If ever there was a “New Adult” prodigy, then this one is it….circa 1998.
Judy Blume weaves the tale of two extremely close girl teenagers from Santa Fe who eventually grow up to be distant but definitely not estranged friends. Their relationship began when they were 12. Caitlin Somers decides that Victoria Leonard, or Vix as she likes to be called (although it makes her sound like a cough syrup), will spend the summer with her in Martha’s Vineyard. The last girl to do so left early from the experience. Vix, however, loves the strangeness. For the next few summers, Vix and Caitlin spend them together, being true to the endearment, “summer sister.”
Caitlin’s family is a bit dysfunctional: she lives with her mother in Santa Fe who frequently vacations afar with strange men while her father lives on the east coast with her brother, Sharkey. Her father decides to marry a 37 year-old Harvard MBA graduate, Abby. Caitlin could not be more put-off. Vix, however, wishes Abby was her own mother. Vix’s family isn’t without issues. Her parents were together and she had 3 siblings. Tawny, Vix’s mother, doesn’t know how to handle her own feelings and wishes she could escape like Vix does every summer. Eventually she does escape from the family. The Leonard family begins its fracture after her brother, Nathan, who had muscular dystrophy dies.
One of the things Vix learns early on in Martha’s Vineyard is all about her “Power.” Vix and Caitlin explore their “Power” together. As the preteens become teenagers, they stop experimenting on each other and find others. Vix has the hots for this one particular guy, Bru. The summer she turns 17, things hit off with Bru.
All of this sex and sensuality was a bit of a shock coming straight off of reading Blume’s Juvenile fiction. But the amount of sexual discussion does have a reason: it sets up the tone. Lust seems to almost be equated with youth, or at least a lack of knowing that sex is different in a well-adjusted adult’s life.
Vix eventually decides to leave Santa Fe, thanks to the help of Caitlin’s father and step-mother, to attend Harvard. She struggles between her love of Bru and of life outside of the island, where Bru wants to be. Caitlin refuses to “grow-up” and hops across the globe in search of something.
In the prologue of the book, Vix learns that Caitlin is going to marry Bru. Of course at the time, we have no idea who Bru is. Actually, as the story unfolds, you forget about this little nugget of information. When the event actually happens in time, you get to be shocked and you understand why Vix gets sick after she heard the news.
However, the most shocking part is what happens around Bru and Caitlin’s wedding. Afterwards, Vix moves on in a pleasantly surprising manner. Caitlin and her meet again around when they turn 30. The actual ending to the “summer sisters” is a sad one. You’ll have to read it to find out.
Throughout this novel I kept rooting for Vix. Caitlin seems to be a very complex, shallow girl; you could spend hours dissecting her to figure out why she became who she was. But I love that Vix never gave up on loving her, even with the whole Bru fiasco. Vix and Caitlin were more than “summer sisters.” They were and will always be family.