12 April 2018

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

I'm throwing it back here to an oldie but a goodie because book club has interrupted my current reading schedule and I honestly don't have anything new in my wheelhouse. It's a good opportunity to talk about one of my favourite books. Even though I haven't read this in a while, I've read it so many times I feel like I could recite the chapters from memory.

I can't tell you when I first read this, I want to say I was ten. I stole it off my mom's bookshelf. I still have her old, torn up copy which she insists to this day I need to give back but, sorry mom, it's mine forever. I feel, in some weird way, that the way the two main characters grow up through the novel, I sort of grew up reading this book. I read it at least once per year from ten to twenty and it's been a while, but I feel like maybe I don't need it the way I used to? Every time I read it I felt connected to some new relationship in the story and I think I've finally outgrown the characters. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to any female of any age. It's an amazing story.

She wondered if all the firsts in her life would go by so quickly, and be forgotten just as quickly.” 

The book really centers around two main characters, Caitlin and Victoria, who are best friends and vacation with Caitlin's dad and his new family on Martha's Vineyard each summer. Victoria, who comes from a less than wealthy family, is throughout the book entranced by Caitlin's lifestyle. She feels privileged just to be able to take these vacations with Caitlin, and it's this feeling of privilege that directs the peaks and valleys of their friendship.

The story is told from many different perspectives, including both Caitlin and Victoria but also their siblings, their step-siblings, their parents, their step-parents, their boyfriends, etc. There are so many types of relationships within the book which is why you can read it over so many times. There really is something for everyone.

Judy Blume

I would call it a coming of age story for Caitlin and Victoria. They explore their bodies together, go through family drama, experience sex and love, fight, make-up, get pregnant, get new jobs, go to private schools, etc. There are major themes of class throughout- Victoria's family feels a bit of hostility towards Caitlin's for showing their daughter a life they could never give her. When I was younger I thought the book was about friendship, but now that I'm older I think it's more centered around parenting (which I love to read about). Each parent and step-parent in the story is unique, each equally good and bad in their own ways, and it makes you think a lot about the style of parent you were raised with and feel very fortunate regardless of your circumstances. Lamb (Caitlin's dad) is naturally my favourite, being the sweet, eager to please dad of daughters that I grew up with.

You weren’t always born to the right parents. And parents didn’t necessarily get the kids they were meant to raise.” 

Victoria is my favourite character. She's easily one of my favourite characters from any book. I also included her and one of her boyfriends Bru in my favourite fictional couples list we wrote up for Valentine's day. Victoria was always nervous how to act around people and felt like she didn't deserve the things that came her way. This makes her a very careful, modest, and critical thinking character (exactly the kind I love to read). Caitlin was more of a Bridget from The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants type of character... flirty and using her charm to get her way always... this is not a character I've ever been particularly into but I do love the way her and Victoria interact.

I couldn't even begin to pick a favourite part of the book, but this is one of my favourite lines and something I think about a lot:

A person can have a happy and fulfilling life without children.” 

Meghan and I share a love of stories that are told over a long period of time. I think it makes them mean more, but it also makes them sad. I think a lot about how I can be so close to certain people for a particular period of my life and then see them so infrequently, if at all, after that period (working at a summer camp, playing on a team, taking a vacation together, etc.). It's one of the most sad things in the world to me. It's why I loved this book, but also why I find it very sad. In a weird way the book also makes me think about Meghan. We see each other less and less as we settle into our 'adult lives' but it couldn't seem to matter less. I could see her five years from now and I'd still grab a bag of Oreos and settle onto her sister's couch to binge watch something terrible then fly home.

We are friends for life. When we're together the years fall away. isn't that what matters? To have someone who can remember with you? To have someone who remembers how far you've come?"

I think this is such an important read. Blume has a massive repertoire, mostly for young adults but some for adults too. This, however, is definitely the highlight of her work. It explores female friendships, and how the complexities of female lives and how their relationships with others can affect those friendships. I used to wish they'd adapt it into a movie, but now I don't. I think it would ruin it. For a loosely similar idea, I can watch Very Good Girls, which has my ideal casting for a film adaptation of Summer Sisters anyways.

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