Saturday, 24 March 2012

That Summer by Sarah Dessen

This isn’t quite what I call “Chicklet-lit”. I define Chicklet-lit as being Chick-lit for the next generation down – the generation that the book-publishing and book-selling industries might define as young adult. Chicklet-lit novels are always a fun, easy read yet are just one stroke more serious than what is written for the more mature Chick-lit reader. Personally, I’m not the greatest fan of them. I usually see them as competently written, following a formula that satisfies and just a little unadventurous. But I’ve read Sarah Dessen before and enjoyed her work. I was already familiar with her This Lullaby – which is in fact on my “further reading” list on one of the modules I teach at the University of Salford, UK. So, although the cover suggests Chicklet-lit That Summer is really something a little different.  
The novel totally absorbed me all the way through. Dessen certainly maintains the setting that so frequently houses Chickletlit – comfortable middle American life, girls interested in boys and young women who laugh and cry a lot and suffer all the normal adolescent anxieties. Yet she uses a more lyrical prose than one would normally find in a Chicklet-lit book. Just into the opening paragraph we read “It must be something about the heat and the smell of chlorine, fresh-cut grass and honeysuckle, asphalt sizzling after late-day thunderstorms, the steam rising while everything drips around it.”  And we can totally identify with main character Haven whom Dessen draws so well. She is rounded, complex and unusual.
My daughter remarked as we looked at the teen section in Waterstone’s “I wish they’d had books like this when I was a teenager.” She is now 30. And had there been books like That Summer available when she was a teenager, I would have gladly bought it for her.