Book Review: That Summer by Sarah Dessen

Welcome back for another Friday book review! Earlier this year, I felt the urge to go back and read some of my Sarah Dessen collection. If you haven’t already, go check out my review of Someone Like You. Today, I’ll be reviewing Dessen’s first published novel, That Summer!


Back when I first read this book in my early twenties, I loved it and apparently “cried for ten minutes after reading it due to it relating to real-life circumstances” according to my  review. I no longer remember the circumstances of which I had related, so… there’s that. XD Upon this re-read, That Summer felt a bit flat to me, and I ended up docking it a star from my original rating.



Dessen is one of my favorite YA authors and her ability to create an authentic teen voice is amazing. Even though there wasn’t a whole lot of interesting things going on in the book plot wise, it was not a boring read.

Portrayal of Stress and Anxiety

Haven, the protagonist, goes through many life changes throughout the book and ends up “going crazy” as Haven describes due to it. Haven’s actions as a result of the stress are believable and well portrayed, and show how the negative actions of parents and older siblings can affect a teen’s outlook on life.


Over-The-Top Characters

During this re-read, all of the characters felt a bit too dramatic for me. Haven being overly obsessed over being tall, Casey overly obsessing over boys, Ashley being a complete jerk about the wedding and everyone letting her, etc. There was a definite lack of balance between their faults and their redeeming qualities. Even Sumner, my favorite character, didn’t shine quite as bright for me this time.

Vulgar Language

It may be that I choose to read more books with cleaner language these days, but I had forgotten just how many times GD was used in this book and didn’t particularly care for that. But, this book is written for a mainstream audience, so it is to be expected.

Didn’t Connect with Characters/No Character Arcs

Though I had connected with Haven the last time I read this novel, I must have changed a lot since then, because I didn’t relate to her all that much this time. I was also disappointed by the lack of a character arc for Haven and a couple other characters. There is no real change-defining moment in the story, and I feel Haven didn’t learn how to deal with the problems she faced, but chose to grin and bear it instead.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Talk to me, Arrowheads!

What is your favorite Sarah Dessen novel? Tell me about it in the comments!

Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.

-Allyson 😀

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As an author and blogger, my goal is to teach writers that there is a way to write realistic, thought-provoking, redemptive Christian fiction that honors God while not sugarcoating the realities of the world.