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The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland

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Author: Shannon Greenland
Publisher: Speak
Published: May 10th 2012
Pages: Unknown
Format: Ebook (Kindle)
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads: Add It

Summary: (From Goodreads)

A great summer beach read filled with sunshine, cooking, and—of course—romance!

Elizabeth Margaret–better known as Em–has always known what her life would contain: an internship at her father’s firm, a degree from Harvard, and a career as a lawyer. The only problem is, it’s not what she wants. So when she gets the opportunity to get away and spend a month with the aunt she never knew, she jumps at the chance. While there, Em learns that her family has some pretty significant secrets. And then there’s Cade, the laid-back local surfer boy who seems to be everything Em isn’t. Naturally, she can’t resist him, and as their romance blossoms, Em feels that for the first time ever, she is really living life on her own terms.


This is a novel that captured me not from the first page, but from the title. I loved it. It sounded so… inviting. Instinctively it encouraged me to read the summary and I knew that this was a book I simply had to read. Now, after finishing that book, I can say with a degree of finality that it was one of the best decisions I have made in regards to picking a book to review. I wasn’t highly sure of what to expect with this book. I thought that it might be a nice ‘coming-of-age’ tale, maybe a light contemporary read and one that just grabs at you. In many ways, I was correct in these thoughts but it is also so much more than it all. It has depth that I didn’t expect to find and it holds a message that I really hold close to my heart. This novel teaches you to simply be you. And I should love it just for that reason alone, but that really just helped me to love it that much more.

Elizabeth Margaret comes from a very upper-class family. She is expected to follow the rules and expectations that her parents and grandmother have set out for her. She is always doing what they want, well, almost always anyway, and now graduating from her senior year at high school, she starts wondering if this life is exactly what she wants. So, when a chance to take a break from her parents and their scheduled lives, Elizabeth Margaret jumps at it and somehow persuades her strict parents to let her go. In my opinion, the contrast between Elizabeth Margaret and Em are outstanding. One in the same person, but Em is free-er, she is happier and braver and stronger and I absolutely loved her. I loved getting to know this character and understanding what she has dealt with and how she has been repressed. I enjoyed witnessing her transformation from the rigid Elizabeth Margaret into the much more experimental Em. You could really see her becoming happier with herself and it was great to witness.

My other favourite character in this book, is, without a doubt in the world, Cade. He was… stunning. Not in the ‘oh my goodness you’re so hot, I’ve got to have you now way’ – although his half-smiles were swoon-worthy – but more in the just… real way. He was a real person with a heavy upbringing and a deep secret and a dark background that he just carries around with him wherever he goes. I loved that he didn’t let it get to him, I loved that he was still able to laugh and smile and joke and be happy and he just showed how strong a person he was and how just brilliant a character he was. I honestly loved every second that he was on the page and wanted to treasure him every single time. He was, in every sense of the word, the perfect guy simply because he wasn’t perfect.

The other characters in this story were all great, they each had their own distinct personalities and I found myself feeling like I knew how they all fell together, what brought them together and how it just all fit. They all helped to make the story great and I just wanted to hold them all in my heart for years to come. They complimented the story but they didn’t overshadow it. They were all there for specific reasons and without it seeming like a burden. I loved them all. There wasn’t a single character that I truly disliked because, to me, they were all too real and just great to hate them. Yes, her parents and grandparents were irritating but that was just how they were, that was what they were like and from experience I just know that some people are. I didn’t like how they raised Em but I also appreciate that they did it in the best way they knew how. They still, at the end of the day, loved her and that, is all that matters.

I loved the setting of this book. I loved that I felt at piece reading the descriptions and imagining the places so vividly in my minds eye. I love that, even within the book it shows that the area can’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I know that without a fact I would have fit perfectly on that island. I would have made it my perfect little corner of the world and would never have left. And I think, if anything, one of the best messages of this book is simply that everyone is different. We all act certain ways because of the things around us, the way we were brought up and who we are but that, at the end of the day, we are all different and should be treated that way. Em was brought up in a strict household and yet she still learnt to do what she loved best and knew how to be who she wanted to, she just needed that little push to get her there. I just loved it so much. We are who we are and we should cherish that every day.

The writing style and the plot of this book was magnificent. I was swept away by the descriptions, I could see what was happening perfectly and I just felt like I was right there. The characters all had their own distinct voices and didn’t feel forced or made up and they were made up of some great varieties too. I loved the plot. I loved the journey that Em and her family went on. I loved the romance that wasn’t just there but was built upon. You were able to see why she liked him, why he found an interest in her because you felt that way about them both. You could see the way he looked at her and understood and you knew why she was so smitten with him, even if she had taken a disliking to him at the beginning. It was so brilliant to read and I really think that they quickly became one of my favourite couples of 2012.

All in all this was a novel that left me feeling happy and alive and just good. I loved the last line of the novel and I feel that it is something that everyone should feel about themselves. It was such a great read that I am looking forward to reading again and again. I would recommend this book to just about anyone who likes reading YA, wants a fun, quick contemporary novel that will have them smiling at the other end. Bear in mind, however, that there are parts that will shock you, that it does get deeper than it feels like it should but that it is just perfect. It’s not too much, it is just… it’s brilliant. Honestly, if you like reading YA, you need to read this novel. It will, hopefully, take your breath away and make you have a kind of restored faith in humanity and all it can offer us.

** I received this novel from Netgalley in return for an honest review **



  • Melissa

    I’ve been seeing this book around the blogosphere for a while. Just how much you like it makes me want to pick it up. It seems like one of those awesome reads for a lazy day in the sun. I also really like the name Cade, and the description you gave of him.

  • Hollie

    I’ve seen some mixed reviews on this book, but after reading how much you love it, I think I’m definitely going to check it out for myself! Great review! :)

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