Book Review: Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Shelved: Adult fiction (contemporary)
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I do not like to give books age ratings or warnings, but I will say, as I do in the review, that if you’re comfortable watching Girls or Skins, you’ll be comfortable reading this.

I bought Summer Sisters back in July. I’m a bit behind on my summer reading and I’m also trying to hold onto summer! Boots, knit cardigans and umbrellas are all out, but I’m still going to pick up My Life Next Door, my last summery book.

I started reading Summer Sisters knowing that it was said to be one of her adult, rather than pre-teen, novels. Summer Sisters begins in 1990, when twenty five-year-old Victoria, also known as Vix, answers the phone only to be reminded of the most thrilling and most complicated friendship she’s ever had. It’s Caitlin Somers, calling because she is getting married and wishes Vix to attend the wedding. Vix, despite not having heard from Caitlin for a couple of months, gets on a plane to visit her old friend. She wants to crack the enigma that is Caitlin Somers and finally understand what exactly happened during that last summer they spent together.

Summer Sisters

Summer Sisters chapters

I was surprised to discover that the novel swiftly goes back in time to the summer of 1977, when the girls are only twelve, and takes place mainly during their teenage years. So what exactly makes this an adult novel, as opposed to a young adult novel? It doesn’t feel like YA, but then it was written in the 90s. It certainly describes the tumultuous time that teenagers go through, from dealing with parents and step-parents, boys and friendship, low self-esteem and zero confidence. It also deals with sexuality in much more detail than young adult novels tend to. (But not teenage television shows, it seems?). If you’re comfortable watching Girls or Skins, you’ll be comfortable reading this. It’s by no means explicit, but it certainly gets close. I really do not have an answer, but it’s interesting to think about… !

Vix is used to blending into the background, smart yet considered unremarkable, until Caitlin, the most envied girl in school, invites her to spend the summer at her holiday home in Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a surprise to Vix, but she grabs the opportunity and it’s the beginning of many ‘firsts’. It’ll be the first time she gets a glimpse of the sea, the first time she’s been away from her younger brother, fallen in love, been on a plane… Vix and Caitlin become ‘summer sisters’ and pledge to spend every vacation together, and they do, until years later, they head off to university and part ways and discover who they are without each other.

Summers Sisters was a fairly typical choice for a summer read, I had originally thought. As it turns out, it was anything but! You will spend your time wondering what it is like to be Vix and Caitlin, surrounded by privilege and not knowing quite what to do with it. You’ll watch them as they go through the gritty, uncomfortable and awkward experiences of teenage life and yet still push through. Sometimes together, sometimes alone. As it is set in the 70s and 80s, it was also refreshing to read about life as a teenager without the technology we all use today. (It feels so odd saying this!). I imagine Vix and Caitlin’s lives – and their close friendship – would’ve been very different if it had been twenty years later.

Summer Sisters is addictive and fun – and often feels rather unsuitable to be reading on public transport! – and oh so real. We hear from both girls as well as short chapters from the adults and fellow teenagers surrounding them. It’s not pretty, but it’s honest. Let’s call it unreserved young adult (and no, not New Adult!).

Published: 1998, edition above 2009
Publisher: Delacorte Books, edition above Sphere
Pages: 384

14 thoughts on “Book Review: Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

  1. Great review and I like the warning about reading on public transport 🙂

  2. I read this a couple of months ago and was impressed with how real the characters were: Caitlin and Vix really do have a complicated relationship as you say, and the book did a great job at giving us a feel of that.

  3. I read this book as a teenager and remember some of the topics being too advanced for me but I re-read it in my early twenties and found that it is one of my favorite books. I found I could relate to both Caitlin and Vix in different ways at different times. Great review!

  4. I have still only read one Judy Blume, as a child, and I’ve hesitated since partly because they are reads for younger people. This sounds a good choice to try and begin reading them, even if it’s more explicit than her usual, as it were.

  5. It’s been a couple years since I’ve read this book, but I definitely didn’t think it felt like YA at all. It’s about teenagers, yes, but it’s more about the way adults look back on their teenage years, and like you said, it touches on topics such as sexuality and privilege from the perspective of someone much more able to look at those issues objectively, rather than the “still figuring it out” tone of YA writing. Great review!

  6. […] as an actual pre-teen. Yes, I’d never read a younger Judy Blume, I’m sorry! I only read Summer Sisters, her adult novel, last year. Published in 1970, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret seems to […]

  7. Probably my all time favourite book. I’ve read it so many times – so good.

  8. […] I Discovered This Classic I first read Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters in late 2013 and, after falling in love with it, I bought her earlier novels for pre-teens and […]

  9. […] “Summer Sisters is addictive and fun – and often feels rather unsuitable to be reading on public transport! – and oh so real.” — Pretty Books […]

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