Sunday, July 8, 2018

Book Review: The Summer List by Amy Mason Doan

The Summer List

by Amy Mason Doan

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Graydon House (June 26, 2018)

In the tradition of Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters, The Summer List is a tender yet tantalizing novel about two friends, the summer night they fell apart, and the scavenger hunt that reunites them decades later—until the clues expose a breathtaking secret that just might shatter them once and for all.

Laura and Casey were once inseparable: as they floated on their backs in the sunlit lake, as they dreamed about the future under starry skies, and as they teamed up for the wild scavenger hunts in their small California lakeside town. Until one summer night, when a shocking betrayal sent Laura running through the pines, down the dock, and into a new life, leaving Casey and a first love in her wake.

But the past is impossible to escape, and now, after seventeen years away, Laura is pulled home and into a reunion with Casey she can’t resist—one last scavenger hunt. With a twist: this time, the list of clues leads to the settings of their most cherished summer memories. From glistening Jade Cove to the vintage skating rink, each step they take becomes a bittersweet reminder of the friendship they once shared. But just as the game brings Laura and Casey back together, the clues unravel a stunning secret that threatens to tear them apart…

Mesmerizing and unforgettable, Amy Mason Doan’s The Summer List is about losing and recapturing the person who understands you best—and the unbreakable bonds of girlhood.

“This accomplished debut novel from Doan cleverly blends a coming-of-age tale, the story of a long-simmering mystery, and a thoughtful study of relationships between childhood friends…. With lovable characters and a scenic small town, Doan’s pleasant mix of mystery and high school nostalgia will please readers who grew up with the novels of Judy Blume.”-Publishers Weekly

My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

I had a journal my dad gave me when I was seven, a puffy pink thing with A Girl’s First Diary on the cover in gold script. I hid it inside a hollowed-out copy of Silas Marner on my bottom bookshelf, and concealed the key in a mint tin in my third best church purse.

I could take the most direct route to the exit—hurdle over the blue-carpeted half wall in front of us and run straight across the crowded rink. I’d shove aside toddlers, the gang of tough-looking older women zooming past in matching black satin jackets that said Hell on Wheelz, whoever. But I was an adult now so I only smiled harder.

“You can tell my age in our high school pictures by the thickness of my eyeshadow.” Like figuring out a tree’s age by the rings in the trunk.

Soggy heart. I’d read that on some blog. The not-so-technical name for when you get tipsy and accidentally tell the truth.

Women’s Studies 201. Sophomore year… Modern religion is an institution created by men to police women’s sexuality. Discuss. Oh, the hands that had shot up that day. Not mine, though. I’d kept my own hands, twisting and fidgeting, in my lap, too overcome by the bell-like simplicity of the professor’s statement, too angry at how long the world had waited to articulate it to me clearly, to speak. By the end of the fifty-minute class my palms were wet.

My Review:

This cunningly paced and well-crafted book resonated for me like the thrum of a well-struck tuning fork. It sucked me right in and held my rapt attention as I felt I knew and understood these endearingly flawed characters inside and out. Cleverly and deftly narrated by two women over three timelines, I never felt confused or lost but held suspended in an eager and avid state of curiosity. I was engaged, engrossed, and intrigued by the characters, their history, and the prickly unfolding story of their present.

I over-identified with the character of Laura at every age, but I took great pleasure in her clever stealth and ingenious efforts to carve out a modicum of privacy for herself, away from her stridently religious mother’s stifling control. Laura devised secret hiding places for her diary and prized possessions and an intricate level of subterfuge was required for even the smallest acts of rebellion such as using lip gloss, eating pizza, and having a true friend in the real world who would not meet her judgmental mother’s stringent expectations. I wanted to fist pump when Laura finally spoke up.

I was frequently awed by this intensely talented author’s insightful and deft handling of the characters thoughts and observances, as well as their understanding or misunderstandings of the unusual events at various ages and levels of assimilation. The storylines were unique, beguiling, and captivating as were each and every one of the characters. I now need to sleep for a week as I had a hard time putting this one down. The writing was extraordinary, intricate, and arresting. I was more than satisfied by the ending but would have happily read another 384 more pages. Amy Mason Doan has crazy good word voodoo.

Empress DJ

About Amy Mason Doan

AMY MASON DOAN earned a BA in English from UC Berkeley and an MA in journalism from Stanford University and has written for The Oregonian, San Francisco Chronicle, and Forbes, among other publications. She grew up in Danville, California, and now lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter. The Summer List is her first novel.

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