One Perfect Summer by Paige Toon

In brief: At 18, Alice meets the love of her life, Joe, only for him to disappear one emotionally charged day. It’s difficult, but she moves on – or does she?

The good: Fun and entertaining, a light midweek read.

The not-so-good: Sometimes Alice seemed rather young and immature.

Why I chose it: From the bookshelf.

Year: 2012

Pages: 458

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Setting: Predominantly Cambridge, England

My rating: 7.5 out of 10

The other day I was looking for a light, entertaining read to keep me engaged and awake in my downtime. Paige Toon’s One Perfect Summer appeared to fit the bill of the cover of a light read – shiny cover, flowers and the promise of drama with potential happiness. Once I started to read the book, I found the story easily engaging and lightheaded. But as I went in deeper, I found darker, more sensitive issues explored. I’m glad that the novel went to these depths, otherwise I’d be more likely to dismiss this book. It’s a mix of the stereotypically chick lit-ty style with some deeper moments. Some of the darker things I would have liked to have gone into more detail with, but I understand that would have most likely changed the overall tone of the book.

The book starts off lightly as Alice and her mum are going to a holiday cottage, the last family holiday before Alice starts university. Unfortunately friend Lizzy can’t make it, so Alice needs to make some friends. She befriends the son of the local pub owners, Joe. It’s a whirlwind, intense teenage romance initially but things become rather complicated as Joe reveals his home life is violent and about to get worse. Things get very melodramatic and both Joe and Alice flee the countryside abruptly. Joe promises to find Alice – after all, he knows where she will be for uni – and Alice sits and waits. She waits for an entire semester before deciding to join in with student life. Later she meets Lukas and they fall in love.

Sounds simple, right? But unfortunately it’s not. Alice still holds a candle for Joe, even though she hasn’t heard from him for years. I found Lukas a complex and unlikeable character. He’s desperate to ‘win’ Alice and display his wealth to do so, buying her one of a kind dresses and organising lavish nights out. But underneath it all, he’s insecure and not very nice. Why Alice doesn’t tell him to take a hike I don’t know – in fact, the majority of the characters don’t see the potential for Lukas’s manipulation of Alice (Jessie and Lizzy excepted). Besides the romance, the story is predominantly a coming of age one as Alice goes through university and starts her first job. Then we jump into the real world – and the one where Joe re-enters Alice’s life. This actually happens quite late in the book, later than the blurb would have you believe so there’s not much time to tie all the ends together. To her credit, Paige Toon leaves things kind of messy – there’s a ‘will they or won’t they’ feel to the conclusion of the novel. Some readers might not like having a definite resolution, but I kind of liked it. It gave me hope that Alice might pick my preferred man (Joe) and change her life.

Occasionally, the book read a bit ‘young’ for me. I thought it might have been more YA at first when Joe and Alice meet – Alice seems like a super young, impassioned, naïve and impulsive 18 to me. She did improve as she went through uni, maturing with the years but at the start she was…I don’t know. Slightly annoying? Crazy with idealism? Not sure, but I don’t think we would have been friends at that age. I actually really liked best friend Lizzy, a more world-weary, cautious character. She needs her own book!

Overall, the book is an easy read and I did enjoy it, particularly the mix of dark and light. I’d be happy to read more of Paige Toon, but I might make sure the heroine is a little older!

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