by Michelle Dalton
There’s something about rhythm of summer that slows down time and makes every moment especially delicious. Summer’s fleeting season means that its moments are also bittersweet, however, and no one knows this better than beach-town girl Anna Patrick. She’s falling head over heels in love with Will…but knows that he’ll soon have to go back to New York where he belongs.
I’m not much of a contemporary YA romance person, but found myself thoroughly charmed by this book, which is the perfect lighthearted beach read but is also filled with unexpected layers. After reading so many paranormal or dystopian novels with complicated set-ups or books that put you through the emotional wringer, it’s so nice to relax with a book that doesn’t have a typical love triangle, bad boy posturing, or some sort of looming imminent danger. It’s also a pleasure to read about teens who are actually nice to each other and do normal things like going on cute dates and talking on the phone, and who have good relationships with the adults in their lives.
Anna and Will’s summer is filled with ice cream and curly fries and bike rides and barbecues and long walks in the moonlight…and kissing. Lots of kissing. Anna is a relatable, likable girl who has normal insecurities but doesn’t let them spin out of control–and she takes the time to be a good friend even as she’s learning what it’s like to be a girlfriend for the first time. It’s easy to see why Will falls for Anna and for this comfortable and amazing town, which is almost like a character of its very own, because I’d sure like to visit! You can practically feel the sand between your toes and the warmth of the sun on your arms and the coldness of Anna’s Pineapple Ginger Ale ice cream melting in your mouth. There are also lovely moments with luxurious swims, encounters with crabs on the beach at night, a bittersweet baby sea turtle rescue, and a beautiful early morning moment that Anna shares with Will that I won’t spoil with details, but will be familiar to anyone who’s ever lived near a beach.
I’m mostly glad, however, that although this is a romance book and it’s all about Anna’s relationship with Will, she lives a rich and bustling life outside of him. He enriches her interactions with her friends and her family and her job and her pursuits, but he doesn’t define them. Even as summer draws to a close, Anna agonizes over the upcoming heartache of their separation, since she knows that losing her first love will hurt badly. But she’s smart enough enough to know that no matter what happens, she is strong enough to handle it–which is a great message for women everywhere, no matter what her age.
I loved being so consumed by Will. Adored it. But I kind of hated it too, because I felt like a huge part of myself had been wrested from my control. I mean, sometimes you just want to make a peanut butter sandwich without being overcome by your own passion, you know?
I don’t normally gush over books like this, but I found Sixteenth Summer to be full of sweet, sweet moments, believable conflicts, smart, funny characters, and a surprisingly nuanced narrative underneath its romantic YA surface. It’s a perfect summer read that will take you back to those heady days of falling in love for the first time…with the added bonus of leaving you with a big goofy smile on your face.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars
30-second synopsis: A wonderful summer romance filled with surf and sand and ice cream and kissing, plus likable characters and unexpected depth.