I throughly enjoyed My True Love Gave to Me, I have a thing for romance and holidays. When I found out that there was going to be a summer collection to accompany it, I was so excited. I was grateful to have an ARC as it was easy to pick up and put down in the busy week I was moving. I didn't enjoy Summer Days & Summer Nights as much as the holiday story collection. I expected it to be lighter and fluffier. (Look at the cover! Doesn't that cover scream fun, light, happy. The cover vibe does not match vibe of many of the stories.)
"Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" by Leigh Bardugo*
This is a lovely romantic tale where the real world meets the fantastical. It is a marvelous way to start the book. If the entire book had continued like this story, I would have enjoyed it far more. This is a story about the disconnect between summer and the school year. It's about late afternoon ice cream cones, sticky bike rides, lazy days beside a lake, and the mystery of a summer boy. This story made me want to try more of Bardugo's writing. (I wasn't a huge fan of her first novel, but may give her newer stuff a go.)
"The End of Love" by Nina Lacour
My initial reaction to this story was that it's not as strong as the one that comes before it and it was sort of boring. Having read the rest of the book, I still find it sort of boring but it actually stands out as one of the stories I liked more, which I wasn't expecting. The main character is taking a summer school class she doesn't need just to get out of the house as her parents divide up everything for their divorce. She reconnects with a group she knew as a freshman and an old crush she has rekindles. I liked how the friendship element in this story a lot. It was a stand out in that respect from the rest of the book.
"Last Stand at the Cinegore" by Libba Bray*
Kevin is working the last night the Cinegore, a horror film venue, will be open. He's working with his best friend and long time crush both of who will be moving on to college at the end of the summer and leaving him behind. Things take a turn for the macabre when the horror on the screen doesn't stay there and Kevin must be a hero in more than just his own mind. I LOVED this story. The characters were great and it was incredibly funny.
"Sick Pleasure" by Francesca Lia Block
This story is where things began to fall apart for me. First I was incredibly annoyed by the narrator's use of first initials for everyone and not actual names. I think this is meant to give it a sense of realism (protecting the innocent and all that). Heck, it's possible it IS a real story in the life of the author. What I know is that the characters didn't do much for me and I found it to be incredibly bleak. I really don't know what this story is even doing here. Some of the other stories have darker elements sure, but this isn't dark so much as lifeless.
"In Ninety Minutes, Turn North" by Stephanie Perkins
This is actually a sequel to the story Perkins included in the holiday collection. (Note: I REALLY liked that story.) Coming of the depression of the previous story and into this one, my mood was definitely not in a good place to be confronted with the problem facing Marigold. I was just annoyed. I was annoyed through the whole thing even when it ended well. Story placement is so important in a collection like this. The funk the Block story left me in tainted my entire reading of this.
"Souvenires" by Tim Federle
This chronicles the last day in a relationship between the protagonist and his summer boyfriend. It is their break-up day story-a day the agreed upon to say good bye as the summer ended. I enjoyed the realistic outlook of this story that didn't diminish the power of the feelings of the boys as they were happening. The inevitability of summer romance is that most end. Fedele manage to convey both the power of those summer feelings with this reality and stuck the ending perfectly.
"Inertia' by Veronica Roth
So, Much. Angst. That is going to be perfect for some. (Probably not the people reading this book, because a person looking for angst is not going to pick up this book with that cover.) I wasn't reading this for angst thought and this was the fourth story in a row stock full of it. My annoyance level at this point was skyrocketing. This takes place in an alternate reality where as you are dying you can have a connection through brain waves (or something) with people of your choosing while you are in the process of being operated on but the doctors don't think you'll make it. Yeah. While the ending is happy, my annoyance for most of the story didn't let me enjoy it. I was promised sunshine and brightness!!!! Where did it go????
"Love is the Last Resort" by Jon Skovron*
This is cute. This is exactly what I had in mind. It is a comedy in the same style as Oscar Wilde's plays: lively banter, people getting schooled, plots and schemes abound. It was so much fun. There is a huge disconnect between the form of the narrative and the modern setting, but I was willing to overlook that flaw because I finally had fun and sunshine and laughs.
"Good Luck and Farewell" by Brandy Colbert*
I admit there's a fair amount of angst in this too, but it was balanced by a hot guy and a truly fun summer night romantic connection. I love the way Colbert describes and portrays Chicago in this and how her prose made me feel the heat and sadness the main character was feeling. Overall this story was just a better balance of angst and hope than that long line of depressing stories earlier in the collection. And I just love how Colbert writes anyway.
"Brand New Attraction" by Cassandra Clare
This story is bizarre and kind of lame. Like Bray's story, it deals with the supernatural in the real world, but it takes itself waaaaay to seriously. Bray made her combination of the scary horror and darker forces work with her humor. Clare's story doesn't have any humor so the mix of the supernatural, romance, and horror doesn't work at all. As a result I was more bored than anything. That combined with the awkwardness of Clare's prose made this almost painful to read.
"A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong" by Jennifer E. Smith*
This was a warm breath of summer air. It was cute yet serious in some places. I think Smith did a really fantastic job of portraying a character on the spectrum and making them a swoony romantic lead.
"The Map of Perfect Tiny Things"* by Lev Grossman
And we're back with the angst. And death. And tears. The premise is the same as Groundhog Day but minus all the fun.
It's been a while since I've seen a cover so spectacularly fail at communicating what a book actually contains. Know if you are picking this up for a fun light beach read, you may want to rethink and save it for a rainy dreary day where your stuck inside. That way your mood when you finish most of the stories will match your surroundings.
I received an ARC from the publisher, St. Martin's Griffin, via Edelweiss. Summer Days & Summer Nights is on sale May 17th.