Dessen's novel, THAT SUMMER, is most likely referring not to the summer 15 year-old Haven is now in the middle of, but a summer that has already passed her by and now remains a fond memory. That summer, the one she fondly reminisces of, was filled with the happy sort of memories that make the present seem bland and melancholy in comparison. Her sister, Ashley, was dating Sumner Lee, a ruggedly handsome boy who has held a special place in Haven's heart, even though their relationship has long been over with. When Haven begins seeing him around the neighborhood and at the mall, however, old, happy memories come to mind. Now, Ashley is a bride-to-be. Her groom, Lewis, is boring and not the brother-in-law Haven wants.
The summer that past also was a time when she, Ashley, her mother, and her father were a happy family, a family that was sticking together and had a seemingly bright future ahead.
Too bad things didn't stay that way.
As Haven's present summer goes on, she finds out why Ashley and Sumner split. She deals with her father's marriage to The Weather Pet, the young, blonde bombshell who is replacing her mother. And she also comes to the realization that people aren't always who you think and want them to be. Ashley's relationship with Lewis makes her feel secure because she knows he'll never hurt her. Haven's ways of dealing with the unpleasant is focusing on the past.
Although this is not a favorite of mine, Dessen is one of my favorite authors. I have yet to dislike any of her books. Haven, the protagonist, no longer lives in a perfect world. As she deals with the awkwardness of puberty, along with other awakenings, readers come to understand that more and more. What Dessen does successfully is create a likeable and believable character who many will be able to relate with, making this YA novel a worthwhile and enjoyable read, despite lacking the sparkle found in DREAMLAND and THIS LULLABY.