Title: When I Was Summer
Author: J.B Howard
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Sixteen-year-old Nora Wakelin has always felt like an outsider in her own family. Her parents and older sister love her, but they don’t understand anything about her: not her passion for music, not her all-encompassing crush on her bandmate Daniel (who is very much unavailable), not her recklessness and impulsiveness. Nora has always imagined that her biological mother might somehow provide the answer as to why she feels like such an outsider.
Through internet stalking and leaps of logic, Nora identifies three women living elsewhere in California who seem like they could be her mother. So she sets out to track them each down, one by one, under the pretense of a statewide tour with her rock band, Blue Miles. Three cities, three gigs, three possible birth mothers—it sounds so easy.
But once they’re on the road, of course, it’s anything but easy. Nora wants to be with Daniel, she wants to find her birth mother, she wants to keep her parents happy, she wants the band to stay together, and she wants to know why she is the way she is. But she won’t be the first musician to find out that, while you can’t always get what you want, sometimes you get what you need.
my rating: 2/5 Stars
Thank you so much to Penguin Random House for sending me an ARC of this book to read and review!
I have so many questions…
This started out really well, I was set to give it a solid 3/3.5 stars. It was never incredible, but I enjoyed reading it and was interested in the future of these characters’ band. But then it took a drastic turn…
The main character, Nora, clearly had a very strong love for music, which was incredibly interesting to me, I wanted to see her thrive in her musical career, but that was all overshadowed by the decisions she made. Nora seemingly spent the entire book lying to everyone around her that cares for her. She misled her bandmates and strung them along on a journey that they never agreed to. Every time it was revealed that she did something behind their backs, her friends were never angry but instead supported her no matter what. Kudos to those friends, because I would be sick of her behaviour real quick.
This was a bit of a theme throughout the book, her friends constantly did nothing but support and help her. Yet, she did nothing in return for these people. Over and over again her friends took risks for her and went along with her lies, and Nora never once returned any favours for them, not once. It really feels like she took all of their support and love for granted.
And then, to top it all off, she lies to her family about a MAJOR decision: to search for her birth parents. A 16-year-old took advantage of her bandmates to use their trip to a VERY good opportunity for the future of their band (a major gig), to make extra stops along the way (under the ruse that they could play more gigs in smaller cities) to check out whether her online research for her birth parents would lead to her finding them, and she did not inform anyone in her family about this.
I got very frustrated with Nora when she cut off communication with her parents on the way back from the gig, and instead of going back home, she let her friend buy her a one-way plane ticket to Hawaii to go find her bio mom. When she planned this “excursion”, she spoke that maybe she wouldn’t come back, and then booked a one-way ticket. I cannot imagine someone, who has a positive relationship with their family, would think to go all that way, cut off communication with their parents, just to search for women who never knew her, and THEN say that maybe she just won’t go back home??? And the cherry on top? Her leaving meant she missed her final exams.
More times than once she took a lot of money from one of her friends (but to her it’s okay because her friend has parents that don’t seem to care about him, even though this fact is something that causes her friend to fall into a depression, so she takes the money with no regrets??) I just don’t understand how anyone around her can deal with her.
This turned into a rant review really quickly, and I’m sorry for that, I really wanted to enjoy this. I wanted to root for this band and for this group of friends to succeed, but instead, I spent the whole book hating Nora and everything she did to the people around her. The audacity she had to just completely abandon her family to go find someone she had no info about, no idea where she really was and no clue if what she was walking into was going to be safe, I just can’t get over that. The fact that she wanted to look for her birth parents to know who she really is biologically is understandable, but she should have included her family in this decision and done it properly.
Before this gets WAY too long, I’m going to stop there. I’ll probably have a bit of an extended review up on whatwrenreads.com, so head over there if you are interested in my full thoughts.