Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Review: The Summer My Life Began, Shannon Greenland

The Summer My Life Began, Shannon Greenland

"But as I continued starting at the front door, the one word that kept circling in my brain was 'home'."

This book falls neatly into the realm of YA lit. Elizabeth Margaret (Em) gets an invite to stay for the summer with an aunt she never knew existed. She leaves behind a carefully planned life in New England: a summer law internship at her father's firm, Harvard in the fall, a stoic and image-obsessed grandmother, and a sister she adores. The Pepper House B&B, and the Outer Banks island it rests on, present her with opportunities to stretch her previously hidden love of cooking, two potentially perfect guys, and, most importantly, this place is clearly meant to be her home. Em learns that you can't lead two lives and be one person. When the family secret, which she's been hungry for all summer, is revealed, Em must decide who she wants to be, starting with where she will live.

There is a lot of joy and hope in this book. Even when drama llamas attack, the reader knows that Em will make it through and learn from the mess. It's a quick read and a simple story, but you will care about the characters before the end. I love the focus on food, and the fact that Em's SO passionate about it. Greenland really made a point of showing how well she knew her stuff; Em could tell you the list of spices used in a seafood dishes (in three bites or less!).

Sometimes the cuteness factor was a bit much for me, but that could be a comment on my personal preferences. I just didn't need every gesture to be a "cute wink" or a "lovingly tender smile". It made me feel (just a little bit) like I was being talked down to, like I couldn't figure out which emotions those expressions were meant to convey.

On a side note, this book felt (more than a little) like a sister story to the Gilmore Girls -- quirky little town of locals, young woman inherits a B&B, lots of focus on the best friend who happens to be a chef.

If you're a fan of Joan Bauer, Sarah Dessen, or Mauren Johnson, you'll likely appreciate this sweet and simple story.

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