When We Had Summer (Hardcover)
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets 13 Little Blue Envelopes in this new young adult novel about a tight-knit, daring, and eclectic group of friends who dedicate every summer to completing their #SummerSistersBucketList together – that is until one of their own passes away.
Every year since they can remember, Daniella, her cousin Carly, and their friends Penny and Lainie (the #SummerSisters) have spent their summers together at the Jersey Shore in the town of Ocean Park Heights, creating and completing a summer bucket list. With Carly as the mastermind, the list ranges from the silly to the practically impossible, and it’s the highlight of the summer for these four best friends.
But this summer, everything is going to be different, because last winter, Carly—their leader, their glue, their everything—passed away.
As the remaining #SummerSisters try to wrap their heads around their best friend’s death, life seems determined to throw more curveballs at them, threatening to split them up for good. Daniella is accepted at a prestigious music academy in New York City, Lainie learns her family is moving out of Ocean Park Heights, and Penny is distracted by a new job and a new boyfriend.
Then Daniella uncovers a treasure like no other—a bucket list for this summer tucked away in Carly’s signature seashell purse. And just like that, the #SummerSisters have an opportunity to unite and fulfill Carly’s last adventure for them all. But will the list be enough to hold them together for one final summer?
About the Author
Jennifer Castle is the author of numerous books for young people. Her YA novels include TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT, WHAT HAPPENS NOW, YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE, and THE BEGINNING OF AFTER, which was a 2013 YALSA Best Book for Young Adults selection. Besides writing, Jennifer also loves beach-combing, geeking out on theatre and sci-fi, and animal rescue work. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her family of humans and cats.
Every summer, the self-proclaimed Summer Sisters, a group of 14-year-old best friends, meet up at Ocean Park Heights, N.J., and spend the season crossing items off their yearly bucket list (“Silly String fight on the Boardwalk. Trampoline sleepover... Hold hands with a boy”). Carly has always kept track of the list, so when she dies of an undiagnosed heart condition, Lainie, Penny, and Carly’s cousin Daniella struggle to imagine summer, and their friendship, without her. Vulnerably rendered chapters alternating between the three teens’ perspectives trace their efforts to complete this year’s list while they navigate myriad internal and external challenges, such as Daniella’s enrollment in an elite N.Y.C. summer music program and her experiences living with Carly’s grieving parents; Lainie’s attempts to cope with her grandparents selling their beloved shore bakery; and Penny’s first job and romance. Castle (What Happens Now) presents an uplifting and grounded telling that follows a tight-knit group exploring the world outside their comfort zones and grappling with intense grief while striving to maintain important relationships. Carly and Penny read as white; Daniella is Black and white; Lainie is of Colombian heritage. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jamie Weiss Chilton, Andrea Brown Literary. (Apr.)- PW (Feb 16, 2023)
A trio struggles during the first summer following the unexpected death of the fourth member of their close-knit group in this contemporary novel. Lainie, Penny, Daniella, and Carly met and bonded in the New Jersey seaside town of Ocean Park Heights when they were just kids, reuniting each year and joyfully completing the Summer Sisters Bucket List written by Carly. However, following Carly’s death from an undiagnosed heart condition, the surviving girls must navigate both their grief and a host of new experiences in their lives. Alternating chapters from their third-person perspectives form this poignant story that explores each of their situations through the lenses of their distinct personalities. Daniella, who is struggling with panic attacks, is the only one who lives in OPH. She announces that this summer she will be departing for Manhattan to attend a music academy. Her experiences are juxtaposed with Lainie and Penny’s off-kilter summer in OPH, during which they both struggle with family upheaval—and Penny with a first romantic relationship. If at times some of the life lessons they learn seem a bit on the nose, these vulnerable characters will still speak to readers. Carly and Penny default to White; Daniella, who is Carly’s cousin, is biracial (African American and Italian American), and Lainie’s family is Colombian. There is diversity in sexuality and ethnicity among the secondary characters. A bittersweet tale of friendship surviving and growing amid heartbreak and change. (Fiction. 12-18)- Kirkus (Feb 1, 2023)
Lainie, Carly, Penny, and Daniella have been Summer Sisters for six years now, with a bucket list of silly and fun things to do. But this year, they’re doing it without Carly, who has unexpectedly died. When Daniella finds a list that Carly started earlier in the year, the three remaining Summer Sisters agree to do it all together, in Carly’s memory, and make their thirteenth summer everything it was supposed to be before. Making things extra difficult are the facts that Daniella isn’t staying at the beach this year, Lainie’s grandparents are selling their house and bakery on the shore, and Penny needs a job to get out of the house where her parents are fighting all the time. As they each deal with their own anxieties, crushes, and harsh realities, they have to try harder than before to have each other’s backs. Comparisons to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books are inevitable but accurate. This update offers a dose of reality and a rich cast.— Stacey Comfort- Booklist (Apr 1, 2023)
Gr 6 Up–Carly, Daniella, Lainie, and Penny met on vacation in Ocean Park Heights, NJ, and consider themselves “summer sisters,” united by their annual Summer Sisters Bucket List. But the summer before freshman year is fraught with painful memories and unwanted changes following Carly’s sudden death. Daniella, who is Carly’s cousin, fends off panic attacks while in New York City for a summer music intensive. Lainie struggles with the sale of the family bakery and chafes at training the moody daughter of the new owner. Penny gets a beach job and crushes hard on a coworker but finds it hard to believe in love amid her parents’ constant fighting. The girls drift apart until Daniella discovers a half-written Summer Sisters Bucket List in Carly’s old room. Inspired by challenges like “create our own hashtag and make it go viral” and “go parasailing,” the girls set out to tackle the list in Carly’s memory—but as they navigate jealousy, loneliness, and miscommunications, they worry that Carly might have been the only thing keeping them together. This novel takes a familiar plot and elevates it with strong, introspective character development and a realistic look at the many forms grief can take. Chapters alternate third-person perspectives among Penny (white), Lainie (Colombian) and Daniella (biracial Black and Italian). VERDICT This novel, which perfectly captures the joy of summer, the heartbreak of sudden loss, and the resilience of friendship, is recommended for general purchase, and is ideal for fans of Morgan Matson or Ashley Woodfolk.–Elizabeth Giles- SLJ (Apr 1, 2023)