THE SUMMER MY LIFE BEGANShannon Greenland
Contemporary Young Adult
Received through Teen Book Scene for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)Elizabeth Margaret—better known as Em—has always known what life would contain: an internship at her father’s firm, a degree from Harvard and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is that it’s not what she wants. When she gets the opportunity to get away from it all and spend a month with the aunt she never knew, she jumps at the chance. While there, Em pursues her secret dream of being a chef, and she also learns that her family has kept some significant secrets from her, too. And then there’s Cade, the laid-back local surfer boy who seems to be everything Em isn't. Naturally, she can’t resist him, and as their romance blossoms, Em feels she is living on her own terms for the first time.
MY THOUGHTSLighthearted and cute, The Summer My Life Began is a quick read relatively free of drama, one of those stories easily read in a couple hours that leaves us satisfied without necessarily being overly enthused. Em and company are all nicely executed though not exactly multifaceted, and the plot moves forward with little tension, leaving us feeling safe in the knowledge that things will work themselves out without a great deal of fuss. We are able to enjoy our time with Em as she embarks on trip that scratches out so many items on her much-adhered-to life-detailing lists, replacing them with new new desires and goals far more suited to the girl she wants to be rather than the girl her family thinks she should be.
Em is a sweet young woman, intent on making her parents proud by following their paint-by-numbers life plan one step at a time, seemingly unwilling to voice a protest for fear of the disappointed looks she’ll face when their snobbery proves to be more important than her dreams of being of a chef. We spend a lot of time wishing she would take a stand and refuse to be cowed by the force of their entitlement, but we know she has to work up to that place, and the plot’s predictability keeps our patience firmly in place as it’s clear that revelation will be forthcoming.
Em’s summer romance with Cade is endearing, causing just a few butterflies to flit back and forth in our stomachs, but like the situation with her family, we ultimately know how everything will work out with them. There’s a brief attempt at a love triangle, but it lacks tension and is easily resolved, leaving us wishing the romantic aspect focused solely on Cade throughout without the unnecessary deviation of a possible relationship with Jeremy. Overall however, The Summer My Life Began is a perfectly enjoyable story, well-suited for a vacation when we just want to sit outside, read, relax and sink into someone else's life without being overwhelmed or stressed by the events taking place in that life.