Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review: THE SUMMER I FOUND YOU by Jolene Perry

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The Summer I Found You
by Jolene Perry
Published: March 1, 2014
Genres: YA / Contemporary / Romance

A romance between a 19-year-old Afghanistan veteran Aidan and a 17-year-old high school student named Kate sprouts soon after Kate is dumped by her boyfriend. Both Aidan and Kate suffer from bodily otherness: Aidan lost his arm in Afganistan, and Kate has Type 1 diabetes, and this is what ultimately brings them together, despite their shame and self consciousness of their otherness. 

This is a beautiful premise, but what I end up seeing is a shallow relationship propelled by raging hormones in which Aidan and Kate use each other as a "distraction" from their problems:
Kate: "He's the perfect distraction from everything that's wrong in my life right now, which I love almost as much as the kissing" (location 1019).

Aidan: "Maybe I'll Pick Kate up from school. That would be a nice place for my energy to go. And a hell of a lot easier than anything else I got going on" (location 1106).

Aidan is more mature than Kate. He suffers from PTSD and survivor's guilt because he had gotten away with most of his body intact while his friend was completely vaporized by a bomb. I feel that this book was too short to truly go into the psychological effects of his trauma, but I appreciated the scenes in which he met the family of his friend. However, some aspects of his personality annoyed me, such as his heteronormative notions of how men should sit.

In comparison to Aidan's issues of rehabilitating himself with one arm, Kate's angst and self consciousness of dealing with her Type 1 diabetes seem really melodramatic. "I'm not this girl--this weeping, whiny-over-a-boy pathetic girl. I'm Kate. I'm smart. Not terrible looking..." (location 432). It's good that she has a healthy self esteem, but I disagree completely with her self image. While I would have understood self consciousness in middle school, her constant whining grated on my nerves, on top of her disdain for anyone with ambition. 

Kate bears her mediocrity like a badge and labels anyone who tries to better themselves as "overachievers," such as her best friend Jen and her ex-boyfriend Shelton. In fact, it is her preference for mediocrity that draws her to Aidan, with whom she doesn't feel like she is "always just trying to keep up, or catch up or something" (location 1366).

Like Aidan, Kate also subscribes to heteronormative ideals of what men should look, act, and be like, and some of their statements of disapproval or approval regarding the way other men sit or look frustrated me. I don't know if this is set in the midwestern USA, but Kate also seems to enjoy pointing out Shelton's race in sarcastic quips:
  • "Shelton's black hair is cut short. Perfect for a young African American guy heading off to college for great things. I think he took a picture of Obama into Super Cuts and said, 'One day I want to be that guy. Make me look like him'" (location 9).
    C'mon. Give the guy a break for trying.
  • "Shelton. Still looking like that token black model for J.Crew" (location 217).
    Oh god. Really?
Overall, I could not connect with the main characters, especially not Kate, who comes across as an immature, slight-racist, and whiny teenager who wants to be treated like an adult but fails to take responsibility for her health. Aidan and Kate are attracted to each other physically, and they can tolerate and enjoy each other's company in the present because they are both uncomfortable with their futures. To Kate, Aidan's lack of an arm is forgivable because he is muscular and physically attractive everywhere else. To Aidan, well, he can't see Kate's type 1 diabetes, so most of his remarks about her center around her long legs. Out of the two, Aidan is the more responsible because he takes care of Kate when she fails to do so herself. Ultimately, despite his good intentions, their relationship is mostly physical and quite frustrating due to Kate's immaturity. 

My rating:

The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry

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