The Summer of #BlumeAlong: A Review of Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume

July 17, 2015

Today, the #BlumeAlong draws to a close.

Through June and July, I got to dive back into the world of boys, bras and periods with Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret (and thank all my lucky stars that I'm done with puberty for good) as well as navigate the twists and turns of long-term female friendship in Summer Sisters. Thanks again to Kerry of Entomology of a Bookworm for never having read any Blume and deciding to host this fun event to rectify that!

I was especially excited for the second leg of the read-along because I'd never before read Summer Sisters. I was even fairly certain I'd never dipped into it for the racier scenes à la my clandestine jaunts into Forever and Wifey.

Before we begin, I'd like to note that I was wrong about one of those: I definitely remembered a few of the, ah, steamier moments word for word. A gal's gotta be thorough about her literary sex education, y'hear?

Summer Sisters is the saga of Victoria (Vix) Leonard, whose world is turned upside down when the beautiful whirlwind Caitlin Somers asks her to spend the summer with her at her dad's house on Martha's Vineyard. With little parental supervision and no financial limits (at least, not on Caitlin's end), Vix and Caitlin are free to explore the island—and its more attractive male inhabitants—as they please, providing the backdrop for their summers from middle school through college and beyond. This is Blume at her best: strong, complicated female friendships; a healthy dose of puberty and sexual self-discovery; and plentiful family dysfunction.

As hinted at above, issues of class permeate the story. Caitlin fails to understand why Vix wants to get a job on the island in high school. Vix's mother, Tawny, resents the fact that her daughter spends summers on the Vineyard. This anger only grows when Caitlin's parents offer to help her earn a scholarship to a private school:
"Later, while she was finishing her math homework, Lanie said, 'You know why she hates you?' Vix looked up from her notebook. 'It's because you get to escape,' Lanie said, trying to braid Malibu Barbie's hair. 'We all hate you for that.' Lanie spoke without emotion, and suddenly Vix understood everything. She got to escape and they didn't." — pg. 62, Summer Sisters

I found myself identifying strongly with both Vix and Caitlin, different as they are. My life was the picture of Caitlin's when I was younger: laissez-faire parents, desperately hungry for male attention, and constantly on the hunt for elusive personal fulfillment. But then there's Vix: reserved, responsible, and, as Caitlin sneers, "an emotional iceberg." I too had to put my feelings on the back-burner as a child, and I continue to struggle to acknowledge and express them in productive ways with my family and friends. In fact, it amazes me that Vix was capable of the level of closeness she had with Caitlin; I've always shied away from female intimacy (often to my detriment, I think), and even my very best middle/high school friend and I kept each other at arm's length. I hope to continue to grow and become more comfortable with being vulnerable in relationships, but perhaps not in one like Caitlin and Vix's. No spoilers!

I've managed to write a bunch of words without saying a whole lot about this book, but I think it's one that's best experienced firsthand. If you're already a fan of Blume, or if anything I've written above appeals to you, definitely check this one out!

Did you take part in the #BlumeAlong? Have you read Summer Sisters? Let's chat!

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  1. So glad you enjoyed your reading of this - I can safely say, it holds up when reading it as an adult, and will stand as one of my favorite books of all time (however long that list is these days).

  2. I still haven't read this one, but it sounds like it has several layers to it beyond what I would have expected - and I've definitely heard from several people that it holds up!

  3. Well now I think I really need to re-read Summer Sisters now too - I remember NOTHING from it! (I think I've only read it once, probably at least 13-14 years ago.) Also, it just sounds like the most wonderful book to read during the summer.

  4. I agree...I'm so glad I finally read this. I really enjoyed it. The dynamics are particularly wonderful and it definitely reads like a classic Blume. There was something nostalgic about being back in one of her books.

  5. I skipped this leg of the Blume-Along, but it sounds fantastic! I love when a book can make you think about so many things that aren't the book, and I really enjoyed hearing about your experience! Much more fun to read than typical reviews tend to be, in my opinion.

  6. I'm so glad you joined for this one as well! I wasn't a huge fan of Margaret (though I think I might have been if I'd read it as a kid, not as an adult, for the first time?), but I adored Summer Sisters. It was so much more than I expected. I love your point about vulnerability in relationships; you're right that Vix and Caitlin had a closeness that was astounding, though there were still certain places where they kept each other at arm's length, as you put it above.

  7. I am so, so glad it's stood the test of time for you! I feel like so few books do.

  8. Yes, it does! I think that Blume generally does a good job of tackling issues that are just beneath the surface of her stories, but this one really stood out to me for it. Check it out, when you get the chance!

  9. Do it, do it! It was a fantastic summer read.

  10. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it! This one definitely did give me a ton to think about, especially when I found myself identifying so much with the characters.

  11. That's fair about Margaret. I think nostalgia played a huge role in my re-read!

    Being a reserved person, their relationship floored me. I think I was envious of the closeness in some ways and very much NOT so in others...