reading this year.)

There’s nothing like reading about summer just as the weather turns chilly, daylight is in short supply, and you’re all snuggled under a pile of fuzzy blankets. I’ve been following Sarah Dessen on Twitter for awhile, and I’ve had this book – her very first book – in my TBR pile for quite some time. I’m very happy I finally got the chance to read it.

On to the review!


that_summer-m8oyypmgrkb32gvgd9kpk04jrpf97hewrs72mnme80THAT SUMMER by Sarah Dessen

Published by: Speak (a Penguin Group Imprint)

Release Date: January 1, 1996

Genres: YA, Contemporary Fiction

Plot Summary:

The more things change…

As far as Haven is concerned, there’s just too much going on.

Everything is changing, and she’s not sure where she fits in.

Then her sister’s old boyfriend shows up, sparking memories of the summer when they were all happy and everything was perfect…

But along the way, Haven realizes that sometimes change is a good thing. (Plot summary from Goodreads website.)


This so much more than a breezy summer read. Haven’s world – from her body to the still-new structure of her split family – is changing faster than she can handle.  She wants nothing more than to go back to that one summer where everything was wonderful, where her sister liked spending time with her and her family had the best summer vacation at the beach.

But that’s not how life works. Haven has to learn how to become comfortable in her own skin and accept the changes that are happening.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Chapter One:

The day my father got remarried, my mother was up at six A.M. defrosting the refrigerator. I woke to the sound of her hacking away and the occasional thud as a huge slab of ice crashed. My mother was an erratic defroster. When I came down into the kitchen, she was poised in front of the open freezer, wielding the ice pick, Barry Manilow crooning out at her from the tape player she kept on the kitchen table. Around Barry’s voice, stacked in dripping piles, were all of our perishables, sweating in the heat of another summer morning.

“Oh, good morning, Haven.” She turned when she saw me, wiping her brow with the ice pick still in hand, making my heart jump as I imagined it slipping just a bit and taking out her eye. I knew that nervous feeling so well, even at fifteen, that spilling uncontrollability that my mother brought out in me. It was as if I was attached to her with a tether, her every movement yanking at me, my own hands reaching to shield her from the dangers of her waving arms.

“Good morning.” I pulled out a chair and sat down next to a stack of packaged chicken. “Are you okay?”

“Me?” She was back on the job now, scraping. “I’m fine. Are you hungry?”

“Not really.” I pulled my legs up to my chest, pressing hard to fold myself into the smallest size possible. It seemed like every morning I woke up taller, my skin having stretched in the night while I slept. I had dreams of not being able to fit through doors, of becoming gigantic, towering over people and buildings like a monster, causing terror in the streets. I’d put on four inches since April, and showed no signs of letting up. I was already five-eleven, with only a few more little lines on the measuring stick before six feet.

“Haven.” My mother looked at me. “Please don’t sit that way. It;s not good for you and it makes me nervous.” She stood there staring at me until I let my legs drop. “That’s better.” Scrape, scrape. Barry sang on, about New England.


The characters are all wonderfully real and engaging, and their struggles to repair the fault lines caused by broken relationships rang true to what I’m going through this year in my own family. Many tears were shed while reading this book.

The interactions between all of the characters were just as complicated and fantastic as the one from this excerpt. I especially loved the relationship between the two sisters. Then, of course, there’s the most interesting character, the older sister’s former boyfriend, Sumner, who re-enters the picture. Sumner has a unique guidebook he lives by, and although he seems to be just what Haven needs in the beginning, she does have to find her own way in the end. This is a fantastic story about struggle and finding your self-confidence, your place in the world.


Learn more about Sarah Dessen here.

Follow Sarah on Twitter here.

Follow Sarah on Facebook here.

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