Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

I always eagerly anticipate my annual Jennifer Weiner fix, and while I didn't like this as much as last year's Mrs. Everything which I thought was probably her best, this was still a really enjoyable read.  It was part romance, part mystery and all round easy entertainment.  I finished it in the course of a day.

The novel is narrated by Daphne who is a plus-size Instagram influencer and part time babysitter.  For middle and high school Daphne attended a prestigious private school on scholarship because her father was a teacher.  There she befriends Drue - a beautiful but very mean rich girl.  Although Drue constantly takes advantage of her, Daphne can't resist the allure of being in her circle and is constantly drawn back in despite the warnings of one of their mutual friends (who is now Daphne's roommate).

This toxic relationship lasts until Daphne's sophomore year at college when she and Drue fight in dramatic style.  The altercation is filmed and launches Daphne's influencer career - she also decides to make peace with her body weight which gives her a huge boost in confidence.

Six years later Drue walks back into Daphne's life and asks her to be her maid of honour at her high profile society wedding. Again going against her roommates advice, Daphne is sucked in and agrees. She feels she now has the confidence to protect herself from being used.  She also makes it into an opportunity by agreeing to wear clothes designed by an online designer and to post about her experiences at the wedding.

The night before the wedding everyone heads to rented mansions in Cape Cod for the festivities.  There Daphne meets a mystery man, Nick, who she fears is too good to be true.  Even more surprising events take place - which I won't give away.

The remainder of the books surrounds Daphne's efforts to solve the mystery of the various happenings in Cape Cod.  It then turns into more of a mystery/adventure story and the romance moves to the back burner though does not disappear.  I would say my biggest criticism is that I couldn't quite believe how Daphne made the leaps in logic necessary to solve the mystery.  Although, admittedly because I read the book quickly, maybe I missed some of the connections. Despite that, I really enjoyed the story.

I also want to point out a couple of side stories which I really enjoyed.  Daphne's relationship with her parents, especially her father, was enviable.  I loved how they supported her unconditionally and particularly enjoyed her weekly restaurant adventures with her father. I also liked how Weiner wove in Daphne's experiences when she was child and her grandmother spent the summer with her and put her on a forced diet.  It was a great illustration of the lasting impact of early body image criticism.

For me this is a must read - but I again caveat that with the fact that I love anything Weiner writes.

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