The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse: Traveling Europe with a Bunch of Friends–Fun, Right?

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3 stars

Touring Europe has been Aubrey and Rae’s dream since primary school, and now’s the perfect opportunity for them to act on it during their last summer together before university.

But everything ends up more complicated than they thought–issues between Aubrey and her boyfriend Jonah, unresolved tension between Aubrey and Gabe, and a huge crush from Rae on Clara, who’s definitely not into girls.

Ten days together across Europe leads to the unraveling of two love stories told from Aubrey and Rae’s points of view. Will everything end up resolved, or will their friend group be left in shambles before they all split up across the world?

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In some ways, this totally lived up to my expectations, while in others, it was a little lackluster.

The star of the show for me was the character dynamics. During the first third, I was a little hesitant because it felt like everything was going to be botched up–the men would mansplain things and everything would just go terribly, horribly wrong–but it ended up actually being okay in the end.

The way the characters worked with each other felt very realistic by the time the conclusion came around, which is what I enjoyed the most.

At first, it felt like Vinesse was drawing a line between the protagonists and antagonists–Jonah being the antagonist because of how he spends times with his friend Leah–and that everything would be very sided, but in the end, the lines blurred together really nicely and I definitely appreciated this.

Everything is a little messy and a little real and in the end, the characters felt this way.

I still did have reservations at the beginning and I do kind of wish Vinesse had resolved this a little because initially, the characters felt very type [insert type of choice] or very stereotypical.

Aubrey is the mom who obsesses over planning, Rae is the queer one, Clara is the party girl, Gabe is the broody one, and Jonah is the straying boyfriend. Luckily, these stereotypes fall apart, but I wish I was given more confidence in the characters at the beginning.

I think that part of this was because of how most of the characters’ initial dynamics weren’t really included, but more so mused over during the beginning of the novel. Aubrey and Gabe have this whole history together about theater and painting a set, but we never really see this particular part of their history in the novel, which made their characters less enjoyable at the beginning because the characters were doing things, but the reader had no connection established with them yet.

I wish that Vinesse had gone a little more in depth with who the characters are in the beginning, maybe showing a few quirks or individual, non-stereotypical characteristics, which would have inspired more confidence in me.

By the end of the book, I understood all the characters’ agency and how they weren’t just stereotypes of people embarking on a journey across Europe (especially Jonah–I liked how he changed from emotionally cheating antagonist to rational in Aubrey’s mind).

One of the things that I do wish was for more racial diversity. Although we’ve got a solid amount of queer characters (Rae and potentially Clara), I was under the impression that almost all the characters were white.

Technically Gabe is Hispanic, but he’s from Spain and so he’s still very white. (Like how if you’re a Hispanic from South America, you still technically have to check yourself as white for the College Board).

In the same vein, I wished there was a little more on Europe. I mean, this is the time of their lives–they should be enjoying it and reveling in the pure Europe-ness of it all. I just wanted a little more from the more fluffy, cinematic portions of the book.

Despite all of this, I did find The Summer of Us to be an easy read that comments on friendships as you go into college, which is a topic we definitely need more YA in. It’s fun and flirty yet still grounded in friendship. (But it’s also a misnomer and this should be called The Ten Days of Us ;))

Overall, I enjoyed this by the end and I think lovers of books like Love and Gelato and I See London, I See France will definitely enjoy The Summer of Us.

The Summer of Us is expected to release on June 5th! You can preorder it now from any major bookseller, or buy it in stores on that day. 

Thank you so much to The NOVL and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me with this advance copy in exchange for an honest review! #LBYRPartner 

much love, vicky

Have you read any books about backpacking in Europe? Which ones have you loved?

2 thoughts on “The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse: Traveling Europe with a Bunch of Friends–Fun, Right?

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