Review: Cool for the Summer – Dahlia Adler
by Dahlia Adler
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Genres: Young Adult, Romance
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Lara's had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He's tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he's talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe...flirting, even? No, wait, he's definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara's wanted out of life.
Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers.
Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she's finally got the guy, why can't she stop thinking about the girl?
Cool for the Summer is a story of self-discovery and new love. It’s about the things we want and the things we need. And it’s about the people who will let us be who we are.
Content warnings: View Spoiler »mean girl stuff (gaslighting), underage drinking, biphobia, minor reference to antisemitism, MC has an absent dad, MC’s parents are divorced (mostly amicably) « Hide Spoiler
I was drawn in by the absolutely perfect cover (sidetone: it actually looks like the MCs, plus I love the super bi color scheme) and stayed for the summer lovin’. This book is a mish-mash of the eponymous Demi Lovato song and Grease, so basically the perfect summer read.
“What am I?
It’s one summer.
You can’t change into a different person over a summer.”
Spending the summer on the Outer Banks tagging along with her mom’s job as an assistant to a rich executive seems like it might be a bit boring – until Lara meets Jasmine, the boss’s daughter. Jasmine’s nothing like Lara’s friends back home, but over the course of the summer, they become closer than they expected. But after her summer with Jasmine, things are… different. For one thing, the guy she’s had a crush on forever, Chase, has finally noticed her. It’s even more unexpected when Lara catches a glimpse of Jasmine on the first day of senior year, but she’s suddenly aloof. Lara has everything she’s ever dreamed of. So why isn’t she happy?
“How do you tell your closest friends, when you only have one year left before you all head off in new directions, that they don’t know you as well as they think?
How do you have that conversation when it means facing that you didn’t know yourself as well as you thought you did?”
The book is told from Lara’s first person POV, which flips back and forth between “now” – starting at the first day of senior year – and “then” – starting with Lara’s arrival in the Outer Banks. Lara has had a crush a Chase, quarterback on the football team and shoo-in for Homecoming King, for as long as she can remember. The fact that he wants to spend time with her is exciting but she can’t stop thinking about why Jasmine’s being so cold to her. Lara’s confusion is so visceral – and reminded me so much of myself – that parts of the book were tough reading. It’s not that she doesn’t know that people can be queer, as she has queer and nonbinary frie nds, but that for those people they’ve always known they weren’t straight. How she comes to grips with her own sexuality is really the core of the book. It’s messy and hard and real, and I loved it.
“Jasmine was the one who inspired my haircut, who gave me the bravery for my piercing. Jasmine is the one who took me all over the Outer Banks, showed me how to find beauty in places I didn’t see it, including—cheesy as it was—myself. Jasmine was the one who showed me the real fun was never in following the crowd, and that sometimes the best things were the scary and the unexpected.”
I was a little worried at first that Jasmine would be too “poor little rich girl.” Sure, she’s privileged and flush with cash, but she understands that Lara’s not and does her best to discreetly include her. What I loved most about the two of them was how they push each other to try new things, to realize how freeing it is to be themselves instead of following along with the crowd. Sure, Jasmine’s the catalyst for the change in Lara, but she’s also the reason why Lara has the confidence to follow through.
“But there’s more to being friends than being needed. You don’t need to, like, provide a service, okay? Well, other than eyeliner application. I’m really reliant on that.”
Of course, there’s also all of the usual teenage drama, including some popular girl clique stuff. Shannon’s the queen bee of their social circle, and Lara has always gone along in her wake. The other girls – Kiki and Gia – have their own things, whether it’s investigating crimes for their podcast or cheerleading, but besides Lara’s job at a bookstore, she’s content to tag along with whatever they’re doing. She’s used to looking to her friends for their approval of everything, from hair style to clothes to makeup, so the thought that they might treat her differently because she’s bi is terrifying. Even worse, she’s worried about how her Russian mother will react. They’re super close, and her mother has always been supportive of her, but she’s worried it’s a step too far.
I’m not a big fan of love triangles – I hate it when characters string two folks along because they can’t make up their minds – but I was OK with this one. For one thing, Lara spends a long time being oblivious that she’s even in a love triangle, but once she gets it, she understands the emotional damage she’s caused and can cause to the other people and does the best to own up to it. I don’t think it’s much of any kind of spoiler, honestly, to say that the book makes it clear from the beginning who she’s going to end up with.
Overall, if you like queer messy characters and quite a bit of summer lovin’, I think you’ll have a blast with this book!