Diane Prather: ‘The Last Summer’ a story of moving youth to adulthood
September 19, 2007
Author Susan Brashares is probably best known for “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” one of her novels for young adult readers. “The Last Summer (of You & Me)” is her first novel for adults, and it’s this week’s featured book.
It’s the story of three adults, now in their early 20s. It’s about summers past and changes (some expected, some unexpected) that are inevitable as young people move into adulthood.
Paul, Riley, and Alice have spent every summer together at Waterby on Fire Island since they were children – until three years ago. This summer Paul will return.
Waterby is a laid-back summer beach community reached only by ferry. There are no cars in the town, and most of the time people walk barefoot, even on the splintering boardwalks.
Some adults take the Friday ferry to the island where they spend weekends. But many of the young people stay there all summer. That’s been the case with Paul, Riley and Alice.
Riley and Alice are sisters, and their parents, Judy and Ethan, own a beach house in Waterby. Ethan is a history teacher in Manhattan and spends summers tutoring. Judy copyedits and proofreads textbooks.
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Riley, the older of the sisters, has dark hair and is a tomboy, enjoying all kinds of sport activities, such as surfing and playing corkball. She teaches outdoor leadership classes during the year and lifeguards in the summer.
Alice is as different from her sister as can be. She’s a blond who is not especially good at sports. She enjoys more adult-like activities that include reading and knitting. Alice will start law school in the fall, and to help with expenses she’s working as a waitress at the yacht club and babysitting.
Riley and Paul are the same age. Paul’s mother Mia owns the very large beach house next to Judy and Ethan’s. Paul’s father died when he was very young, and Mia spends time in Italy so when he was little, Judy watched out for Paul.
Paul and Riley have always been best friends. They have looked out after Alice who tried to do everything they did.
However, Alice has always felt that she was trying to catch up.
Paul will enter graduate school at NYU in the fall (where Alice will also go), but first he has to finish up an old incomplete. Paul needs to spend the summer writing a paper.
So, as the novel begins, Alice is waiting at the ferry dock, and pretty soon he’s there. Paul looks somewhat disheveled. His long hair is clumpy, and his face is bristly. But they’re together again – Paul, Riley and Alice.
The island’s rituals, like the sandcastle building contests, are the same, but changes are in store for the three young people.
For one thing, Paul and Alice are attracted to each other.
Then, Riley becomes ill. And there’s a twist, too. It involves a secret – something that happened when Alice was 8 years old.
The book is published by Riverhead Books (a member of the Penguin Group), 2007. It’s $24.95 in hardcover. ISBN 978-1-59448-917-4
Copyright Diane Prather, 2007. All rights reserved.