The Last Summer (of You & Me) brings the sensibility of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to an adult audience, and in admirable form.
Ann Brashares’ first adult novel revolves around three characters, two sisters who are quite different in personality and temperament but who are still incredibly close, and their male neighbor who is best friend to the older and possibly more to the younger.
Riley, the athletic older sister, and Alice, the beautiful, sweet and smart younger sister, have grown up in New York but spent every summer since they can remember at their family’s ramshackle but welcoming beach house.
Their summertime neighbor Paul, wealthy and privileged but lacking in real family ties, is Riley’s closest friend. Alice, three years their junior, has always tagged along with the older pair, a sort of teddy bear or security blanket for Paul when he was a young boy and had just lost his father. The trio’s dynamics have been the same, comfortable and dependable, since childhood.
But one summer their lives — and dynamics — begin to change. At 21, Alice is ready for new feelings and a grown-up relationship with Paul, who has been away from the island for three years. Paul is ready to respond — but despite their happiness together, they feel guilty for how it will change their relationship with Riley, who is content to stay the same.
Brashares breaks no new ground in tone, themes or plots, but she covers the territory well. Her characters and their interactions with each other ring true; their yearnings for adulthood jostle for space in their hearts with their aching to stay in the comfortable past, where there are no surprises.
Her story speaks to readers of the same age as the characters, but it also brings back the poignant feelings and memories of those who have long past transitioned into adulthood. It’s a chick book with soul, which in other circumstances could come across as trite but in this tenderly written tome is just right.
Rated: Moderate, for one occurrence of strong language, about ten occurrences of moderate language, and some moderately explicit sexual scenes.