Book Review: Summer Sisters

I generally refrain from writing negatively about books because each one still holds a special place in my heart; it was it’s own adventure that I went on. I don’t love every moment of every adventure, but there is good to be found in each one. While there was plenty of good in this one, there was also a lot of disappointment.

Upon one of my thrift store excursions, I rifled through a massive pile of books scattered across the floor and book shelves that were falling apart, unable to find much of anything other than an excess of murder mystery and self-help books. Then, right as I was about to give up, I saw the name Judy Blume in large pink letters. I immediately picked it up and bought it without bothering to read the back.

Judy Blume is one of my favorite children’s authors. I read many of her books growing up and it always felt like she understood me. So, coming across one of her adult fiction novels was exciting to say the least.

I can say that, yes, Judy Blume understands me as an adult in a lot of ways. However, in a lot of ways, she doesn’t. I can’t say I necessarily enjoyed the first half of Summer Sisters, but I appreciated her blunt honesty about those awkward pre-teen and teenage years, so I kept reading. I related to the main character, Vix, with her quiet nature and in the overall way she handles herself and copes with difficult situations.

When I reached the second half of the book, when Vix reached an age closer to mine, I hoped that all the in-depth talk about sex would dissipate since they were older and more mature, but it only got more graphic. That’s not my cup of tea, so I skipped several pages in every chapter. I understand the reasoning for including it, about the honesty of her growing up, but I was so hoping that I could get through one adult fiction novel without a crude and graphic sex scene in every other chapter. This is why I stick to YA fiction. I’m finding that “adult fiction” just generally means “less plot, more sex.” No thanks.

Yet, here I am in the last few pages of the book because, despite having to skip so much, the story interests me. It’s not the best writing, it’s not the cleanest, it’s not the most original. Still, it interests me. Why?

Caitlin.

Caitlin is the free-spirited and pretty girl that invited the quiet Vix to spend the summers with her on Martha’s Vineyard. I once spent a day on Martha’s Vineyard and even to an eight year old who would’ve rather spent her vacation days in Disney World, I felt drawn to it. It has this magical charm to it that I wanted so much more of. Even though Caitlin was Vix’s main reason for coming back every summer, there’s something about Martha’s Vineyard itself that makes people want to stay. And that’s what Vix did. It was the home she had never been able to find.

From the moment Caitlin entered Vix’s life, I knew everything about her. As one character later mentions, everyone knows a Caitlin. And they do.

Caitlin is the girl that gets books written about her. She’s the girl all the boys fall in love with, even though they know she’ll break their heart. She’s the girl that every other girl can’t stand because she feels like some sort of competition, and she’s always winning. She’s the girl that’s so obviously broken, but won’t do anything to change it because it makes her seem interesting. She’s the girl in your sixth grade class who gets away with saying the F-word and pretends she’s dating older men. She’s the girl that always does whatever she feels like, and will make everyone else feel boring because they simply can’t keep up. She’s the girl that disappears after graduation to only occasionally remind her old best friend that she’s actually doing something with her life, unlike everyone else in the world.

So yes, most people do know a Caitlin. Caitlin gets books written about her because she’s beautiful and mysterious and will break everyone’s heart. She makes promises of forever, but you will wake up one day to realize you’ve lost her and she never really intended on sticking around. She is the most selfish person you will ever meet. You know it too, when she’s asking for your help even though she hasn’t been there for you in God knows how long, but you still say yes because it’s Caitlin. She acts proud of every decision she’s made, never admitting how much she’s hurt the people who tried to love her because, in her mind, they just didn’t get it. They never understood her. She thinks she’s mature, but all she ever does is run away.

I’m tired of books about Caitlin. I’m tired of her being in the limelight, because that’s exactly what she craves.

Most people have at least met a Caitlin. Maybe you were one of the many guys she broke up with for no good reason. If you had the worst of it, you were the best friend she called a sister, the girl that was considered lucky to have been chosen by the Caitlin. She likely lead you on for years, making you feel like you were special, but still never actually being there for you, until you eventually had to decide to either let her go or keep feeling miserable and confused. The people who have been hurt by a Caitlin will continue to write about her. It’s what she wanted, for people to become so obsessed with what she did to them that they keep her memory alive in a book or a movie or a song. Anything. She’s everywhere, but I’m tired of seeing her. I want to read about a girl like Vix who never had a Caitlin. I want a fascinating girl who doesn’t try so hard to be mysterious, mischievous, and self-serving.

I wanted to yell at Vix for constantly excusing Caitlin’s behavior simply because that’s the way she is. That’s not good enough. At the very least, I’m hoping that in the last few pages, Vix will redeem herself and let go of Caitlin. Even stand up to her.

No one can really change a Caitlin because she’s too busy being somebody she’s not and focusing on how others will see her, and she’s far too invested in being completely broken on the inside since it makes her seem like she has a lot of depth. However, even though you can’t count on a Caitlin to ever change, there comes a time when you have to let her go.

She’s not a bad person. I’m just tired of seeing the same girl get all the attention.



Instagram: gabriellegillispie

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