The countdown to Once and For All is on, and to prepare for the upcoming release, bloggers and booktubers all over are sharing posts and videos about all of Sarah’s books. The first book we are talking about is That Summer. All this week, and the weeks leading up to Once and For All, members of the bookish community will be sharing their love for Sarah’s books.
That Summer is Sarah Dessen’s debut novel, and it debuted more than twenty years ago, in 1996. I was a teenager in 1996, and I thought, what would be a better way to promote Sarah Dessen’s work than to share passages from That Summer that I felt a particular affinity for while talking about what I was doing in 1996?That Summer by Sarah Dessen
Published by Speak on January 1st, 1996
Genres: young adult, contemporary
Buy on Amazon
The more things change...
As far as Haven is concerned, there's just too much going on.
Everything is changing, and she's not sure where she fits in.
Then her sister's old boyfriend shows up, sparking memories of the summer when they were all happy and everything was perfect...
But along the way, Haven realizes that sometimes change is a good thing.
When I think back to that week in Virginia Beach I can remember every detail, from the bathing suit I wore each day to the smell of the clean hotel sheets on my bed. I remember my mother’s freckled face and the way my father could so easily slip an arm around her waist and pull her close, kissing the back of her neck as he passed. I remember steamed shrimp and cool, sweatshirt nights and the pounding of the waves in the distance lulling me to sleep. I remember the walks we took every night we were there, throwing a cheap Frisbee my father bought at a gas station on the way up and chasing each other across the sand in the dark, waiting for the moonlight to catch it as it sailed through the air. I remember that week in a way I can’t remember anything else.
The summer of 1996 was a memorable one for me because I was in the process of changing high schools. That summer was the summer I moved from one house to another, returning to the school district I grew up in and attended from preschool until 4th grade. I moved before 5th grade to a place where I was entirely very unhappy. Moving back before the start of my junior hear would have been hard on most people, and I’m not saying I wasn’t nervous, but I was mostly excited to start over. The summer was spent moving and getting used to our new house, meeting the kids in the neighborhood that were my age, shopping for school clothes, hanging out with old friends I kept while I was away in another city, getting ice cream at the local Tastee Freeze, and basically getting ready for the new school year to begin. I could literally see the high school from my backyard, and walk there if I wanted to across the soccer fields.
I started down the driveway, sucking in the thick, humid air of late summer, heavy in my lungs. It was late afternoon and all the kids were out, bike punks and Big Wheels, and mothers with strollers grouped on the corner, no doubt passing the latest about nervous breakdowns and tuna casseroles and failing marriages, the goods on the neighborhood. I made it to the end of the driveway and hit the sidewalk, feeling each step in my shins as if by the sheer force of pounding my feed on the ground I could force the world out from under me.
I lived in a small town in the middle of a big city. It was quaint and unique and big and small at the same time. There was a tiny post office, one high school, one Catholic school, population at about 8,000. But this was suburbia at the same time. Center Line is a suburb of Detroit, the donut hole of Warren, Michigan. Summer was spent riding bikes or rollerblading around the neighborhood, or walking the mile up to the ice cream place or going for all-you-can-eat fried clams at Vern Haney’s (the local diner). Bored kids would hang out at the Amoco gas station, so whenever you went there to fill up, there would be someone to wave to, or if it was a guy you had a crush on, try to avoid making eye contact.
I got my first job in the summer of ’96 too. It was at a Hallmark store, and I worked there through junior homecoming but I got fired because I could only work weekends (parents’ rules) but then I had to ask for the weekend off for homecoming and the dance. My second job was at Vern Haney’s, the diner I mentioned earlier. I started as a hostess but worked as a waitress eventually on Friday nights (all-you-can-eat nights) and Saturdays once in a while. That diner job defined so much of my teen years for me. I loved it there and it felt like family and community.
As I stepped into the thick summer air I heard only cicadas, screaming from the trees around our house. It was warm and sticky and I left my shoes on the porch, walking barefoot down the sidewalk, past houses with their lights burning, the sound of televisions drifting from open windows. I could see Casey coming from the other direction, walking quickly and brushing her hair out of her face. We met halfway, by the mailbox in front of the Johnsons’.
Ahhhhh, friends. My junior year I was friends with a bunch of seniors, because the only people I had stayed in touch with while I was away were a couple of girls that were in the grade above me. So I made friends with their friends, and I even started dating a senior that I met at homecoming. It was hard at first because I didn’t know very many people in my own grade, but I tried out for cheerleading and made friends with a couple girls in my own grade and even a few that were a grade under me. I had so many friends at THIS school which was a complete change from my old school. I was kind of an outsider there, and it wasn’t easy for me to make friends at all. I got made fun of a lot (even bullied), and hanging out with seniors all of a sudden and dating a pretty popular guy was a shock to the system.
And we laughed while it rained and the air smelled sweet blowing in the back door, like the flowers that bloomed just outside. The kitchen was warm and bright and I knew I would remember this night, in the same misty way I’d remembered all the good things, as a time when things were as perfect as they could be. Another summer to reach back to, that week in Virginia Beach now tucked away with the other, older memories. Later, when Ashley was gone and my mother and I tried to fill this house ourselves, I’d look back to that night and remember every detail, from Ashley’s ring glittering as she sipped her wine to my mother’s bare feet beside me on the chair, flecked with grass clippings. It would be a good place to start over.
All in all, junior year was pretty perfect. Yeah, there was heartbreak and family stress, but my junior year was as pretty close to picture perfect as it could have been. At the time I didn’t think so, but looking back on it, it’s a time I remember fondly with memories I will always treasure.
I think it’s funny that That Summer came out in 1996 and I wasn’t aware of it then; in fact I wasn’t even aware of Sarah Dessen until about 2010. I wonder if any of my peers in high school read it when it came out. Hey, well, now’s your chance to win a copy!