“Go live the life you've always dreamed of.”
―Casie Bazay, Not Our Summer
How are you fellow Write Voicers?
This month has been crazy for me. Between getting paperwork together to transition to a new job, figuring out where and how I'm moving, and navigating life in general, it's been pretty stressful. Luckily, I was able to de-stress by reading, you guessed it, Not Our Summer by Casie Bazay. I also had the pleasure of interviewing her this month. While we wait for that to post at 1:00 PM today, enjoy this review of Casie Bazay's Not Our Summer.
When I read the synopsis for Not Our Summer I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew that it was going to be a good book. I'm not sure why, it was just a gut feeling, and I'm glad that I followed it. So, let's talk about why it was good, right here and now.
What's the novel about?
K.J. and Becka are estranged cousins who hate each other. What they hate more is that their late grandfather is forcing them to complete a list of summer tasks together in order to gain their inheritance. K.J. needs this money to get out of the trailer park and live her best life.
Becka already has her future set, but her mother needs funds to pay off some loans. Both agree to go on the trip, neither promise to enjoy it. But, somewhere along the way, K.J. and Becka learn more about each other and their family. Now, they have to decide if their newfound friendship is worth blowing up over a mistake that their parents made.
What was the major theme of the novel?
The major theme of this novel is that family is important. But it can be broken down even further than that. Not Our Summer focuses on how keeping secrets can affect our relationships with our loved ones and how a mistake can change our perception of the people that we care about.
Right off the bat, there's this intense hatred between K.J. and Becka, and it's our job (as readers) to figure out and understand why. This becomes easier to do when you meet their mothers, whose hatred of each other has rubbed off on their children. This is shown in the first few chapters. First, in chapter one when K.J.'s guilt "transforms into bitterness" and she has to "resist the urge to flip [her mother] off," as well as in chapter two when Becka is "looking at [K.J. and her aunt]" when she'd "really rather not." There are also several moments in the book when K.J. and Becka refer to each other as "stank" or "nasty." Their late grandfather, Elijah Walker, gives them a list of tasks to do together as an incentive to earn their inheritance.
My guilt transforms into bitterness, and I have to resist the urge to flip her off...To hell with being appropriate. I roll down the window and give them the bird as we drive away.
As the book continues, we see why each girl grew up disliking the others and, even when we (the readers) think that they're making progress, it's clear that they're not. When the truth behind the family drama is revealed, we understand w why K.J. and Becka hate each other so much.
Of course, later on, this is slowly resolved in its own way. However, the message is clear: Everyone has their own story to tell. Which, brings us to the next section of this review.
What did you like?
My favorite thing about this book was the characters. Because we see the story from the perspectives of both K.J. and Becka, it's more powerful. If the book only focused on one side of the story, it would have been lacking. Being inside K.J.'s and Becka's heads is what allows us to connect with them and understand them.
K.J. is lighthearted and sees the joy in everything, even when her life sucks. Becka, on the other hand, is more serious, but she's compassionate and understanding. We don't always see this in their interactions with each other, but we do see it in their interactions with other characters.
But this is why their relationship is fascinating. Because once they are able to see these qualities in each other, they open up and let each other in, which is what their grandfather hoped for when he sent them on their quest to complete his tasks. I guess they just needed to learn to "breakaway."
I also liked the banter between K.J. and Becka throughout the book and the scene where one of them gets punched in the face.
What, if anything, did you dislike or wish the author would've done differently?
The only thing that I disliked about this novel was its predictability. I was able to guess the largest reveal in the book (which I won't spoil here), way before it was told. In some circles, you could say that the author just did a great job of laying the easter eggs. But, in this case, I would disagree. The animosity between Jackie and RaeLynn is so prevalent that the minute you find out about their shared past, other things become obvious.
That said, I do think that it was clever for Bazay to wait until the middle of the book to make the reveal. Because, while you can guess what happened, it's the need for confirmation that makes reading the novel worth it (in addition to the things I mentioned earlier, of course).
How many stars would you give this book and why?
Not Our Summer is a book about family bonds and how to mend them. In an age of cancel culture, it's a bright spot on a dark canvas. The characters are likable, even when they're being jerks; and, although the writing is predictable, the novel keeps you wanting more. For these reasons, I really liked Not Our Summer and give it a rating of a four out of five.
Casie Bazay is the author of Not Our Summer. Her book is available in bookstores and at the library.
For more information on what she's up to, and to read her blog, you can visit her website.
If you enjoyed this review and want to know more about her, check out this interview.
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