This young adult book takes place in the summer before Andie Walker’s senior year in high school in Stanwich, Connecticut. Andie, who is 17, and her three BFFs, Palmer, Bri, and Toby, hang out together constantly. In fact, Bri and Toby are inseparable. Palmer’s boyfriend Tom is also part of the group. As the story begins, the other three girls besides Palmer are looking for summer romances. Andie’s relationships usually last only around three weeks, and she is fine with that.
Andie’s dating pattern gets a change, though, when – while doing her summer job walking dogs, she meets Clark, a handsome shy guy with a big dog named Bertie. Although Clark is tongue-tied in her presence and at first says nary a word, she gets a crush on him. In a humorous aside, their incipient relationship is almost derailed when Andie confesses she doesn’t read books:
“‘I know how to read,’ I said, seeing the alarm in this expression, ‘I just don’t love fiction. You know, novels.”
“Wait,” Clark says, “What do you do on planes?”
This is actually more than funny to Clark, because it turns out he writes books – he is the young (19) author of a series of vastly popular fantasy novels, and sections of this book are preceded with excerpts from his books that mirror what will be happening in the story.
The relationship with Andie and Clark has some other roadblocks to overcome. One reason Andie’s previous relationships have been so short-term is that she, the daughter of a career politician, holds back and doesn’t like to reveal much about herself. Opening up to another person is dangerous:
“It went against everything I’d been told my whole life – sometimes explicitly, but more often not. . . . Stay on message. Don’t tell people what you really think or feel – unless it’s been vetted and approved. Keep people at arm’s length and your feelings to yourself.”
Plus, she lost her mother five years earlier to cancer, and she is afraid to get too close to anyone.
Other themes include the changing nature of friendships, Andie’s relationship with her father, and dealing with loss.
The story unwinds pretty much predictably, with an ending that ties together the rest of the book in a paean to fantasy sagas.
Evaluation: Generally, Matson is a good writer who creates engaging stories and characters. This one, I thought, was a little long, and could have undergone some downsizing without sacrificing the appeal of the story. The characters were also not drawn as convincingly as usual for this author, and I wasn’t sold on the chemistry between Andie and Clark. Nevertheless, it’s a fun book, and has lots of appealing and clever aspects to it.
Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2016