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Monday, June 22, 2020

And ... That's a Big Ole Meh From Me

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Ever since her mother's marriage and the subsequent birth of her baby brothers, Hazel Box has been feeling like the odd woman out.  With all of her emotions boiling inside her, she needs to do something before she erupts.  When she gets a surprise message on social media from Eve Warrington, a sophisticated teen who claims to be Hazel's half-sister, it feels like perfect timing.  Even better, Eve is planning to spend two weeks in Maine with their father and wants Hazel to come along.  The getaway is just the something Hazel has been waiting for—not only will she get a break from her family, but she'll have the chance to get to know her father and her half-sister at the same time.  What could possibly go wrong?  

I'm a fan of novels about family members finding each other, so I jumped at the chance to read That Summer in Maine by Brianna Wolfson.  It sounded like a cute, upbeat sister story that would be both entertaining and poignant.  Turns out, less than half of the novel focuses on Hazel and Eve.  The first part of the story concerns the girls' mothers and how they both fall in love with the same man, get pregnant, and learn how to live with the consequences.  Since the women's stories are nothing unique or all that interesting, the focus on them makes the first part of the book drag on and on.  The action picks up when the camera's eye turns back on the girls.  Although their half of the novel is more engaging, it's still not super compelling.  The plot flip-flops here, there, and everywhere without going much of anywhere.  It doesn't help that the characters are irritating—the mothers are needy, the girls are brats, and the dad is pretty darn clueless—and many of their decisions make no sense at all.  Wolfson's tell-not-show prose just makes everything worse.  For all these reasons, I put That Summer in Maine down several times.  In the end, though, I decided to stick it out.  Why?  I really don't know because this novel drove me crazy!  I like its premise, its tranquil cover, and its out-of-the-way setting.  Other than that?  Meh.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of Far From the Tree by Robin Benway)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder invectives), depictions of underage drinking, and mild sexual content/innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of That Summer in Maine from the generous folks at Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
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