The Summer My Life Began
By Shannon Greenland
Published: May 10, 2012
Elizabeth Margaret has just graduated high school at the top of her class. She has been accepted to Harvard where she will be studying law before joining her father's firm. Everything has been mapped out for her and as a dutiful daughter she's never thought to question that. Then she receives an invitation from an aunt she didn't know she had to come and spend a month at the Outer Banks. There she finds out about family secrets, explores her love of cooking, and meets a cute boy who challenges her to think about what she wants from life.
The Summer My Life Began is a nice little beach read. It is perhaps predictable where the secrets are concerned but I still enjoyed reading about the Outer Banks, the food descriptions, and Em's journey of self discovery even though it could have used more depth. I liked Cade as a character and love interest. The romance could have been better but he is a nice guy which is sometimes a rare find in YA fiction. Em's Aunt Tilly reminded me of a slightly hippie version of Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls. The family dynamics are similar to the show also as Em comes from a background of privilege and her mother and grandmother are rather cold.
This book could have been a real treat but something is missing from the character development. Perhaps it is just not enough time given to their development. Em is likable enough but she seems to not react very much to what is going on. When the big family secret is revealed it doesn't take long for her to recover from her shock and I never got the sense that she was really torn between her old life and her new one. Em's cousin Frederick is kind of bland and chef Domino doesn't have enough substance though he does spout plenty of wisdom for Em. Still with all its flaws, I enjoyed the story. It was a quick read set in a place I'd love to visit. The novel reminded me of early Sarah Dessen novels and if you don't expect too much from it, you might like The Summer My Life Began too. It is a pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon.
Readalikes: Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen (similar parent issues), That Summer by Sarah Dessen, Sixteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton, The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara M. Zeises, Secrets of Truth and Beauty by Megan Frazer, Kiss Crush Collide by Christina Meredith (I don't like this book but it is similar to The Summer My Life Began because both characters have similar backgrounds and family issues)
Note: I received an e-galley for review courtesy of NetGalley