Genre: YA Romance
Age Level: Young Adult
Paperback: 281 pages
Publisher: Puffin Books (May 11, 2004)
• An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
• A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
• A barnesandnoble.com Best Teen Novel of the Year
• Winner of the South Carolina Young Adult Book Award 2000-2001
- With That Summer, adapted into the motion picture How to Deal, released July 2003, staring Mandy Moore
The themes of teenage rebellion and first love are often over used in today’s young adult fiction. Dessen, however, takes those themes and gives them a fresh face in this novel. They are both moral issues that all teens face at some point and yet there are very few examples of them not being thrown into you face through literature in a cliché way. Halley has grown up with a therapist for a mother and a radio jockey for a father and has been the subject of her mother’s books and her father’s jokes on the radio for as long as she can remember. She had always valued her close relationship to her parents and enjoyed the summer vacations, late night conversations, and complete honesty with them. All of that changes the summer before her junior year in high school. That summer is when she begins to cut loose from her parents and truly discover who Halley was, not who her parents wanted her to be or expect her to be. She and her best friend, Scarlett, spent the first half of the summer hanging out with Ginny Tabor who was "a cheerleader with a wild streak a mile wide and a reputation among the football team for more than her cheers and famous midair splits" and that is when things began to change. Halley dumps her bland boyfriend, Noah, and she and Scarlett set out to change. And change they did. Scarlett was the opposite of quiet, reserved Halley and provided the balance that she needed in order to find herself. When Scarlett and Halley started hanging out with Michael, they had no way of knowing how drastically their lives were going to change. Two months after Michael was killed in a motorcycle accident, Scarlett finds that she is pregnant with his baby and Halley finds herself becoming deeply involved with his best friend Macon, a rebellious boy who her parents have forbidden her to see. Halley and Scarlett are finding themselves walking the line between childhood and adulthood and lean on each other for the support they so desperately need instead of their families. This is a wonderful coming of age story that takes Halley and Scarlett through pregnancy, drugs, alcohol and sex all the while helping them both to find out who they truly are deep down, and not who they are according to their parents, their friends, or even each other.
The characters in this novel are fully developed and the conversations, situations, and outcomes don’t fall into the cliché category at all. I read this book in a day and loved every second of it. I found myself pulling for Halley and Scarlett throughout their turmoil and joy. I found the book very relatable because all teens go through a soul searching period and I could relate to what the girls were dealing with in the larger scheme of things. I highly recommend this book and I am definitely going to be checking out more of Dessen’s books in the future. Her writing is very fluid and was very easy to follow and get sucked into. Check out my amazon.com store for this book as well as others! I have already started another book so I hope to add it soon! Enjoy!
(originally posted July 1, 2009)